Finally! After having the bike for 4.5 months just sitting in my garage staring me down everyday begging to be ridden, i finally did this past weekend, a much needed 2 day event at Thunderbolt.
I was a little more nervous than i expected to be sitting in full gear waiting for the 3rd call of my first session on Saturday. I wasn’t sure if it was because this was the first event of the year or if it was because i was riding a new bike, but either way, i was about to find out if replacing the R6 with the 848 was a wise decision. Questions i pondered throughout the winter like, “how does the 848 handle compared to the R6? what is the power delivery like? how powerful are the brakes? how do the Bridgestone DOT R10′s compare to the Dunlop slicks? what does a bike with traction control (TC) feel like?” were all about to be answered…sort of.
The first session was more of an icebreaker for calming the nerves than really evaluating the new bike. I was all over the place as far as gearing, shifting needlessly in places i normally wouldn’t shift. I had to regain familiarity with hanging off the side of the bike and dragging knee. However, after a few sessions i was able to start thinking about the differences between the 848 and the R6, as well as the 1098. To make things simple, i’ll just bullet point the differences between each bike:
848 vs 1098
- 848 is more agile than the 1098. Turn-in is quick and the bike feels lighter when transitioning from side to side. I believe this is mostly due to the geometry changes made to the 848 by adding the 28mm offset triples and the 23.5 steering stem kit.
- 848 holds the line much better than the 1098. I’m able to exit the corner where i want to and also change lines mid corner if necessary.
- As expected, the 848 is down on power and doesn’t feel nearly as torquey as the 1098. It doesn’t start feeling fast until you get above 8000 rpm, whereas the 1098 always felt fast out of every corner.
*NOTE: This comparison is by no means a true comparison between a 1098 and an 848. Both bikes have the same geometry from the factory so as you would expect they should handle the same in stock form. I believe all the differences in handling were due to all the suspension mods done to the 848 as opposed to an innate ability of the 848.
Photo courtesy of Tim Eng – a short lived battle with Eric Stump, an AMA pro rider
848 vs R6
- I was pleasantly surprised to find that the 848 handled very similarly to the R6, mainly the 848 felt just as light as the R6 through the corners.
- The 848 seemed to move around a lot more when accelerating, but i’m not sure if it’s because of the bike or because of how i’m riding it, but the R6 definitely seemed to be a little smoother on acceleration.
- The 848 is much skinnier than the R6 and when you sit on it you feel more like you’re riding in the bike, as opposed to the R6 where you feel like you’re riding on top of the bike. This is probably because the 848 has a longer reach to the bars and the R6 tank is more slanted than the 848.
- The gearing on the 848 turned out to be pretty similar to the R6. After a few sessions i found that i was shifting at the same places i was with the R6 and i was nearly redlining 6th gear on the front straight. This is great news because now i don’t have to spend any extra money buying new chains and sprockets. Although after analyzing the lap time data, i think i will need to start downshifting 3 gears, as opposed to 2, on the front straight going into T1.
- This next one was highly unexpected, but the R6 seemed to provide a little more wind protection when tucked in on the front straight compared to the 848. The reason i didn’t expect this is because my 848 windscreen looks a lot bigger than the R6 so you would think it provides more protection, but apparently not. Mainly, i felt my helmet pushing up against my face when riding the 848, but i don’t remember that happening on the R6.
Photo courtesy of Tim Eng
The one upgrade on the 848 that i was most curious to try out was by far the Nemesis Traction Control which had been a highly anticipated product for many 848/1098/1198 owners who didn’t have DTC. The Nemesis TC was also advertised to be a more advanced system than the factory DTC and closer to the TC systems used in WSBK. Since i didn’t know what to expect when TC kicked in, i started on level 6, which the previous owner told me he was using. There are a total of 8 TC settings, with 0 being off. The cool part about TC when it kicked in was that it sounded exactly like it did on TV during the MotoGP races. The not so cool part was it was killing my drive out of the corners. Also it seemed to kick in a lot more than i expected it to, whether it was leaned over or accelerating out of the corner. I spent the majority of my sessions on Saturday playing with different TC levels. I lowered the TC level by 1 for each session and my lap times gradually dropped with each change. At level 6 i was doing 1:41s and i peaked at 1:39.9 on Saturday with a level 2 TC setting. Still i felt the TC was interfering too much with my corner exit speed. After i get more seat time on the bike with different TC settings i’ll do a more thorough analysis of my experience with TC.
Photo courtesy of Tim Eng
Traction control aside, i must admit, i was a little discouraged by my lap times despite feeling like the bike handled similar to the R6 in terms of agility and corner speed. The bike never felt loose, it didn’t understeer like my 1098 did, and even through the slow fish hook corner (T9) i was able to carry a similar line at roughly the same speed as the R6 which is impressive considering that was what made me fall in love with the R6 to begin with. I think besides needing to get used to the new bike’s power delivery and understanding the traction control, my body still needed to adjust to the speed. The fact that i felt like i was going really fast but my lap times were nowhere near where i thought they should be was proof of that. Experience tells me that feeling relaxed and comfortable, to some extent slow, is the key to fast laps. And that’s exactly what happened on Sunday. After setting the TC level to 1, i went out for the first session after lunch and the pace felt comfortable, i didn’t feel overly tired, and i was actually able to ride to the checkered flag for the first time all weekend. When i came in, i saw i did a 1:38.3 and i felt a heavy load lifted off my shoulders. Although i didn’t match my personal best time from last year on my R6, i did drop below 1:39 which was the time i struggled to beat for a good part of the 2011 season. Doing a 1:38.3 on my season opener while riding a new bike made me feel like last year wasn’t a complete waste. On a side note, due to a group 4 rider dropping oil on 2/3 of the track right before lunch on Saturday, they had to powder the track to soak up the oil which affected my pace in the afternoon sessions due to my lack of confidence in grip when riding over the powdered sections.
Photo courtesy of Tim Eng – Eric Stump pulling away
Despite only doing one lap below 1:39, the weekend was a good refresher for riding at track speeds as well as a good debut for the new 848. Once again, God showed himself faithful by giving us great weather for both days. I thought for sure Sunday would be a wash out because when i checked the forecast on Saturday it was supposed to rain overnight, which it did, and thunderstorm on Sunday. When i woke up on Sunday and saw the clouds, occasional drizzle here and there, and a soaked track, i figured i’d stick around until noon to see if it would clear up and if not, i’d head home early to spend some time with the family. I thought for sure with Sunday’s forecast that both Tim and Eric would be out, but surprisingly i see them pull up at 7:30 am saying that the weather was expected to be perfect, and sure enough by 10 am the track was completely dry. Another track day, another answered prayer, God is good! Also, another example of how God takes something we think is bad and turns it around for good, as I mentioned above, the track was powdered on Saturday due to an oil spill, but since it rained overnight on Saturday, the track was nice and clean again on Sunday!
I’ll end this post with some pics i took with the D300. I focused primarily on panning shots as i work to improve my settings for maximum speed effect. I also need to try some new compositions for a little added flare.
Tim going through T9, “the Fish Hook”
Tim in the middle of one serious pack!
Unfortunately i didn’t get any pics of Eric out on track, but fortunately, Eric got bumped up to group 2 so next time he’ll be out with Tim so i’ll be sure to get some shots for him!
This picture is a reminder to stay hydrated. This guy passed out braking for T1 at 100+ mph! The bike slammed into the ground and slid along with the rider into the dirt.
Here’s one i took with my iPhone. This guy crashed after someone dropped oil on 2/3 of the track. Notice the cracked tank?! He’s lucky his bike didn’t catch fire!