Ultimate MotorCycling Amateur Race Report, #2

Racing Past 60 | Rittner Preps for 2016 Race Season
Marc Rittner aboard his Yamaha YZ450F Supermoto

Here’s the second installment in the Ultimate MotorCycling Amateur Race Report series, Racing Past 60, which follows Californian Marc Rittner as he competes in AFM and AHRMA. This second piece discusses the prep for the upcoming race season.

Racers never have enough time (or money) to truly prepare for an upcoming race season. The time between the last race of the 2015 season and the first of the 2016 season is compromised with major holiday distractions, race bike service, parts and service availability (everybody wants their parts and service now), and financial means.

I had several major objectives to accomplish in the off-season:

  1. Surgery on my right hand to fix “Trigger Finger” condition
  2. Service and modify Ohlins TTX cartridge forks for improved handling
  3. Send out spare cylinder head and crank for refurbishing (leave existing engine intact until all required parts have been collected)
  4. Physical conditioning program at the gym 2x-3x per week
  5. Racing skills tune-up, break-in new gear, and tire testing

The cause of Trigger Finger is a lot like that of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Under heavy, repetitive use, the middle-finger tendon on my right (braking) hand was getting irritated and swelling. The result is that it can no longer fit through its tendon sheath without force. Once forced through the sheath, it expands and locks the finger in place. To return, it must be forced back through in the opposite direction. My concern was the possibility that my finger would lock in place when braking heavily and cause an accident.

I had hand surgery on December 28 and hoped to complete rehabilitation before the first race in March. Ten weeks after the surgery it was still not quite 100 percent, but it proved to be safe to race.

Ohlins TTX fork cartridges are nitrogen gas-charged, but I don’t have the equipment to charge them myself.  So I rely on KFG Racing in Auburn, Wash., for service. While apart they were shortened to provide a better range of chassis tuning adjustment.

Mummert Machine and Development in El Cajon, Calif., freshened-up the spare race ported cylinder head that they had built for me the previous season, as well as sending out a spare crank for rebuilding and balancing.

Note: I had planned to build a new engine before the season opener, but received the parts back too late to get it assembled, installed, and tested prior to the race. In reality I didn’t press the delivery issue because money was tight and I had other things going on at work and at home. So the decision to wait was all mine.

Racing Past 60 | Rittner Preps for 2016 Race Season Rittner Alpinestars
Gear to break-in ahead of 2016 racing season

So now instead of having a fresh engine to launch the 2016 season, I had to press my luck with the current engine for one more race weekend and hope for the best. This will later prove to be a costly gamble.

I learned during my first season racing that physical conditioning is just as much a part of your race package as is your bike and go-fast parts. I’ve been going to the gym regularly since 2013, but upped my frequency for this season.

Successful racer Lance Lewman (MWGP #3 in 2015) is the same age as me, and is hard as a rock. He said he goes to the gym every day. That is a bit much for me, as I have found that I need at least a day to recover. Overall I spend a total of about two hours per session, with 30 minutes on core conditioning, 60 minutes on general strength and endurance using low weight and high reps. The last 30 minutes is on an elliptical ski machine, alternating medium and high effort sets of four minutes each.

Although I had been riding street bikes for several weeks post-surgery as physical therapy, my first on-track sessions were at Buttonwillow Raceway Park with Let’s Ride Track Days just a few days prior to the scheduled AFM Round 1 race weekend. I took advantage of the opportunity to attend their new “Intermediate Riders School” instructed by veteran racers David Price and Brian Morris. There was plenty of track time in addition to valuable classroom discussion. Well worth the $100 tuition fee.

I’ve previously owned several brands of race suits, most recently an Alpinestars suit. The quality, fit, flexibility, and protection of my new Alpinestars Atem race suit (MotoGP spec!) is excellent, and it hardly took any time at all to break-in. And I have been wearing A-Stars SuperTech-R boots for years, so there were no surprises there. After the first session I never gave the new gear another thought.

Track temps were a little cool in the morning, so traction and feel were a little sketchy at first. But by late morning the track had warmed sufficiently to allow me to put my new front tire through its paces. Here is a big “Thumbs Up” to Jason Paden of Race Tire Services for the recommendation.

I had been struggling with front tires ever since Dunlop stopped manufacturing their acclaimed UK racing slicks. The last thing I did before leaving the track for the 3 hour drive home was to get a new set of tires mounted so that I would be ready to focus on the business of racing the following weekend.

Marc Rittner
AFM Expert #129

Next report: 2016 AFM Round 1 Buttonwillow Raceway Park

Read previous reports from Ultimate MotorCycling Amateur Race Report, Racing Past 60:

Marc Rittner Intro | Ultimate MotorCycling Amateur Race Report