Oldskoolsuzuki meets Don Hill at Rooster Racing

Rooster Racing Don Hill

At the end of January I got a chance to go and visit a man who has probably forgotten more about building and tuning 90s GSXRs than most of us will ever know. His name is Don Hill and he owns Rooster Racing.

What made this opportunity to visit Don’s workshops special was that it’s not something he offers very often. He is almost adverse to attention and publicity, preferring to hand pick the people he builds bikes for. The reason for Don’s approach became clearer as the day wore on.

Don Hill rooster racing Donington endurance legends oldskoolsuzuki
Don Hill and the Rooster Racing team at Donington endurance legends 2018

Don Hill

I first became aware of Don’s work when my friend Adrian McCarthy (AKA Mole) told me he was going to be one of 3 riders racing Don’s Rooster Racing GSXR powered Harris at the 2018 endurance legends event at Donington. When I was there, I got a quick look round the bike in the pit garage. The build quality and the finish were something very special.

That same year I started my own race career ( if you can call it that). Racing at Eastfortune on my home built GSXR1100 Slabside. I quickly learned that 3 of the fastest GSXRs in my post classic senior class were all built by Don at Rooster Racing. I would like to say that’s why they were so much faster than me but the truth was that was entirely down to me. With Don’s Slabside based 1216 engines routinely and reliably knocking out over 160 bhp, I can’t see my home built Slabby getting close even if my riding skills improve.

Adrian McCarthy's GSXR1100 Don Hill Rooster racing
Adrian’s Championship winning GSXR1100 slabside built by Rooster Racing

I got chatting to Don in the pits at Eastfortune last year between my races. I had been suffering from some fuelling problems and Mole and I and the rest of the team had been struggling to solve the problem. Don turned up and took around 2 minutes to sort it. We chatted again after my last race and he agreed that I could come down and learn more about what he was doing and write something for OSS.

Rooster Racing

There were two main reasons I was intrigued to know more about Don’s work. Firstly, I was impressed by the performance and the reliability of the engines he was building. Secondly, Don’s talents don’t stop at engine building and tuning. He fabricates the frame and swingarm modifications, builds his own exhausts systems and as if that wasn’t enough, he produces the most amazing paint work too. There aren’t may people who can single-handedly build a race bike to such a high standard. I just needed to know more.

Mole was going down to Don’s to pick up freshly painted body work and wheels for his 2019 wet bike. So I hitched a lift down to meet Don on his his home turf and learn more about the work that he does.

When we arrived Don took us into his main hanger size workshop, he put the heating on and then presented us with us with tea and bacon butties. I liked him already.

While Mole and Don talked I had a wander round looking at some of the motorcycle exotica that peppered the workshop.

Don Hill
Don and Mole talk shop

GSXR Engine tuning

Don was in the midst of building a new Machine shop for his gas flow bench. The flow bench was situated in another location until Don has completed the extension. Don promised me a return visit when all of the work was complete so that we could do a more detailed feature on it.

,We talked about his fastidious approach to head work. He will routinely spend 200 man hours on a head between porting it and gas flowing it. When we talked about costs, I quickly worked out that he probably ends up earning about £3 an hour on a head. It was at this point that I started to realise Don was an out and out perfectionist. He was not motivated by cost or profit. His motivation was quality. This was not Don’s day job either.

Don explained his method of gas flowing a cylinder head. Don would always gas flow with the carbs on. Not any old carbs but the actual carbs that were going to be used on the bike. He acknowledged that everyone had their own approach but this was his. Engines were built to each racers specific requirements. Those requirements often came down to where the bike would be raced and how and where the rider wanted the power to develop. No one engine would be the same.

Rooster racing
Don explains the varying engine characteristics that he has tailored for different racers

GSXR frame fabricaion

Don had a GSXR slabside that he was mid way through building for a racer from the ground up. This included all of the frame and swingarm mods and a very trick aluminium breather tank.

Rooster Racing GSXR
Ground up Rooster Racing GSXR Slabside race bike

GSXR exhaust fabrication

Don then talked us through the exhaust systems that he builds to go with his engines. He talked about about the importance of narrowing the headers at the manifold and ensuring that the pulses from the matched cylinders worked in unison at the collector box. I was out of my depth but I nodded like I understood.

Rooster racing hand made GSXR exhaust
Rooster Racing’s hand made exhaust systems
Don Hill Rooster Racing exhaust
Don explains the virtues of collector box configuration

Rooster Racing paint

Mole’s freshly painted body work and wheels were laid out for collection and they were perfect. Don was clearly a man of artistic talents too as he explained his love for ornamental wood carving and shared some pictures of his work. Looking closely at the paint work than Don had completed for Mole, it bore all of the hallmarks of a perfectionist, just like everything else that Don put his hands to.

Don Hill Rooster Racing
Mole inspects his new paint job by Don Hill

Quality and integrity are inseparable

As the morning wore on and Don and I talked some more I realised what a rare individual he was. When I say this, I mean Don seemed to be able to bring the the same methodical, well rehearsed quality, to everything he did. There was also something unique about the way Don viewed the bikes and the riders that he worked with.

When he built a bike for someone he maintained an genuine ownership like concern for the bike and the rider’s fortunes. This was the reason Don chose those who he built for so carefully. He had to be sure that they the rider would be prepared to do things Don’s way. He doesn’t build parts of bikes, he builds a complete performance package. The performance came from each part of the bike working in unison.

Mole was a trained motor mechanic and was no stranger to building his own machines. He had won a number of championships on his own builds but since meeting Don he now deferred to Don on all major decisions on race bike performance. As Mole put it “when Don tells you to do something you don’t argue you just do it”

Rooster Racing Don Hill
Rooster Racing’s Harris Endurance bike

I left Don’s workshop with a deep respect for his skills and his ethos. Don understood the high stakes for a racer, having raced for many years himself when he was younger. Racers had partners and families to provide for. The performance, reliability and ultimately the safety of the machines Don built meant more than just winning. Lives were at stake and that responsibility was something that weighed heavily on Don’s conscience.

I concluded that Don was a man of great skill, who would always put quality first. He would never be afraid to walk away if he felt that his approach was unwelcome, unappreciated or compromised. His commitment to that approach and his integrity left me feeling that I could implicitly and completely trust Don. I can’t think of a more important time to trust someone than when they’re building you a race bike.

Oldskoolsuzuki will return to Rooster Racing later in the year. In the meantime, don’t call Don, he’ll call you.

Members Discuss this article here


Bike of the Month April 2017

Don’t pick it, it’ll never heal.

The wound is generally more impressive than the scar it could potentially leave, this trick framed oil boiler looks more than tough enough to take what would appear to be a backhanded ‘pimp slap’ compliment on it’s chin.

In this age of teenagers sporting ‘homeward bound’ neck art (they’ve probably never done a paper round let alone a stint on the ogin) this is a mighty blue illegible tattoo, it’s a miners hob nail to the (now) trendy white soled ‘brahhn’ red wing bootie…the battered original Simpson to the plastic predator. I got that beat-the bull shark to the appendix etc. etc.

Anything but evolution of necessity would (in my mind) ruin this bike, but I think this dude knows his onions (pardon, Monsieur) and wont succumb to such nonsense as to dress his Gaulian gash in fancy paint, polished alloy or a brahhhn seat.

Congratulations yann711r vous êtes vélo du mois!

Read about Yann’s build here

Discuss this article here.

Calliper Swaps

Caliper Swaps

It’s been noticed recently that a lot of people want to know what calipers are a straight swap to upgrade their bikes with no problems, and without having to go to the effort of making up a set of adapter plates.

So if your bike is listed in the same section as another bike below, you can change calipers without any worries.

For ease I shall just call the calipers type 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Calliper swaps

Fork Tube Sizes

Fork Sizes

A lot of site users want to know about fork details, length, diameter, etc. to allow easier swapping of components between models. I’ve compiled this list forks to help you get on your way, but if there’s any missing please let me know the appropriate dimensions so that I can add them in here.

A lot of site users want to know about fork details, length, diameter, etc. to allow easier swapping of components between models. I’ve compiled this list forks to help you get on your way, but if there’s any missing please let me know the appropriate dimensions so that I can add them in here.fork tube sizes

Fitting a 916-style Steering Damper

By Banoffee.

My slabby has a lively front end, so I’ve been wanting to fit a steering damper for ages. I even acquired the period Daytona fitting kit and damper however couldn’t get that to work with my USD front end. So, seeing as I wasn’t keen on modifying the frame to take a bolt-on side mounted damper the only option left was a 916-style fitment. Seeing as I’m running an Ohlins rear shock, the damper had to be Ohlins to match of course!

Basic theory:
Whilst steering damper manufacturers don’t list fitting kits for oldskool bikes, it’s actually a simple matter of taking the measurements and then doing some research to find a suitable kit (or parts from several kits).

The measurements: (Note – some measurements are taken with internal vernier edges, some external. These are just shown to illustrate, you should of course check your own measurements carefully!)

A: Yoke nut centre to tank front mount centre

AB: Top of tank mount to top of top yoke

BC: Between centre of tank front mount bolts

CD: Between LH lock and centre (then multiplied by 2)

DThe research:
I took a tape measure with me to bike meets, bike shops etc to measure up more modern bikes (with owners permissions of course when they were about!) and also bothered a few people selling kits on ‘that auction site’.

My bike:
(750G with 400gk76a USD front end)
A: approx 50mm
B: approx 60mm
C: approx 50mm
D: approx 60mm

Things to note:
On my slabby, the damper is quite close (5-10mm) to the tank. Double, triple check all measurements to ensure it won’t foul anwwhere.
Source the fitting kit before buying a damper so that you can mock up and modify if necessary. Setting a good search on ‘that auction site’ makes this surprisingly easy and cost-effective.
For the damper stroke, obviously err on the side of slightly longer but not too long as it will look unbalanced.

The result:
I picked up a 2000-model H*nda Firebl*de Harris fitting kit from ‘that auction site’ for a whopping �20. Measurements were near-perfect as a 1-2mm on the tank mount, etc. is just fine. Only slight drawback was 30mm lower ‘B measurement’ so I acquired a 30mm tubular spacer.

EMy ‘D measurement’ (remember to multiply by 2 of course!) meant an approx 60mm stroke damper so I ordered a 63mm stroke Ohlins damper from BikeStuff (cheers Rich!).
In the pics below you can see the finished result. I’ve lost a tiny amount of right-lock, however, eventually I’ll get a spacer made up to under the tank-mount part which will solve that. All-in-all I’m well pleased!

245

How-to fitting 3.5 GSXR front wheel into EF front end

Capitan Chaos site moderator, motorcycle mechanic and EFE addict shares some useful info on upgrading the front wheel on your EFE.

Here’s how:

– remove the bearings from the EFE front wheel, and take the tube which is in between them. Do the same with the GSX-R one.
– you will find out the EFE one is 16mm longer than the GSX-R one. It needs shortening 16mm.
– buy some bearings which fit in the GSX-R wheel and on the EFE spindle. I don’t remember exactly the sizes, but you need bearings with the ID of the EFE ones, and the OD and width of the GSX-R ones. They were off the shelf in the local bearings shop.
– the tubes in the bottoms of the EFE forks are now too short. Make some new ones which are 8mm (each) longer.
– the EFE speedo drive will fit after a little bit of material has been removed. Offer it up on the GSX-R wheel and you’ll see exactly where.

And now, with that nice 3-spoke wheel, it would be a shame not to upgrade the brakes as well.
The Slingshot Nissin 4-pots, and the later GSX-R models’ Tokico 4- and 6-pots all fit on the EFE forks, 90mm spacing between the bolts. But the Slingshot discs are too large.
Now Suzuki had thought about this and launched the GSX600F in the late eighties, this bike has brake discs that fit perfectly on the GSX-R wheel and are small enough to accept the more modern calipers when mounted in the EFE forks. All it needs is some small rings to space out the calipers a bit towards eachother.
Use the EFE caliper mounting bolts, they are longer than the GSX-R ones.

Captain Chaos

Discuss here