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"Fast Bikes", April 1, 2013

TRACTION ACTION

Can a little black box really make you quicker and safer? In a word, yes.

WORDS: ALASTAIR ‘A-FORCE’ FAGAN

PIC: ANDY ‘BEAKY’ SAUNDERS & CHARLIE ‘JOHNNY CAB’ OAKMAN

Simon Crafar is a legend. We can’t knock his riding skills and credentials, but some of his Motovudu views are skewed. It’s all very well being a grand prix winner and boasting Garry McCoy’s sliding abilities, but the vast majority of us aren’t GP heroes and can’t slide like the Lab Rat. Some of us are blessed with a right hand made by God himself, delivering sublime throttle control (like Crafar and Mr Stoner) through years of practice. Most of us aren’t, however. We can’t lay 20ft darkies, and we endure a highside every now and then...

The subject of electronics is currently a contentious one, with numerous race series dulling down rider aids, while more and more road bikes are offering such exquisite additions. We know from social media and recent chats that opinions are divided. Varying abilities and opinions require varying levels of traction control dependencies. Some road riders are happy without all the gizmos (which is fair enough), whereas most trackday riders who are serious about shaving time like leaning on a little traction control.

Most showroom-spec TC systems are too road-biased, so are too intrusive and lack adjustability. Up until now, proper traction control has only been available to the racing fraternity, or those with big wallets that are able to spunk over £10k on Motec or Magneti Marelli kit – and even then you still need a technician with a laptop to make it function. Contrary to marketing hype, the Bazzaz units and other similar devices aren’t true traction control. They offer traction aid, make pretty noises, but it’s far from top spec traction control.

Now and again, we stumble across humdinger mods that appear on our longterm fleet. I was taking a piss at the NEC show a few years ago and noticed an advert above the urinal. I popped along to the stand, introduced myself, and they introduced us to the Nemesis TCS – a British-made, bolt-on traction control unit modelled on years of working with race teams and developing strategies. Before you know it, there’s one on my longterm GSX-R1000 and I’ve been terrorising A-roads, riding like a complete James Blunt. This is the best TC system I’ve ridden with, short of big-buck systems seen on WSB machinery.

So what’s the craic? We thought we’d conduct a thorough test and popped along to Cadwell Park with the designer of the system, Mick Boasman. This isn’t an advertorial. Nemesis doesn’t even advertise with us. It’s just an appreciation of such a fandango gizmo, and passing on a recommendation to you guys – similar to that of the carbon wheels feature we’ve done recently, backed-up with science and GPS data.

The track was initially damp, so we elected to start off with the TC firmly on. Records state there hasn’t been one single highside by a rider kitted with Nemesis TCS. I’m a motorcycle tester, so it was time I did my job and tested the theory. But when someone says pin the throttle to the stop mid-corner, it’s not surprising that it didn’t come naturally.

Those familiar with Cadwell’s last corner, Barn, will know it’s a home for highsides – off camber on exit and greasy under the trees. Teeth gritted, sweating like a horse in a Findus processing plant, it took a few laps to muster the balls. Lap by lap, the throttle got an abnormal bashing, opening sooner and further than I’ve ever explored. The brain really did need recalibrating.

I could subtly feel (and hear) the system working, and was reminded by the dash-mounted LED interface, but there were no surprises or aliens popping out.

Slowly, the assurance came. The Gixer’s arse dug into the Lincolnshire Tarmac and catapulted us out of Barn and down onto the start/finish straight. It didn’t take too long to figure there’s no such thing as over-abusing the throttle with the Nemesis fitted. Pops and bangs aside, the rear wheel didn’t once get naughty. The feedback consists of an elastic-type throttle that slowly resisted.

As the track dried out, and the Gixer and myself were up to speed, the proper evaluation could start. I could feel the rear trying to step out, while the TC would catch any misdemeanours. Because of its intelligence, the system still allows rear-wheel steering, but I could feel a little too much intervention in the faster corners. No probs. A quick visit to Mick and his laptop, and a small adjustment on the software that’s available to all users, saw the parameters nudged to allow less intrusion.

Cadwell Park is littered with tight, nadgery portions, and this is where the Nemesis was a real ally. The faster, more progressive highsides are usually kinder on the body, whereas the slower, snappier sudden stops bloody hurt, and bones usually make an appearance. Relying on the system to supply the grip soon became perfectly normal, but braking markers had to be adjusted for the extra speed generated earlier on.

I’ve never been reliant on electronics. It’s a dangerous thing in our game, but I rode like a complete pansy with the TC turned off – as you can see from the data traces. The grip was something that I just took for granted but, like most things, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. And then you’re usually 10 feet up in the air.

The real benefits of the Nemesis shine through when the tyre starts to go ‘off’. This also coincides with your own physical issues, getting tired, and mental concentration is also draining the tank.

Setting quick times on a trackday wasn’t on the program because of the traffic. We had to use sections and ideal lap times to gain valuable data. With TC off, my ideal lap time was a 1m38.4 lap. With the Nemesis turned on, it was a 1m36.8 – around 1.5 seconds quicker, and that’s with a tyre starting to cry-off. Looking at the data, my corner speed was slightly quicker with the TC switched on, but the big chunks of time came (not surprisingly) from corner exit – in particular in Cadwell’s tighter sections.

The Nemesis TCS isn’t without its drawbacks, although they’re hardly worth slitting your wrists over. The Gixer was set-up perfectly before we fitted the system. With the onslaught of extra grip and confidence exuded, the bike squatted and ran wide on corner exit. But the system worked perfectly at an area that really should punish such wizardry – the Mountain.

This little box of tricks wasn’t designed for the road but it sure helps in tricky conditions, nurturing the throttle and lending you an idea of where the limit is. Like I mentioned in an old longterm column, the Nemesis TCS is halfway to an uncrashable motorcycle. And with Honda’s/Triumph’s Gucci ABS, and Bosch’s new anti-lowside system in the late stages of development, we’re even closer.

OK, we can understand if your Panigale has all the gizmos pre-fitted. But for those without factory fitted TC, this system makes you faster and safer – put simply, it’s WSB for the masses. What’s not to like?

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