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.

Expenses

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.

Hmm.

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