Over the years at EDR HQ, we have had a lot of people ask and message us regarding how to help avoid some of the common engine failures we see. Motorcycles are very high performance machines with very different maintenance needs than your average car and as such, can’t be treated in the same way. With this in mind, we figured now would be a good time to start a series on tech tips to help extend the life and reliability of your motorcycle.
In this short blog post, we are going to focus on an often overlooked and very simple way to extend the life of your engine – oil temperature. Reaching proper oil temperature before putting load on your engine is vital, especially at events like trackdays and races, and we have all too many times seen the consequences of not doing so
We often hear these days that warming up more than just a few moments is not necessary and only loads the crankcase with unburned gasoline – with people often pointing out anecdotal cases shown on cars and trucks. Modern motorcycles are much more highly engineered, putting out vastly higher horsepower per liter numbers which means tighter tolerances, higher stress parts, and more temperature variability.
Take the 2015+ R1 for instance as it holds nearly 5 qts of oil! That’s as much as many cars, which also means the bike will take a long time to properly heat up and get working well. Too often we see at track days riders will start their bike, run it for 60 seconds, hop on, and immediately rip it down front straight!
Remember, the R1 has aluminum cases, aluminum pistons, a steel crank, titanium rods, and many other parts with varying metals. These don’t all heat up at the same rate! Titanium especially, so oil and internal engine parts temps must be warmed up to ensure everything functioning properly!
With bikes making twice the horsepower than only two decades past, these things matter. You can see the same principles in car racing with Formula One, Sprint cars, and more. They preheat the entire engine with special pumps that heat and circulate the coolant to operating temperatures before even turning over the engine. High performance street cars are the same way – a Ferrari is going to benefit greatly from letting the engine warm up before getting on the gas.
Honda, on the other hand, knows 90% of drivers will have it in drive before key stops turning. These types of cars are designed to be able to start moving before everything is fully warmed up. It simply boils down to the engine specifications, materials, and clearances being designed in very different ways. Our new literbikes or other size sport bikes are very much like supercars in the fact they are highly tuned and built for maximum speed and performance first. A 250 Ninja on the other hand will do just fine only getting warm enough to let the choke out without dying.
Bikes these days are easily reaching the 200hp/liter mark! Give some thought to the equivalent scenario in a car. Imagine if an average everyday Mustang 5.0 making 1,000 hp! While there are custom mustangs putting down that kind of power, do you think the owners start them up once to 150°f water temp and go full throttle down track? Doubtful.
Below is what we tell all of our clients. Many will tell you stories of Eric yelling at them even throwing wrenches (rumored 😉) when riders haven’t warmed up their race or trackday engines he’s built.
Remember, it’s all about oil temp not water temps! Water has a thermostat (most times) to help it come up to temp (and maintain temp) faster.
So many racers or riders warm it up to say 150°f and take off. At that water temp, the oil is still stone cold! The internal engine hard parts are cold. Our engine builder is OCD with temps. He always tells our riders to warm up to @200° f water temp first thing even if it’s 15-30min before you hit the track, then shut it off.
It will continue to heat soak the internals and warm the oil and case/parts. These will keep warming up even when shut off for a bit.
Then before you go out, start again and let get up to 180°F at a minimum. As you start removing your tire warmers and slowly head out it should reach 200-220 in the pits when rolling out. Once you go down the hot pit exit and get some air flowing through the radiator, it’ll drop back down to normal 160-190 range and yet the internals are all warmed up & oil temperature is decent.
Lastly try to take easy first out lap of course, even the tires need a lap.