An aspect of bike riding/racing that I enjoy is the technology and engineering available for the bikes. Puritans will recoil in horror, but I like quality gear on my steed.
I have been riding trackdays for 15 years, on my current bike since 2011. That has allowed me to add trick bits over time. Mostly I try to add parts that are well designed and do a good job – I’m not into over-complicating things. I have ended up with a bike that has some beautiful engineering throughout. It’s an expensive way to build a race bike, but it means I can look at my bike and know that every component was hand-picked by me from all available options.
Take crash bungs for example – aftermarket parts designed to keep the expensive bits off the ground when you crash. Your average bung is designed with a bolt that runs through a plastic puck and into the frame of the bike. This means the puck is hollow and if you crash hard enough you wear the head off the bolt, making it all but impossible to remove. The bolts also have a habit of bending making them a nightmare to remove.
Now take a look at Woodcraft’s design. The plastic puck connects to the solid frame fixing via a small bolt in the side. This means the puck is solid plastic, comprising 50% more plastic to wear through when the bike slides. It also means that when you pick the bike back up, you remove a small bolt and replace the plastic puck, no drama. The crash bungs can also be made smaller because they are more dense – reducing the possibility of the crash bungs themselves actually causing frame damage through impact. I find this all very pleasing.
Another example are secondary engine casing covers – now mandatory in my class. Typically these are some form of carbon fibre or plastic cover over the original engine casing, meaning the bike can slide for longer before the casing wears through and you leak oil and ingest junk into your engine. But on my last spill, a slow speed crash (34mph) had my casing almost worn through despite using fairly expensive GBRacing covers. To be fair, they did their job – it’s just that it was a close call and it was a very slow spill.
Now again consider Woodcraft’s alternative design. Aircraft grade aluminium secondary cover (bends instead of smashing) with metal sliders on the contact points. These sliders are bolted on from the inside of the casing meaning that if you wear them down, you don’t wear the head off the bolt you are meant to use to replace them. Just pop off the cover and replace the slider. Clever, but sensible straightforward design. Chances are they will last multiple crashes rather than being disposable items.
I, like many other riders, have learned through experience that saving a pound or two can be costly. A cheap paddock stand might save you £50, but how much does it cost when the bike falls off it? I’ve seen it happen more than once. On one occasion it happened when a bike had no back wheel in. It is the wheel and spindle that provides the rigidity to the swingarm sides. The guy ended up with one side of his swingarm two inches lower than the other. Buy a Harris paddock stand for £100 and it will never fail and last a lifetime (unless it is stolen).
Cheap frame covers, save £100 but you’ll never get them to fit right. Cheap fairings, great but what value do you associate with the hours in the garage making them fit? Cheap leathers – great until you actually need them to work and they split down the seams. Cheap levers – don’t go there. You need your brakes and clutch to work and if the shoddy tolerances used by cheap manufacturing mean that the lever sticks, that’s going to cost you a lot more than you save.
I would also warn against ‘bling’. I would classify ‘bling’ as anything over-complicated or unnecessary. I had expensive bling rearsets – they cost me two crashes into tyre walls. Now I have high quality rearsets that are significantly more simple in design and much more effective. Again, clever design wins out, not necessarily the most fancy design.
Companies I find myself going back to are Alpha, Woodcraft, CRC, Lightech, Held, Arai, TCX. AIM have great customer support for their GPS trackers. Companies I avoid but are commonly used are RST and R&G.
Not everyone can afford the most expensive parts and often the most expensive parts are not the best. But there is a lot of satisfaction in actually researching the designs available and considering the cost benefit of paying a little more for something that will be more effective or may outlast your average design many times over.
My humble opinion is – don’t just buy what the next guy bought – have a think about how it will actually perform when you need it.