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Roberts

What did that poor bike ever do to you?

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Two simple questions came up in class at CSS, and as you might suspect, the answers are not so simple.

First:  What did the engineers build your motorcycle to do?

Second: What are you doing with your motorcycle? (or, What did that poor bike ever do to deserve that treatment?)

These two questions have stayed with me every day since class.  Here is a good example of why that is:  Riding a long twisting downhill country road, but with traffic.  Usually this is a favorite section, but at 45mph it's very boring.  There is no place to pass, so you just have to ride it out.  The easiest thing to do for me is to leave the bike in a mid-gear, 3rd or 4th, and let the massive engine braking of the boxer twin maintain the slow speed down the hill.  Is this what the bike is designed to do?  Absolutely not.  Everything is wrong with this.  All the drive gear is now loaded on the wrong side of the gear teeth, the rear tire is braking, but the suspension is loaded wrong because the braking force is not loading the brake calipers and effecting the swing arm member correctly.  Add the fact that you are strangling the motor to produce drag.  Then, you get to the bottom of the hill, and roll it on, shifting all the weight back to the rear wheel, unloading and the loading all the running gear on the opposite gear faces, and of course causing your engine to hiccup while fuel and air mix are adjusted to 'drive normal'.  This transition is both sloppy and very uncomfortable.  CSS informs me that the right move is to either ride the brakes down the hill consistent with design intent, or at a minimum clutch it before you hit the bottom of the hill to let the suspension heal, and then roll it on smooth to property load the bike.

Long explanation, but you get the idea.  Consciously trying to ride the bike the way it was designed to operate is actually much harder on the street than it is on the track, but there some rewards to be had in terms of machine wear and tear, and rider comfort.  Plus, little things like suspension actually work if you consider what you are doing and why.

 

 

 

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What do you mean by “let the suspension heal”?

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This is an expression meaning to let the suspension return to a neutral position with no influence by power or braking inputs. Think ‘glide’.

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Here’s a question for thought and discussion: do we need to do something to keep the machine in its operating envelope or should the machine be designed for the intended use case?

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That looks like it could go a few places, so I'll take a swing:  knowing what the machine can do is a starting point, and not an easy one for many to explore the limits of.  Some find the limits incorrectly/prematurely (too tight on the bars, the bike gives too much feedback--person could get the idea the bike is at the limit).

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I'll take a swing as well. I may be misreading the question but I don't believe it is an "either or". I believe the answer is "yes" to both sides of the question.  First, I think the vast majority of today's motorcycles are designed for their intended use. In the broadest sense think dedicated dirt bikes, trials bikes, track bikes, touring bikes, etc.  Their frame and steering geometry, suspension set-up, basic rider ergonomics, engine choices, etc., are all designed with a purpose or specific rider use in mind. However they are also designed within the limitations of today's technology and materials science knowledge, plus the economic realities and limits of what consumers will pay for a given motorcycle's capabilities.

With regard to "do we need to do something to keep a motorcycle in its operating envelop", my initial reaction is to say we do it every single time we ride when managing things like throttle and acceleration levels, braking force, lean angles and traction limits for the specific riding situation we happen to be in.  And we all know what can happen when we exceed an operating envelop. 

Just an add-on thought to this. What I love about many of today's motorcycles is how technology (e.g. ABS, traction control, engine braking, wheelie control, slide control, various riding modes, etc.) is being leveraged to help us safely stay within a motorcycle's operating envelop, AND that we can adjust the parameters of the envelop for our various skills and capabilities. I can't even imagine where motorcycle tech will be in another 20 years, but I know it will be fantastic! 

I've heard people say we're in the golden age of tire tech, but we might even be able to say that about the software / sensors / ECU technologies of today's motorcycles. 

Dave

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I think back to the nearly unrideable bikes of my youth.  The Kawasaki H2 750 leaps to mind.  The bike was designed with the track in mind, and top riders at that.  Then it was sold to the masses for use on the street. The power band was narrow, and when you hit it it hit very damn hard.  'learning' to ride it was just learning how to not die.

The S1000RR on the track was my only experience with a sport bike, and for a machine with such big numbers in power and torque, it seemed like a cinch to ride.  I have to assume it's not my native talent, so that would be software correcting for my attempts to push outside the design parameters due to ignorance, supporting what CoffeeFirst posted above.

My new ride has ride modes, 4 from the factory and one you can edit at your peril.  These are now a necessary part of the modern sport bike, precisely because they are for sale to people like myself that are enthusiasts that are STILL LEARNING.  Meaning, of course, that we make a lot of errors.

So, to Jaybird180 I would say that the ultimate goal of a rider may well be to learn to ride the bike to the edge of computer intervention.  To actually know by experience and feel where the edges are before the nanny functions step in.

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A very interesting angle added to this discussion by Roberts above with comparing old bike (almost unridable) versus new bike (very ridable) capabilities and technology.  

In many respects I agree with the statement "I would say that the ultimate goal of a rider may well be to learn to ride the bike to the edge of computer intervention" because a rider who can do this on a bike that offers little to no "smart tech" intervention would generally by the faster rider versus someone who can't (all else being equal).

The statement also raises a new question for me. Yes, we know "smart" interventions are really there to saves us from ourselves. But should we considered them detrimental to a rider's development and something to avoid testing … or should a rider learn to master them and leverage to his/her advantage for lower lap times (so just like many other aspects of the motorcycle)?  

To what I think is a byproduct of Roberts' point, if a rider is regularly triggering the nanny functions then maybe that rider is not very skilled and the rider who masters that fine edge truly is. On the other hand, I've read various bike reviews by skilled moto journalist who are ex-racers, and you often read how they explore the capabilities of new motorcycle by adjusting and leveraging these tech interventions to get the most out of a motorcycle and achieve faster laps.

I think I lean to the latter, but maybe as growing track riders we need to start by just learning to ride well inside the edge of these interventions. Then once we have done that we learn to adjust and leverage them (meaning we let the interventions do their thing).

Dave

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When I attended the school last year and rode the BMW, I was surprised how quickly I hit the limits of the wet mode. Prior to that I was timid with the throttle and the fact that it was a new to me bike and not mine was on my mind.

I think you're suggesting that perhaps riders can approach the limits from the standpoint of starting with too much, allow the electronics to save them and learn how to come back inside the limits of the electronic nanny; interesting concept that I wonder has appeal to most riders in practical terms. I would HOPE that SRs help us in the beneficial sense of the desire to survive, because an electronic bike can certainly be crashed and it will still hurt.

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