RIDING DIFFERENT BIKES. RACING SOME
Let’s get straight to the point; we don’t do it enough either. Pit biking. Speeding around on very small motorbikes. Kind of like mini supermotards. It is fantastic. It is fun. And above all, very educational. We tell you why every motorcyclist should go pit biking often.
It is a pity that there are few locations in the Netherlands where you can ride pit bikes on karting tracks. So we choose to head off to Belgium, to Racelandkart. And immediately make some kind of mini road trip out of it. Since we are going on the ‘mini tour’ anyway.
When we introduce friends to the phenomenon of pit biking, we always say “Just a day of fun and crashing a lot”. And everyone gets spontaneously enthusiastic. Maybe you’re thinking “Crashing a lot?! Fun?!”. We assure you; yes, that is fun. Let’s tackle some general questions first.
Pit biking is motorcycling on mini motos. Or racing, rather. You do so on a karting track. This can be located in an inside venue, or outside. Or on the roads, even. Put mind that most pit bikes are sold without a license plate. So you’d have to have a go at it at private property.
The art behind pit biking – and thus riding laps as quickly as possible – is keeping momentum and carry a ridiculous corner speed. Something you are probably not used to, when you ride a big 1000cc sport bike, naked bike, all road motorcycle or cruiser.
When you google a ‘pit bike’, you often see mini dirt bikes in your search results. A pit bike is a tiny dirt bike, that was designed to introduce children to riding dirt bikes.
Those mini motor have a cylinder capacity that varies from 50 to 190 cc. The top speed of a pit bike generally ranges from 45 km/h to even 120 or 130 km/h. So they are rapid little things.
Pit bikes come with a manual or semi-automatic engine. Most have four gears. Some have five.
Now someone had a brilliant idea one day. That excellent idea was to put street tyres underneath a mini dirt bike. Which basically turns it into a mini supermotard. So you could ride it on the streets, on a circuit or on a go-kart track. Whoever came up with this; chapeau. We are still eternally grateful to you.
Now; the key subject.
We dare to say it out loud. A motorcyclist who ride pit bikes often, becomes a better rider.
Why? There are several reasons and arguments behind this statement. But one of the main reasons is, that you learn to feel when a front or rear tyre threatens to slip.
Thanks to the small size of the motorbikes, you can play with the balance between grip and grip loss. Do you ride a pit bike on a go-kart track? The the surface is much slippier than you are used to on the roads or on a big race circuit. So the chance of loosing grip is bigger. Pit bikes for go-kart tracks are fitted with tyres that are suited for this kind of surface. But you can still loose grip quite quickly.
Because a pit bike is so agile and since you are low to the ground, you have quite some correction options. If you are too late with correcting your initial whoopsie, then a crash is no disaster lighter. After all, you fall from less than one meter high. Certainly not if you are already riding with quite some lean angle. Then your ‘free fall’ is probably about 20 cm.
So the threshold to play with that balance between grip and grip loss is a lot lower than when you ride your own motorcycle. The more you go pit biking, the more natural it will start to feel. And you will also notice it earlier when the pit bike starts to loose grip.
You can transfer this skill onto riding your own motorbike. Of course, the feeling will be a bit different in general. Especially when you ride a completely different type of motorcycle than a supermoto. But that first feeling.. the moment your bike looses grip. That first split second. You will recognise it. And at that point, you may still be able to do something about it.
You will be grateful for all those hours on that little pit bike. It may prevent a crash with your own precious machine.
When you first get on a pit bike, it feels weird. You sit on it like a monkey. Especially if you are a taller rider. As a result, you often go around like a stiff in the first few minutes. But to really ride a pit bike fast, you need to ride it smoothly.
You’d think that one would flick such a tiny bike from one side to another with little effort. And that is correct. But if you think you can just rest that bum in the middle of the seat.. then forget about it. Move it! Lean! And full send!
Once you get used to the small size, you can play with the next balance; the balance between the little bike and your bodyweight. You will notice that riding a pit bike gets easier once you move that bodyweight from side to side. So no lazy riding.
Move those legs! That bum! And your upper body! Oh, and don’t forget to look ahead.
If you ride pit bikes often with your mates, you will notice you start to ride your own bike more smoothly as well.
We say “if you go pit biking with your friends”, but you could do it on your own as well of course. It just makes it even more fun when you share this experience with friends. Because ‘crashing a lot’ is no big deal when you can make fun about it.
Prepare yourself when you go pit biking for the first time; you will crash. Don’t worry in advance. Crashing with a pit bike is not scary at all.
Like we said, you are close to the ground. And most crashes will involve sliding. You’ve got this, trust me. 9 out of 10 crashes are harmless incidents. One goes down and immediately stands up again to pick up the bike and go on ones way again. And that just one of those reasons why every motorcyclist should go pit biking regularly.
It decreases the fear of falling, whether consciously or unconsciously. We understand that it is a bit different, whether you crash a small pit bike or your own precious motorcycle. But the whole principle of ‘making contact with the asphalt’ remains the same. And you will see it takes away the ‘raw edges’, somehow. Especially when you ride a pit bike frequently.
And if you go pit biking with a group of good mates, you can also laugh about your own crashes after every session. Or about someone else’s. Remember; as long as no one really gets hurt, it’s fun. Don’t take it all too serious.
Despite the fact that pit bikes are very small, there still is a risk involved. Like with basically anything that involves engines and speed. A purebred unlucky bird can end up with a sprained ankle or broken wrist. But that rarely happens, luckily. However, you can rely on the fact that you will crash. And will walk away with just some bruises.
Let us give you a few pit biking tips, before you get on that mini moto and ride off:
Tip #1: Do you own an old and a new pair of leathers? Then don’t be a fool. Wear your old leather suit, as long as it still somewhat functions. A slip and slide here and there will leave marks. That would be a waste of your new suit.
Tip #2: The same thing goes for your motorcycle helmet. Got an old one laying around? Or a MX helmet, maybe? Then use that one. Got a slightly banged up one? Which does not have a visor anymore? That one could be worn as well. You don’t need a visor when pit biking in an inside venue.
Tip #3: If you’ve got the opportunity, then wear motorcycle boots and gloves what cover the wrists. You could apply the same rules for when you ride on track. Leather is always the best choice, and leave no skin uncovered.
Like we said; a day of pit biking is a day of lots of fun and crashing. But in the best possible way. And frankly, the most friendly way. That we walk away a bit bruised and sore, is something we take for granted. At the end of the day, in addition to some bruises, we also gain some extra laugh lines. And most of all had a really, really great day. Oh, and we gained agility, which we will take with us when riding our own bikes. What else could one want?!