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Rider Weights - Does It Matter?

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How much of an impact does bodyweight have in racing? Is a heavier guy at a disadvantage compared to a guy 10 or even 15 kilos lighter than him?

 

I was looking at the heights and weights of the MotoGp riders....my are they smaller than i thought!!

 

What advantage and disadvantages are there to being tall/short and heavy/light? The average height and weight is 5 5 to 5 6 and 55-60 kilos for most riders.

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Weight must be accelerated, which is why they all try to weigh as little as possible. It seems to affect things more in MotoGp than i SBK. In Formula 1, 20 kg = half a second per lap.

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In higher end racing it probably does make a difference but at the same time you don't see "stick figure" riders. There's a balance of strength, endurance and other factors. A 90lb rider with no muscle mass would have a weight and acceleration advantage but be at a disadvantage in the strength department. It really depends on where that weight really is. Fat serves very little purpose but it weighs less than muscle. Muscle weighs more but gives a rider more strength. A balance between strength and weight probably makes the optimal form.

 

While it's interesting to consider the physical form of the rider I think the biggest advantage riders have is their minds. A rider regardless of their physical form factor who's able to spot opportunities to go faster and who understands their strengths and is able to exploit them and minimize their weaknesses at the same time is able to pull away from the other riders somehow. That understanding is a bigger advantage in my opinion and is something I am working towards myself.

 

Overall. I don't think it matters. Something else to consider is perception. Racers with company sponsors have to maintain a certain outward appearance. While there are virtually no overweight riders do you see many with Tattoo's and outrageous personal appearance? Food for thought.

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Yes weight makes a big difference. Less weight = more corner speed within the limits of available traction. Also, harder acceleration out of corners within the limits of available rear wheel traction. Also, harder deceleration under braking within the limits of front tire traction. The only place where it probably doesn't matter much is acceleration in high gears and ultimate top speed, since both of those are much more dependent on aerodynamics than mass per se. But even then, light generally equals small which may well equal more aerodynamic.

 

So yes, it matters. But even more so on smaller displacement machines where the rider weight is a higher fraction of total bike + rider mass. And of course, it probably also matters much more at the highest levels of racing. At the club level a very talented big guy is going to beat the modestly-skilled smaller guy 9 times out of 10.

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I agree that talent quickly cover for weight disadvantage, but all things else being equal, less weight is more.

 

http://www.crash.net/motogp/news/80007/1/toseland-on-his-bike-for-weight-loss-target.html

 

http://www.crash.net/f1/news/201721/1/sutil-i-dont-even-have-a-water-bottle.html

 

Hayden, Lorenzo, Spies etc. also dropped a lot of weight because it paid off more than the loss strength cost them.

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Very interesting articles. Those are some tight regulations in F1 where a water bottle makes that much difference!

 

Context is important though. MotoGP and F1 are the extreme end of the spectrum. In my opinion trying to make a connection between extremes and the real world is like trying to compare a Cessna with the Space Shuttle. Both still have wings but they are very different.

 

I do agree that less weight is always better (no beating physics). At the same time it's not the end all be all to speed. It's just another piece of the puzzle. Nobody get's all the pieces. Some of us just have more of them and some are better at putting their pieces together. :)

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I read a interview a while back , i wanna say it was Crutchlow, where when asked about improvements or changes to MotoGP the rider suggested a minimum weight regulation for the riders so that tiny riders like Pedrosa didn't have the weight advantage over ones who just naturally have a larger body type

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Speaking of Pedrosa, i have made an observation.At some race both Rossi and Pedrosa were on the podium.When they came into the winners area, there was noticeably less wear on Pedrosa's rear tyre even though the Repsol Hondas are harsher on the tyres.Rossi must be 12-15 kilos more than Pedrosa i think....surprising the difference that makes!

 

There are some claims that a taller man can turn the bike better because he has more leverage....i wonder how much of an advantage this is over being small and light?

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The subject isn't easy. For instance, if Pedders were to carry more weight on the bike to compensate for his lack of scale, that would demand more effort to steer. But since he's so small, he's also likely to be less strong than a rider 20 kg heavier. So it will never be possible to get an absolutely fair set of regulations. In car racing, however, it is simpler to put everybody at the same weight level if they so desire.

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I could be 100% wrong about this, but I have my doubts about how important strength per se is to the MotoGP racer. So often they are turning on the brakes, it seems like corner entry is more about balancing braking with turning than it is about turning it really hard. I am sure there are certain chicane-type situations where strength comes into play a bit more to get the bike from one extreme lean to the other quickly, but overall I kind of doubt that it is a limiting factor. Currently the best rider in the world is a skinny little kid with very little upper body development. That ought to tell you something. MM is an elite athlete but if he could bench press 150 lbs I would be astonished.

 

Leaving MotoGP and returning to the world of mortals...I ride a relatively slow steering bike,and I can honestly say that even at "race pace" I am *never* turning the bike as hard as I could at the limit of my available strength. If any muscles are getting tired, it is the ones involved in keeping me on the bike under hard braking and cornering (legs and core muscles), not my chest, arms and shoulders. If I am not in good shape I can get a bit winded by the end of a session, but it is not from too heavy of an upper body workout. As I have gotten faster in the corners I have noticed that it takes quite a bit more effort just to keep myself in proper position on the bike. If I were lighter I would benefit greatly because I wouldn't need so much strength to resist the g-forces and maintain proper body position.

 

Like I said I could be totally wrong about this, so feel free to disagree - maybe I'll learn something. But you only need to look at the guys to realize that MotoGP riders are built more like jockeys than boxers (underwear pun unintentional).

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You are correct about the chicane part.Scott Redding said taller guys can move the bike through the esses quicker than the smaller guys.But being small has advantages all round the track...

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You are correct about the chicane part.Scott Redding said taller guys can move the bike through the esses quicker than the smaller guys.But being small has advantages all round the track...

 

That's an interesting factoid. I have noticed this myself but I did not realize it was physics helping me out. :)

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Most (every?) pro racer will use their shoulders, arms and hands A LOT during racing. Despite taping them up, blistered hands are commonplace as is muscle pump in their forearms. I cannot even ride remotely fast, so I cannot really comment with other things than what I've read, but they do seem to push hard (within the power they have), power starting at the feet and ending up at the hands. Stoner used to wear out a pair of boots every weekend just from clamoring around the bike and pushing against the pegs.

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I believe what pro racers need is not so much raw strength and muscle mass like a bodybuilder or say a linebacker , but endurance to be physically active and wrestle the bike around for 45 min non stop. You dont see many racers talking about doing squats and the gym or bulking up, its long distance bike riding for tone and endurance

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The hanging-off effect of a tall heavy rider is more: that rider can keep the suspension a little more functional (can lean the bike a little less) than a short light rider for similar bikes.

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I do believe all this moving around means that a stronger man will be less affected by fatigue.If you are strong, the exertion will not tire you out as much as a weaker guy even if he has trained for endurance.

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I believe what pro racers need is not so much raw strength and muscle mass like a bodybuilder or say a linebacker , but endurance to be physically active and wrestle the bike around for 45 min non stop. You dont see many racers talking about doing squats and the gym or bulking up, its long distance bike riding for tone and endurance

 

Absolutely. But let's say that they can push with a maximum of 30 kg and pull with 20 kg for a combined effect of 50 kg steering input on the handlebars, they can probably use 45 kg every corner for the endurance of the race. I bet most riders, even those of you who do track days, only use a fraction of that.

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I think staying on the bike during acceleration and braking takes more out of then than turning the bike?

 

And cornering. Yes, exactly. And low weight helps more than strength does in that sense.

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I suppose a heavy man would fare better because the rear end would not come up as much and the bike will not wheelie as much?

 

That will depend on body position - a heavier rider sitting back or upright would make the bike MORE inclined to wheelie than a smaller rider. Body position and ability to move around on the bike is a big part of the heavier rider vs lighter rider discussion - a heavier rider that can shift around and control the combined CG of bike and rider can use that body mass to advantage, whereas it is difficult for a flyweight rider to make much impact on CG unless they hang off really, really far - which is tough if you are of small stature overall (short arms and legs).

 

However, if you are talking about lightweight, low horsepower bikes, weight makes a very significant difference because the ratio of rider weight to bike weight/power.

 

it probably comes down to finding the bike that best suits the riders' size and shape; for example, I am able to compete more effectively on the small, low horsepower bikes because I fit on them better and my small size and light weight is to my advantage. On the S1000rr, however, it is difficult for me to lock on properly and hang off enough to influence lean angle, and my lower weight is not of much significance on such a hugely powerful machine.

 

On the strength point, I also agree that enduring the massive acceleration, braking, and cornering forces of a high HP bike at top speed for 45 minutes is a probably a larger factor than strength required to turn the bike. You can play with the setup of a bike to make it easier or harder to turn, and I really don't think the blisters, etc. are from turning force alone; most racers I know get more blistering on the right hand, indicating that the rolling on and off of the throttle is probably a bigger factor, and the blisters generally occur more at the top edge of the palm/base of the fingers from the friction of the glove rolling back and forth, and/or the way the skin folds there. I think if the pressure was from turning the bike the blisters would be more at the middle or base of the palm.

 

Personally I used to get the worst blisters when riding my little YSR50 - because it was so low-power I was always wrenching the throttle all the way on and holding it WFO with way more pressure than was needed, trying to somehow make it go faster. :)

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Gee, thanks Eirik. If I am ever way out in the wilderness (way, way, WAY out in the wilderness) dealing with blisters I MIGHT possibly consider this remedy. :)

 

No wonder there are so few women in racing....

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I can't say I would want to use that remedy either. Eeek!

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