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…]

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

New Triumph Bonneville Long-Distance Tourer

Touring Bonnie B4

In 2002, I wanted to replace my 1999 BMW RT with another touring bike. I had owned it since it was new for 3 years, and I just couldn’t some of the kinks worked out. The fuel injection worked correctly for about 500 of the 50,000 miles on the bike, and after numerous modifications, I couldn’t get the windshield to be quiet enough that I didn’t need earplugs. I had a 2002 Triumph Bonneville that I really liked. A buddy said I should consider a Bonneville as a core of a touring replacement. It was just weird enough that I went for it.

LD Bonnie 4-19-03 [Read more…]

Need More Storage? Look Up!

Quite Organized

My garage is small and I have a lot of stuff. I needed to maximize the use of the floor space. I realized there was a bunch of unused space above the garage door and above my head to the ceiling. From that realization came a new rule that drove the planning decisions: “Everything that can be off the floor should be off the floor.”

Garage Left 4-25-09 [Read more…]

$30 Motorcycle Lift

Ramp Bonnie

Working on a motorcycle hunched over when it’s on the floor works for a little while, but there’s a good reason professionals use lifts to get them up higher. It’s much easier on your body to get your bike closer to where you can be more comfortable sitting or standing. However, those lifts are expensive.

I’ve built a stand that gets my motorcycles a little further off the floor to make them easier to work on. [Read more…]

My “Free” Snowblower – A Lesson in False Economy

My Free Snowblower

* Note: Although this article is about a snowblower, it could just as easily have been about a motorcycle. It is a precautionary tale to illustrate that sometimes ever “free” can be too expensive.

I was making coffee one summer morning when, through the kitchen window, I noticed the neighbor across the street wheeling her old snowblower to the curb with a “Free” sign on it.

Without hesitation or the burden of any forethought I walked over, took the sign under my arm, and wheeled the beast across the street to my garage where I evaluated my new acquisition. I put some gas in, started it, and it ran OK, but it was loud. Cool! This is great. I’m so proud of myself. It just needs a muffler. [Read more…]