RIDING DIFFERENT BIKES. RACING SOME
Every year they seem to get less popular. The sports bikes. The racing segment within the motorcycle industry. The sports bikes can’t seem to loose the image of ‘that machine will kill you’. Let’s talk about that in an ode to the sports bikes.
They definitely don’t sell like hot buns straight from the showroom anymore. The adventure bikes have taken over, with the naked bikes as a second best. Luckily you can still find quite a few of them on the second hand market. Why is that? Why do people thing a sports bike is difficult to ride? Or unpleasant?
You don’t really learn how to ride a sports or race bike when you take motorcycle riding lessons. Shifting your weight from one side to the other, the leaning and trusting the front brake. And – heaven forbid – braking into the corner. Those are just a few aspects to which little attention is paid. And that’s not so strange. The average motorcycle on which you ride while taking riding lessons doesn’t require you to do any of that. Not all of the aspects at least. So you miss out on that information from the start. Frankly, you don’t know what to expect if you want to ride a sports bike.
It requires a certain type of motorcyclist to ride a sports bike. Yes, everyone can sit on it and most of us will also get it moving. You might even be successful at riding for a bit. But to truly ride a race bike is something different. To enter turns with confidence, lean in and to work as one with the motorcycle. And to accelerate quickly after cornering. You learn some of it while taking motorcycle riding lessons. But not all. It requires a certain tenderness, precision and subtlety. One rider has to learn it, for others it seems to come naturally.
Do we mean you have to ride like an old lady? And super careful? Not at all. You can be ride very delicate and yet – pardon my language – be freakishly quick on the throttle after a turn. It’s all about the timing. Are you too early, then sports bikes aren’t the type of bikes that give you a lot of margin for error. So it gets out of hand quite quickly. Are you too late, then your lovely neighbor Agnes cruises straight past you on her chopper. ‘Cause Agnes has great timing.
Let’s sum things up; first we’ve got a shortage in knowledge and second, we have a lack in subtlety. Combine that with a high dose of testosterone (yes, you too ladies!) and you get a ticking time bomb. Because that’s not all. We finish this cocktail with lots of horsepower and a meager number of kilos in weight. Throw it all in a blender and it will guarantee trouble, when you don’t know what you’re doing. Or when you are too stubborn to learn.
Sports bikes are basically made for one thing and one thing only; riding laps. And do so outrageously fast. Preferably on track. Everything in the geometry, aerodynamics and technology is designed to break lap times. Hence the large amount of trampling ponies and the reduced weight of the bikes. This is also reflected in other motorcycle segments these days. Think of the hypernakeds of today. Those are naked bikes with a crazy amount of horsepower and not such a bad power-weight ratio either. But is it right, though? Is the engine of a naked bike the rightful place for all those ferocious stallions?
Speaking of stallions; look at those hyper naked with over 150 hp, lots of torque and less than 200 kilos in weight as a wild rodeo pony. All that horsepower between your legs wants to go somewhere. And preferably as fast as possible, thanks to the high amount of torque. Thanks to the upright seating position, you’ve got it all under controle. But that’s also why you are less likely to notice if things threaten to go wrong. You simply get less feedback from these bikes. Or you get it later.
And what about those sports bikes? Compare them to jet fighters. The thing will fly all over the place without proper guidance. Or it will hardly go anywhere. Not where you want it to go, anyway. Whereas you can still trough that wild rodeo pony through a turn with your thighs while squeezing your buttocks firmly in the seat, that won’t fly with a sports bike. On a sports bike, you have to shift your weight from one side to another. So get that butt moving.
So riding sports bikes requires a different riding style and perhaps even a different mindset. But if you are willing to make that commitment and if you are willing to learn. To work together. To not sit back and glue your butt to the seat. No, if you are willing to work with that machine, then it will all be okay. And then riding a sports bike is fantastic. A mistake can be made on any motorcycle. We all know that. And a lack of skill may increase the number of mistakes made on a sports bike. But that doesn’t make the sports bike the bogeyman.