Creating the K3R Prototype Part 3
K3 Chris Onwiler
Action shots by US129 Photos
(In parts 1 and 2 of this series, we stripped down a new, non-current inventory 2013 Triumph Speed Triple R to prepare it for track duty. Many custom and prototype parts were added, then the bike was equipped with late 1960's roadracing bodywork. The next step was to track test the machine.)
A JenningsGP Christmas with Santa and the Gnomes
Having spent the week leading into Thanksgiving at the Apex MFG race shop giving birth to this insane retro racer, we were determined to finish the initial build and ride it at the final Sportbike Track Time weekend of 2014. This event would be held at JenningsGP racetrack, in Florida, in early December. For the long journey down from the frozen North, TrackdayMag.com's Senior Editor K3 Chris Onwiler partnered up with Ed Baiviar and Johnny LaConte, both of whom are members of the Notorious Team Chouffe. This shady consortium of Midwest racers was at one time sponsored by the famous Belgian Brewery Achouffe, Team Chouffe's sponsorship package in those days consisted of team shirts, signage and beer! While that factory support has since, um.... dried up, the team continues to heartily support their favorite beverage when the final checkered flag of the day is waved. Regardless if this test ended in triumph or tragedy, the presence of Baiviar and LaConte would insure that it was going to be a party.
A near-crash every session
As it arrived at Jennings, our Triumph was essentially a brand new motorcycle which had been treated to a modified exhaust, Bazzaz electronics and some serious tuning at Valley Racing. Our bike came off the dyno running perfectly. The challenge on this trip would be to re-contour its Glass From The Past 1960's-era bodywork so that it wouldn't rub the asphalt when subjected to modern lean angles. In order to do this, our plan was to track ride the bike, drag the bodywork, modify and repeat until we had enough ground clearance to safely turn hot laps. What we didn't expect was that whenever the bodywork touched down, the tires would momentarily lose their grip! Needless to say, each set of laps was spent carefully probing the limits of lean angle until that first gentle scrape was heard. Every brush with the pavement produced witness marks, which we then used to guide the fiberglass modifications. We rode seven sessions on Saturday, trimming and reshaping the lower fairings after each run. This would to have to rate as the most tense and frustrating day in the history of TrackdayMag.com but in the end, we got the fairings properly shaped and managed not to crash our brand new bike in the process.
Shocked and tired
By the end of Saturday, we'd made enough progress that we were starting to go quickly. At this point, the rear suspension was beginning to squat and wallow excessively under ever-increasing throttle applications. It was becoming painfully evident that our rotund Senior Editor would need a heavier-rate shock spring. Fortunately, tuner Ken Hall, from SB Suspension, was also at Jennings and had made sure to bring the spring we'd need. When Ken was done with the spring swap, we put the shock back on, packed up our tools and called it a night.
Come morning, we got back to the business of riding. The modified bodywork was allowing enough lean angle to get the motorcycle around the racetrack, so our focus turned to suspension adjustment. We were happy to discover that the Ohlins forks and shock provided as original equipment by Triumph on this Speed Triple R model are much better than what most motorcycles come with stock and in truth, perform better than many aftermarket parts we've tried. Each click of adjustment front or rear produces a real, meaningful change that the rider can notice with ease.
By lunchtime Sunday, we'd managed to destroy the Pirelli Supercorsa R tires that the Triumph had been shod with from the factory. The timing couldn't have been more frustrating, as we were just coming to grips with the suspension setup and were finally beginning to put in some good laps. With the weekend close to over, we reluctantly decided to put our baby back in the trailer and head for home. Having brought the project this far along, we just didn't want to risk the carefully modified bodywork by sliding around on shagged rubber, even if we were finally starting to enjoy ourselves.
Chop, Cut, Rebuild
Back at home, we had a lot of work to do. We'd managed to stop the bodywork from grinding on the racetrack but aside from that, it didn't fit the bike very well. You've seen those shows where the custom car builders chop down old car bodies to make them lower and more streamlined? This project required us to go the other way. Our Speed Triple looked like she was wearing her little sister's clothing. Bulgy bits were sticking out everywhere and the result was none too tasteful. It was time for a massive retailoring.
We sliced the fairings horizontally and added four inches of height, using aluminum sheet to make the splice. Then we added material to the upper edges of the side panels so that they would follow the contours of the Speed Triple's frame. These modifications raised the nose and windscreeen way too high, so we modified the upper fairing to bring it back and down. The left side generator cover was going to protrude through the fiberglass quite a bit, especially with engine armor installed. We cut an appropriately sized hole, then used a couple of old windscreens to mock up a blister that would cover the bulging engine. Once the bike's overall silhouette was where we wanted it to be, (See before and after pics at bottom of page) we enclosed the belly pan to contain fluid in the event of a mechanical failure, a modification which would make the bodywork legal for racing.
This monumental task took a month of nights and weekends, plus about four square feet of sheet metal, a good bit of fiberglass for reinforcement and about 500 pop rivets. The finished product was boxed up and sent back to Glass From the Past. There, fiberglass artist Bret Edwards will turn our Frankenstein patchwork into a set of plugs, then create new molds. With those molds, fresh bodywork can be made. We're tremendously excited to see the results of all this labour. When finished, this K3R concept will be more than just a bike with some cool parts bolted to it. It will be a handmade creation that stands alone as a testament to the ideas, efforts and creative energies of those involved. We're a long way off the beaten path here and there's no doubt that we could have built any number faster bikes r for less time, effort and money. That's not the point. Whenever we look at this handmade creation, it puts an enormous smile on our faces. You can't put a price on that.