Start closer to the bottom of the food chain

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Written by amsctalx on forums

With all due respect to my esteemed compatriots that started riding street bikes on Hayabusas...

  • Fighter pilots start out F/A-18s, right?
  • Race bike riders start out in MotoGP, correct?

Why do people think that there is anything of value to starting riding street-bikes on a heavy, powerful bike of any make or model? Let me qualify this serious question by stating that I am not insisting that everyone that gets a sport-bike must road-race the thing. Far from it. I am more concerned with street survival skills in discussions like these.

How does one keep from having accidents? The factors include:

  • Situational Awareness (including a plethora of factors, but for our purposes I'll limit this to the awareness of other drivers/riders and your relation to them, and road conditions)
  • Knowledge of the performance envelope of the vehicle
  • Vehicle control neuro-motor conditioning: Prepared responses to problems and unexpected situations

Developing these skills, conditionings and experiences is an order of magnitude more difficult on a heavy, powerful bike (or any other vehicle, for that matter) than on a lighter, less powerful bike.

Why a smaller, lighter and less powerful bike? Several reasons:

  • Responsiveness: lighter bikes allow the rider to change the attitude of the bike with less effort. It has been shown in a number of studies that an inexperienced rider is less liable to over-input a more responsive bike than a less.
  • Controllability: which bike is less likely to overcome the limits of adhesion of its rear tire - an EX500 or a Hayabusa? More engine output means more opportunities for error. It also means that things simply happen faster, as the rider gets into a crisis faster and with more kinetic energy.

On the street, these benefits translate into:

  • Decision time: the rider has more time to decide what to do in a crisis. This is vitally important, as less experienced riders need the most time to avoid dangerous situations. New riders have the greatest problem with "target fixation", and they do not have the experience and conditioning to deal with common street riding dangers.
  • Flexibility: the rider is not "penalized" as greatly for control input and judgment errors. This reduces the probability of terminal loss of control.
  • "Limits" experience: Crisis avoidance often requires operating a vehicle at the extreme limits of performance. Operating up to the limits WITHOUT exceeding them is an essential part of avoiding an accident. Learning how to detect where the limits are, and how to ride against those limits, is MUCH easier with a bike with lower limits. And those experiences can be transferred to bikes with ever greater performance envelopes.
  • Satisfaction: Have you ever been in a crisis situation and overcome that crisis through thought and training? Remember how satisfying that was? Is there a person here that doesn't want to know in their heart that they have near-total control over their bike?

What are the benefits to starting riding on a "hyper-bike"?

{Sounds of crickets chirping...}

What possible benefit could there be? Don't you think that riding schools would use, and promote the use of, these machines in basic rider training if there were? I would be hard-pressed to find any organization of any kind that would encourage people to learn vehicle control basics on "top-of-the-foodchain" vehicles. The vast majority of vehicle operator training programs use a "graduated" approach to mastery.

My personal experience bears this out. Of the (about) five people in my local area that I know that started riding street-bikes on hyper-bikes, two of them have had serious control-related accidents. Two of them sold their bikes with no intention of getting any other kind of bike, one after a minor control-related accident. Another is looking for a good deal on a 600.

I can't force anyone to make a reasonable first bike purchase. If all you want is an expensive "ego-stroke" that you never are able to completely get a handle on, that's your decision.

Just ask yourself a couple of questions, though:

  • Do I want get the most out of my purchase?
  • Do I want to have control over my bike?
  • Do I want to have a "fighting chance" to deal with a crisis?
  • Is it reasonable that I might NOT know more than top racers, riding schools and about every vehicle operator program?
  • Do I ultimately want the most FUN out of my purchase?

If you answered yes to these questions, you should be able to answer the question "should I start riding street bikes on a Busa?" yourself.