Jump to content

Big or small sportbike?


Recommended Posts

Back in the mid-80s, Kenny Roberts Sr. owned (at least) two street bikes; a Phazer 250 inline four and an FZ400 inline four. He rarely used the latter, finding it just a little bit faster, but not nearly as good handling. He described the 250 to be as close to a race bike as he could come for the street. Also, the limited power (it would still do 120 mph, though) meant he had to be inch perfect and keep the momentum up, simply because he did not have a bunch of power to correct any mistake. In other words, Roberts found the 250 more fun to ride due to it being both easier and more demanding to ride. Easy because it handled well. Demanding because he had to be perfect. All the time.

So, what kind of street bike would you choose in order to have fun and, hopefully, become a better rider? And what type of bike is most likely to raise rider skill quickest - big, medium or small? With or without electronic aids?

Yamaha%20FZ250%2085%20%201.jpg

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm pretty lazy, I like the F-800, probably even with saddle bags.  Pretty impressive all round bike.  Would love more power, like a 1000 version, so I can be more lazy and not have to shift much :).

Failing that...the single R (1000) is a sweet ride. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm a big fan of small, lightweight bikes. To me it seems pretty hard to explore many of the capabilities of a 1000cc (or even a 600cc) sport bike on public roads. You can barely get to third gear.

I picked up a Kawasaki Z125 recently and I am having a blast with it. Street legal, but in ten minutes I can have the headlight, taillight and blinkers off it and it's ready for the go-kart track. Is the handling amazing? No, but it isn't bad and it IS fun to ride. It is NOT a highway bike and has a low top speed but if you ride it at 30-40 mph you feel like you are really riding, on the S1000rr it feels like you are barely idling. :) 

One difficulty is that it is hard to find a low HP, lightweight bike that ALSO has good suspension and brakes. I used to have a Ninja 250 and thought it was great on the street until I rode a good 600cc sportbike - after that, the suspension and brakes on the 250 felt really mediocre... which they were. It's tough to find a bike in the 250-400cc range that has high end components on it... well, there are some cool supermoto builds out there that might still be street legal, that could be fun.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What kind of riding you do on the street will likely be the deciding factor for a street bike. Although I enjoyed having small bikes for street bikes, I definitely feel safer with a big bike to power away from dangerous situations. Also, I do not ride on the streets at a pace where a small bike versus a big bike makes a difference. Although I ride a 450 at the track, I have a 1200 Thruxton R for the street.

That being said, if the street riding was all sub 70 mph city riding, I would go with a 450-700cc supermoto. But wheelies are illegal.

The big bike versus small bike difference is more apparent at the track for me. You will learn to carry more cornerspeed on the small bike in order to keep up with bigger bikes. The new Ninja 400 is really the bike to beat in this category. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have owned bikes from 50 to 1400 cc, from 2 to 130 hp, from 1 to six cylinders, a few two-strokes but mostly 4-strokes. (I do not care for smokers as they do not have engine braking).

What I have found personally, is that small, nimble yet stable bikes with about 30 horses tend to be excellent fun on narrow, winding roads with little traffic. They allow you to go through the gears, using full throttle a lot, and they can change direction oh so quickly and effortlessly if and when needed.

They are also not so fun in traffic. Especially going up a 10 % incline, carrying luggage, facing a stiff headwind, trying to keep up with the 70 mph general flow. Then the fun is gone. Doing the same hill with the road to yourself isn't nearly as bothersome. In fact, it could be a real satisfaction that it will do 70 mph at all.

Riding bikes with lots of (low-and midrange) power makes riding in traffic much more relaxing. But the narrow, winding lonely roads tend to be less fun when you have extra weight and a big engine. Many of the really fast bikes today will do over 100 mph in first gear. That would put me in jail here, regardless of the road I'm on! The highest speed limit we have is 69 mph / 110 kph. In other words, I cannot legally come close to the redline in any gear on the fastest bikes. Where is the fun in that? My KZ400 was redlined at 103 mph. In sixth gear. 

Many years ago, one man put an XT600 engine into a TZR125 chassis. Another put a DR800 engine into an RGV250. I think I could have enjoyed something like that: Enough power without being really fast, low enough weight, great handling.

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...