Month: November 2014

Motorcycle Live – what a show

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I’ve spent the day at Motorcycle Live and I’ve got to say the atmosphere was electric – seems that the latest sportsbike offerings have captivated the public’s imagination.

Crowds flocked to savour the Honda RC213V-S, Kawasaki H2 and H2R and Ducati’s Panigale R. However, by far the biggest draw at the show was Yamaha’s new R1, which looks a lot better up close in the metal than it did when it was unveiled at EICMA in Milan.

Granted, sportsbikes may not be to everyone’s taste, but these state-of-the-art flagships are the bikes we all aspire to, whether we’re cruiser, naked or adventure bike riders, and these new models have generated a positive vibe throughout the biking world.

However, the bike of the show for me wasn’t a bike from Japan’s or Europe’s finest – the star attraction for me was the Harley-Davidson XR1200TT by Shaw Speed & amp…just look at those pipes.

The knowledge – 13 things I’ve learnt about off-roading

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I recently spent the day mud plugging with the i2i Motorcycle Academy at Thirsk, and it’s right up there with the best things I’ve done on two wheels – I’m still laughing now. Here’s what I learnt:

1) KTM’s 250cc machine is good

2) The 350’s better

3) The 450’s a vicious bastard that will spit you off

4) Off road boots suck

5) But they work

6) Drifting rocks

7) Rooster tails are cool

8) The clown costumes aren’t 

9) There’s a lot more grip than you think

10) But you will fall off…again, and again and again

11) At the end of the day you’ll wonder why you’ve never tried it sooner

12) There’s still no substitute for genuine Jaffa Cakes

13) It’s not as grim ooooop t’north as they say

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WSBK – Rea quickest on day 1 of testing at Jerez

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Kawasaki rider Jonathan Rea posted the fastest time at a wet Jerez during the first day of a full week of private testing for many of the WSBK teams ahead of the 2015 season.

The overnight rain was so intense that many of the teams were forced to spend the majority of the day sitting in their garages while they waited for the track to dry out. However, the conditions deteriorated again with three hours left, making the track too wet to post any hot laps.

Today was a first for many of the riders – the new Pata Honda duo of Sylvain Guintoli and Michael van der Mark made their debuts on the Honda CBR1000RR, WSBK debutant Randy De Puniet got to grips with his Crescent Suzuki factory bike and Moto2 exile Nico Terol put the Althea 1199 Panigale R through its paces. However, his times weren’t recorded as his team chose not to equip his bike with a transponder.

Rea set the quickest time of the day with a 1min 44.643 sec lap, followed by Lowes, Van Der Mark, Sykes and Da Rosa.

WSBK – SUCCESSFUL FIRST TEST FOR TEAM GREEN

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The new-look Kawasaki Racing Team of Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea completed their first winter test in preparation for the 2015 season with two days of action at Motorland Aragon in Spain last week. It was the first chance for Jonathan Rea to ride the Ninja ZX-10R after he was recently confirmed in the KRT team for 2015.

With several technical changes about to be introduced to the FIM Superbike World Championship next year, the team worked on the many modifications to the Ninja ZX-10R, which include lower levels of engine tuning and fewer areas of machine adjustability than in 2014.

For the first time the riders used the MotoGP version of the Motorland Aragon circuit, rather than the more familiar SBK layout. Despite losing track time on day one after a rainy start each rider completed a high number of laps, with Sykes posting just over 100 and Rea around 80.

Neither rider was concentrating on lap times at this early stage but Rea made a best lap time of 1’51.1 on Motorland’s MotoGP layout, which will be used by the WSB class in 2015. Sykes set a best of 1’51.2 on a medium compound tyre choice, which he used all through this shakedown test for reasons of consistency and repeatability.

Next up for the KRT squad is more track evaluation of the 2015 equipment, this time at Jerez – the other Spanish circuit to have been recently confirmed on the 2015 WSBK race calendar. There will be two two-day sessions for tom and Jonathan at Jerez; 24 and 25 November and then 27 an 28 November.

Tom Sykes: “As we all know there are a lot of new technical regulations for 2015 and as soon as I left pitlane on day one I knew that we have a lot of work to do. I changed my mindset after that because we had a big list of things to try, plus some requests from KHI. We never got the chance to find a perfect package so we just focused more on race pace and evaluating things. We found a set-up and worked through the list of items to test. My approach was to find out where we are right now and what we need to do to get faster. I was also working on my riding style on the new set-up because in some ways it was ground zero at this test. We will work with a strong sense of the development direction we should take to arrive at the first round in Australia in a good place.”

Marcel Duinker, Tom Sykes’ Crew Chief said: “The new regulations mean that the bike is very different. If you have been working so hard on the previous bike and been so successful it is quite a shock when you have to almost start from scratch because the new rules give us quite a few limitations. Tom set a 1’51.2 lap and did 101 laps in total despite losing track time on day one due to rain. We started on a medium compound race tyre and stayed with that compound each day. This was so that we were able to make a proper comparison because we used a lot of new material. At the next test in Jerez we still have quite a lot of things to test and we were just a bit limited in time here. We need to find our set up and because the new rules are so different we need more time to discover our performance.”

Pere Riba, Jonathan Rea’s Crew Chief said: “I feel quite positive about this first test. We used our new bike to suit the 2015 rules for the first time and at the same time we have a new rider in Jonathan Rea. On the first day it was raining in the morning but then it was a good day of testing because we started to understand what Jonathan needed. He is a very good rider, very professional and the information we received is really good. It helps us to understand which direction we needed to go in to develop the bike. Jonathan did around 40 laps each day. It was a first test so we had to look for the base setting for the rider and the machine. That meant we spent quite a lot of time in the pit box making changes, but it worked out positively.”

Better riding – what we can learn from track instruction

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For many the thought of doing a trackdays can be intimidating – too much testosterone, too much cock waving and too much pressure. And then there’s the fear that you may just lob your pride and joy down the road.

However, properly run trackdays are probably the safest you’ll ever be on two wheels – there’s no oncoming traffic, no road furniture, wide run-offs and you can practice the same stretch of tarmac over and over and over again. We met up with British Superbike School instructor Ade Thomas to find out how getting some instruction on track can make you a better rider on the road:

1) Positive thinking: Having the correct state of mind is crucial to a good ride. Whether you’re learning a new skill or pushing for a fast lap, a good mind set will pay dividends. Developing a new skill requires you to ride within your limitations, placing your attention on what you are doing. This allows you to understand the technique and gives your brain the time to digest new information. In the first few sessions of a trackday only work on one area of your riding.

2) Study a circuit map: The importance of a circuit map cannot be underestimated. Used correctly there are many advantages to be gained, none more-so than highlighting clear, easy to identify objects and markers for your braking, turn entry, apex and corner exit. Replaying laps of the circuit in your mind using these markers will reinforce the track layout and the lines you have chosen. Once you have specific markers set for a given turn you can refine them to become more efficient and reduce your lap times.

3) Raise your vision: All of the senses are working overtime when pushing personal limits, but the eyes often have a mind of their own. It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what we are doing rather than what we want to do. Identifying reference points early will give you a better sense of speed, improve steering accuracy and throttle control.

4) Find your lines: One of the most common problems riders face is being able to understand what makes a good line. When constructing a corner start at the exit and work backwards. Your track position on the exit is dictated by your apex. Knowing the exact point of the apex will help you decide on a turn area. The position and the consistency of your mid-corner position is what truly dictates your line through a turn. Make a concerted effort to use good vision and locate a late apex to run faster lines.

5) Do corner preparation: The key to success is to get as much as possible done before the corner. Set yourself up early by moving your body position in to place before the turn entry. This helps the bike to remain stable.

6) Sort your braking: Use of the brakes on track has one primary function over all others, to set your speed for the turn. A very useful technique which allows you to set your speed deeper into the turn is trail braking. The initial hard braking should be done early while the bike is upright, reducing the risk of losing traction while the forks are compressed absorbing any bumps. As the turn begins and the lean angle increases additional cornering forces are placed on the tyre and suspension. The brake pressure should be released smoothly and in direct proportion to the increase in lean angle.

7) Turn quicker: One of the biggest limiting factors to increasing cornering speed and reducing your lap times is how quickly you can turn the bike. The faster you enter a corner, the quicker you must turn the bike. There are a number of ways to do this but the most effective way is to countersteer. Applying pressure to the right (inside) handlebar will turn the bike to the right and vice versa. The more pressure you apply the quicker the bike will turn. Using the pegs can assist with this and will allow you to run faster corner entry speeds.

8) Stand it up: A major factor to increasing your speed is how quickly you can get to full gas. Being patient with the throttle will help, and used in conjunction with picking the bike up on the exit will make use of its full potential. Standing the bike up reduces the lean angle and allows the suspension to work more effectively. This reduces the cornering forces and load on the tyres, enabling you to drive the bike out of the turn. Timing is important – too early and the bike will run wide. Get it right and you will smash your best times.

9) Be patient: Rolling the throttle on too hard early in the turn will push the bike wide, forcing you to hesitate or even roll of the throttle. Be disciplined and wait for the precise moment you can drive out of the turn. This will allow you to be assertive with your throttle and get to full gas sooner, carrying more speed down the straights.

Race talk – five minutes with Steve Day

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We chewed the fat with Eurosport WSBK commentator Steve Day about the state of bike racing today. Here are his thoughts:

HOW DID YOU GET INTO BIKING?

“It all started with me jumping on the back of my dad’s Honda Blackbird when I was 12 or 13. It began as a Sunday morning breakfast run but then we attended the odd BSB/WSBK race and I was hooked! I didn’t get on a geared bike proper until I was 15, after crashing my Dad’s monkey bike into anything that was parked in our field.”

WHEN DID YOU PASS YOUR TEST?

“Believe it or not, I’ve never had a bike on the road. My mum was dead against it when I was younger but when Dad started a team up to race in 1999 with a rider called Jamie Hitter, I was nudging him quite a lot to let me have a go, particularly as one of my mates had just started out in the Aprilia Challenge. I was extremely jealous and then in the year 2000, at the age of 15, my wish was granted!”

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST BIKE?

“Dad purchased two Aprilia RS125s from Terry Rymer’s dad. I wanted one to go on the road but I was informed that it would be safer for me to just race it on circuit. He didn’t trust me to ride sensibly on the road and so we jumped in an old transit and headed to Lydden Hill for my first test, which was in all honesty a wobbly bob day.

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR JOB? WHAT ARE THE PARTICULARLY PLEASING ASPECTS?  IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DISLIKE?

“After a six year racing career, with various attempts at trying to collect points in the British Championship, a series of injuries and bad luck left me in a pickle. I knew I wasn’t going to ‘make it’, the enjoyment factor was starting to fade away and dad was spending a lot of money on a Supersport bike, so I stopped.

“In 2007, dad told me he was going into business with Dave and Bernadette Stewart (formerly Bemsee/MRO) and creating a new series called Thundersport GB. Dave said he wanted it to be televised, and while on the hunt for a presenter he offered me the placement as I was deeply bored and unhappy with life as a car salesman.

“I jumped at the chance and despite doing the first year for free, the following year I tried my hand at commentary and they said it sounded OK so I had a decision to make between presenting and commentary. I chose the latter and it’s been that way since!

“With regards to British Eurosport, the channel had covered a few of the classes within the Thundersport GB Championships with me commentating on it. I managed to arrange a meeting with the head of communcations within British Eurosport and they kindly offered me some winter sport work (another hobby) and took a risk on me by getting me involved in some motor sport work too.

“I never thought I’d get a chance to commentate on WSBK and MotoGP, as the bike’s team within the company are excellent, and so when I got the call through to say that I’d be covering Toby and Jack when their work clashes, I was jumping around the room with excitement, it was a dream come true.

ANY ISSUES IN BIKING THAT PARTICULARLY GRATE? ANYTHING THAT’S WORTHY OF PRAISE? ANY IDEAS HOW TO GET MORE YOUNG BLOOD INTO BIKING?

“The only thing that grates on me is an issue that will remain completely out of my hands forever, and it’s to do with circuits on the world calendar. In Europe we have the finest venues around, and due to financial reasons we tend to lose one or two of them per year. I just don’t want it to go the F1 route where we end up with a lot of random events around the globe and lose the gems that make racing what it is. I’m not the one in business though so I can understand the decisions, it just makes me feel a little sad more than anything else!

“As for young blood in biking, at present we have a good bunch of stars that can make names for themselves but it’s definitely the next generation that is worrying. The Racing Steps Foundation have done a great job with the team and set-up they have in the Spanish Championship with McPhee, Rogers and Ryan, but it’s getting the youngsters to Spain and being able to fund it that’s the big problem.

“Thundersport GB as a club has a super system with riders aged 12-18 being able to start out in the Aprilia Superteens, move onto an Aprilia 450 and so on. I know they have some big ideas for the future too so that we can get more riders into the Spanish and GP paddock, but it takes time and it’s a great shame that, as a nation mad on bikes, we’re unable to remotely compete with Spain in terms of rider development.”

WSBK – post-season testing at Aragon

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Jonny Rea is getting to grips with the Kawasaki superbike during day one of testing at the Motorland Aragon circuit in Spain.

It’s the first time Rea, who finished the season in third place in the riders standings, has ridden the ZX-10R in anger after signing for Team Green.

Rea and his new team mate Sykes, who was pipped to the championship by Sylvain Guitntoli in the final race of the season, will spend today and tomorrow getting themselves familiar with the 2015 bike.

They were joined on track by Ducati Factory riders Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano, who were putting the 2015 spec Panigale through its paces.

The test concludes tomorrow.

Crash, bang, wallop – 2014 GP season in numbers

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The 2014 was a very good year for the plastics companies – there were 981 crashes during the 2014 MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 seasons, up by 118 from last season.

The results show that riders are pushing their bikes to the absolute limit as they chase precious tenths on track. There were 206 crashes over the 18-round season in the elite class, 61 of which happened on raceday. There were 134 crashes during the race and 274 during qualifying and practice in Moto2, and 140 of the 367 crashes happened during the racing in Moto3.

Tech 3 pilot Bradley Smith topped the leaders board in MotoGP, crashing 16 times, two more than team-mate Pol Espargaro, Gresini Honda’s Alvaro Bautista and Pramac Ducati’s Andrea Iannone, who all tumbled 14 times. Factory Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo crashed just twice.

Speed Up’s Sam Lowes took the honours in Moto2, with 25 crashes throughout the season, with Axel Pons crashing 22 times and Sandro Cortese crashing 20 times.

Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Karel Hanika found his rookie Moto3 season hard going, crashing 24 times, closely followed by Nicola Antonelli who crashed 22 times.

Misano was easily the most expensive round of the season for the teams with 109 crashes over the weekend, the majority of which happened during the very wet Friday practice session.

Proven on the roads: Gary Johnson

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Broughton racer Gary Johnson has rightfully earned his place as one of the leading competitors on the roads, despite only making his road racing debut in 2007.

He was rapid from the off and quickly established himself as one of the sport’s leading riders, landing the 2011 TT Supersport title on the East Coast Construction Honda.

He followed that up with a second success last year, winning the 2014 TT Supersport title on the Smiths Triumph Racing Team’s 675R, giving the Shropshire-based outfit a TT debut to remember.

He suffered a huge off just a day after landing that second TT Victory when he lost control of his Lincs Lifting Kawasaki in the Superstock TT on the climb out of Ramsey, breaking his collarbone, vertebrae and several bones in his hand.

After spending his career riding between the hedges and armco he knows what kit works, and what doesn’t. Here he shares his hard earned kit wisdom.

HELMET: “I have always been an Arai man – I’ve been wearing them since I started motocrossing when I was seven years old. Yes, I did wear a Shoei or a year when I did my first TT, and had top borrow a couple of Michael Rutter’s visors, but to be honest I’m happy with both brands, though Arai always just pipped to for me. They always made a real effort getting the helmet to fit just so, constantly adjusting the padding and internals to make it fit better, to make it fit tighter.

“It took a lot for me to move away from Arai, a hell of a lot, but after talking to Bell my mind was made up; they’re investing a huge amount in technology and it seemed like a good opportunity to be part of something exciting. It’s got nothing to do with money, for me it was a decision based purely on quality.

“They started off by flying me to the states and scanning my head and then built my helmet around my head, creating a uniquely snug fit. This service is not available in the UK at the moment, but it is available in the US, and Bell are looking at introducing this service to the UK soon.

“The results of the scan are amazing – the helmet fits me like nothing else I’ve worn. They use a typical carbon shell, the same materials as other manufacturers, but increase the amount of high density protection foam, which is crucial for protecting your head in an off. They’re done this by reducing the amount of cushioning material they use. I prefer a helmet to be tight, and will gladly sacrifice some comfort for snugness. The protective foam on most helmets is 13mm, but the foam used in the crucial areas of my helmet is now 5mm thicker, which is reassuring – it’s one of the highest-quality, most protective helmets you can buy. Now, because of the fit and the tightness, if you pull or twist the helmet, my head will move too.

“The downsides to this snugness is the lack of cushioning. It can get a little uncomfortable if I’m honest, but not so much as to be distracting or painful.

“Other brilliant features of the Bell are its stability at speed, so you don’t get fatigued, the field of vision and the clarity of vision on offer, the secure but quick and easy to use visor mechanism and just how quiet it is. I love my helmets to be quiet, the quieter the better as far as I’m concerned, and this is excellent.

“It’s this attention to detail and the amount of time and money they’re prepared to spend at developing new technologies that makes this co-operation exciting. I’ve tested the Bell and the Arai RX-7GP back to back and the Bell was better – the strap, the vision, the level of protection,the visor change, everything was better.

“The most important things for me, in order of importance, are stability, vision and protection, and I can’t speak highly enough of the Bell. It’s that good it’s moved everything on to another level.”

“Bell are the oldest helmet manufacturer in the world, but they’re not resting on their laurels and they’re at the forefront of helmet technology. They’re keen to introduce the scanning process to the UK and they’re pushing the boundaries. A simple example of this is their attitude to visors. When I was wearing Arai at the TT, if anything happened to an Arai sidepod when you’re sat on the bike while it’s being being refuelled you’re fucked. They knew this, so they’d make sure their visors were brand new and silicon oiled so that the changes went as smoothly as possible. Their visor change mechanism is pretty archaic to be honest, but because they’d spend a lot of time preparing everything, it all went like clockwork.

“Bell have a different approach. They’ve spent a lot of time making it as easy to change the visor as possible, without compromising helmet integrity or visor security. They’ve asked for my input, they listened to what I had to say and they’ve succeeded in creating a system that’s quick, safe and easy to use.

“Another example of this innovative approach is the chinbar. They’ve cut a bit out of the chin bar, a little half-moon shape, to help me see what’s to the side of me without having to move my head when I’m tucked in and my chin’s flat against the tank. It’s a simple idea, but they’re listened and implemented it.

“The crash in the Tuesday Superstock race at the 2014 TT was by far the biggest crash I’ve had yet and easily the hardest I’ve ever hit my head. I lost the front at 120mph when I hot a slight damp patch  tipping in at Tower Bends near the Ramsey Hairpin, which ran my rear wheel wide. I went over the wall and down the banking, and when I woke up I was in a tree. I hit my head hard three times on the ground as I tumbled. I hit the ground that hard that I dented the carbon shell, and the high density foam around the vents had stress fractures in it.

“I was knocked out, but I came to straight away and was fully coherent. I was even joking with the medics. I had a massive bruise on my head, three deep lines on the top of my head where I headbutted the vents from the inside, but that was it, and that’s a pretty strong testimony to just how strong and protective my Bell helmet is. I’m still alive and I have no mental issues or memory problems – I can remember everything up to the point I lost the front, and I can remember everything from waking up in the tree. It works and I trust it, and that says everything you need to know.”

LEATHERS: “With leathers it’s all about the fit. My body shape is long and lanky. I’ve got really long arms and legs, a big back but very narrow shoulders caused by me breaking my collarbone, so it’s hard for me to find an off-the-peg suit that fits. If I wear a standard 42in set of leathers with a back protector in they’re fine, but as soon as I get in a racing crouch, it feels as if the sleeves are being pulled down. It can be quite uncomfortable and distracting, dangerous even, so I always have extra material in the stretch panels.

“You spend one-and-three-quarter hours in your suit per race at the TT, so they need to be right. You can’t have them so loose that they’re flapping around, but they can’t be so tight that they cause arm pump.

“I like kangaroo leather because it’s tough while still being supple and flexible, but cow hide is pretty good too. When I crashed at the TT the made-to-measure Gimoto suit I was wearing performed well – the leather didn’t pierce and the stitching didn’t burst, though I did get some friction burning to my right shoulder as the weaker material on the stretch panel ground away.

“They’re a quality bit of kit, they look pretty cool and they’re well made. They’re popular in the BSB paddock for a reason – they work.”

GLOVES: “Gloves are usually a compromise between fit, feel and protection. Too tight and they’ll give you arm pump. Too thick and you’ll lack feel. Too much protection and they’ll be too thick. It’s a viscous circle.

“I wear Held Titan gloves and I can honestly say they’re the best on the market. They’re the same gloves you can buy at a dealer’s and they’re easily the best gloves I’ve ever worn.

“They use the best materials – titanium protection on the knuckles, thick stingray leather on the vulnerable areas of the glove to stop your hand from digging in when you slide, and Kevlar stitching thoughout – and it shows. These gloves have been built to withstand a proper pounding. When I crashed at the TT I got away with breaking a bone in the back of my hand. When I look at the state of the gloves – as I slid down the road and tumbled down the bank I squashed and ground away the titanium knuckle armour and the heavy duty the stingray material – I think I got away lightly, they’ve clearly taken a proper battering. I hit walls and trees before I came to a stop, and although everything is worn down, they’re still intact.

“On the bike itself they’re superb. They don’t restrict my movement, they fit well, they’re comfortable and I don’t get any arm pump. Yes, they’re a bit heavier than other gloves, and they do need bedding in, but I’ve put them to the ultimate test and I can live with their extra weight.

“I’ve worn lighter gloves before and I’m not keen. At the NorthWest 200 I was wearing a set of Spidi gloves. I was following a bike at some 170mph when it flicked a stone up at my finger. I can still remember the pain now. I thought it had taken my finger off, but I didn’t throttle off. I just carried on, what else do you do? It was absolute agony and after the race I found out I had broken my finger. I’m certain that wouldn’t have happened if I’d have been wearing the Helds.”

BOOTS: “I want my boots to be as protective as possible without being uncomfortable or restricting movement. You spend a lot of time on your feet on the bike, so you need your boots to be comfortable.

“I want boots to have an inner boot/sock, have lots of external protection and a secure locking mechanism.

I wear Falco boots in customised colours. They’re got a lot of heavy duty plastic on the outer, good ankle protection and a snug locking mechanism. I wore Daytona before, and although they have probably the most protective inner boot on the market, they don’t protect the bridge of the foot.  They caused me no issues they’re hideously expensive.

“These Falco boots of mine performed well – everything worked as it should. The heavy duty external plastic stopped my feet from digging in and allowed me to slide. To give you some idea of just how strong they are, I stuck a tank pad sticker on the heel of each of my boots before the race. When they’re on it’s like trying to pull off Velcro. When I looked at my boots after the crash I realised I had ground one of the stickers away completely, yet my boots were fine. Yes, they’d been through the mill, but they were intact, and I suffered no injuries to my feet. Enough said.”

BACK PROTECTOR: “I always wear a back protector. I wear a Forcefield L2K back protector, the same as you can buy off the shelf, and it’s brilliant – it’s reassuringly protective without being intrusive, even when I’m tucked in with my chin on the tank. And it’s comfortable too as it moulds to your body. My crashed one is still good to go, so I know it’s tough. It just gives me that extra peace of mind.

“However, I don’t wear a back protector. I know I should but it just doesn’t feel comfortable when I’m tucked in. I know that’s wrong but it just doesn’t feel right, and when you’re riding full chat, things like that matter. I know I’d adapt if I gave it time, but I just can’t find the right moment to give it a proper test.”

COMPRESSION SUITS: “I wear Forcefield or Gimoto base layers and I’ve got to say both work well. They wick away the sweat, regulate the core’s temperature and make it easy to get into and out of your leathers. I’m all for kit that makes your life easier and more comfortable, and these tick both boxes.”

EARPLUGS: “As far as I’m concerned I like it as quiet as possible, the quieter the better. I can’t stand any noise and always wear them. Always. I push them in as far as I can get them. Sometimes I need a set of pliers to get them out, but I’d rather that than not wear any at all.

“I wear standard disposable earplugs. I don’t have a particularly long or open ear canal shape so I can get away with wearing standard ones. Of course, I’d really like to get a set of custom earplugs, but I’m a typical racer and I’d just end up losing them. I lose everything, so my mechanic always carries a couple of sets of earplugs, just in case.”

Tested – Arai RX-7 GP

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This is my third RX-7GP and I have nothing but praise for it.

This is my sole lid, and it’s the exact same helmet that you see top racers such as Pedrosa, Crutchlow, Vinales and Rea wearing each weekend. I love this helmet and with good reason too – it’s performed faultlessly on numerous trackdays, European tours and the daily commute to work. It’s truly all-day comfortable, and the non-itch lining does a good job of keeping my scalp dry and sweat free. The brilliant combination of visor vents and Pinlock means you’ll never suffer with misting, the visor change mechanism is easy to master, and the retractable chin spoiler is a neat, well-thought out touch.

It’s done some 33,000 miles this year and the only problem I’ve had is that the vent on the left diffuser broke after some 20,000 miles and now the vent button won’t close and it clicks as it moves in the wind. And the exhaust vent near the rear spoiler has just started to crack on its upper edge.

This lid came fitted with a Ventureshield paint protection film, which sits on the chin, forehead and temple areas. It’s just started to peel but it’s obviously worked as the helmet looks box fresh on the outside.

I know this lid will look after me in the worst case scenario – I threw my GP down the road when I came off at speed and slid some 110m down the road, smacking my head hard in three different places. The shell took a proper battering but everything worked as it should and I didn’t get so much as a headache – enough said.

Arai’s slogan is ‘there is a difference’ and they’re right. This is very much a top of the range lid, and it’s worth every penny of its hefty price tag.