Considering a Track Bike

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In July of '05 I found a perfect race-prepped SV650. I made the owner an offer, he accepted. It's March 1, '06 and the bike is almost ready for the track.

By Morgan Jones (

Why a Dedicated Track Bike?

I wanted to reduce track prep time, gain a little power and ride a bike that crashed easily and had good parts supply. It takes me a few hours to prep my MZ for the track. In addition to removing turn signals, bag mounts, headlight and taillight I also needed to make sure it had relatively new tires. This bike serves as a commuter and a tourer. It wears sport tires that square off quickly. I went through a few track days where I would mount track tires, ride a track day and unmount them for a tour the following weekend.

Why an SV650?

I wanted to stay small. If you ride a small bike you learn to ride fast in turns to keep up with big bikes. Small bikes are more fun.

I wanted a bike that did not have ground clearance issues.

I did not want an inline 4. 600s are a little bit powerful and bulky for my tastes. I prefer torque lower in the rev range.


An sv650 is a terrible track bike stock. The suspension is poor, the cheaper naked version had handle bars. At the very least you need to install clip-ons and upgrade the suspension if you want a decent track bike. The ideal is full race bodywork.

It is much cheaper to buy a bike that has already been converted.

I happened upon a full-on race bike. It has fully set up suspension, worked motor making 90hp at the rear wheel, race carbs, fully bodywork. It is raw and lovely.

The Transaction

Scott and I drove up to Doylestown to meet the seller. I rode the bike, we talked at length with the owner. The price was a little out of my range but reasonable for the bike. I offered him what I was willing to pay, he accepted a few days later.

What Went Wrong?

My first at-home inspection of the bike revealed milky oil. The bike had popped a freeze plug. The freeze plug is under the valve cover causing the coolant to mix with the oil immediately when the bike is started.

I located freeze plugs ( and the seller helped me install them.

The bike went through a gallon of coolant on my first track day. Oddly the coolant didn't leak on the engine or end up in the oil. It's apparently very unusual for the engine to pull coolant into the combustion chamber. The cooling system produces much less pressure than combustion: it is more likely that it will force air into the coolant.

After some research and testing the seller and I determined the bike had a blow head gasket. He took the bike back and replaced the head gasket.


The bike runs like a Swiss watch: a very raw, satisfying Swiss watch. I have considered selling it in favor of my more practical '99 CBR600 but I just can't bring myself to give up such a well sorted bike. The odds of me finding another one in such clean shape are low.