Developing an actual racebike takes countless hours spent experimenting with parts, setup, and tuning, and for the newer racer, this process normally results in more questions than answers. What if you could skip the trials and tribulations of developing your first racebike and rather than worry about all the preparation details go right to racing and actually, you know, begin honing your skills? Even better, imagine if you could go direct to one of the top teams in the American roadrace paddock and pick their brains for how to continually develop that bike.
"You won’t smoke through tires every session, you won’t burn through race fuel as quickly, and…you won’t break the bank beginning your racing career."
Turns out Graves Racing Services was asking some of the same questions, the company realizing there are generally not enough options available for the guy who wants to go racing but doesn’t have the experience or time to build his own bike. Graves' solution is this: the WORKS Yamaha R3, an affordable, professionally built small-displacement racebike that you can purchase directly from the Los Angeles shop, complete with parts, accessories, and components that’ll help you meet your racing goals.
Of course, there’s more to the project, suggests company founder and president Chuck Graves, who says that, beyond just the bike, the firm will also provide the technical support that will help the rider down the road. “We give them a setting sheet, rider report, and crew chief report. If they fill out the information in all of these and then ask for any kind of technical advice, it makes it really, really easy for us to help them.” That advice is no small asset either, with the team at Graves Racing Services consisting of the same people who help build the R6s that have continually run at the front of MotoAmerica (and previously AMA Pro) races.
Sure, the R3 is a different animal than the R6, but the goal is the same: to extract as much performance out of the package as possible. To do that here, Graves Racing Services takes a stock R3 and updates it with handpicked parts based on your plans for the bike. Not all orders are identical, Graves explains. “Once we identify the customer’s goals we send them a proposal for a build.” In most cases, that includes custom racing bodywork, an Öhlins rear shock, Andreani fork kit, brake lines, Vesrah brake pads, a re-flashed Flash Tune ECU and quickshifter, adjustable Graves rearsets, and a Graves full-system exhaust.
At Southern California's Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, we had the chance to swing a leg over a bike with those parts and even a set of Dunlop spec race tires, ultimately walking away wanting one of our own. The thing is that we’ve always loved the R3 but knew it wasn’t meant to be a racebike. These parts completely change its persona though, with the Graves R3 actually feeling like a real racebike.
A 15-percent increase in power resulting from a full stainless/carbon exhaust and FT ECU race map made a noticeable change, especially in the higher rpm of the powerband. And if you’re planning on racing the R3, utilizing the added top-end power will be a must. Beyond that, the engine is super user-friendly thanks to a smooth on/off throttle and quickshifter that provides seamless full-throttle upshifts.
The handling was perhaps the best part though. Gone is the almost-twitchy feeling that’s familiar with most lightweight bikes, replaced with big-bike stability. And by that we don’t mean that the bike became a sluggish tank; it just didn’t over-react to bumps or sudden movements. This not only allowed us to ride more aggressively and without nervousness in the back of our minds but almost put us in shock at how well balanced the R3 really was.
This newfound balance, however, did not take away from the R3’s very agile handling. In fact, it only complemented it. Steering through and finishing corners is where the R3 really shined. But it wasn’t just the fact of how quickly the bike turned that impressed us. The combination of the steering and feel through the bike was what really turned our heads. Not once was there a slip, slide, or “uh-oh” moment, and somehow the bike went exactly where we wanted it to go. We could really see how a bike like this would help you as a rider, to hone your skills. Unlike the fire-breathing modern supersport bikes, the R3 is an unintimidating platform. The Yamaha’s forgiving nature allows you to make mistakes, and instead of being spit to the ground you learn from them. A confidence-inspiring quality that, no matter how many laps you turn, the desire to ride and learn more will only burn deeper.
But that’s just it: laps. Clicking off laps is the only way to gain experience. And for any new or younger rider, the Graves-spec R3 makes riding laps not as expensive as it would be on a bigger bike. You won’t smoke through tires every session, you won’t burn through race fuel as quickly, and with a relatively inexpensive buy-in cost, you won’t break the bank beginning your racing career. And, instead, you’ll be able to afford more laps, more racing, and, we can only help but guess, an endless amount of fun.
So if having fun and going racing for the first time is on your agenda, the Graves WORKS Yamaha R3 might be the package for you. Sure, you can always build your own bike, but chances are there are going to be bumps along the way. The way we see it, why not skip as many bumps in the road as possible and get straight to racing?