Suzuki Media Day 2018

On the 21st June 2018, I somehow managed to wrangle a spot at Suzuki’s Media Day, an event held at Bruntingthrope Aerodrome and Proving Ground.

For those who have never been, Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome and Proving Ground is a privately owned airport near the village of Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire.

I arrived to see a line up of 10 models from Suzuki’s 2018 range standing there before me. A stunning line up of bikes combined with an open pit lane on an airfield on a beautifully sunny day could only mean one thing… a day filled with spring boarding onto different bikes and riding flat out!

Excuse the hair… It was windy!

When we rocked up, we had some breakfast (fruit and pastries) and a brew, because can you really start the day right without a brew? No, absolutely not!

As more bloggers, social media hustlers, photographers and journalists arrived, you could feel the excitement building, especially when we were all told to gather round for the morning brief.

We were informed that the bikes we would be riding were:

Hayabusa

GSX-R1000R

GSX-S1000

GSX-S1000F

GSX-S750

SV650X

V-Strom 1000XT

GSX-S125

GSX-R125

Burgman 650

 

The line up in all its glory!

And that our day was to consist of the following:

Morning Mugshots (so the photographer could identify who was who)

Sighting lap in the race van (Race van that was actually just a normal van with a nutter driving it!)

Morning Riding (open pit lane style, jumping on and off the bikes and swapping and changing with the other riders)

Lunch break

Afternoon riding (same format as the morning)

 

The day was designed to be laid back, no pressure, no super strict regime – just jump on the machines and enjoy!

From 125cc all the way up to 1300cc!

The first bike that I rode was the GSX-S 125, whilst my partner in crime Jen took out the GSX-R 125.

The GSX-S is the naked version with flat bars and a striped down look, where as the GSX-R is the sporty version with clips ons and fairing.

The 125’s got their very own playground, a go cart track offset from the main air strip, so that’s where we took em!

I had some fun chasing Jen on there, who was dragging her knee everywhere.

Follow her on Instagram @biker_jen

When we rocked back up to the main area, some bikes were already out on track being ridden, so I jumped on what was available and gave it a whirl!

There was a nice GSX-S1000 free so I decided to ride it!

My first impression of the GSX-S1000, was that it felt extremely flick-able and agile. The riding position was extremely comfortable.

The only thing I slightly struggled with was not having a screen when doing speeds in excess of 120 mph, as I’m only a small creature – so clinging on for dear life was a bit of a challenge!

On a normal days riding where the max speed limit on a motorway is 70 mph (Mr officer)… the lack of screen wouldn’t have been an issue for me I’m sure!

Stealth mode activated!

I then took out the GSX-S750…

Naturally, it isn’t as powerful as its big brother that i’d just jumped off but DAMN, I will say the throttle is responsive (maybe a little too responsive for my taste!)

The front brake is extremely keen, which caught me off guard as I wasn’t expecting it to be keener than the GSX-S1000’s front brake.

Overall, I was really impressed with the GSX-S range and I’d love to try them out on the roads as well as a track environment.

GSX-S750

 

GSX-S750 holding its own through the chicanes

I was starting to get a feel for this jumping on new bikes malarkey so I thought next, I’d give the Hayabusa a try!

When I saw the Busa at the start of the day, I had big dreams to gain entry into the elite 200 mph club, however that dream was short lived; as the stretch of straight track wasn’t long enough to achieve this mission!

Not to mention modern bikes are usually limited to 189 mph by manufacturers. Still, I managed to hit 160 mph a few times on the Busa but couldn’t go any quicker as you lose your bottle when you approach the next corner at eye watering speed!

Hayabusa in action

Visually, everything about this bike is old school. If you were to put a 1999 Hayabusa next to this one, you’ll see only slight changes, but that all contributes to its charm.

Feature wise, there have been advancements with Brembo calipers for ultimate stopping power, lightweight ABS and more horses, what’s not to love?

As you can see from the above chest cam image, the dash is still extremely retro, the Hayabusa’s dash remains analog whilst the GSX-R1000R got a fancy, new, multi functional LCD dash for 2018.

I’m not mad about this, as it’s all in-keeping with the heritage of Suzuki’s Hayabusa.

Despite its stocky build, it isn’t afraid to be banked over

Obviously I didn’t ride these bikes enough to give you a full review, these are just my initial thoughts, what I will say about the Busa though, is that it feels like a rocket propelled couch. Its super comfy which i’d imagine would be pleasant for touring but with heaps of power and the brakes necessary to stop it, it’s also an absolute weapon.

I must say, I thought it stopped exceptionally well for the speeds it was doing! Which is always reassuring.

It was the bike that surprised me the most with how planted and stable yet agile it felt, and it ended up being one of my favourite bikes of the day!

The next bike I decided to play on was the GSX-R1000R.

I had been excited for this since the early morning but it was an extremely popular choice for riders on the day and there was 2 of them to share between 15 of us.

The GSX-R1000R is a beautiful machine, packed with electronics such as motion track brake system, motion track traction control, Suzuki drive mode selector, Launch control and a Bi-directional quick shift system (that’s a quickshifter and autoblipper to me and you!)

The quick shifter up and down is as smooth as slug snot. I was impressed.

The only thing I found a little odd at first was there was no definite clunk when your foot alters the gear shifter. Most people wouldn’t have an issue you with this and find it completely normal, which it is! I am just used to a agricultural ‘clunk’ from the shifter so I know it has changed gear.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to feel a seamless response from the engine but I like tangible feedback from the shifter, which I found soft and unsure if i’d shifted.

From the look of the standard exhaust, you would not expect it to sound aggressive like it did! It sounded dirty shifting through the box!

Yea, yea, yea we’ve seen the reviews on this bike, we’ve read the mainly negative opinions about the looks of the exhaust, but if you have a bike and dont upgrade your exhaust instantly, are you even a biker? HA.

It’s the same with a standard reg plate hanger as well, everyone has their grumbles about them but as soon as they get home, they stick a tail tidy straight in their online basket!

As you can see by the chest cam shot above, the LCD dash is quite nice!

It’s not as fancy as some TFT dashes I’ve seen, HOWEVER everything is clear to view including your speed, gear, revs, traction control setting and it’s pleasant to look at.

After I’d got my sports bike thrills, I thought to myself, “Right, time to try something you’re not used to”

This is when I stepped onto the mighty Burgman 650. A gaint, comfy rev and rip automatic scoot (that does have a manual mode whereby you can change gears via a switch on the bars).

Out of all the bikes available, I was most nervous to try this machine! Why? The last time I rode a scooter was 11 years ago.

After giving myself an extra moment to remember DO NOT GRAB A HAND FULL OF CLUTCH, as its a brake, I was good to go!

The Burgman 650 has a power mode believe it or not so you can release its inner beast. It also has a hand brake, heaps of under seat storage, an adjustable screen, heated seats and electric mirrors, to me it felt like the ultimate commute scoot.

Taking it on the track was quite funny as you can hit lean angles that you wouldn’t normally attempt on the roads.

I will tell you, you can lean it quite a bit before the centre stand scrapes!

It felt a little strange riding a Burgman in one piece leathers and a Shoei race lid!

Moving on to the second bike that I was a little anxious to try… The V-Strom 1000XT.

Why? I’ve never ridden an adventure bike before. They’re so tall so it always put me off – being 5’4 and 9 stone wet through.

As soon as I set off, all my worries were left behind.

Its comfy, quick and very smooth. I really enjoyed it. I even managed to do a GSX-R1000R on the outside, which left me smiling inside my lid and impressed with the power of the motorised armchair I was sat upon!

After riding every bike I could (except the GSX-S1000F as it was the end of the day and there was no fuel left for it), the day was finished off in the most spectacular way!

I got to have a pilly ride with Suzuki Team Rider Richard Cooper (who had been playing around and showing off on the track with us all day!)

He was on the GSX-R1000R with nothing but a ratchet strap tied around his waist.

So I clung on and tried not to fall off!

3.59pm on a Sunday when you’ve ran out of milk

 

All in all, I had a fantastic day!

I got to broaden my horizons and ride different bikes other than what I am used to and I met a whole bunch of amazing people in the process.

 

Thank you Suzuki UK for letting me attend!

 

https://bikes.suzuki.co.uk/bikes/

https://www.instagram.com/suzukibikesuk/

https://www.instagram.com/coopes47

 

Jamie Whitham’s Motorcycle Track Training

On Wednesday 9th August 2017, I was fortunate enough to attend Jamie Whitham’s Track Training School at Mallory Park.

Having previously done only a few track days and never any where I had received top quality coaching by some really high profile, big characters in the racing world, I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that I was excited, borderline nervous and aiming to improve my track riding!

The first bit of track time starts at 9am, so we were expected to be there for 8.15am for signing on and briefing. Everybody has to attend the safety briefing in the morning, which is compulsory. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a track veteran or a complete newby, no one is exempt.

The safety briefing is led by James Whitham and Paul Drinkwater, and for those who have been living under a rock, Jamie is an Ex British Super Bike and World Super Bike rider as well as a Motorcycling racing commentator who can usually be found in Paddocks nationwide interviewing riders for us to watch on T.V. Paul Drinkwater aka Drinkie is the brains behind the school, who noticed a gap in the market for a low numbers/ high quality track tuition day and is responsible for approaching Jamie, making a plan, making it a reality and the success it is today.

In the briefing, it is here you’re taught track etiquette, what the different coloured flags mean, how long you get on track, what groups are available for us to ride in (novice, intermediate or fast) and who our allocated instructor/s would be.

Jamie asked if the instructors had a preference on which groups they’d like to coach for the day and they all picked between themselves who they would like to mentor.

I put myself in the novice group as it was my second time riding my new CBR600RR (well, new to me!)  around a track, and having never owned or ridden a proper sportsbike before, riding this bike is taking some getting used to!

The mentors that decided they were going to coach the novices were Steve Brogan and Jake Dixon.

Ste Brogan has had much success in British Supersport, Superstock and Superbikes and he was champion in the BSB EVO class in 2010 as well as taking the National Superstock 1000 championship title in 2008. He also raced in numerous European Superstock and World Supersport races between 1999 and 2004, so the man has a wealth of experience and knowledge that he is ready and willing to share with JW Track Training attendees.

Jake Dixon on the other hand, is a regular rider on the BSB scene racing for Lee Hardy Racing and this year, debuted in Moto2 for Dynavolt Intact GP, stepping in for an injuried German rider Marcel Schrötter and showing the world that he could hold his own at Silverstone in the MotoGP. I was fortunate enough to attend that round and everyone was rooting for him! Jake is quite a personality and you can follow his shenanigans on his instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jake_dixon.7

After briefing, we all left the building and walked over to our bikes, it was absolutely bucketing down! It filled me with dread as I’d never ridden on track in the wet before, particularly on Pirelli Supercorsas, which I was quite concerned about as i’d heard horror stories about how they perform in the rain. Don’t get me wrong, I cannot fault them in dry conditions, especially when teamed with tyre warmers! I run a V1 Supercorsa SC1 on the front and a V1 Supercorsa SC2 on the rear and in truth, I don’t think i’ll chose a different tyre when it’s time to change as they give me that much confidence in the dry.

The weather forecast said it should be drying up in the afternoon, so I decided to wait it out until it had dried up a little! At first I was concerned that if I sat out the morning and replaced practical with theory, I would miss out on those important sighting laps however I was reassured by Jamie that for those who wanted to rejoin the group on track when the weather had dried up a bit more, we would be taken round with an instructor behind us to do some sighting laps before getting stuck in.

Whilst the people who were happy to ride in the rain went out, we went up the main tower building for some classroom sessions. Up here, you are situated right in the middle of the track, so you can almost see every corner there is! It was good to watch the brave rip it round the course with the spray flinging up from their rear tyres!

In the classroom based session, it is Jamie Whitham that leads the class. He is prepared and has a list of topics that he discusses with you, for example braking points, body position, counter steering, corner entry and exit, throttle control and racing lines, along with lots of other things. He asks you if there are any specific things you would like to know and opens it up to the students. You can leave or join these sessions at anytime.

As dinner time arrived, it was looking a lot drier out on the track, although it was still a little damp. You could see that the most used lines were drying up a little quicker than the parts of the track that didn’t get much use. It was now or never so I decided to put on my big girl pants, man up and get out there. It was the first time out there for me and a few others, so we were led round the track by Jake Dixon for the first sighting laps.

Not going to lie, I started off terribly! On the sighting laps, it was apparent that when going quick, this track was going to be far more technical and physically demanding than Anglesey was! With the notorious hairpin, chicanes, s bend and bus stop! After the sighting laps, off we went! I just felt like I couldn’t get to grips with the track in the first session and I rode around bolt upright, which doesn’t really help you get round bends! Thankfully, it wasn’t just me who had a terrible first session as when all the novices came in, Ste Brogan savagely dressed us down.

“Guys, guys, guys… you know what you’re doing wrong. You’re all stiff and rigid on the bike! None of youse’ are hanging off the bike in the slightest, if you don’t hang off, you’ll not get the pace you need and if anything it’s quite dangerous to not hang off!”

So at the thought of hanging off around such a tight track, I was pretty apprehensive but I am a massive over thinker. I remembered that when I went to Anglesey, I thought I was hanging off like Rossi himself. Then I looked at the pictures and it was embarrassing! My lean angle was decent but it didn’t even look like my bum left the seat!

I approached Jake Dixon before we were set to go on track and I asked him for advice, his words of advice were “Hang off and when you think you’re hanging off as much as you can, exaggerate it even more” with that in mind, I joined the line up for the track.

Off I went, putting what I had been told into practice. Hanging off felt a bit unnatural at first but it became obvious that it was allowing me to get round the chicanes in a much more flowing and fluid manner. The hardest bit for me out of the whole track was the hairpin. I just hate the damn things. On my road bike, a naked KTM Duke 690, throw a hairpin my way and i”ll be smiling the whole way round. Throw a hairpin my way on a Sports bike, where my body position feels horizontal and I literally feel like i’m just gonna lie the bike down mid way round. I just cant get a smooth throttle to save my life and it makes it really hard work. To the point, when i’m riding around the track, my mind is distracted because i’m thinking, oh my god i’m coming up to the damned hairpin again!

When I exited the track after 20 minutes (you get 20 minutes on, then 40 minutes of discussing your riding with an instructor whilst the two other groups get their 20 minute track sessions in), we put our bikes in the garage and all grouped around the instructors. Jake and Ste would talk about some general observations to the group and then after this, you can approach them and ask them for help on anything you need.

I spoke to Ste who had noticed my hate/hate relationship with the hairpin. He recommended I tried it in first gear as I was clearly struggling with second gear. I took that approach on the next session and it did help. I just think the only thing that will get me better at hairpins is increased track time and practice. The beauty of Mallory park is that to us novices, a whole lap is roughly 1.15 mins, so you can learn the track very quickly.

After speaking with Ste, I spoke with Jake. Jake said he would observe me and ride behind me, then he would get in front of me, tap the back of his bike and I was to follow his lines.

It’s an amazing feeling chasing a BSB rider around a track and doing your best to stick to their tail! It made me laugh actually because on Gerrards (one of the longest right hand bends in the UK), he nonchalantly turned around to see where I was and he didn’t expect me to be right there behind him, he seemed shocked and picked the pace up, which was obviously nothing to him but meant I had to up my game!

After this session, Jake took his lid off, walked up to me and said ‘THAT WAS F**KING AWESOME”, I was so happy, it was the highlight of my day! Because it meant I must have made progress for him to say that to me! He did say to me at one point in the day however, that I transform into a completely different rider when i’m on the hairpin, and I agreed with him because I just cant gel with it! More time on the track with the bike and it’ll click i’m sure!

At the end of the day, you could feel that the atmosphere was a positive one, with everyone sharing anecdotes of things that had happened in their day on track and there was a real nice, team spirited vibe. I think the general consensus was that we all felt like we had improved and made some progress. On the final session, it felt like a mini race between everyone on track as we were all pushing hard with it being the final session.

To summarise my experience at the Jamie Whitham Track Training School, I would say that it was an incredibly fun and informative day. I left extremely satisfied and feeling good! I felt as though the tuition helped massively with my confidence and I ended up loving a track that I wasn’t keen on at all when I first went out on the sighting laps. I love the fact that if for whatever reason you decide not to go out for a track session, you can still learn some theory in the classroom, and you are learning from the best.

I also think it’s really good how unlike normal track days, the maximum number of riders on track at any one point is 20, meaning plenty of space on the track to focus on your personal development instead of worrying about being cut up or undertaken by a hoard of riders etc.

Jamie hosts these Track Training Schools at other locations too, so as well as Mallory, other locations across the UK include Anglesey, Knockhill and Croft. Obviously, certain instructors may or may not be available for the dates that  they run these events, but Jamie has a wealth of World Class Riders in his team, so if Ste and Jake cant attend, I’m sure the likes of Christian Iddon, Jenny Tinmouth, Dan Linfoot, Ian Hutchinson, Davo Johnson, Dean Harrison, Richard Cooper, Taylor Mackenzie and Lee Johnston will be able to help you on your journey to improvement!

Although I haven’t been on any other track tuition days, what I will say is that for the level of tuition you receive combined with the amount of track time you get, it is extremely good value for money.

For more information on these track training events, visit:

http://www.jameswhitham.com/

Photos courtesy of Stephen Dobson:

https://www.facebook.com/stephen.dobson.982/photos_albums?pnref=lhc

If you have any question, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments box below.

Thank you Metzeler and Pirelli for allowing me this amazing opportunity!