The alternative to heavy metal
K3 Chris Onwiler
GB Racing is an English company which specializes in motorcycle crash protection. Their products are used in MotoGP CRT, Moto2, WSB, BSB, World Endurance, World Supersport, British Supersport, Isle of Man TT road racing and the AMA. In fact, every Moto2 team and almost the entire World Superbike grid are using GB Racing covers. What makes this brand so popular with the world's top racing teams? Durability, combined with light weight.
Types of engine case protection
Engine case protection comes in two basic forms. Either the full cover is replicated in a stronger-than-stock material or some sort of armor is added to protect the flimsy OEM cast aluminum piece. Armor can be cast or milled from aluminum, molded from plastic or laid up from carbon fiber. GB Racing covers are made from molded nylon, which has a number of advantages over other types of protection.
GB Racing products are made from long glass fiber impregnated 6.6 nylon. Huh? You can visit GB Racing's technical page for the full engineering specs but here's the breakdown for those of us who understand wrenches better than test tubes. The injection molded nylon is rich with long strands of fiberglass. It absorbs impact incredibly well. In the event that the cover takes a hit hard enough to crack the nylon, the impregnated strands limit the spread of the fracture and maintain the structural integrity of the piece. This special nylon also offers very high abrasion resistance. The finished piece is also very light, especially when compared to an aluminum equivalent. GB Racing puts an equal amount of thought into the selection of the provided hardware that attaches their covers to the engine. these are manufactured from application-specific materials, chosen for strength and resistance to shearing or shattering.
There is currently a worldwide shortage of carbon fiber, which is making the material obscenely expensive. Aluminum? Have you turned any in for scrap lately? They'll pay you big money for beer cans and broken sportbike parts made from the stuff. Nylon? If you toss it in the right container, it might end up being recycled instead of thrown away. From the standpoint of base material cost, GB Racing's synthetic brew has a clear price advantage. Next, consider cost of production. If the material used is billet aluminum, each and every part must be carved from a solid block of metal. Doing it the GB Racing way, once a set of molds is created, they can be used again and again. Their fitment list includes just about any machine you'd be tempted to ride in a sporting fashion and their methods of prototyping are so refined that when a brand new model appears, GB Racing will probably be the first company to offer protection for it. For our GSXR750 test bike, the cost of a full engine protection kit was $256.61 on the Orient Express website. In billet aluminum, the cost for a competitor's full kit was more than $600. Carbon fiber? If you have to ask....
Ease of installation
Have you ever installed a set of billet covers? It's a difficult, messy and time consuming task. You're opening up the engine, so oil and gaskets will be involved. Often, specific bolts will have special washers and if you don't get them back in the right place, you'll have a leak. Many bikes carry their starter drive assembly in one of the covers. This involves a collection of rollers, pins, washers and gears which, if reinstalled improperly, will either refuse to work at all or fail expensively at a later date. The generator cover almost always contains magnets that will keep pulling the piece back into place as you try to remove it. Many a finger has been pinched as a result. Because GB Racing covers fit over the OEM parts, none of this struggle is necessary. You merely remove the necessary OEM bolts, hold the GB racing armor in place, thread in the supplied new hardware and tighten. We timed the installation of this product. Three covers? How about four minutes? At the time, we were deep into building a bike on a ridiculous deadline and the hours saved on this part of the project were much appreciated.
The molded nylon used by CR Racing is a sinister matte black. It looks "tactical firearm" sexy. The fit and finish are perfect. Each piece of armor has a GB Racing logo, which we found to be a very classy touch. One thing worth mentioning is that if your bike is wearing a lightly blemished OEM cover that will never be pretty again, installing this armor over it is an instant cosmetic fix. We looked up our GSXR's generator cover on an OEM mail order site and the price for a replacement was $240.16, compared to just $87.63 for the GB Racing cover. An inexpensive cosmetic fix that at the same time makes the bike better? It's a trackday miracle!
Bobbins, sliders and a shark fin, oh my!
Aside from engine armor, GB Racing also offers frame sliders, swingarm spools, (Brits call them bobbins) and a sprocket guard. (Often referred to as a shark fin.) These parts are made from the same material as their engine cases and are equally good looking. The frame sliders are of the short, race-spec variety, which means they're intended to save the frame rather than the bodywork. The bases of these are aluminum, while the small, aerodynamically designed nylon sliding surfaces are easily replaced after a crash. The swingarm spools, which are also intended to function as crash protection, have an impact absorbing design and the same high abrasion resistance as the other GB Racing parts. The shark fin uses a small aluminum block for a mounting point and provides excellent coverage of the chain-sprocket pinch point. Together, these three components compliment the case armor to give the bike an integrated, high-tech look that has really grown on us.
We couldn't be more impressed with GB Racing's protective components. The company has scored a triple play. It's not often that a single product can improve your motorcycle, make it look better and sell for less that the alternatives, all in a single package. That absolutely sounds too good to be true. We might be skeptical ourselves, were it not for the way these parts have been accepted and applied at the top levels of racing. Considering the FIM's approval of GB Racing's protective products for competition and the fact that so many top teams having decided it's their best option, we feel pretty safe bolting these reinforced Nylon covers to our own racetrack rides. Best of all, this armor is an excuse killer. Nobody wants their crash to result in an oil slick that downs other riders, yet many take that chance at every trackday. We've seen lots of riders participating without engine crash protection, saying that they just can't afford it. When a complete engine kit sells for less than the replacement cost of just one of the components it's designed to protect, the purchase becomes a "no brainer." At this price, you can't afford NOT to have it.