Here's another thing you can blame on the internet--besides incoherent, rambling blogs and spam you can't eat. Thanks to a host of online resources--with the virtual auction house eBay Motors arguably the 900-pound gorilla of the bunch--the way you can buy and sell motorcycles and motorcycle parts has shifted inexorably away from the neighborhood retailer and the Sunday paper. Local is out. Global is in.
To prove these points, eBay orchestrated a wicked competition among Primedia magazines to build a butt-kicking conveyance with components purchased almost exclusively on eBay. The eBay folks wanted the editors to see just how easy and pain-free the eBay auction process could be. (The skeptics around here were surprised to learn that, largely, it was without significant pain in the backside.) We were given a stupendously large budget and a deadline--well, one out of two isn't bad--to get the completed bike to Fontana raceway for the showdown.
For us, the process was simple. Buy the bike, modify it to taste and then compete in an all-hands showdown featuring acceleration, braking, skidpad and slalom runs. We were joined by the car and truck titles as well as our buddies in the office dedicated to the, er, other side of motorcycling. Yes, that means Harleys. And as if to demonstrate the inherent insanity in dirtbiking, our friends at Dirt Rider decided to build a CR80R Expert with an XR200 engine. Sounds like screen doors on a submarine to us, but those're dirt donks for you. (Check out www.editorscharitychallenge.com for more on the teams.)
Early on, we had a bit of trouble deciding which bike to buy. As we passed around suggestions and contemplated the overall theme, several models fell by the wayside. We were willing to look at middleweight sportbikes, for example, until set straight by editor Kunitsugu. "Hey, we're here to build a bike, sure, but we're also here to win the competition. What do we need," he asked, giving us the evil editor eye, "to win?" That's Kento, cutting straight to the heart of the matter.
Knowing our best shot at an overall win would be to dominate the acceleration runs, we started thinking about literbikes. But with slalom and skidpad runs--surely tests put in place by the powerful four-wheeled contingent to make up for their lackluster quarter-mile times--we needed something sporty and fast. Those requirements ruled out bikes such as the Kawasaki ZX-12R and the Suzuki Hayabusa. In addition, the new ZX-10R was out of our budget and, for that matter, barely on sale when we started this project.
Boom. There it was: the Suzuki GSX-R1000. To start with, the GSX-R1000 in the vintage we selected (an '02 bike) has a huge aftermarket following, so finding what we needed on eBay was much easier. Beyond that, we knew that with minimal modifications the Gixxer could easily turn quarter-mile times in the high 9-second bracket. That should take care of the car and truck guys, and certainly turn the hose on the Lane Splitters team, who, we're told, had just gotten their Harley FXR running with less than a week to go to the competition. (We're getting ahead of ourselves here, but our only worries a week out involved how much soda to bring to the track.) We could have shown up with a dead-stock GSX-R and done 90 percent of what this modified bike could do...and still win.
Still, we had a budget to burn through, and we did our best to spend it all.
Even before we decided on the GSX-R, we hooked up with eBay Motors and spent countless hours of what should have been productive work scouring the auctions for just the right bike. When we decided to go for the Gixxer, it helped trim the choices.
GSX-R pod mounted perfect...
GSX-R pod mounted perfectly
Yoshimura exhaust system
The pickings seemed, at first, generous. There was one supposedly pristine example of an '02 GSX-R somewhere in Florida, but when we checked the VIN (vehicle identification number) against Carfax, it came up as a salvage title. Hmmm. So much for truth in advertising. There was another GSX-R in the Northeast advertised as perfect and adult-owned, but it too came up as having been in a couple of accidents. Still other potentials failed the sniff test.
And we came up against two or three bald-faced scams, including one R1 up for grabs with a reserve set at about half the vehicle's value. What's more, the photos listed on eBay were clearly of two different motorcycles, neither one the actual bike claimed to be listed. We informed eBay of this and the auction was promptly closed. Fact is there are liars and cheats everywhere in the world, but they seem to thrive on the pseudo-anonymity of the electronic landscape. When buying something as valuable as a motorcycle by what is essentially remote control, you need a mix of resourcefulness and hopeful skepticism. And do your research.
But we lucked out--pure and simple. An '02 GSX-R listed for sale was a local bike, which gave us a chance to drive over and inspect the thing, just like a conventional sale. The seller, a recently transplanted University of Michigan grad, had brought the bike here but didn't have the time to ride it. The bike was clean, as advertised, and clearly uncrashed--its overall condition (and chain and tires, specifically) agreed with the indicated mileage. The VIN checked. We had a deal. The first $7500 spent in anger...and it felt good.
Because we knew we had so much of the performance in hand, we went ahead and created a special project out of the eBay GSX-R. Not only would our bike pound the others into submission, it would do so with a dual mandate: to be a great everyday streetbike but also have the bits and pieces (and, again, performance) to wreak havoc at the track--hence our team's name: Bipolar. Whoever wins this bike--it will be auctioned off by eBay at the end, with the proceeds going to charity--will get the best of both worlds.
To improve the everydayness of the GSX-R, we fiddled with its ergonomic profile. Stock, the seat's fine, so we concentrated on the handlebars, using a set of Scary Fast Racing's R Bars. They consist of beautifully anodized alloy clamps that fit around the top of the fork tubes under the stock triple clamps, a pair of round, T-shaped risers and rubber-isolated bars. Because you can turn the clamps pretty much any way you want around the fork tubes, and the risers can be mounted a variety of ways, the permutations of height, width and pullback are many and varied.
We'd already purchased Galfer steel-braided brake lines for the GSX-R but found they weren't long enough with the R Bars, so a set destined for an SV650 was substituted.Overall, we like the idea behind the R Bars. Variety is always a good thing, and within the space available between the fairing and tank, you can have just about any angle you want. However, the rubber mounts were too soft for our taste, allowing the bars to waggle noticeably and rotate in the rubber mounts. Newer versions have stiffer rubber, and should be just the ticket.
A set of Vortex Racing nonadjustable rearsets replaced the stock components in more ways than one: They put the solid-mounted pegs in exactly the same spot Suzuki did. The Geek opined, "Should they still be called rearsets, eh?" Maybe not, but we're glad we had them because they looked great and had more comfortable pegs; they're flat and solid, unlike the upwardly tilted, folding stock items. Overall, we considered taming the GSX-R for street work mission accomplished. With the excellent stock seat, utterly smooth engine and--now--reasonable ergonomics, it's a surprisingly comfortable bike.
While we're talking about the rearsets: A word about the choices on eBay Motors. The simple stuff--windscreens, bodywork bolt-ons, slip-on mufflers, rank-and-file hop-up parts--is there in great quantity and at generally good prices. But we found the variety of parts fell short of what you might find at a good online retailer. In this sense, eBay Motors is great for the casual shopper but less so when you know exactly what you want.
The bike came with some preinstalled goodies, including a full Yoshimura TRS exhaust system, frame sliders and an artlessly bobbed rear fender. Here is our complete list of power-enhancing modifications to the big Zook: a Yosh pipe and a Power Commander. That's it. After tweaking the Power Commander's fuel map, the GSX-R put down just a bit more than 150 horsepower with generally good drivability. (We started with the recommended baseline map for a 4-into-1 system and fiddled from there.) The Yosh system eliminates the SET valve in the exhaust, which can help bolster midrange; despite tweaking, we never really got the response at 4500 rpm to be as smooth or crisp as stock. Truth be told, if we weren't doing the track portion of this project, we'd consider staying with the stock exhaust. Suzuki supplies a great standard system that's light, quiet and costs relatively few peak ponies in the bargain.
We gave some thought to literally going big with the GSX-R engine. Wiseco makes a 1071cc kit using 76mm pistons running the stock 59mm stroke offering a 13.5:1 compression ratio. No doubt it would be a monster, but the big Zook's acceleration is already limited by traction and a tendency to wheelie. Kent would have his hands full with just a few extra ponies over stock.
OK, we did open the engine for one simple modification. Factory Pro's Shift Star and Detent kit took a couple of hours to install--partly because you have to remove the entire clutch assembly--but resulted in firmer, much more positive shifts. Neutral is a tad harder to find, but it's no big deal.
On the far end of the drivetrain, a #520 chain and sprocket set replaced the standard, heavy #530 setup. Sprockets were from Vortex; a steel countershaft and alloy rear sprocket in standard sizes. The chain between them is a Regina ORS.
Our attention turned next to suspension work. There's nothing inherently bad about the GSX-R's suspension, but the shock is notoriously short-lived and, besides, we had the budget to do it right.
By great good fortune, we discovered Traxxion Dynamics had a fully adjustable Penske 8981 remote-reservoir shock returned to the shop, and it was plunked down on eBay just in time. Done and delivered in a couple of days with the right spring. Now we needed fork work. At first we were thrilled to find a full hlins Road and Track fork on eBay. But the applications listed in the auction were at variance with hlins' own information, and the seller couldn't be bothered to respond to our requests for clarification. So we used some of our discretionary budget to have Traxxion rework the stock Kayaba fork with upgraded internals. Now the bike is more balanced, better planted and amazingly supple, with a huge adjustment range to accommodate a wide variety of riders. Turn up the adjusters for the track, turn them down for the street...just about perfect.
Mention of a braking test came as a bit of a surprise, but Kent said, "No problem." To give him a fighting chance--remember that cars have substantially more footprint, which largely overcomes the weight disparity--we updated the system. Originally, we kept an eye out for a complete 2003 GSX-R1000 front end that would donate its excellent radial-mount brakes, but unfortunately one never showed up on eBay. So it's the basics: Galfer braided-steel lines and DP Brakes racing-compound pads on the stock calipers. This setup isn't quite as hardcore as the new systems but still packs enough power to overcome the tire. Besides, the subtleties of braking action wouldn't enter into it. It's just up to Kent to bolster his courage and pull the lever for all he's worth.
The Editors' Charity Challenge rules say the vehicle has to be "street legal." (We're not sure how the Hot Rod guys and their rail dragster get around this. More conspiracies, perhaps?) We knew traction would make the difference between winning and utterly obliterating the others, so we did what we could within the rules. That's why we spooned a set of Dunlop's latest D208GP-A tires onto the Bipolar machine. They're DOT legal and sticky enough to all but assure better-than-stock quarter-mile times. Long-lasting? Doubtful, but who cares?
Bodywork and Protection
For the track portion of this GSX-R's life, we wanted it to have special clothes. A set of Cheetah Racing's fiberglass race skins were fitted and then sent off to Apex Moto in Southern California for paint. Because the bike was intended to look close to stock and retain the original ABS bodywork, we kept the standard fuel tank scheme and incorporated elements of it in the new race skins.
We hoped to make the change to race bodywork a fast and painless process. For the most part, we succeeded. The GSX-R mounts the instrument cluster to the back of the headlight module, so we had to fabricate a sheet-metal bracket to carry the unit in race mode. Because the race bodywork is intended just for the track, there's no provision to keep the sidestand. No worries--we simply trimmed a section of the lower left fairing for clearance. We made the rear turn signals quick-detachable and did what we could to simplify the changeover from street to track, but it's still a two-hour job.
Race bodywork gives you several advantages. It's light and easily repairable, and a lot cheaper to replace than the stock items. You get to leave the expensive headlight assembly safely in the shop, and most aftermarket fairings have an enclosed bellypan racing organizations require. (Most track days do not; however, it's nice to know that if the bike springs a leak it won't immediately hose down the track.)
Crashes happen, so we supplemented the frame and swingarm sliders that were on the bike when we bought it with Factory Pro billet engine covers with integral sliders. They're very nice pieces that can be left on for the street. However, the sliders foul the race bodywork and have to be removed for the track. Sometimes all the pieces go together like IKEA furniture. Sometimes not.
So How'd We Do?
We knew going in that few of the four-wheelers would pose any kind of challenge. And despite the chest-beating of the Harley guys, we were skeptical a '92 FXR, even with nitrous and a 103-cubic-inch engine, could seriously take on the mighty GSX-R. But we were worried about the dragster.
As such, we decided to take a day off and work out the Suzuki's kinks at an extremely well-attended Hyperclub (818/988-8860, www.hypercycle.com) track event at the Streets of Willow just two days before the big eBay shootout. Except for a noise we hadn't noticed before--a kind of low groan we finally put down to reverberations from the all-fiberglass bodywork--the Suzuki ran flawlessly. We made a couple of small suspension adjustments, scrubbed in the tires and called it good. Murphy's Law says that when you make the time for prep days like this you never need them. But if you don't, all hell will break loose at the event proper...as many of the Editors' Charity Challenge teams discovered.
The day dawned indistinct and hazy--standard meteorological conditions for Fontana, home of the steel mill and big-rig repair shop. As we went into round one of coffee and fresh Krispy Kremes, it was obvious many of the teams had been up all night flogging away, hoping just to have a running vehicle at the event, much less looking to win. Our GSX-R? Hadn't been touched since the track two days before. We all got a full night's sleep.
We walked the pits assessing the competition. The Harley looked a lot nicer and more purposeful than we expected. Then we heard, "Yeah, the clearcoat is barely dry. I was up waiting for parts at 5 a.m....haven't even tested the nitrous on the street." OK, then. One down. Motor Trend's Volkswagen Golf looked like an outside threat, with a four-wheel-drive system from an Audi pushed along by a turbocharged V6. Even if it wouldn't give us fits in the quarter-mile, it might make up enough distance in the braking and skidpad events to be trouble. Have to keep our eyes on that one.
The Deadly Viper Assassination...
The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad's Acura Integra
The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad's Acura Integra looked mean enough, as did the immaculate Bow Tie Boys' '72 Chevy Nova in stunning orange with massive brake discs showing through the spindly wheels.
Then we saw the rail. Hot Rod takes the Chutzpah Award for building a dead-serious rail dragster. When we last talked to the HR boys, they were planning an out-of-the-crate 383-cubic-inch engine for the rail, which gave us some hope the Suzuki's reliability and Kent's intense competitiveness would give us a sliver of a chance. But then we were informed that, naw, the little engine wasn't in there. Instead, Hot Rod's team found a 413-cubic-inch small-block Chevy that put down 650 horsepower. Hmmmm. That one might be trouble. When asked how fast it could go, Hot Rod's Matt King said, as nonchalantly as he could, "Oh, mid-8s." Gulp. But as they were still furiously swinging wrenches on an unproven vehicle, we could still hope for them to DNF.The motorcycles were up first for the dragstrip. These performances would count as two of the four scores in the competition: quarter-mile and 0-60. Kento laid down four superb runs back to back, with Motor Trend's radar gun showing us with a best of 9.95 seconds at 143.15 mph and a best 0-60 of 2.7 seconds. Not as good as we'd hoped, but probably strong enough to vanquish all but the dragster. We'd gone for sticky tires and a compromise setup, but the bike was still very hard to launch.
The Harley, we have to confess, gave us a decent run. Its first two tries showed the effects of last-minute wrenching, as the nitrous caused the engine to pop and snort and just generally sound like an ill-tuned Harley. For the last runs, the team elected not to use the nitrous, yet still put in a decent 11.03/126.47 run. Its best 0-60 was 2.9 seconds, which should have shamed all the car guys. (In fact, we heard grumbling from the other teams that they shouldn't have to compete with bikes. Just not fair.)
Mechanical mayhem played with two of the car teams. The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad's Acura broke a constant-velocity joint exactly three feet into its first run and spent most of the morning with its snout proudly in the air as its crew rushed around to find a replacement. Then the Motor Trend Golf arrived and promptly broke something in the drive to the rear wheels. Later, one of the team members borrowed a bunch of our safety wire to keep the now-disconnected rear half shafts out of the way. Yeah, cars are great. Easy to work on, too. We lounged under our Qwikshade tents and sipped from bottles of ice-cold water, admiring the handiwork of Karel Kramer's CR80R fitted with an XR200 motor.
Finally, well after lunch and hours late, the Hot Rod dragster made its first pass. The car went proudly sideways at the launch, but its vigor could not be denied. Even loafing through the lights, it put in a high-9-second. Later--much later--the car tried again and put down a 9.14 second/139.61 mph run. By the terminal speed, the driver had come out of the gas well down the run and basically let it coast through the lights. Had the dragster been in top form, we'd have been toast. Crispy, charcoal-black toast.We moved to the braking tests, which we knew would be our weakest event. (A motorcycle may be light, but it has far less contact patch, and the penalties for overdoing the deed are much more severe than in a car. Kent, ever the smart man, wanted to keep it all in one piece.) Short story: We placed fourth, behind the Golf, the Integra and Team Euro Trash's heavily modified, steamroller-tired BMW M3.
Hot Rod Front Engine Dragster 9.14 sec. @ 139.61 mph
Sport Rider/Bipolar Suzuki GSX-R1000 9.95 sec. @ 143.15 mph
Lane Splitters 1992 Harley Davidson FXR 11.03 sec. @ 126.47 mph
Motor Trend 2000 Volkswagen Golf 12.48 sec. @ 115.27 mph
Got Boost 1993 Ford Mustang Cobra 12.64 sec. @ 110.90 mph
Deadly Viper Assassination Squad 1994 Acura Integra 12.77 sec. @ 116.80 mph
Euro Trash 1995 BMW M3 13.44 sec. @ 107.31 mph
Bow Tie Bad Boys 1972 Nova 13.46 sec. @ 104.92 mph
Custom Truck 1997 Chevy Silverado 15.95 sec. @ 86.2 mph
Hot Rod Front Engine Dragster 2.2 sec.
Sport Rider/Bipolar Suzuki GSX-R10002.7 sec.
Dirt Heads 2000 Dodge Ram 2500 10.9 sec.
Custom Truck 1997 Chevy Silverado 8.0 sec.
Bow Tie Bad Boys 1972 Nova 5.1 sec.
Euro Trash 1995 BMW M3 5.0 sec.
Deadly Viper Assassination Squad 1994 Acura Integra 4.7 sec.
Got Boost 1993 Ford Mustang Cobra 4.2 sec.
Motor Trend 2000 Volkswagen Golf 4.2 sec.
Motor Trend 2000 Volkswagen Golf 109 ft.
Euro Trash 1995 BMW M3 118 ft.
Deadly Viper Assassination Squad 1994 Acura Integra 122 ft.
Sport Rider/Bipolar Suzuki GSX-R1000 132 ft.
Lane Splitters 1992 Harley Davidson FXR 134 ft.
Custom Truck 1997 Chevy Silverado 140 ft.
Got Boost 1993 Ford Mustang Cobra 142 ft.
Bow Tie Bad Boys 1972 Nova 158 ft.
Dirt Rider Honda CR80R 180 ft.
Lane Splitters 1992 Harley Davidson FXR 79.3 mph
Sport Rider/Bipolar Suzuki GSX-R100080.8 mph
Euro Trash 1995 BMW M3 68.5 mph
Motor Trend 2000 Volkswagen Golf 68.4 mph
Deadly Viper Assassination Squad 1994 Acura Integra 64.1 mph
Got Boost 1993 Ford Mustang Cobra 60.5 mph
Dirt Rider Honda CR80R 59.9 mph
Custom Truck 1997 Chevy Silverado 54.5 mph
Bow Tie Bad Boys 1972 Nova 47.7 mph