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Motorcycles provide the best racing spectacle

Bike racing!

By Dan Moakes
May 26 2004

The latest survey on this website asked whether motorbike racing is a better spectacle than its four-wheeled cousin. Now, it obviously depends on your individual viewpoint as to how you answer that. But the answer so far has been yes.

Of course, most people visiting Motorcycle Racing Online will be pre-existing converts, if you like. So it isn’t a surprise that two-wheels came out ahead. However, why exactly do some of us have such a passion for motorcycle racing? Maybe Formula One fans will have dropped by wondering this, so let’s have a go at it. If you have alternative, or complementary views, please express them on our message board.

What is the main attraction? Speaking as someone who has no real concept of what it takes to control a powerful motorcycle, there is the skill factor. The effect of cornering a two-wheeled beast that has minimal contact with the tarmac is to create incredible lean angles. From what I understand, the ‘average’ motorcyclist would not be able to achieve some of these angles, let alone race other guys at high speed simultaneously. Then you also have to be able to retain control of your machine whilst slowing dramatically, knocking off huge momentum, and manhandling it around a tight bend. All the while with your competitors try to get the better of you and steal your line.

These types of skill seem far in advance of what your average single seater racing car driver has to do. And what if your skill is not sufficient to generate competitive lap times? You can’t just disguise that fact by getting onto a faster motorcycle, or at least not to the extent you might be able to in a Formula 1 car. A motorbike race is rarely as many as thirty laps long, and yet if you are not quite good enough you will be lapped by the leaders.

And there is also the safety aspect. We all know that motorsport is dangerous. Thankfully, those dangers have been progressively reduced over the years, but manufacturers have always found a way to make their creations that little bit quicker every time. We have seen even this year that motorcycle racers can die in the pursuit of their art, and it is a very sad fact. But it is they that choose to take those risks, and that’s the way it should be.

But the point is that injuries are not uncommon amongst our two-wheel heroes. Relatively speaking, these perils are not the same for car racers, and it takes a rare kind of skill and courage to really push the limits on a motorbike. We have all witnessed the violent consequences of crashing one of these machines at speed.

But what about the actual racing? By their very nature, motorcycles can really be raced, the way F1 cars now seemingly cannot. Slipstreaming effects are not ruined by ungainly wings, electronic systems do not dominate the behaviour of the machine, the size of the bikes means there is always likely to be room to slot your machine past another on an alternate line, and overtaking is definitely not the ‘lost art’ that we find in other types of racing. That’s got to be good! Did I mention technical variety? There is no rule that says all makes must be powered by a V10 engine, and obsessive secrecy is not all-conquering...

So there you have it - quite a lot to be enthusiastic about. You don’t have to be a biker to appreciate real racing, or what these guys do on the track, and you certainly don’t have to guess how much is the pilot and how much the vehicle. If you want action, you’ve got it. And personalities are not short, either. Maybe F1 racing can learn something?

Survey question: Is two-wheel racing better than four?
No room for doubt! 67%
Yes, but not by much 8%
They’re about the same 10%
Don’t know 2%
It’s slightly behind 2%
Not really 12%
Number of votes: 52

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