September 9th, Thunderhill, California
Ambient temperature: 60F
Fork Temperature 65F (effect of the morning sun)
Shock temperature 58F
Session #1 at 0900 with no heating elements applied:
Fork performance was normal in exaggerating bumps with the tire tracking harshly over sharp edged bumps for the first 3 laps, then the fork oil started to heat up via flow, brake heat and stored heat in the fork metal so the harshness faded slightly. By lap 6 the forks were very smooth.
Session #2 at 1000 with heating elements applied: fork tubes at 140F, shock reservoir at 150F, ambient temps at 68F
After a 40 minute warming period for the forks and shock, the difference was enormous and immediately noticeable in the forks. As a racer, having accurate feel in my Bridgestone V01 soft front tire immediately available verses fork harshness as the oil warms up over 3 laps was a stunning difference. Our 450/600 triples are all about front end feel, so I know this is a significant advantage for me, especially as we head into Fall/Autumn for the last AFM race of the year in late October!
The rear shock was not so noticeable, but I could still feel it take 1.5 laps to benefit from the heat of the engine washing over it to warm the oil and bumps less pronounced.
Session #3 at 1100 with heating elements applied again for 40 minutes, same fork and shock temperatures, ambient temp 78F
The forks were just as compliant if not slightly more so as the race bike was facing the rising sun and that heated the fork footing and upper. In checking their temperatures, each had risen 20F respectively so that would have contributed to warmer oil that the previous session. The rear shock was shielded from the sun, so that was somewhat cooler.
Going on track, the forks gave the same feedback but now I knew what to expect, so I could dial my focus in on how the warmer oil really did better and where it was not quite hot enough. General low speed movement of the forks was almost invisible, but as bigger bumps appeared, they were absorbed easily. Sharper edge cracks and seams were not absorbed so easily until lap four, two laps ahead of the normal sensation. That is a huge positive!
Session #4 was going to be warmer again, so I abandoned the test as there was plenty of data at the 80F ambient and higher range published in CurbEater Test #1.
While preheated fork and shock oil may seem to be the only benefit, we need to look at this in a little more detail for the next focal point.
If the fork oil is cold (or worse, old), movement is nowhere near as smooth compared to hot oil. That means more sudden loads on the tires (especially the front) due to slower moving suspension, so tire wear is dramatically improved in the first couple to three laps and that in turn means being able to relax more and let the forks and shock do their job as the oil is up to a working temperature earlier. Being able to allow my conscious mind to let go of fork action/front tire grip levels and being prepared to save a low side was and IS a godsend. That being said, you need to possess the awareness in your hands to feel that situation developing, so training you hands to feel rather than just “do” makes a lot of sense. That just takes time and training and can be accomplished a lot faster than you think.
While hot suspension fluid being immediately available when you get on track is a huge benefit – the net gain is enhanced tire wear in the first few laps of the race which means elevated and more consistent grip.
Yes, you will need to think that through for a minute and if it does not resonate with you, think of deferring risk management via better preparation.
No matter if you ride track days or you race, having the CurbEater product at your disposal will absolutely enhance your bike’s handing and tire wear and therefore assist you in attacking lap times.