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Discussion Starter #1
Hey Guys,
Just took the YCRS course and didn't get on the R3, despite multiple opportunities. I'm a novice, and finding that I'm not using the power of the 600's yet, so I need to drop down to a smaller displacement bike. I'm looking at the Ninja 400, but primarily at the R3, both a 2018 (cheaper), a 2019, as well as a Honda CBR300R (2018).
After all I have read, I really can't decide with what to go with. I have always been a Honda guy at heart, so I am leaning toward it. At this stage, horsepower is not something that I need. Rather, I need to focus on cornering and trailbraking, and scanning ahead.
There are great deals on 2018's right now, and my best deal is on a 2018 Yamaha R3, followed by a CBR300R at $400 more. The 2019 R3 is another $1000.
1) Is the 2019 R3 that much better than the previous generation? And would it make that much difference to me as a novice? I know the front forks are stiffer, and the rear is stiffer too, with more damping adjustment. If it is that much better, perhaps it is worth the extra $1400, if it means not adding a fork cartridge, changing brakes and tires. I am 6 foot, 200lbs, if that helps.
2) I would be looking at swapping out the bias ply tires on the 2018 R3 for track duty. Would I be doing the same with the stock tires on the 2019 anyway?
3) Ari Henning and others have said that the stock brakes and suspension work extremely well on the Honda, making it a great handling bike. If so, does this mean I could go with the Honda and forget about upgrades, other than tires?
4) Does the Ninja handle as well as the R3? I do not need Ninja horsepower. I sat on it and it felt fine, but not noticeably bigger than the R3 or CBR to me, anyway.
I know there will be Yamaha bias here, but somehow, good advice will emerge!
Thanks,
J
 

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1. Novices won't be able to notice any difference. But something to note is there isn't as much aftermarket support yet for the 2019+ bikes as the 2015-2018.

2. The stock tires for the R3 are not great but it's more than enough to start off. Spend time learning the bike and fixing your body position first before swapping them out. No point burning through a set of sport tires if your lap times won't be any faster.

3. Depends on how seriously you're going to take track riding. If you're going to join a racing league you'll need to swap out the suspension to be competitive. I track my r3 with stock suspension and it does just fine.

4. The handling differences are subtle without experience. All three are good bikes to start off on but I'd prefer the R3 or the Ninja 400. I'm not a fan of the CBR's dash and the 280cc engine doesn't have enough pep in my opinion but they can still be a monster in the right hands.

As exciting as it is to get a new bike be mindful if you decide to modify it. Chances are you'll be selling it off and all those mods will be lost. Also motorcycles have little room for error so saving money with parts off ebay could cost you your life. Stick with reputable manufacturers for any mission critical parts.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks Milc,

I won't be doing any racing, so I would like to keep stock suspension if it's up for it. This will be a track-only bike. I am going to use track days for stress relief and focus, just like I did with the YCRS course.

If I won't notice any difference between the 2018 R3 and the 2019, it makes sense for me to go to the 2018 and modify once I have enough laps under my belt.

I'm wondering if the lower horsepower of the Honda and slightly better midrange will actually be better for learning? Or will it make a difference?

I have read that the CBR300R and the Ninja 300 use a three-point rear suspension setup, which improves damping and corner stability, while the R3 and the KTM RC390 attach the spring directly to the rear swingarm, which can lead to more rebound. Is there any truth to this? When I looked underneath all of the bikes, the three point setup is something that's real. I just can't imagine that it's something that has gone un-engineered by Yamaha or KTM.
 

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Not sure about the RC390 but a lot of people say the rear shock on the r3 is squishy when you're really pushing it. A cheap solution is to get a Ninja 650 rear shock and an adapter kit or get a R3 specific rear shock.

As for if the bikes are under engineered, I don't think so. The only advantage I've found for the 3 link setup is it's easier to lower for shorter riders.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks. As for sizing, I really didn't notice a whole lot of difference between the Ninja, CBR, and R3, but I thought the foot controls seemed too far forward for the track on the Ninja. On top of that, my heel instantly sits on the exhaust shield, the minute I get on the bike, so I figure I would have to be replacing it right away, as well as getting rearsets.
 

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What is your ultimate use going to be for the bike? Track use only, street/track mix, canyons, commuter? That may help give a little more input.


1) Is the 2019 R3 that much better than the previous generation? And would it make that much difference to me as a novice? I know the front forks are stiffer, and the rear is stiffer too, with more damping adjustment. If it is that much better, perhaps it is worth the extra $1400, if it means not adding a fork cartridge, changing brakes and tires. I am 6 foot, 200lbs, if that helps.

The 2019 suspension is better than previous years being stiffer, but for a little over $1,400, you could get an older model and put fully adjustable forks and maybe shock that will be even better still. The suspension, body work and ergonomics are the changes for 2019, so frame and engine are the same.


2) I would be looking at swapping out the bias ply tires on the 2018 R3 for track duty. Would I be doing the same with the stock tires on the 2019 anyway?

Being a novice, you'll be fine for a little bit with the Dunlop's. I used a set on my 15 off of a 19 for a track day day and they were much better than the bias plies, but once I started improving, I wasn't digging them very much as they don't have as steep of a profile as more super sport/track tires do. Mine are just sitting in the garage now.

3) Ari Henning and others have said that the stock brakes and suspension work extremely well on the Honda, making it a great handling bike. If so, does this mean I could go with the Honda and forget about upgrades, other than tires?

You'll still need upgrades once you start getting a lot faster, but in your case, you may want them even sooner based on your weight. Japanese manufacturers design great bikes, but the suspension tends to be designed for people on the lighter side. My R3 stock suspension was fine, but I was bottoming out the rear shock in the canyons and I'm 5'10" 200ish lbs with full gear.

Brake upgrades will just be pads really. Pads alone will provide better than stock braking and they're cheap too. (Also, stainless brake lines are a good idea).

Personally, brakes are not as big of a focus until you get fast with small cc bikes because they have pretty aggressive engine braking and when starting out, you won't be likely to be going deep into a corner at full throttle and then immediately to brakes right off the bat. This also depends on the track, but more technical tracks will probably have you focusing more on turn in and throttle control.

4) Does the Ninja handle as well as the R3? I do not need Ninja horsepower. I sat on it and it felt fine, but not noticeably bigger than the R3 or CBR to me, anyway.

I personally feel the main edge the 400 has is more power. R3 edges it in handling and I feel the R3 is a better quality bike, currently. For track riding, another thing to consider is the 400 has clutch/shifting issues that will need to be sorted before you get serious or you'll have finicky shifting and premature clutch wear.

But for an R3 to keep up with a 400 with an equal rider, it will need power upgrades, which fortunately for the R3, there are a lot of out there.

In the end, it depends what you'll be using the bike for most and take weight into account for suspension and speed. Speed may not be a major factor for you now, but as you get better, every bit of power and skill starts to count in areas like corner entry/exit where you can't just turn the throttle and instantly go faster.

Good luck!

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks MetalSlug,
As for the purpose of the new bike, I intend to use it for track days only on various tracks in Ontario and the midwest US.
1) Forks and Rear Suspension
What would you consider to be a good fork and rear shock upgrade if I go with the 2018? Would you go to the Ohlins cartridge in the front, and Ohlins in the rear? That's looking like $1500 US plus install, but I don't mind if it's an improvement over the 2019 stock setup.
2) Tires - sounds like a good option is to run with the OEM bias ply, then swap them out when they wear out for something with a steep profile like a Dunlop Q3+
3) Brakes -Visrah or EBC pads and Gaffer lines?

I know that I might end up pining for more horsepower as I start winding up my corner exits, but right now, I need to work on getting into the corner faster, trailbraking, loading the front tire, turning, leaning, getting the head over, etc....
 

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1) Forks and Rear Suspension

What would you consider to be a good fork and rear shock upgrade if I go with the 2018? Would you go to the Ohlins cartridge in the front, and Ohlins in the rear? That's looking like $1500 US plus install, but I don't mind if it's an improvement over the 2019 stock setup.

I know the feeling of wanting the best available, but there's not really any varieties that you can go wrong with. There are differences when assembling, but adjustability is all the same. Rear shocks seem to have endless options, so you should really do your research and maybe talk to suspension pros on that end.

Honestly though, for a little while, really get a feel for the stock suspension and see if you feel it lacking. Stick forks are surprisingly good; maybe just install some preload adjusters if your sag usn't right. Rear shock, you could go the ninja 650 route if you find the stock to be too soft or bouncy, but you won't notice it right away unless the tracks you go to have a lot of asphalt repairs or aggressive dips.

2) Tires - sounds like a good option is to run with the OEM bias ply, then swap them out when they wear out for something with a steep profile like a Dunlop Q3+

This is one area I strongly recommend just going ahead and upgrading for the track. I thought about keeping my bias ply until I wore them out, but the compound on them just isn't good for aggressive riding and the carcass is too stiff, they feel like they want to give way with more lean angles. I put on some used pirelli's and it made such a massive difference in confidence to lean the bike over more while feeling planted.

3) Brakes -Visrah or EBC pads and Gaffer lines?

Like suspension, I would hold off on pads until you get a lot faster and you feel the braking isn't keeping up (I am still using stock pads at the track, but may be upgrading soon as my bike will have much less engine braking effect soon with the work getting done to it). But if you must, either of those pads will be fine.

I will suggest the stainless lines though, as the stock rubber will expand more over time and reduce braking efficiency, whereas stainless will have more consistency from lack of expansion. Stainless, however, will have slightly less brake feel when it comes to trail braking.

Brand doesn't matter for lines. They're all the same thing. No need to go expensive here.

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Discussion Starter #9
This has been useful. It's so easy to get oversold with the "new and improved" on everything. The first generation looks as high quality as the second generation, and, for my novice abilities on the track, I figured there wouldn't be much need to upgrade to the 2019.
 

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Jayzonk..Good luck on your decision. All three manufacturers make reliable, quality, and reasonably priced bikes. Couple of things you've not mentioned that may or not be important to you. Fuel cost/MPG.. All are good, but the less engine cc/power the better the MPG. Everything I've read proves as much. With the CBR getting the most..R3..Then Ninja 4. Cost of insurance and routine maintenance should be close on all three bikes. But the costs of replacement OEM parts.. from body panels, to throttle grips, radiator fans.. just pick at part and plug it in... As a general rule, the Kawasaki appears to be more costly.. Sometimes much more than the R3 or CBR. A quick search of any vendor's OEM parts schematics with part numbers and cost will prove me out. But you really can't go wrong here with any of these bike. What COLOR bike would rather ride??.. R3 Blue, N4 green, or CBR red?? . Sometime it's just that simple!! :D
 

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R3 race bike owner here.

1) For the moment when you are starting out and learning, just leave the suspension stock for the moment but keep the future in mind. If you are going on the racetrack, sooner or later you are going to be upgrading the suspension anyhow, in which case, it doesn't matter that the stock stuff is perhaps a little bit better on the 2019 - it's not enough better to not have to change it. I have Ohlins at both ends, K-tech is another common choice. I prefer the previous model's dial-and-pointer tachometer to the new one's screen.

2) DO change out the tires. Doesn't matter which bike, the stock tires on anything in this class need to be changed out for track duty. Dunlop Q3+ are a good choice.

3) The Honda's stock suspension still won't be adequate for proper track duty. Fine for a beginner for a while ... but especially at your weight, you'll still run into its limitations and have to start changing stuff.

4) Can't comment, haven't ridden one. I'm told that the shape of the bodywork limits where you can position the handlebars. The R3 has limits on this, too, but the Ninja 400 is apparently worse.

General comments.

The horsepower shortage on the Honda will become apparent sooner rather than later.

I don't trust a KTM to not explode, overheat, or run crappy. I liked the look of the RC390 but the attraction lasted until I rode one. Now I'm not interested.

Aftermarket fiberglass race bodywork - you do not want to use the stock stuff on the racetrack. So far, the previous R3 is better supported than the new one, the Ninja 400 is well supported, the Honda not so much - they're not commonly used as race bikes. The R3 Flexiglass bodywork is subtly reshaped to provide better clearance for lowered handlebars.

Rear suspension linkage - The linkage design gives more flexibility for ride height adjustment and so forth, and from the OEM point of view it's a more space-efficient design (their problem, not yours), but the direct-attachment setup works fine otherwise.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Thanks Airhead83. I am not going to be insuring this bike, as I do not intend to ride it on the road, and my insurance doesn't cover me for use on the track. I have looked at some Honda schematics and have found that bodywork is extremely expensive. Other than that, I haven't checked.
I am hoping that at 205lbs, the suspension on any of these choices are adequate.
MetalSlug, you mentioned clutch and shifting issues with the new Kawasaki. Are you referring to the difficulty in finding neutral while the bike is rolling? Or was there something else? I thought the slipper clutch would have been a nice feature, as downshifting and rev matching while trailbraking and coming into a corner is a new challenge for me when doing it at track speeds. I know the CBR doesn't have a slipper. Does the second generation R3 have one?
One thing I would like to mention is that I did get a chance to sample an FZ-07 at the track. After being on an R6 for three days, I felt that the bike was much too upright for the track. I felt that the twin cylinder motor was a little too lumpy for me, and the brakes and suspension both felt soft. I don't know if that bike shares the same suspension or brakes as the R3 or not, but I wasn't a fan.
 

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I own a 2019 R3, and just got my wife a 2016 R3. Mine won't see the track (I have a FZ-07 dedicated to track). I'm setting up her 2016 for the track over the winter. She just upgraded from a CBR250R. I have ZERO experience with the Ninja 400, so I can't really comment on it. The CBR250/CBR300 is a really nice bike. The OEM parts are REALLY inexpensive to replace if you crash it. My wife crashed plenty on hers, and it was unbelievably inexpensive to crash. The motor is nearly bulletproof, but isn't nearly as smooth as the R3 motor. The CBR's suspension isn't very good, but is easy to upgrade. Her 2016 is gonna be an awesome track bike! I'm building it up over the winter. I did a K-Tech, "lite" shock ($499), and race tech gold valve emulators & proper springs ($300), I added some preload adjusters as well ($25). I did all the work myself.... In hindsight, I wish I would have gone with Traxxion Dynamics new R3 emulators ($400). I think they are a better product than race tech. As far as my 2019 goes, I think mine is a better "street bike". I'm a little surprised by the LACK of aftermarket parts available for 2019, compared to the 2015-2018's. The 2019 front suspension is MUCH better than previous years. There is actually a very crude cartridge inside. One leg for compression, and the other for rebound- no adjustability on either.... It's "better", but still not as good as my wife's race tech front end. My personal opinion, is go for one of the older R3's. Take the money you saved, and put it into tires and suspension. I doubt you will be disappointed-
 

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Thanks Airhead83. I am not going to be insuring this bike, as I do not intend to ride it on the road, and my insurance doesn't cover me for use on the track. I have looked at some Honda schematics and have found that bodywork is extremely expensive. Other than that, I haven't checked.
I am hoping that at 205lbs, the suspension on any of these choices are adequate.
MetalSlug, you mentioned clutch and shifting issues with the new Kawasaki. Are you referring to the difficulty in finding neutral while the bike is rolling? Or was there something else? I thought the slipper clutch would have been a nice feature, as downshifting and rev matching while trailbraking and coming into a corner is a new challenge for me when doing it at track speeds. I know the CBR doesn't have a slipper. Does the second generation R3 have one?
One thing I would like to mention is that I did get a chance to sample an FZ-07 at the track. After being on an R6 for three days, I felt that the bike was much too upright for the track. I felt that the twin cylinder motor was a little too lumpy for me, and the brakes and suspension both felt soft. I don't know if that bike shares the same suspension or brakes as the R3 or not, but I wasn't a fan.
Do you plan on running stock body work or get race body work? You'll want to look at pricing for race body work for each bike too if it's 100% a track only bike. R3 stock bodywork is cheap in comparison to other bikes, especially with how many R3's out there with no changes for 4 model years.

Ninja 400 gets false neutrals, miss shifts, premature clutch slipping and wear issue. The bike is cheap for what it has and it seems there is a reason why. The good thing with the 400 becoming a popular track bike (btw, R3, Ninja 400 and RC390 are the most popular small CC track bikes right now), so there are aftermarket parts to remedy these issues, but you will have to factor in the cost of that. Norton Motorsports is one company that does a lot of work with the R3 and Ninja 400. Spears enterprises and TST do as well, so you can check out the things they have to get an idea of what's available for these 2 bikes and costs. The R3 does not come with a slipper clutch. Can get one aftermarket, but quite pricey.

FZ-07 and 09 have trash suspension to make the price lower. R3 has a similar (but not same) rear shock to 07, but different forks. All the bikes you are considering are quite upright compared to an R6. 15-18 R3 are pretty upright, but not as much as the fz-07, the 19 R3 is a bit more aggressive as the clip-ons are lower, the Ninja is about the same in upright feel to R3, maybe a little more leaned over, Honda is pretty upright as well. That's where rearsets and aftermarket clip-ons come into play.

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Discussion Starter #15
I own a 2019 R3, and just got my wife a 2016 R3. Mine won't see the track (I have a FZ-07 dedicated to track). I'm setting up her 2016 for the track over the winter. She just upgraded from a CBR250R. I have ZERO experience with the Ninja 400, so I can't really comment on it. The CBR250/CBR300 is a really nice bike. The OEM parts are REALLY inexpensive to replace if you crash it. My wife crashed plenty on hers, and it was unbelievably inexpensive to crash. The motor is nearly bulletproof, but isn't nearly as smooth as the R3 motor. The CBR's suspension isn't very good, but is easy to upgrade. Her 2016 is gonna be an awesome track bike! I'm building it up over the winter. I did a K-Tech, "lite" shock ($499), and race tech gold valve emulators & proper springs ($300), I added some preload adjusters as well ($25). I did all the work myself.... In hindsight, I wish I would have gone with Traxxion Dynamics new R3 emulators ($400). I think they are a better product than race tech. As far as my 2019 goes, I think mine is a better "street bike". I'm a little surprised by the LACK of aftermarket parts available for 2019, compared to the 2015-2018's. The 2019 front suspension is MUCH better than previous years. There is actually a very crude cartridge inside. One leg for compression, and the other for rebound- no adjustability on either.... It's "better", but still not as good as my wife's race tech front end. My personal opinion, is go for one of the older R3's. Take the money you saved, and put it into tires and suspension. I doubt you will be disappointed-
That's what I was thinking as well. Rearsets will help adjust body position, regardless of which one I get, and the tires have to go anyway, so I don't see the benefit in the 2019. If the new suspension upgrade is marginal, I'd rather put the $1400 saved on a 2018 into better than OEM fork/shock components when needed.

I am surprised but not surprised by your comments on the CBR's suspension, as the "reviewers" always seem to say that the suspension and brakes are good. When I sat on the Honda, however, I did notice a whole lot of compression up front, so I don't really know how to assess this without riding it. Being a Honda guy at heart, I am leaning toward the CBR a bit, as long as I can still find an upgrade kit for it in a year or two. I noticed that there aren't as many upgrades for it as the R3.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Do you plan on running stock body work or get race body work? You'll want to look at pricing for race body work for each bike too if it's 100% a track only bike. R3 stock bodywork is cheap in comparison to other bikes, especially with how many R3's out there with no changes for 4 model years.

Ninja 400 gets false neutrals, miss shifts, premature clutch slipping and wear issue. The bike is cheap for what it has and it seems there is a reason why. The good thing with the 400 becoming a popular track bike (btw, R3, Ninja 400 and RC390 are the most popular small CC track bikes right now), so there are aftermarket parts to remedy these issues, but you will have to factor in the cost of that. Norton Motorsports is one company that does a lot of work with the R3 and Ninja 400. Spears enterprises and TST do as well, so you can check out the things they have to get an idea of what's available for these 2 bikes and costs. The R3 does not come with a slipper clutch. Can get one aftermarket, but quite pricey.

FZ-07 and 09 have trash suspension to make the price lower. R3 has a similar (but not same) rear shock to 07, but different forks. All the bikes you are considering are quite upright compared to an R6. 15-18 R3 are pretty upright, but not as much as the fz-07, the 19 R3 is a bit more aggressive as the clip-ons are lower, the Ninja is about the same in upright feel to R3, maybe a little more leaned over, Honda is pretty upright as well. That's where rearsets and aftermarket clip-ons come into play.

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Yes, I am going to run bodywork in case of an "off." :eek: I see Sharkskinz makes them, and TST has one called Bikesplast that I know little about. Anyone have any experience with these? In either event, I want to get full bodywork, including the tank cover. Not to be too vain, but adding the tank cover gives the bike a complete appearance again. Any comments on either manufacturers' product?

Leaning back toward the R3 if the CBR's suspension would have to be changed anyway. The extra displacement will likely mean getting more years out of it at the track.
 

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The "reviewers" as you say talk about the suspension and brakes on the honda for the street. Since you are only going to do track, things will probably need to be upgraded.

My R3 is a canyon/track bike, so I still have stock bodywork and can't comment on race bodywork as a result.

When I got the R3 a couple years ago, I had been looking at the CBR 250/300 for a while and had been leaning on getting that, but after researching the ninja 300 and R3, I just felt the R3 was going to be a better bike.

There's also one other thing to be aware of on the R3 if you go that route. It's rare, but it happened to me; on the 2015 model, when you track the bike, the crankcase to cylinder gasket can blow out and cause an oil leak. It is specifically a 2015 issue and my motor had to come apart for it.

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Unless you have extra cash to spend, I wouldn't recommend either of the bikes for the track days except KTM RC390 maybe as it's the only bike which is more or less ready for the track in it's stock form.

It's way too expensive to upgrade those bikes for the track and it's time consuming. Especially if you aren't doing it all by yourself.

Calculate how much you would spend for the following parts+labour:

Performance:
Full exhaust
ECU flash upgrade/fuel commander
High performance air filter
AIS removal kit
Racing brake pads+braided brake lines
Front forks upgrade
Rear suspension upgrade
Racing tyres

Ergonomics:
Rear set risers or raised raicing rear sets (more expensive) + rear brake fuel reservoir relocation kit
Lower clipons
Tank pads
Higher racing seat
Short throw throttle tube

Crash protection:
Frame sliders
Engine case covers

This is already thousands of dollars which which will never be returned when the bike is sold.
 

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^ except that a number of those aren't strictly needed and most of the rest would be needed for *any* track bike.


Buying a track bike that someone else built is generally a whole lot less expensive than buying a street bike and doing the conversion yourself ... if you are on a budget then buy one that someone else built.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Unless you have extra cash to spend, I wouldn't recommend either of the bikes for the track days except KTM RC390 maybe as t's the only bike which is more or less ready for the track in it's stock form.

It's way too expensive to upgrade those bikes for the track and it's time consuming. Especially if you aren't doing it all by yourself.

Calculate how much you would spend for the following parts+labour:

Performance:
Full exhaust
ECU flash upgrade/fuel commander
High performance air filter
AIS removal kit
Racing brake pads+braided brake lines
Front forks upgrade
Rear suspension upgrade
Racing tyres

Ergonomics:
Rear set risers or raised raicing rear sets (more expensive) + rear brake fuel reservoir relocation kit
Lower clipons
Tank pads
Higher racing seat
Short throw throttle tube

Crash protection:
Frame sliders
Engine case covers

This is already thousands of dollars which which will never be returned when the bike is sold.
Well, I agree, and i did consider the RC390 but the literature all suggests that, although the bike appears ready for the track, it still needs upgrades. I can't say for sure what it needs, but its similar price point leads me to believe that theu had to cut some corners somewhere. Not sure if it needs tires, brakes, or suspension.
I did read a few comments about the rear shock not being so good, and lots of engine heat. There's also the issue of motors blowing up, but i suspect those riders are either always riding at redline or they've modified the engine.
J
 
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