April 03 2020 Friday at 02:41 PM

Woolie returns to Pikes Peak.

After returning from Pikes Peak last year, I was so revved up. I wanted to take what I learned and apply it to a new build that would be more suited for the mountain.

It's hard to put into words what happened last year and how I wanted to change the bike, but I’ll try. Last years bike started life as a Ducati Hypermotard, we took the cases, bored them out and stuffed a 1098R motor inside. The bike was a hand full to ride, it was quite hard to finish turns on. It would spin the rear wheel and not steer well. Unfortunately, it was not advised to try and ride that way up the mountain, as the conditions changed every five minutes.

This year I wanted to build a bike that cornered well and was light with a lot of room for adjustments. I wanted to make a naked version of the motorcycle that Carlos Checka won the world championship with — The 1198rs.

My bike started out as a street fighter, we removed the steering head and replaced it with a 999 adjustable unit and set it up the same as the RS. The main components that make this framework are the Longer Magnesium swing arm, a unique pivot link and a special shock that is shorter than the street version. I found the link on eBay, it came off a Shaky Burns British superbike. I was able to get the last of the shocks Kyle racing had on the shelf, and Ram Italia was able to supply the swing-arm.

We kept the motor internals and inserted them into a set of sand-cast cases, we also went with a Nova short ratio gearbox that shifts like a Japanese bike, sweet as could be. I built the bike as fast as I could then shipped it off to the Ducshop. We didn’t get the bike back in time to do any real testing, so I plugged in some settings that worked when the factory raced the bike, and we went off to Pikes Peak. The bike came in at 330lbs wet and was making more than 180hp at the wheel with no Traction control or rider aid.

Unfortunately, the motorcycles only got one day of testing before race week, and we didn’t make it. Pirelli supplied the Tires, I loaded up my Sprinter to the Gills, and we were off.

The first thing I did was rent a storage space to download all the gear, then it all started.

We had a fantastic guy this year to shoot stills, Jon from #Brapsnaps and he came through to help me on the first few days of prep. We had a lot to get through, so we started at sunrise and finished just in time to eat and go to sleep.

Day 1: We went right into qualifying, with only three runs to set a time. Unfortunately, my bike setup was not working at all, and every time I tried to push, the front would tuck. Oddly enough, this didn’t upset me, I never felt like I was going to crash thanks to the grip on the rear wheel. After that day we came in 13th overall, which was significant, as for the next three days this would be the starting number out of the 27 bikes.

Day 2: Was spent in the W’s a series of hairpins and hard acceleration with at least 4 sections of blind turns and huge cliff drop-offs. Here is where we ran into more problems, as the gearing we thought was going to work was wrong. I was only reaching 2,000 RPM exiting the corner. I tried to get on the gas, but the bike hesitated and then lunged. This stood the bike up and it wanted to head into the cliff — not good.

I later changed the gearing to 14/42, two teeth shorter and we then went to the top of the mountain.

It was maybe in the 20s and blowing 60 miles an hour on day three. My helper Paul Taylor from ‘Taylor Made’ racing was looking at me like “what the hell”. This day was, for the most part, a throwaway!

I mean we got to see the top, but man it was tough to go fast.

After this crazy day, I knew I needed to change the bike setup, and we were so lucky to have met Brian from Boulder motorsports on the hill. Basically, the bike setup would work great under normal racetrack conditions with good grip but not here, so I wanted to level the bike out, soften the rear and stiffen the front. Brian had the rear spring we needed, so off we went. 5 hours of driving and a spring change plus I took around 12 clicks of compression out of the back and added 10 to the front. I also changed the fork angel to 24.5 degrees from 23.5 and added trail. Now the bike was more level, and when pushing on her, it went up and down together.

Day 4: We went back to the W's, so I was able to check the gearing, and it was still too tall, I only had one more option, and I made the change that day.

Race day: We were out of time now, and I was feeling better about the way the bike felt but also I had no reference as to how fast I could go on her.

We took off, and I started off reasonably fast, trying to be clean and to not make any mistakes. The bike felt suitable going into the W's, and wow the bike just finished the turns and felt so good the gearing was excellent.

As I came out of the W's up to the Devils playground, we had a big slide due to the track being so dirty. My team told me I was in 2nd place at this point, but I ended up making two mistakes as I went into Carl's corner too hot and had to brake check. This is a blind corner with a huge cliff drop off. After that, I went into the last hairpin too hot and missed the podium by .44.

Soon after my run, I lost my good friend Carlin Dunn as he crashed off the mountain very close to the finish line. Ride in Peace Carlin.