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OK, here's the question: What's the best handling bike you have ever ridden (we'll stick to road bikes for this), and then why? I'm interested to see what you come up with.

 

Cobie

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Do you mean "road bikes" as opposed to dirt bikes? Or "road bikes" as opposed to purpose built race bikes? ie. RS,TZ, etc.

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OK, let's say road bike, meaning anything you could ride on the road or track. If you want to further catergorize it, you could split purpose built race bikes from street based bikes.

 

CF

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Sorry, does that mean purpose built race bikes are not eligible or should have their own category... :P I swear I'm not trying to be difficult. Just wanna follow the rules...

 

Ok anyway, I'd say "The Best Handling Bike" I've ridden that wasn't strictly a purpose built race bike would probably be an RZ350. Now that's based strictly on fun around town and the twisties. Light weight, emminently flickable and just plain fun. In its day it was a nice power to weight ratio for the street.

 

I put about 50,000 highway miles on an 85 GPz 750 that was good cause the bars were high, longer wheelbase, and 18 inch wheels giving good stability on the highway. yet maintaining that sporty feel. also i could lie down on the tank bag and drape my feet over the rear pegs and cruise at 110mph for hours. and still be able to change lanes or run an off ramp in a hurry. also good for accidental downshift wheelies changing lanes in manhattan traffic or lane splitting the LIE. (495)

 

I rode and raced an FZR400 that was pretty much the cat's meow for four stokes in its day. Though is a bit piggy these days.

 

At least compared to my RS125's. (2 stroke factory roadrace gp bike in case you dont know)

 

Which for all out handling and nothing but handling...well...i don't think anything compares to that level of flickability and corner speed.

 

For ultimate handling in the flickable sense...light weight is the key for me. Honda RS125 RR (A-kit, please)

 

However, I haven't ridden anything four stroke or on the street at all since 1993...so...I hear things have come a long way.

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125 gp bikes are in their own world, nothing like them.

 

1984 gpz 550 at the schools in 85 were awesome.

 

Raced an rz-350 also, excellent bike, loved it.

 

I was interested to see what riders thought was a good handling bike. The modern 600's are fantastic, but there were some older bikes that were excellent packages. One friend had an old Guzzi V-7 Sport--disk brakes and all. He loved it, but I hated it.

 

I'll be interested to see what else we get up here...

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125 gp bikes are in their own world, nothing like them.

 

1984 gpz 550 at the schools in 85 were awesome.

 

Raced an rz-350 also, excellent bike, loved it.

 

I was interested to see what riders thought was a good handling bike. The modern 600's are fantastic, but there were some older bikes that were excellent packages. One friend had an old Guzzi V-7 Sport--disk brakes and all. He loved it, but I hated it.

 

I'll be interested to see what else we get up here...

 

 

I had a Ducati ST4s for about 20k miles. Had the Ohlins rear end and TiN coated fork legs. After a while of twiggling with all the adjustments I had it down for sport day ride adjustments vs. casual/soft city duty adjustments. I guess the reason I liked the handling so much was the chassis never seemed to get out of shape too awful badly as I progressed with the machine, speed wise, in the corners. I always wonder why more manufacuterers don't make the sub frame as one piece with the main frame stays, as Duc does, rather than a bolt on piece that has so much more flex...Anyone?

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Well, I can say for certain, from the crash repair side of things, it's way worse to have it as a welded on member, as opposed to a bolt on. Not really sure it makes enough of a difference strength wise, that would be a good question for an engineer/fabricator.

 

CF

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I've never been on a purpose built race bike, but I have a Buell XB12R and it seems to handle very well. It seems to be one of the most capable handling bikes made (right up there with the 999R, 916, 749R and RSVR) and it seems very easy to access. It seems very stable through high speed sweepers over bumps with no damper, it is VERY flickable and responsive (as it should be with 250GP like geometry) and the low reving V-Twin creates a power band that is easy to access and has no suprises.

 

I'm sure I'll get a few heaters for this, but I think it's the best handling production bike man has devised.

 

The thing is... Buell ships the bike with tires that don't seem to be matched well with the radical geometry. With the stock tires it wants to stand under mid-corner braking (not so much if you're just trailing a little rear brake) and it takes (IMO) too much effort to the inside bar to keep it leaned over near the lean angle limit. Swap out to Sportecs, Diablos, Qualifiers or Pilots and both issues disappear. When Erik Buell is asked about it he typically responds that there aren't enough Shawn Higbee's in the world. I would tend to agree because I've learned that proper form eliminates these issues as well. It's just that hanging way off and being a stickler for form all the time isn't practical. When tearing up canyon roads, sure... but sometimes I just want a moderate pace. I also didn't like the wet weather characteristics of the stock Dunlop tires.

 

Mid-corner line changes are effortless and it's been proven many times that the XB frame is capable of higher mid-corner speeds than just about anything else out there.

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Interesting. I hadn't paid much attention to the Buell's after riding a few of the initial models back when we did some Harley only schools.

 

Glad to hear they are coming up!

 

CF

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After Harley's not so sucessfu attempt at roadracing, I hope Buell does well and gets in there! It will also be good for the sport if they can get competitive.

 

CF

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I agree :). I have a passion for Buells.

 

Just to keep you up to date...

 

Jeremy McWilliams, Mike Cicotto, Pascal Picotte and Rico Panzkopher will be riding Buell XBRR's in the 200. I think they'll have a fighting chance but of course the teams are somewhat new to the Daytona. Mike Hale may be in it too, but Innovative's team may not get a bike soon enough. Here's to hoping though.

 

Try a Buell :), You'll like it if you like bikes that handle well.

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For me, it was the first ZX6Rs (F1 and F2).

I've owned a range of bikes, and during the late 90s I got to try out almost every new bike while I was helping out at a tuning company, but for someone of my size and weight (only about 65kg) the ZX6R was a fantastically balanced and secure feeling bike.

 

I now ride a VTR1000 because I'm only riding around town and sometimes have a pillion, where the torque and sitting position are ideal for this purpose, but it wallows around on bumpy corners, while the ZX6R was always tight feeling with wonderful feedback, and using it on track days gave me my first sense of what it must be like to ride a 'real' race bike, using the tactile feedback to guage traction, and letting me apply my understanding of the physics involved, rather than that 'seperated' feeling that so many road bikes give.

 

I suppose it's how you gauge 'handling', but I was so impressed with the ZX6R's that I bought a new one after clocking up 18,000miles in a year around central London and one trip to the south of France. I find that the feedback aspect of handling is so important for inner city riding, where treacherous road conditions and unobservent drivers and pedestrians make every safe arrival a miracle.

I've not ridden any other bike that (for my physique) matches this, and I'd add that the VTR is unimpressive in this respect. It requires re-engineered front forks to make them less prone to locked shims (an expense that most riders wouldn't consider or be aware was required), and even then has nowhere near the sense of 'oneness' that I got with the ZX6R.

 

Cheers,

Jason

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Jason,

 

Well, we like the ZX-6's too! :) The new 636 is truly awesome.

 

CF

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i feel like i'm betraying the love affairs i've had with a few of my bikes but, here goes...

'01 duc996s. it's overall combination of stability in accelerating, braking and handling can't be beat.

i knew i was gonna love it when, during the break-in period, i negotiated a turn with a hefty handful of throttle. the front lofted about six inches at the apex and just hung there until lightly touching down upon exit. no head shake, no change of line, no drama. THAT was my initiation into the magic of ducati.

no bike i've ridden aggressively has the poise of the duc. surgically placing it amidst half-a-dozen other bikes buried in t1-t2 traffic, it does exactly what i ask of it and amazes me every time i ask it to go above and beyond.

 

ironically, i've gone faster on another brand. that bike doesn't give me the confidence i have with the duc when things get dicey, tho'.

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Of all the bikes I've owned, each had their own special little character that I loved about it. First up was my 96 Ducati 600SS, not much power but once the suspension was set for me I could carry massive amounts of corner speed able to pass many of the faster bikes through corners, of course they would get me back on the straigh away but... which helped me later as well. Next came my 01 ZX-7R, little porky(ok alot) but the ultimate bike in terms of stability in my opinion, put it on a line and there it stays, boy was it hard to flick from side to side though. The 05 636 that I rode at the CSS level I & II was very impressive as well, actually I want one for the street. But my 04 ZX-10R with Elka rear and Ohlins cartridge front is king, for power and flickability, I haven't ridden anything like it. It does not think kindly of fools though and have found that out on multiple occasions.

 

John

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I've got three favourite top handling bikes on my list.

Here they are in random order. ( coz they all come in first one way or the other )

 

1 :) ducati 916. A fantastic bike as far as holding a line and carrying cornerspeed are concerned.

On the down-side however, takes a lot of muscle at initial steering. And riding it on the road frustrated me

immensely becouse every corner could have been taken with a higher speed. The bike that made me

realise that riding the road was'nt my thing anymore, i'd better start racing.

 

2 :D And so i did with a Aprilia RS250. First time i rode one, was when my friend invited me to take it for a

spin. "This one will make you smile", he said. And so it did. Bought one immediately and raced it for 3

years. Thinking of it's flickebility, cornerspeed and braking-performance still puts a grinning smile on my

face. " The only bike that somehow immediately gives me the feeling that i'm 18 again".

Needless to say but it's funfactor is awesome.

 

3 ;) And then when you think you're all grown up, you decide to switch to a big boys bike.

The suzuki gsxr-1000 K5. Thinking ahead of all the power it delivers you get nightmares about

highsiding it or completely missing brakingpoints and ending up in the graveltrap.

And then when you actually start riding and racing it, you're surprised by its friendly nature.

The whole bike seems to be designed to give you a feel of total control. It holds a line very nicely, it

flicks quick enough through esses, and the way the power is delivered never gives you the idea that the

bike is in fact trying to kill you.

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I liked your resons as well as the list.

 

That RS-250 is a hoot.

 

125 gp bike if you ever get a chance--whoa!

 

'87 Honda Hurricane worked really well, as did the '84 GPZ-550's. Figured I'd stick an old one or 2 in there!

 

CF

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Cobie,

 

Still hoping to get a go at it sometime (125 GP-racer)

 

I agree with you on the oldies. They were good in their time.

 

Mike

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Somebody said, "Buell"? Yuk. Well, at any rate, you should thank me; I paid too much money for the s-l-o-w S-2T, which promptly warped its front rotor, got recalled twice, wouldn't go and had less ground clearance than I wanted. I sold it just in time to miss the 3rd recall. I mistakenly thought it would hold its value. Umm. That money went to Buell so they could build better ones - they say. I'm still not impressed all that much. "Different" is not a synonym for "better".

I have 21,000 miles on an '01 ZX-6R, which works for me, for the simple reason that I'm not fast enough to expose its weaknesses. You fast guys know that workarounds are necessary for every bikes woes. We slower guys can actually see you do this on the track in competition - it's part of the appeal.

A guy like Cobie can outrun most people with a littler bike. I've seen Jason Pridmore do it with an SV650 - that is, pass R1's, CBRs, you name it.

My next bike will be small, like a 400SM. You want to talk handling - let's talk about hopping curbs at Daytona on Main Street, at Weirs Beach, at Sturgis, and if you drop the bike, well, pick it up and let's go!

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I didn't say "Buell". I said "Buell XB".

 

If you haven't ridden one... well... Just keep talking out your ass then I guess.

 

20K miles and only one issue. The trans output shaft seal failed because I dropped it into first w/o the clutch TWICE from a dead stop. It just seeped a little and the dealership replaced it under warranty (a two year warranty I might add) in about 40 minutes. No trouble other than that.

 

Besides... This is a thread about handling... What's the deal with coming in here and talking about a niche market sport-touring bike? You brought it up though... The S2/S3 bikes are a good handling bike for touring bikes. I completely understand that Buell went through some growing pains but AT LEAST THEY RECALLED STUFF. Other companies have FRAMES that crack and they refuse to admit it...

 

The XB's have had two recalls in four years. Both on the first model. One was for the wheel bearings, and the other for the kick-stand. Both were supply issues as opposed to engineering issues. The parts were recalled/replaced for free and BMC made a good effort to actually contact EACH AFFECTED CUSTOMER to let them know.

 

Just an FYI... Based on warranty dollars spent per unit sold... The XB series is THE most reliable motorcycle money can buy.

 

I understand that none of this will change the sour taste in your mouth.

 

Sorry your S2-"T" (Please note the "T" there...) handled like a "T"ouring bike :). Aside from that... Recalls are recalls. They happen to lots of bikes. It's the companies that WON'T recall stuff that really suck. You think just because a company refuses to DO recalls that the engineered a superior product? Keep thinking that :).

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1) ZX6R - Level 1 at infineon - never had so much fun with a bike on a track before.

 

2) 916 - I typically exchange my bike (RSVR) with my friend and boy it is so much fun to ride this bike

 

3) RSVR - not as quick as the above two but very stable..

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The new crop of ZX-6's are pretty impressive, that's for sure. I'm way better on it than the 10.

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What an incredibly LOADED question.

 

From my perspective, I have had limited experience on modern sportbikes. I've ridden everything Honda has produced in the 600cc world since 98, as well as a handful of R6's and GSXR's, and I have to say that my 2005 Honda CBR600RR is the best feeling bike I've ever been on.

 

I have never ridden a GP bike, but have bought a 95 Honda RS125 for my daughter which she will be starting on this year. I will probably be taking this for a few laps just for the fun of it before I have the suspension reworked.

 

Now, in looking at my 05, I base my comment on the fact that for ME, the bike feels like it will do absolutely anything I want it to do. I give an input, it responds. No fuss, no worries, it simply complies. The bike inspires an incredible amount of confidence, and it shows in my times and results.

 

In thinking about how my bike felt some months back, I wrote the text that follows. (I do stuff like this sometimes... just write with no real intention of sharing, but today I will share). I know it's WAY off base from where this conversation is intended, but it might add some thoughts. This dialogue which I am about to dispense is based almost solely on the bike, and not the rider. Obviously we know the rider needs improvement (don't they all?), but my intent here was in the bike.

 

And oh, by the way, it is incomplete... LOL.

 

 

 

 

Since I have nothing better to do with the next small portion of time I thought I'd write a bit about a subject which I've just had a great experience with. Bike Setup. This is not a HOW-TO, but more of an observation.

 

The funny thing about bike setup, is that you have NO CLUE how good a bike can feel until you get on a bike that is near perfect. A bike that instills confidence, that does what you want, when you want it to. A bike that rewards you with every manuever. Until you've been on this "perfect" bike, you have no idea.

 

What is bike setup?

Well, it's a bit of everything combined, such as:

Front and rear suspension tuning, including Sag, Compression damping, Rebound damping and Ride height.

Tire Selection (brand, size & compound)

Gearing

And a ton of other little things that can go with it.

 

What makes a good setup?

That is a VERY good question. Unfortunately, even the best of tuners can only get you in the ball-park of a good setup. The best of setups comes when a rider gets off the bike and says "this thing is absolutely perfect! There is nothing I can't do on this bike!" And it shows in faster lap times, easy tire wear and extreme confidence.

 

Why is setup such a problem?

Because most all riders cannot understand why the bike doesn't feel right. They can't tell what's going on, but only know that the bike doesn't feel right. The sad thing is that many people (myself included) will LIVE with a bike that doesn't feel right, and simply try to adapt to the bike. Or they will blame themselves for it. How many times have you heard, "I just don't have the balls to go through a corner like that"? These words can be directly and absolutely interpreted into "My bike does not give me the confidence I want/need to go faster".

 

Further, people do not understand how to make changes to the bike and what those changes will do, so they do not do it! Or worse yet, they ask 10 different people for advice, getting 10 different answers and then having a setup so out of whack that they are worse off than when they began.

 

What can you do?

There are a couple of things that can be done. First and foremost, a good suspension tuner will be key in getting things rolling. You will need someone that you can work with long term. The person doesn't need to be with you at every event (or any for that matter), but it will make things a bit easier if they are with you. However, continued working/interaction with the same person will make a big difference in your setup. Continued working with the same person will open communication lines. Your tuner will get to know exactly what you mean when you use the terms "wag", "squat", "chatter", etc. All of which are common terms, but have many different meanings depending on the rider.

 

A suspension tuner will be able to analyze your setup, taking into consideration your bike, tires, weight and racing/riding style, and implement suspension changes that will get you a good baseline setup. Many times, the stock suspension will require upgrading to get you to this state.

 

From there, a large area of responsibility comes back to you as the rider. Notes are absolutely critical. Notes such as:

 

Date

Ambient temp

Track temp

Tires used (brand/compound)

Previous use/wear on the tires

Tire cold pressure

Tire hot pressure

Gearing

All suspension settings

Fast lap time

Average lap time

General feeling

 

From there, if the bike doesn't feel absolutely right, try to pick apart what it's doing. Now when I say "absolutely right", you will KNOW it is when you experience it. Until that point, it is NOT "absolutely right".

 

Make careful observations. Common feelings or comments around the following:

 

Is the bike turning too fast?

Does it feel 'twitchy'?

Is it difficult to turn the bike?

Can I brake hard, smooth, fast? If not, why? Does the back end come up, does the front end bounce, etc.

At what point in the corner can I get back on the gas? Turn in, apex, past apex

Does the bike feel heavy in the front/rear?

How does the bike feel through the corner? Does either end chatter or slide? Do you feel like you're going to lose either end?

Does the bike stay on a line once you've initiated a turn or do you need continual correction? What is happening if you need correction? Is the bike turning tighter, does it drift, does it want to stand up?

 

 

to be continued sometime....

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OK, I want to hear what you have to say after you ride that 125 GP bike.

 

It's a whole other world, and takes a little getting used to :)

 

CF

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