John wins Tuner of the Year for his work as crew
chief of
Jodi Christie Racing.

About John Sharrard

Like many of you, my first exposure to two wheels was on a friend’s Z50 at a cottage up north. I was hooked instantly and still have memories of that ride some 25 years ago. Then at age 11, my dad bought me a nerdy step through CT90. I managed to wreck that thing in fairly short order. Anyway, fast forward to my mid-teens, when I rode my brother’s old Bultaco 360 in the summer and a Moto Ski Mirage 2 in the winter. I modified the “Bull” so they both shared the same carburetor. You can imagine where my first exposure to jetting came from.

My first street bike was a beloved RD350, with a gremlin. The bike worked fine when on the side stand but had an intermittent hesitation when moving . Checking the side stand switch, the plugs and the jetting yielded nothing. I finally traced the problem to the wiring harness, in a hidden spot; it was rubbing on the rear spring coil, only while being ridden. The interfering coil was nowhere near the harness whenever inspected; it would only touch with the seat on and 180 lbs. on board…man that one was tricky!

The RD led to an RZ 500, which was blindingly fast but handled like a tricycle. About the same time, I bought my girlfriend an RZ350, which I found myself having to test ride all the time for no apparent reason. That was a turning point in my riding skills, the 350 handled amazingly well compared to the 500. There was a lesson there for sure; you rarely become a better rider on a bike that is powerful enough to be intimidating. When the bike doesn’t scare you, you tend to hang it out a little more, gain confidence faster, learn more and have way more fun.

I then graduated to an FZR 750R L imited, which I sold four speeding tickets and a track day later, for an FZR 400. That was my first race bike and my first exposure to building a four-stroke. My second year on the bike, I won the Amateur Canadian National title, winning four races in a row and setting three lap records.

After that year I moved up to Pro on TZ 250 equipment, running the GP’s in Canada and the U.S. and travelling with current Sport Rider editor Andrew Trevitt and Mark Orchard. It was there that I was forced to learn the serious business of two-stroke tuning by guys like Rich Oliver, Alex Mayes and Jon Cornwell. The art of getting a 6-foot-plus- guy around the track on an 80hp road racer really developed engine and chassis tuning skills, quickly. It was then that Ohlins fork and shock oil became a part of the blood stream. In the off-season, when I found time, I competed at the Expert level in Hare Scrambles and Ice Racing in the winter.

In ‘97 I switched to racing Superbikes, building a 175 hp Yamaha YZF 750/1000 hybrid. Yamaha Canada supplied Ohlins forks and a works frame, and my contacts at Yamaha U.S. helped out with a kit swingarm and magnesium wheels. I had an adjustable offset triple clamp made and started testing all options. At 175hp with slicks, there are so many barriers to the lap record it is crazy. I had custom-made swingarm pivots to try and minimize chain pull and I spent days in Atlanta with the people from GMD Computrack as we fine-tuned the chassis. That year, I learned a pile about chassis geometry, rigidity and adjustment.

In ‘98 I switched to racing R1 and R6 equipment with full factory support. At the first regional event in Shannonville, I thought the R1 was fantastic except for this pogo bounce the front end had coming onto the front straight. I had to wait for it to settle before I could get on the gas. I came in and added compression damping and it was a little better. I wanted to add some more but it was in all the way. The next week I took the forks apart four times, investigating and testing in an effort to make them better.

I had started a company called Accelerated Technologies to test and modify aftermarket replacement pistons in the forks. I had also done crazy stuff like modifying Ohlins hydraulic preload adjuster hoses so they would reach the triple clamps for on the fly adjustments. I found that with the soft Michelin tires, a bike that was set up perfectly on new tires wouldn’t turn into the corners when the tire was shagged. The difference in radius was hard to measure at full lean, but it was enough to be a factor. A sharp steering chassis is way more important than big power.

By ‘99 I was building forks, shocks and engines for more and more of my fellow competitors. My last year racing was in 2000, when I finished fourth overall (if memory serves) in National Pro Open Sport Bike, finally deciding to retire from competition.

In 2001, Jeff Williams approached me to tune for him at the factory Honda team, with Paul Fournier and Alan Labrosse. This led to a full time position in ‘02 as crew chief for the Honda squad . There I built engines and suspension for Frank Trombino, Steve Crevier and Kevin Lacombe, who were riding F4i’s, RC51’s and 954’s. In ‘03, I was hired by Kawasaki to build equipment for Matt McBride and guide him along. This past year Matt progressed brilliantly, qualifying on the front row by the last two rounds alongside Pascal Picotte and Steve Crevier.

There’s the condensed version of my motorcycle history. Hopefully there is something I have learned over the years that I can pass along to help you with a problem, or make you a safer, better rider.

 

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