Most supermoto motorcycles start life as motocross bikes that get adapted to life on asphalt. Although fun to ride and fun to watch there are lots of compromises inherited from their offroad design – long wheelbases, limited trail (with stock triple clamps), low footpegs and frankly terrible aerodynamics. So why would anyone in their right mind take one to an all asphalt road race and take on “real” road race bikes? I spoke to Adam Clark of Low Down Racing at the first round of the 2014 Loudon Road Race Series about what it’s like to road race a Super Moto.
Adam is a motocrosser turned roadracer. Having watched friends race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway the attraction of converting a motocross bike was cost, or rather lack of it, in comparison with running a 600/750/1000 four cylinder racer. And the tight, twisty, technical Loudon track suits the supermoto bikes.
Adam actually runs two 2007 Honda CRF450s and is supported by Rosa Flamingos and Quint Boisvert Racing Inc. The “A” bike has had extensive suspension work by Peter Kates of GMD Computrack as well as a motor package by Sean and Tyler Sweeney at SRE that included some porting, high compression CP piston, stainless steel valves and a Hot Rods crank. With regular oil changes the motor lasts a season. This is the bike that took Adam to several podiums in the Expert class last season.
But in reality the “B” bike is more impressive because of its lack of modifications. Of course it has 17” wheels and road race gearing but apart from a 320mm front disc it’s completely stock – standard motor, standard pipe, standard suspension, standard brake caliper etc. And Adam can do a 1:20” lap of Loudon on that bike which is faster than most can do on a Yamaha R6! This means you could show up at the track and run with the fast guys for some pretty minimal investment.
Both bikes run Dunlop race tires, typically slicks on the “A” bike and rains on the “B”. But one of the best points about racing one of these bikes is that the age of the bike doesn’t make a big difference. The factories are optimizing the bikes for motocross. Take them road racing and you can be competitive on an older bike as long as it’s properly maintained.
Adam says road racing a supermoto is a completely different experience compared to a typical road racer. The rider is sat up high and the bikes can be twitchy but it’s possible to get away with a lot because they are so light. As with almost any bike, his advice is to spend your first hop-up dollars on suspension and then move to tuning the motor.
Adam’s original plan was to start out on the supermoto and progress to a “real” race bike. But now he’s focused on the supermoto class long term and was one of the most improved riders at Loudon last year. Persevering with repeated clutch problems through the 2013 season meant he learnt to carry more corner speed to compensate. Once the bike was properly sorted this translated straight away into faster lap times. He finished fourth in both the SuperSingles and Motard championships, racking up several third places and a career best second. He managed a 1:19.7 lap last year and this season he’s aiming to drop into the 1:18” lap times. Adam pointed out, “Only a handful of people can run in the ‘teens and I’m proud to say I’m one of them now”.
He didn’t get a chance to make the laptime improvement during LRRS round one. A dry and sunny Friday practice session gave way to a cold and rainy race weekend. But he did make it to the top step of the podium, not just once but twice, winning Saturday’s SuperSingles and Ultralight Superbike races on his near stock “B” bike and taking the lead in both championships. He finished the day running in the “Dash For Cash” against the Loudon’s fastest riders on their extensively prepared 600 Middleweight Grand Prix bikes. Incredibly he finished the race in 9th place, still riding the “B” bike, with plenty of Experts on tuned 600s behind him and lapping several of the Amateurs along the way. However, racing is about highs and lows. Sunday left him bruised and battered with a broken shoulder blade. That left the way clear for Trevor Chiappisi to take the wins in both Motard and Lightweight Sportsman.
There’s a healthy population of super moto bikes being road raced at Loudon. Honda CRFs are most popular but there also plenty of KTMs and a few Yamahas. A supermoto bike can win in four classes – SuperSingles (for single cylinder fourstrokes), Motard (reserved for super motos) as well as Ultralight Superbike and Lightweight Sportsman for small displacement machines. All four championships were won last season by riders on Super Motos. So if you’ve got a motocross bike or supermoto kicking around the garage and you fancy something a little different then bring it up to Loudon and join the fun.
Low Down Racing can be found on Facebook.