Road Dirt’s Ryan Nolan prepares to go MotoAmerica racing in 2024
Those of you who have followed me for a while now know that racing is more than just a hobby to me. Racing is my passion and part of my DNA. Ever since I began riding motorcycles when I was 16, I always wanted to race. My lifelong dream has been to race in the top professional series in the United States. I have worked hard and taken all of the steps to make that dream a reality. From my race license class in 2014 starting out on a 2009 Ninja 250, moving up to a first and then second gen SV650 and finally transitioning to a 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in 2023, motorcycle racing has been my drive and joy.
With racing you always hear the phrase, “The highs are high because the lows are low”, and my racing career thus far has echoed those words. It has taken me longer to adapt and figure out some semblance of speed than I would’ve liked, but bad luck has also hindered my progress. It’s definitely not for lack of effort, as I have put in more than my fair share of hard work to keep pushing forward through all of the adversity. Racing is hard work, especially when you’re a “privateer”, rather than a factory rider.
Ryan Nolan riding his “A” bike for the first time, a 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6, March 2023.
In 2021 I had originally planned my MotoAmerica debut to make my lifelong dream come true, but I ran into some engine issues, which at the time seemed unheard of, after blowing three engines in one season. After regrouping for 2022, in my preparation I figured all of my bad luck was behind me. For clarification, these engines were all professionally built (not by me) and I always plan ahead for contingencies, making sure I have adequate spares and am well prepared.
So for 2022, I ended up with not just one backup motor, but two. Unfortunately, my main motor somehow blew up twice! Fortunately though, I had backup motors which should save the day. Even after the bad luck start to 2022, I was feeling ready and prepared for my MotoAmerica debut attempt number two. The week prior to the race weekend at Road America I went out to test with my backup motor installed. Unbelievably, that motor blew after only a couple of laps. I was completely beside myself and understandably upset. The second I arrived back in the pits my wife came up to hug me and we both broke down in tears. I couldn’t believe this had happened once again.
However, I went back home, regrouped and decided to give it one more try, installing a borrowed motor as my “backup to my backup” motor in the bike. I came back to the track the next day and rolled out. History decided to repeat itself yet again and somehow this motor also blew up. Now to clarify for those of you wondering, these motors were built by two completely different people and we tracked down the most probable cause being the dyno tune on the bike, which we determined was incorrect based on the broken evidence of motors now in my possession.
Ryan turning laps on his Suzuki SV650 at Blackhawk Farms, 2022.
Needless to say, I did not get to race in MotoAmerica for 2022. I made the decision to transition into the Middleweight category on a Supersport Yamaha R6 with plans to learn the bike in 2023 and finally make my MotoAmerica debut in 2024. I had considered staying in the Twins class but felt it was time to move on. Also, my club race bike also decided to blow up at the end of 2022 so after five motors blowing up on me, that seemed like more than enough sign to make the move.
The reason I tell this story is to give some context to where things stand currently. The lows have been low and I’ve had more than a couple people tell me they would have thrown in the towel. That just isn’t how I’m built. So when I tell people I will do whatever I need to accomplish my goals, you know I mean it.
2023 began and my bad luck run somehow followed me yet again, this time in somewhat different ways. The short of it is, my track time was limited this past year due to a series of small issues that were enough to keep me off track. Those included fuel pump issues, spark plug threads, clutch baskets breaking and of course, the familiar event of a blown motor came back at the end of the season, with my R6 motor dropping a valve before the final ASRA round of 2023 at Blackhawk Farms. Again, I did my best to prepare for this season and did not take any shortcuts. I had the bike torn down to the frame and the engine completely refreshed so I have no explanation as to why this happened. However, I am extremely hopeful this is finally the end of my bad luck for a while.
The new (to Ryan) Yamaha YZF-R6, prior to tear-down.
This brings us to my current project, which is another 2017 Yamaha R6. Throughout 2023 I told my wife that eventually, I wanted to get a “B” bike to use for coaching and club racing in order to keep time off of my “A” bike which is set aside for MotoAmerica use. After my engine blew at the end of the 2023, I ended up snagging a salvage titled street trim R6. I was not planning to make this purchase this soon but circumstances ended up driving the decision.
My A bike is currently being fixed and while that happens I am focusing on trying to find financial sponsors, transitioning my team to a more professional setup and building my B bike. I am proud to say this bike is being built in conjunction with a good friend of mine, Eric who is also the new owner of Superbikesupply.com, a website focused on motorcycle performance parts and apparel. Eric and I decided to partner on this build and I wanted to bring you all along for the journey. This is really exciting for me to share with all of you because I have always enjoyed watching and reading about project bike builds. Now I have one of my own to share!
Let the tear-down begin. Stay tuned.
Since this bike is currently in street trim it gives me an opportunity to learn more about the ins and outs of the Yamaha R6 and bring you along for the ride. Step one of the project begins with a general teardown and overview of the bike. As you’ll see the learning process takes some time and I am definitely thankful race bodywork is much simpler to remove and install compared to the OEM street stuff.
I am excited to bring you all along for the journey and share my experience as I finally make my debut in MotoAmerica. I feel very proud to do it as a Road Dirt contributor, and I hope you all enjoy the ride! Stay tuned for more updates soon!
If you’re interested in finding out more about my race team and/or becoming involved as a sponsor or contributor, please check out our website at Ryhnoracing.com
Ryan “Ryhno” Nolan
Check out Ryan’s Episode 1 of the bike build: