Here We Go – Budget Racer!

I’ve committed to try racing the 2020 season. I’m going to join the Central Racing Association and spend a bunch of time at the Brainerd International Raceway this summer.

In a previous post I estimated what it will cost to do this. I was, um, optimistic. Which is to say I could go cheaper but some of the savings increase risk, and I am much more risk averse (smarter) than I was when I was younger.

Also, a category of expense I missed was a trailer, aka Small Garage on Wheels. I got to see a bunch of other riders and their gear on my track day last Labor Day and it illustrated how important this function is to the endeavor.

The expense categories now are:

  1. Bike including modifications like Hot Bodies race plastic/sliders, performance enhancements and consumables including tires.
  2. Trailer including tools/tool box, awning, bike stands, gas cans, bicycle and riding gear storage.
  3. Gear. This accounts for the biggest shift in my thinking and the budget. Talking with other racers and reading informed resources has convinced me to spend more on riding gear. From a purely money perspective, even with insurance an ambulance trip and medical copays are more than a good race suit with an airbag. Good armored and articulated boots are cheaper than casts and crutches. Not to mention, I have learned that being ambulatory is more fun and easier than using a wheelchair. And, if I’m honest, I don’t like pain. Yeah, tough guys and stoicism and macho and all but I’ve got the benefit of some years and I finally enjoy simple things and if I can help it, I’d rather not get hurt. Old guys don’t bounce.

The bike. Shopping around and talking with racers I found I could go one of two ways, buy a stock bike and modify it for racing or buy a race bike from someone moving up a class or retiring from the sport. I opted for the more time-consuming stock bike route. This way I can learn the mods myself and that’s a big part of the fun for me.

I picked up a 2017 KTM RC390 with 3,000 miles in Denver on New Years Day and brought it back home. I ordered a Hot Bodies kit which should arrive in 6 weeks and I’m doing intermittent reading on potential performance mods.

The trailer. There are very few used enclosed trailers available. I found the perfect blend of function and price in a new one. Specs for the 6 x 12 enclosed trailer include a v-nose for tool/gear storage, a fold-down rear door for a ramp, a single axle with plenty of weight capacity and it’s tall enough to stand up inside. Hey, by the way, how tall is it? 7′ 6″? But the underground garage is at most 7′ tall and some of the pipes and wires hang down below that. Crap!

So, I decided to give up the ability to stand up straight in the trailer for the ability to park it inside and work hunched over (or sitting down) in my “stealth shop” in the basement so I ordered one with a 6′ 6″ height. I’ll need to add a bunch of LED lighting throughout but that will help trackside as well.

The Gear. I’m going to get an airbag vest. People who know more than me recommend it. So there. Tech-Air 5. Also, because of my misshapen back I’m going to get a custom race suit fitted. The International Motorcycle Show is in town soon and I’ve got an appointment at the Heroic booth to get my order in time for the season. I’ll get some of their gloves and look for some boots at the show as well.

Here we go!

Budget Rider = Budget Racer?

Is it possible to go motorcycle racing and afford it?

Let’s find out.

In a previous post, I wrote about my experience at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) last summer. That experience really got me thinking about a part of motorcycling I haven’t encountered. It was great fun, and I wanted to figure out how a “normal” person could realistically afford to do such a thing consistently. At the Progressive International Motorcycle Show in Minneapolis, I wandered around talking with the racing associations and riding schools to get their recommendations.

They suggested that a beginning racer can get into the sport in a small displacement class and learn enough to know what’s involved to progress into larger, faster classes. If closed-circuit racing is a thing you want to pursue you can start on a smaller bike and your racing experience, knowledge of the tracks and even your riding gear will all apply toward advancement. The time and money invested in relationships with organizations and riders also isn’t wasted. Veteran racers recommend (and some even currently race) small bikes. Alternatively, you might realize that it’s not for you, and if you start small you can get out without spending a lot.

The Central Racing Association for Minnesota has an ultralight class for 250s.

The Bike

A Kawasaki Ninja 250 is the bike recommended for this class. Model years 1988 – 2007 EX250 F/G/H are effectively the same bike. It’s about 300 lbs., 30 or so HP, with 16″ wheels. A 2008 – 2012 EX250J has a little more midrange at the expense of peak HP, better forks, is 20 lbs. heavier, but, most importantly, has 17″ wheels, which make it easier to find good tires.

Looking around Cycle Trader and Craigslist I found some candidates for $1,000 to $2,500.

I’ll need to get the bike up to racing spec, which involves taking off a bunch of stuff, safety wiring, and fitment of racing rubber. Based on some cursory conversations, the tires might last a whole season and cost about $500. Figure some sliders, a wheel stand, better brake pads and other miscellaneous doo-dads at an additional $400.

Another advantage of the 250 is that it’s lightweight enough so I can use a hitch mounted carrier as opposed to a trailer, which will save money since I already have a carrier. A carrier is also more renter friendly in a shared-underground-garage. I could just leave the bike on the back of the minivan and back the van into the stall with a cover over it.

Riding Gear

Although I have street gear, the only piece that transfers is my helmet. I’ll need a leather suit and some track boots and gloves. I tried on some suits at the show, and estimate $1,000 to $1,500 for those additional items.

Race Fees

Until I attend the new rider training and figure out specifics about how many races are in a series and if I’m serious enough to commit to a full season, I’ll estimate race fees at $500.


It’s about 300 miles round trip to Brainerd International Raceway, so fuel is about $60 (at $3/gal.) plus fuel for racing – $100 per weekend – 6 weekends = $600. I’m not counting food, because I need to eat regardless of what I’m doing, and I’ll probably just sleep in my van, so there’s no lodging expense.

So, first pass on the total cost of ownership (TCO) for the inaugural season of racing is $4,000 to $6,000. If I finish a season without crashing the bike and want to hang it up, I could probably sell the bike for what I paid for it and get maybe $500 for the used racing gear. That means I’ll need to spend $2,500+ and dedicate a Minnesota summer to find out if I’m a racer.


A Couple of GS Pain-relief Mods

I made three modifications. Late September in Minnesota notwithstanding, I have no good excuse not to put some miles on the GS.

Pain in the butt – solved. [Read more…]

Getting Acquainted

There it is, my new (to me) 2007 BMW R1200GS. It came with the Jesse bags, engine guards and headlight shield.

Even though I haven’t owned a GS before, riding it is second nature. The linear power, the excellent suspension and handling, the riding position, all felt balanced and natural.

The only unusual detail is the strange signal light switchgear. I’m sure I’ll adapt, but non-standard controls? At least the throttle is on the right side.

Also, I can report  [Read more…]

Ride for Four Years, for Free! – Part 2

1) Sell the Bonneville and KLX ✔︎
2) Move Across the Country ✔︎
3) Stay Employed ✔︎
4) Get a GS – Let’s Get to Work

The KLX netted $2,500 and the Bonnie $4,200, so I’ve got$6,700.

Checking both Cycle Trader and the BMW Motorcycle Owners Association (BMWMOA) marketplace and evaluating nine criteria on fourteen candidates, the search has uncovered two finalists. As a quick aside, late fall is a great time to find a motorcycle at low prices.

The first one is yellow and  [Read more…]

Ride for Four Years, for Free!

It’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is. The name of the site is Budget Rider after all.

Here’s the concept – a net zero-cost motorcycle.

Surprisingly, to do this doesn’t mean I have to suffer with a pile of junk, either.

Here’s the plan. [Read more…]

The Bonnie is Back(er)!

As I began riding the Bonnie to work, it started running OK only some of the time. It would stumble and stall sometimes when it was cold, but not always. I was reminded of the old saying, 80% of fuel problems are electrical. I have learned that the pickup coil and the ignition coil can be problematic in the new Bonnies.

So, I took it apart again.

This time,

[Read more…]

The Bonnie is Back!

After a (too) long wait, the 02 Triumph Bonneville T100 is back on the road.

Oil tight and running well

With the combination of:

  • cartridge emulators in the forks
  • roller bearings in the steering head
  • jetting and intake changes (more mid)
  • rev limiter change (8500 vs 7200 stock)
  • brand new flexible carb boots and slides
  • ignition remapping (more mid)
  • braided lines with new fluid
  • new top end gasket set that keeps the oil in the motor

the thing is transformed.

It pulls cleanly from the bottom all the way past 8K without a hiccup and the mid-range is completely different – really grunty.

I’m very happy that it all worked so well together.

Next, a seat I can spend more than 1/2 hour on without my bits going numb and some new tires.

I’ll get the GoPro glued on the helmet, run the bike around some corners and post a video.

Stay tuned.

Cheap Thrills – That’s the Point of this Site

I’m not doing a lot of riding or wrenching lately, but I’ll pass along a couple of articles from Motorcyclist magazine that I like quite a lot. Cheers until next time.

Cheap Thrills

On Two Wheels for $1,000

Restoring the World’s Ugliest Motorcycle – Part Phoenix

How about that! All it took to raise the Madura back from the dead was selling it to a retiree who spent countless hours working on and replacing parts on the carbs to get them in shape and to futz with all the related plumbing. Here’s a photo of the bike and it’s proud new owner at a bike show in Santa Fe this year. I should have taken a video so you could hear how smooth and quiet it runs. Nice darn job, Stan!

Stan and Madura