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What's The Difference Between Various Race Bikes?

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I keep hearing that riders have a hard time switching from MotoGP, or SPORT-bike to Superbike, or from the big Italian twins to the smaller Japanese fours. What do the different classes of bikes FEEL like?


I'm sorry to be so ignorant. I am just trying to imagine myself on the different bikes as I watch the races on TV, but since I've never ridden a GSXR or a Ducati, I don't feel like I have a good frame of reference. I've ridden little twins, big singles, big Japanese and German fours, Harley's (including the treacherous XR1200), a boxer and a couple of Buells. No race bikes or race replicas.


I'm sure this sounds kind of silly, :unsure: but inquiring minds want to know.

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Not silly at all. Unfortunately, Rossi or Checa or Biaggi or Bayliss isn't here to answer :huh::D I doubt any here have the skills or first hand knowledge to fully answer these questions, we must rely on what information is available from top rank riders. I'll share some of what I've picked up, but don't take it as gospel. Not only do I lack first hand experience, I cannot even feel any difference whether the fuel tank on my bikes are near empty or topped up :unsure:


Doohan said Superbikes were real easy to ride, basically your hopped up street bike, compared to a 500GP.


Spies said that as little as 0.5 mm change in ride height on his MotoGP ride would make a noticeable difference, whereas he's need at least 5 mm to feel the same on his R1 based Superbike.


Virtually every road racing class outside the GP cirkus are based upon streetbikes. This alone makes them, comperatively speaking, forgiving and easy to ride. Flexible chassis, friendly engines and normal-ish brakes see to that. Besides, they were made for the masses and simply had to be friendly by default. GP bikes, from every class, are purposefully made protypes with only one thing in mind; win races. They are stiff and brute and either have rather narrow powerbands and/or require a lot of electronic aids to deliver useful power for the rider at all times. As a result, they often have such a narrow window regarding setup that getting it right is really tricky and getting it wrong is very easy. Some riders never master it, yet can do well in other classes - or even the other way around. Only a very limited number of riders are able to be regular winners over a broad range of bikes, even if they can become world champ in one specific category.


Singles and twins have generally friendly power delivery, making it easier to avoid highsides, for instance. There are several reasons for this, some understood and some a mystery. Heavier flywheels, required to smooth out power delivery when you only have few and large pistons, is one thing that helps power delivery by slowing things down a little. However, since they cannot rev as high as fours, they make less peak power. Also, they are typically less flexible than multis; less willing to pull from ultra-low rpm and less able to overrev. So less cylinders are easier to control, but harder to win races with since you typically lack peak power required to pass. They may lap quicker on their own, but once a faster bike flies past on a straight, it can hold the nimbler bike behind the next corner and fire away down the next straight.


But when it comes to race bikes, know this: There are not many people able to lap a track quicker on a MotoGP bike than on a bog standard 600 sportbike. The grippy race tyres will not grip for us because we cannot ride them fast enough to get them hot enough to grip. The power is mind-boggling and will scare us into lower speeds. The stiffness will rattle us into insecurity. The brakes will feel grabby and will not operate well at the mediocre load we will place on them. Most people will also go faster on a 600 sportbike than on Ducati 848, again because the fours are more user friendly than a twin made to keep up. But then again, most riders (not track addicts alone, but ALL riders out there) would be faster on a friendly twin in a friendly chassis like the SV650 than just about anything else, is my guess.


Not sure if you got any wiser. I could talk/type on this for hours on end, but no doubt would my comments suffer from misconceptions en masse. Plus you'd most likely not even get the same answers if you interviewed Spies and Lawson, for instance, as not everything are absolutely rational - feel and preferences and personal abilities also play roles.

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Great question and great answer. I often wonder what it would feel like to ride some of these modern race bikes but I also know that with my skill set (read - almost nonexistent) as Eirik pointed out, I wouldn't be able to make them perform. There was a thread a while back asking what people thought would be their perfect track bike and quite a few folks responded they would love the RC212V but were I to say that I would have to also ask for a brain transplant from Casey, Dani, or Hiroshi (maybe not Marco, I'd want my bike in one piece :P) and a body that was 20 years younger. That said, it would be an amazing experience to run hot laps on a machine like that.


Every time I hear Scott Russell's distinctive twang saying "AMA, come out and watch us work" I think about what it would be like to be good enough to do that for a living. What would it be like to feel the difference between 5mm and 0.5mm of ride height (of course right now I think it feels pretty good for Ben)? How great would it feel to be able to answer Crash's question from first hand experience?

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Not a direct answer, but does highlight how complex modern MotoGP bikes are:


If you were put in charge of MotoGP, what would you change?


Dovizioso: What I would like to change is the electronics system. It's something very important for the safety, something very important for the street bike, so this is really good. But to have fun riding the bike on the track and to have a battle on the race track, you need to cut the electronic system. Not everything, but more than 50%, because the bike without the electronics system is uncontrollable and when you need to control a difficult bike you're sliding a lot, you're making more mistakes than now, so everybody is closer; it depends, but they can be closer and you're spinning more. Everything is nicer, so this I would like to see happen, but I'm 99% sure it will not happen, but for a good reason.



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  • 2 weeks later...

One thing I noticed after watching back to back races from MOTO GP and WSBK is that the Moto GP seem to go much faster than the WSBK and also that the MOTO GP riders lean much more.

If you look at Checa, he has his knee down but but elbow is far away from track while on Moto GP it is very common for them the have the knee and elbow down. This tells me the performance is much

greater on Moto GP bikes.

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