Trackday Diaries: How Fast Can We Go For $1800?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
trackday diaries how fast can we go for 1800

Almost 25 years ago, I walked into a small-town gun shop looking for a surplus Chinese SKS rifle. At the time, the gun market was flooded with SKSes and the steel-cased 7.62×39 ammunition that they used. $99 for a gun, $0.02 a round for the ammo; it was pretty much the official rifle of Ohio rednecks for a solid year. If I had a nickel for every afternoon I spent with a bunch of worker’s-comp-addicted ex-bikers shooting at abandoned cars, ovens, and “empty” propane tanks, I’d have my very own Viper ACR already.

Most of the shops I’d visited in pursuit of my own SKS had tried to foist off recent-production stuff made for the U.S. market as authentic ’60s ChiCom army stuff. I was sick of it. You can imagine my relief when the fellow behind the counter at this particular shop had the right gun at the right price and was willing to go over every component of said rifle to make sure it was correct. He even helped me get the Cosmoline off the thing. I was impressed by that dude. So impressed that I ended up shooting competitively with him and traveling all over the Midwest to ride mountain bikes with him. He was the best man at my first wedding, and we stayed close even when he left the shooting world to start a mortgage brokerage firm.

Over the past couple of decades we’ve pursued all sorts of stupid ideas together, from riding bicycles off loading docks to running a Neon in NASA’s Performance Touring class. Our latest idea, hatched during a dinner in which we celebrated his divorce was this: How fast can we go for virtually no money at all?

Our initial plan was to buy a 1992 Yamaha FZR1000 “EXUP” from a Columbus police officer. I’ve always wanted a classic Yamaha liter bike and, to be honest, I could use some goodwill with my city’s finest. The problem was that it didn’t start on either one of our trips to pick it up. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice … I won’t get fooled again.

In the week afterwards, we looked at everything from a Honda CBR1100XX “Super Blackbird” in Texas to a thoroughly ratted-out salvage title GSX-R750. But then we came across a 2001 Yamaha FZ-1 … with some “stories”, as they say in the biz.

The FZ-1 was a mostly successful attempt to combine the 145-horsepower engine of the all-conquering 1999 Yamaha R1 sportbike with ergonomics that would attract the over-25 crowd. Stock, it runs a 10.5-second quarter mile at approximately 130 mph. That’s McLaren pace. Of course, it doesn’t turn or stop like a supercar, but that’s beside the point.

The FZ-1 that I found was an early 2001 production frame with a newer engine hanging in the steel cradle. When my friend and I went to pick up the bike, the kid who had it didn’t seem to know much about its history other than what he’d been told by the previous owner: 54,000 miles on the frame, 24,000 on the engine. He’d been unable to sell it at $2,200; all of his potential buyers had been scared away by the replacement-engine story.

For $1,800, however, my friend and I couldn’t have cared less. What we did care about was the fact that it started and ran from cold like a new bike, that it had brand-new Dunlops and a shiny chain, and that there was no evidence of abuse anywhere on it. Wear, yes. But not abuse.

I rode it about 20 miles in monsoon conditions yesterday. Sweet and stout. The 998cc Yamaha engine is hugely powerful all the way to 11,500 rpm. The transmission was a little notchy and the brakes desperately needed service, but at least it didn’t wobble on the freeway. Later that evening, I caught a ride downtown and brought it from my office back home. A brief twist of the throttle on a patch of dry road saw it soar from 70 mph to 115 in just a few eyeblinks.

The problem with having something like this in your fleet is that it doesn’t just make my Porsches feel slow; it makes my VFR800 feel like it’s dragging some sort of trailer behind it. The FZ-1 is now in my friend’s garage getting a complete nose-to-tail going-over and full service. We might even try to find out the story of that mystery engine. I’d like to think of it as Excalibur, stuck in the stone, waiting for the right person to pull it out. Based on the parking stickers adorning the forks, this big black Yamaha has done solid commuting service for a variety of people over the years. But now we’re going to use it to have fun. If you see the twin-light fairing behind you, my advice is to move over.

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  • JuniperBug JuniperBug on May 12, 2016

    My problem with motorcycles on the street has to do with how the human brain deals with speed. Like any drug, you eventually get used to the amount in your system, and then you need more. Unlike cars, with bikes it's easy to get more - the world's fastest production sport bike, good for 190+ MPH, can be bought new for under 20 grand. Combine that with the fact that bikes are much more susceptible to road conditions and driver error, it becomes apparent that in order to run a sport bike on the street, you need to either exercise extreme self-restraint 95% of the time, or run afoul of all laws of road safety and self-preservation. That was too much for me. To highlight my point, both Jack and I have described how the last-gen Honda VFR could feel lethargic, and at least I'm nothing at all special when it comes to riding skills or experience. And yet a bike that does 0-60 in 3.4 seconds, the quarter mile in the low 11s, and tops out at 150 MPH ends up feeling slow. It's a drug, man.

    • See 1 previous
    • JimZ JimZ on May 12, 2016

      @Jack Baruth I've personally seen one with both a turbo *and* nitrous.

  • Compaq Deskpro Compaq Deskpro on May 12, 2016

    I'm going to take the Beginner's course in a few weeks, and I have already bought and paid for an 01 Suzuki DRZ400, which tops out at 90 so I can't get in too much trouble. Hopefully the next time we talk about motorcycles I'll have something to contribute.

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂