Aftermarket electronic goodies part one: the dash

Aftermarket electronic goodies part one: the dash

I’ll start with the dash because it’s going to be your biggest spend, but, if you’re building a race or trackday-only bike, then over time it’s a good investment and will save a good chunk of money as you want more information and functionality. When it comes to spending your hard-earned cash on upgrades for your bike, we always have to consider how best to split the spends and rightly so; what would be the point in buying full data logging if you have no idea what those squiggly lines mean? So, I’m writing this with a budget in mind for riders with a pre-2015 trackday or race bike that doesn’t have the nice big colour TFT dash with data-logging, downshifter or optional power modes as standard. 

I did some online searches and found a few different makes of dash to fit various track bikes from 2004 onwards, so the same units could be fitted to a 2004 Honda CBR600, 2007 Yamaha R1, 2015 Aprilia RSV4 APRC… the list goes on and it covered a comprehensive range of machines. An aftermarket dash starts out at around £1000, so let’s justify spending that amount of money. You could be in the situation where you need a dash, or maybe building a track bike from a crashed road bike, or you’ve had a big crash on the track yourself and managed to damage the clocks, in which case you will need to sort a replacement anyway. After a 10 minute browse on eBay, I found a few common second-hand OEM clocks/dash for sale, including a 2012 Fireblade at £995, a set for a 2015 BMW at £450 and most pre-2010 model bikes showed replacement clocks from between £150-£300 depending on the make and condition. Is £1000 too expensive? Not when you consider how much you get. 

So given the above examples, replacing the 2012 Fireblade dash is about the same value as that aftermarket dash, so for me it’s a no-brainer, you could buy the new dash and sell the original to cover your cost. The value of the 2015 BMW clocks would almost get you halfway there, so let’s look at the true value of the extra functionality built into the aftermarket dash. Just buying a good lap timer would cost about £300, plus extra wiring and mounting required – all of a sudden that £1000 dash doesn’t seem so pricey. Once you’ve convinced yourself to go down this route, there will always be a few smaller hidden costs for the likes of bracketry, optional wiring, cases etc., but expect some really useful features such as, but not limited to:

Full colour display Lap timer Data logging RPM Shift lights Gear indicator Fuel indicator Various warning LEDs

If you want more, you can buy extra sensors for logging data, but like I mentioned earlier, you need to know how to interpret the info that’s shown on the computer screen, otherwise you’re going to waste time and money. However, if you fancy dipping your toe in the water, start out with some basic data-logging channels and learn how to read the info and most importantly, make changes to your riding based on the information presented to you. A lot can be said about someone’s riding by acquiring just five samples of data, so my advice is to stick to logging these basics:

1. Throttle position First of all, are you reaching full throttle? Unless the data shows 100% and a perfectly flat line, you need to twist a little further. Once you start reaching full throttle, your next goal is to keep it there until the very last moment when you decide to brake. You will be looking for a completely flat line indicating your throttle is fully open, then as you snap the throttle shut, you squeeze on the front brake.

2. Brake Just knowing when you squeeze the brake (On) and when you release the brake (Off) is fine, there’s no need to measure pressure at this stage. Focus on reducing the gap between when you shut off the throttle and apply brake pressure as you approach the corner, then look at reducing the time from when you release the brake and reapply the throttle ready for corner exit. Also make sure that you’re braking firmly and effectively, not letting go of the brake completely and then reapplying again before you get to the turn point. If you do see the brake trace going on-off-on, you need to start braking later.

3. Speed Actual speed isn’t so important, but seeing the speed trace on screen can help you consider changes in gearing or just your general approach/attitude towards getting in, through and then out of the corner. Look for peaks and troughs, you want the speed on the straights to be as high as possible and drop off as sharp as possible. In the corners, you ideally want the speed to drop down to a point as you trail brake, then fire straight up again as you drive hard coming out from the apex.

4. RPM Having the bike revving in the right range is really important, regardless of cc; the motor has a sweet spot and you want to ensure you are keeping the rpm in this range at all times. Most big bikes don’t really respond until 8000- 9000rpm and a Supersport bike would be a minimum of 10,000-11,000rpm, so make sure you’re between those figures and the redline. It’s also really important to make a note of how far you rev between each gear change as well; you want maximum revs in each gear to get the best from the motor.

5. Gear Position Being able to clearly see your gear on the dash will help, but being able to look at each corner individually and comparing the rpm to your gear position on the data may just help you reduce the number of gear changes or even confirm a gut feeling that you may need a different gear at a certain part of the track. 

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