Mad4Motorsports Project Ninja 400 required suspension upgrades on the front end and the rear for it to handle properly. We wanted to work with the “best in the business”, so Mad4Motorsports reached out to Mike Faillace – owner of Metric Devil Moto – for help and guidance. Mike has years of experience working on suspensions with top racers at the local and pro level, is the regional Pirelli dealer on the East Coast and often can be found trackside working with racers and race team alike.
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As part of our vendor Q/A series – we had an open discussion with Mike from Metric Devil Moto. Below are those excerpts.
Mad4Motorsports: How long have you been working on suspensions?
MDM: We’ve been building and servicing motorcycle suspensions since 2006.
Mad4Motorsports: What makes you the top suspension shop vs. the competition
MDM: I don’t necessarily think of it that way. I think the greatest competition our shop has is with lap times, race wins and a racer or rider’s goals, not other suspension builders. We take a unique approach to addressing the needs of a particular motorcycle or racer or rider and sometimes those solutions don’t come from a spring chart or a build sheet. I believe my experience as a successful and competitive racer helps me do my job better every day.
Mad4Motorsports: On the Mad4Motorsports Project 400 build, MDM recommended a unique suspension setup. Explain what is so special about the GP Suspension @25 MM Race spec cartridges – why choose those vs. something else?
MDM: I believe that GP is making the best fluid fork cartridge available. Their ability to react to our needs in regards to different builds is essential in arriving at a suspension our customers are happy with. Their tolerances are tight, the materials are high-quality, and everything has a coating, which helps keep fluid clean and performance consistent. And they’re made in the USA by our friends at GP on the west coast, who all also have backgrounds in racing and riding at a high level. With data and support often being the most overlooked part of suspension building and tuning, it’s sometimes easy to forget that if it doesn’t have the correct build and setup, your $3000 worth of hardware isn’t going to perform optimally.
Mad4Motorsports: Explain why you selected the Penske Racing Shock 8983 for the Ninja 400 – what is so special about this rear shock?
MDM: We’ve always liked Penske shocks for most of our builds and this one was no different. We’ve put the 8983RM on a lot of 250s, 300s and 400s over the years and worked with racers like Brandon Paasch and Joe Limandri Jr. on their little bikes to figure out what does and does not work on these bikes. Just like the GP front end, the shock is made in the USA (right here in Pennsylvania, actually) and every shock is custom built to order. While you can get comparable performance out of other shocks, it’s almost always more expensive since the shock you are ordering is already built and has to be re-built before it gets to the end user. Penske has a great staff of techs in house that we have an open line of communication and data sharing with that helps make us, and the final product better.
Mad4Motorsports: Discuss the quality of the OEM steering stem and swingarm bearings and why you recommend to upgrade those bearings. What effect will the rider “feel” with these upgrades done.
MDM: These are price-point motorcycles that are mass manufactured. Sometimes, the guy lubing the bearings does a better job on a Monday morning than he does a Friday afternoon. We’ve prepped a lot of bikes that were new off the showroom floor and have found things over-lubed, under-lubed and everything in between. This 400 came to us with zero miles on it and had loose stem bearings. The linkages were and actually had a bit of oxidation and corrosion on some of the moving parts that we polished and lubed. There’s no sense in hanging a few thousand dollars’ worth of suspension on a motorcycle that has garbage bearings where that suspension connects to the motorcycle. The end result is a more complete motorcycle. Plus, knowing that these variables were eliminated, we can more easily diagnose hanging problems in the future. If a rider is experiencing chatter, we know it’s not because of the stem bearings.
Mad4Motorsports: What do you like about Pirelli vs. other brands (Michelin, Dunlop, Bridgestone, etc)?
MDM: I’ve always raced on Pirelli tires long before I became the regional vendor for them. Pirelli always provided the best feel and outright performance for me over other brands. One of the mottos we live by in the shop is that if we don’t race on it, we don’t sell it. Over the years, our working knowledge of the Pirelli race tires grew, and our racers and track day riders benefited from what we learned. We learned what compounds worked best at what tracks and what pressures worked best for what conditions and so on. One of the things I like the most about Pirelli tires is that have a lot of what I call “accessible performance”. There are a few tires out there that can run proper fast laps, but there are very few that can run fast laps and also work very well for riders just getting started in track days. The same tires being used by Johnny Rea in WSBK and Jules Cluzel in WSSP are the same tires we have in our trailer for races and track days. We don’t have any fancy, secret tires we reserve for our “chosen” racers. You get the same thing they get with us and we give you the data and information to be able to use that tire to its fullest potential.
Mad4Motorsports: What are some of the common myths / common errors people make in prepping their tires and suspension for track days / racing?
MDM: Misinformation on the internet is probably one of the single biggest problems track day riders and racers are up against. Free information on the internet is usually worth exactly what you paid for it.
Mad4Motorsports: What are some of the top riders you have worked with?
MDM: I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a lot of very talented racers over the years and be a part of their success and worked in the pro paddock for a few seasons and been a part of more than a few Daytona 200 efforts, but I’d say that my most rewarding work has been with young racers. Young men like Brandon Paasch and Xavier Zayat and Joe Limandri really make the job fun. To see Brandon go from MiniGP to Moto3 has been amazing to be a part of. Watching Xavier Zayat beat Danny Eslick and Jason Farrell at Daytona on a bike I built for the ASRA championship was another highlight. And we got a few lap records this past season with one of the very the fast guys I work with, Vasiliy Zhulin. Arthur Aznavuryan is a great racer I’ve been working with since he was a teenager and he’s become a very fast guy as well. And there’s a lot of racers we work with in different capacities. For some, it may be suspension and tires, for others, just suspension. Or just tires. Every race and every racer brings their unique set of problems and potential solutions to the trailer and we do our best to help them all succeed.
Mad4Motorsports: Do you provide any trackside services?
MDM: Yes, we are trackside about 100 days a season with CCS, WERA, N2 and Evolve GT providing tire and suspension support to racers and track day riders.
Mad4Motorsports: What tracks have you been at?
MDM: I think I’ve been to most of the important ones in the US. I think there’s a few in the Pacific Northwest I haven’t been to and maybe a couple in the middle of the country I haven’t seen, but I’ve either ridden or worked events at most of them. We’re spoiled in this part of the country with so many great tracks around us.
Mad4Motorsports: What are some of the top tracks your riders’ race at?
MDM: The big tracks in this region are PittRace, NJMP, Summit Main and VIR.
Mad4Motorsports: What events do you typically attend?
MDM: Every single N2 and Evolve GT track day and all the WERA and CCS races on the Atlantic coast.