Proper feet up action
Proper feet up action

Super Sideways Sliding Supermotards: Part One

So you're barreling into a corner at about 75mph, the guy next to you shows you a wheel, you afford a cursory glance and you're shocked to see Kevin Schwantz astride a competition Suzuki. You start to brake for the turn-in point and the familiar number 34 slides by with full opposite lock, rear tire sliding widely sideways as the GP champ pitches it in, you watch with wonder as he slides towards, through and out of the corner…

Yesteryear? 93 or 94? No - It was last week at a Supermotard meet at the Anaheim stadium car park. An event that was also attended no less by Nicky Hayden, Larry Pegram, and even fast Aussie Anthony "Go Show " Gobert.

We need to break this news… Supermotard is hot! It's a sport that is coming on strong again. Not since the ABC Superbikers series have we started to see this much activity especially amongst the pro riders. It's the ultimate sport for testing mettle, metal and your motorcycling abilities.

The premise of the sport is a half-baked half dirt, half asphalt track and the weapon of choice is usually a lightweight, big-braked motocrosser with sticky gumball tires and a leather-clad pilot. Full length suspension is the norm, as a traditional track could incorporate a TT style jump. Old school is knee out, traditional/new school is a one foot out style similar to dirt tracking. Sliding on dirt track is a commonly seen spectacle; sliding on asphalt gets even the season-hardened veteran excited. Seemingly out of control, yet in complete control.

The SuperTT has been making its way through with diehard competitors since late 97'. This year we're seeing a mid America series being developed in and around the Elkhart Lake, Road America track in Wisconsin, also an Eastern series is emerging with a Maryland State summer series and a North Caroline/Florida based winter series too.

With our infinite wisdom we decided we should take the plunge. Well… it'd be rude not to. I've done this sort of thing before mind you, in hindsight; I might have been a little bit before my time. It seems that the U.S. is finally ready to accept the return of the prodigal racer son. I decided to start from scratch with a bike that is familiar to the masses and turn it into a bike that I know and love and a bike that is going to convert some of you too.

I'm going to help supply you with the basics of setup, confirm a shopping list of goodies, a helpful guide as to where to purchase those aforementioned goodies and a little inspiration to boot. My goal is also to show how versatile and how competitive a well set up SM can be. I intend to campaign this bike in one of the above mentioned series and a WERA or CCS event or two, to see how it stacks up against a more traditional race bike.

What do you need to start? Well, a bike obviously. Any MX or dirt biased bike will do. I've seen excellent motarded tackle from Suzuki's DR650 through to the newer DR-Z as well as Yamaha's YZ two and four strokes. My tech editor DaveW, even built and rides a Kawasaki KX250. Skinny budget? You can also build a XR100 or a TT-R125 for a mini motard class too, a third of the price, half the size and speed and twice the fun.

Stock XR Too stock and too nobbly?

Introducing "Project XR-RR"

With the help of Champions Honda, probably the best stocked Honda dealership in the country and based out of Cocoa, Florida, we managed to grab a nice new leftover 2000 Honda XR650R. Why the XR? Well we skipped the CR450F (even after Nicky won on one in his first outing) because we wanted a street biased SM and even though the XR-R could be considered portly, it's got some healthy displacement on its side. It's also got a lighting coil that could come in handy at a later date too.

Now, in stock form the bike is pretty scary. Not powerful scary… smog strangled scary. We dug around and found a couple of nasty ol' restrictors on the bike, namely a severely restricted intake manifold, a rather rubbery boot within the airbox and a large metal "bung" stuffed into the end of the exhaust muffler.

Before BeforeGo grab a holesaw Go grab a holesawAfter After

Out came the corporate Visa card and in went the competition intake manifold. The exhaust baffle was drilled out using a 2" holesaw (although a HRC baffle can be purchased if your budget dictates) and a #175 main jet was installed (up from #125) We junked the rubber "smog stuff" in the airbox and fired up the bike. Instant beans. The bike now wheelies rather angrily in all five gears, doesn't sound too obnoxious exhaust-wise and is exactly how it should have been delivered.

Out OutOut OutIn In

Our plans?

Brakes… Big 320mm brakes, stoppies are de rigueur, as are end of race stunt shows.

Wheels… 17" alloy, anodized for style and beefy for strength.

Tires... Sticky, natch.

Engine… Well, wouldn't you know it? HRC make a nice little kit for the XR that includes a high compression piston, cam and some secret sauce.

Exhaust... There are also build plans included for a HRC spec exhaust and muffler and we vow to track down the maker of that system, for you (us).

Ergonomics... The bars are a little too "in ya' lap", we'll be getting that sorted too.

Our goal is to upgrade the XR for a minimum 65BHP or bust.

To be continued…


We have a Supermotard links page here if you want to pursue your own project. Don't try and make me look bad though by finishing your bike first.