Bikesrepublic

Wahid Ooi

  • Body positioning on a motorcycle affects its handling.

  • It also affects the rider’s comfort.

  • Always remember to keep the arms and upper body relaxed.

We loved the Yamaha YZF-R15 when we reviewed the lightweight sportbike, only to hear that there were complaints that “it’s not comfortable” due to its riding position.

We were truly surprised by the remark as the R15’s clip-on handlebars are actually quite high up, comparing to those on larger-capacity sportbikes such as the Yamaha YZF-R1, and even more extreme Ducati Panigale.

(more…)

  • MotoGP is where manufacturers develop new technologies and ideas.

  • A few GP bikes were different, resulting from the development.

Why is MotoGP so important, anyhow? MotoGP and its 500cc GP forebear are the apex of prototype motorcycle racing, where manufacturers explored different ideas and technologies to trump their competition. In growing markets, MotoGP is a very important outlet for branding in order to sell more bikes on Monday.

And since MotoGP is the platform where new technologies are tested, some of those will trickle down to consumer bikes sooner or later. In fact, technologies such as ride-by-wire, traction control, fuel injection, suspension, tyres, chassis, bodywork and aerodynamics; right down to lubricants, fuel, coolant, brake fluid, were all derived from lessons learned in MotoGP at one point or another.

Here are ten GP motorcycles that went against the grain and we regarded as being “different,” so as to speak.

1. Honda NR500 (1979)

Honda has always been the purveyor of new ideas in GP racing. They had wanted their return to 500cc GP racing with a bang. As the regulations limited machines to a 500cc ceiling, regardless if two-stroke or four-stroke, other manufacturers had chosen the two-stroke route for higher specific power output. Honda, on the other hand, had always preferred four-strokes.

Courtesy of motorcyclenews.com

In order to compete toe-to-toe with the two-stroke beasts, Honda devised the NR500 four-stroke V4 with oval pistons, eight valves per cylinder and two conrods per piston; in order to mimic a V8. The engine revved to a manic 20,000 RPM. It didn’t end there as the frame was a monocoque where the lower fairing panels we actually structural mounts for side radiators.

The bike was over-complex and didn’t do well despite valiant efforts by Freddie Spencer. Honda resorted to the two-stroke format in 1984. The oval piston technology went on to power the NR road bike (click here for our article on the Honda NR).

2. Kawasaki KR500 (1980)

The Ducati Panigale’s frameless technology, called the monocoque, wasn’t the first bike to utilize the technology. The concept had begun years before in 1980 with Kawasaki KR500. The steering head and swingarm pivot structures were welded directly to the aluminium fuel tank which was effectively the bike’s main structure. The idea continued into 1981 before Kawasaki settled on a massive aluminium backbone and conventional fuel tank from 1982.

Courtesy of www.rallystar.net

So, you could probably say that the monocoque idea couldn’t work for GP and MotoGP bikes. A hard lesson learned by Ducati 20-odd years on.

3. Honda NSR500 (1984)

The revered “NSR500” name may have won a great number of races and championships, but it didn’t have an easy start. The first NSR500 in 1984 had its fuel tank mounted under the engine and the exhausts were routed over the top.

Courtesy of wikipedia.org

Honda wanted the bike to have a lower centre of gravity and that the bike’s handling remained linear as the tank emptied. Factory rider, Freddie Spencer had to wrestle with the bike, although he did win the bike’s second race. He returned to the previous year’s 3-cylinder NS500 for the rest of the 1984 season.

4. Elf-4 (1987)

Fans of 500cc GP in the 80’s would surely remember a black bike with the word “Elf” emblazoned on it, between 1984 to 1988. However, it wasn’t the logo that was most attractive, it was because the bikes had no conventional forks for the front end.

Courtesy of lastflag.com

Instead, each of the Elf-Hondas had a hub-centre steering swingarm at the front. The project was born to explore the technology in place of hydraulic forks. The most notable iteration was the 1987 Elf-4 which Ron Haslam rode to fourth place in the championship.

5. Aprilia RSW2 (1994)

The small Noale-based manufacturer, Aprilia, had much success in the 125cc and 250cc two-stroke GPs, it was inevitable that they stepped up to the 500cc GP class in 1994.

Aprilia saw that the qualifying times of 250cc bikes were often faster than those of the 500cc bikes, and the company figured that they could be competitive if they ran a 410cc V-Twin racer, called the RSW2. Being less than 500cc meant that the RSW2 would qualify for a minimum weight of 105kg, compared to 130kg for the 500cc bikes.

Courtesy of speezilla.com

It seemed like a great idea, but the RSW2 riders soon found themselves outgunned down the straights by the fierce 500s, before being blocked at corner entries.

Aprilia responded by increasing the capacity to 430cc, then 460cc and finally 498cc but they could never challenge the outright grunt of the four-cylinder 500cc bikes.

6. Aprilia RS Cube (2002)

Having dropped out of 500cc GP after 2000, Aprilia decided to try again in MotoGP with the advent of four-strokes in 2002.

Honda had gone the V5 route with their RC211V in 2002, while the other manufacturers stayed the course on inline-Fours. Aprilia, being the “rebel” jumped in with a 990cc, inline-Triple which was developed by Cosworth.

Courtesy of visordown.com

Cosworth is a tuning house that’s developed some very powerful and famous engines for the car racing fraternity, including Formula One. Hence, The Aprilia’s engine featured technologies derived from the top class of car racing. They included the then new developments for motorcycles such as ride-by-wire throttle, traction control and pneumatic valves.

7. Honda RC211V (2002)

The RC211V four-stroke carried on what the NSR500 two-stroke had done earlier: Winning.

When Honda showed off the V5, no one outside the factory had any idea how or if it would work. Honda has never revealed the secrets of the V5 until this very day, including how they overcame crank balance problems.

Courtesy of yudibalang.com

Apart from the engine, it was the RC211V which started the “mass centralization” revolution that we see on virtually every sportbike nowadays. The first road bike to claim direct lineage to the RC211V was the Honda CBR1000RR, popularly known as the “Rabbit” in Malaysia. Compare the CBR’s frame and how mass is centralized to the RC211V, and you’ll see the picture.

8. Proton KR5 (2003)

Kenny Roberts’ team held on to the KR3 500cc two-stroke triple for 2002 and scored some astonishing top 10 finishes against the new more powerful 990cc four-strokes. But the dominance of Honda RC211V prompted Roberts to develop his own four-stroke V5 engine for his 2003 bikes called the KR5.

Courtesy of motogp.com

The venture turned out to be a vertical curve and the KR5 didn’t even match the KR3’s results. Roberts turned to a KTM V4 engine to no avail, until they were supplied the real Honda V5 engines in 2006. The KR5 went on to score two podiums, but that was the last year of the 990cc machines, as MotoGP resorted to 800cc machines in 2007.

9. Blata V6 (2005)

When four-stroke GP bikes were made their debut in 2002, the regulations were a little more “lenient” compared to how they are now.

Courtesy of motogp.com

In view of this, the Czech manufacturer, Blata, better known as a mini-moto maker, worked on a V6 MotoGP engine for the WCM team. Unfortunately, the project was beset with difficulties and numerous delays. The project was deep-sixed eventually, forcing WCM to compete on old Yamaha-derived 1000cc inline-Four engines.

2005 was also WCM’s last season in the championship.

10. Ducati Desmosedici GP17 (2017)

Casey Stoner may have won the 2007 MotoGP championship on the GP7, but it was the GP17 which truly turned the Italian manufacturer’s fortune around after a decade-long drought.

Courtesy of foxsports.it

Ducati had developed “winglets” for the 2016 Desmosedici GP16 to combat front wheel lift (the wheelie) when exiting corners. A “wheelieing” bike loses forward momentum causing the bike’s traction control to cut power, especially at corner exits. But the idea hit a brick wall when other manufacturers protested.

So, Ducati went back to the drawing board and created the “aero body” for the GP17. Andrea Dovizioso guided the GP17 to six race wins and was the title contender right down to the last race of the season.

  • We’ve published many riding tips previously.

  • Here, we sum them up as 10 Steps to be a Better Rider.

  • Keep these tips in mind everytime you ride.

We’ve published a number of riding tips previously, from avoiding target fixation to braking to body positioning and so forth. To sum them all up, plus adding a few more, here are 10 steps to be a better rider.

Again, as we’ve mentioned many times before, you have to “check” your riding at all times not only to be able to go faster, but more importantly, to be safe. Being safe means you can continue to ride forever.

1. Be attentive

Don’t daydream. Always evaluate your surroundings, speed and space. Be proactive in spotting potential danger – if you find yourself in close call situations all the time, it could pretty well mean that you’re not on top of things.

2. Look further up the road

Not looking far enough could also be attributed to losing concentration. The human vision will default to a view of just a few centimetres in front when a person doesn’t focus on anything in particular. When that happens, reaction time is increased. Additionally, peripheral vision is reduced, and you can’t spot that car swerving into your lane quickly enough.  So, keep your eyes up and look ahead as far as possible while continuously scanning to keep your vision and mind active.

3. Maintain a wide vision

As we mentioned above, keep your vision wide by scanning the road back and forth – imagine a forward-looking radar. A wide vision helps to slow things down at any given speed. Sure, zeroing down your vision is fun at speed, but you’ll feel overwhelmed when something unexpected occurs. Keeping your vision wide also avoids from getting surprised from the sides. Finally, a wide vision helps to avoid target fixation as it allows you to spot a route of escape.

4. Body positioning

Seat yourself back a bit by leaving 2.5 cm (1 inch) between the tank and your crotch. You will feel that the steering is lighter, and your upper body will have a more natural bend. Being natural results in better comfort too. Remember to clamp the sides of the fuel tank with your knees and inner thighs to free up the torso. And keep ride with the balls of your feet on the footpegs.

5. Relax!

There are still too many riding with straight arms. Keep them loose. Loosening up the arms loosens up your grip on the handlebar, besides your torso, shoulders, neck and back. The benefits are increased comfort, the bike handles better, and more control. The bike handles better because you allow it to do what it’s supposed to. Riding tense means you’re fighting the bike.

6. Be smooth

Image credit: MotoGP

Notice how smooth professional riders transition from accelerating to braking to turning and back to accelerating? Being smooth avoids feeding extra forces into the bike which causes instability. Being smooth also means that you’re not cramming too many inputs at one go for example, grabbing the brake while downshifting and turning. Here’s a little secret: A smooth rider isn’t afraid of worn tyres or slick road conditions.

7. Ride in the rain

Photo credit cycleworld.com

Speaking of slick road conditions, riding in the rain teaches you the necessity of being relaxed and smooth with your controls. Besides that, you’ll also discover how much your bike and tyres are capable of. All our Editors love riding in the rain!

8. Practice your braking

 

We’ve written about this before: Don’t treat your brakes as an on/off switch. Instead, find an empty road or parking lot and practice your braking technique. Find how much pressure you need to slow the bike down to a desired speed. Discover how much distance you need to bring the bike to a complete stop from certain speeds. Find how much pressure it takes to trigger the ABS and how it feels when the system activates. Learn to steer the bike when ABS triggers. Know how the bike feels like when a tyre skids. Don’t forget to practice trail braking, too. Last but not least, clamp your knees on the tank when you brake and leave your arms loose.

9. Ride a dirt bike

We can’t stress this enough. Riding a dirt bike teaches you the real basics of throttle control, braking, body positioning, rider inputs, traction and everything else you can shake a stick at it. We understand that many are concerned about safety when riding in the dirt, but guess what, you don’t have to jump like Gabit Saleh in order to ride in the dirt. Just go to Most Fun Gym or Moto Maniac and ask to practice on a flat piece of ground. (That’s what we do.) You’ll be surprised how much better you can after that!

10. Enrol in an advanced riding school

This goes without saying. We think probably less than 1% have done so and that’s what contributes to the exceptionally high number of motorcycle accidents in Malaysia (among other causes). There are so many to choose from that could fit your budget and type of bike you ride.

BONUS

Attend a trackday. You don’t have pressure yourself into riding at Azlan Shah’s pace. Who said you have to, by the way? Go to the track and have fun riding around in a controlled environment while you practice your skills. You can even make new friends who are faster and lead you around the track.

  • Here is a guide to motorcycle tyre markings.

  • Knowing how to read the markings is important.

  • Tyres affect not only your bike’s handling but also your safety.

Alright, let’s settle this once and for all. We are still hearing all sorts of assumptions about motorcycle tyre markings.

We’re not criticizing anyone here, but it pays to get them right. For one, you don’t get cheated by unscrupulous workshops. But more importantly, tyres affect your bike’s handling and your safety.

Okay, let’s begin. Let’s take the following numbers from a Bridgestone T31 front tyre as a reference.

120/70ZR17M/C(58W)

120

It denotes the nominal width of the tyre measured at the widest point of the tyre, in milimetres (mm). You may have noticed that one brand of tyres may be wider than another. That’s because manufacturers may vary the width to tune for different handling characteristics, by +/- 4%.

70

Indicates the tyre’s aspect ratio or in other words, section height. It is expressed in percentage, not a direct measurement. So, 70% of 120mm is 84mm. Again, different manufacturers vary aspect ratio by +/- 4%.

ZR

The two letters represent two different meanings, although joined together.

“Z” is the tyre’s speed rating which in this case is 240+ km/h. Interestingly, the “Z” symbol on Pirelli tyres stands for “Zero” as in zero tolerance for mistakes.

“R” means radial construction. NOT racing. The letter is omitted if the tyre is a bias-ply type (usually on dirtbikes, dual-sport, older cruisers, and kapchais).

17

The wheel (rim) size in inches.

M/C

The tyre is for motorcycles. You hear this Lani? Please don’t let us hear “medium compound” again or we’ll slash your tyres.

(58W)

There are two parts to this as well.

“58” stands for the tyre’s load index. It’s the code that says the maximum load of this tyre is 236kg at maximum inflation pressure.

“W” is the tyre’s speed index, 270 km/h in this case. This is where it gets confusing. Didn’t the “Z” already indicate that the tyre can exceed 240 km/h? Ah hah. There’s a reason why the load index and speed index are married to each other.

It works like this: The maximum speed at which you should ride while carrying 236kg at maximum pressure is 270 km/h.

However, the brackets around “58W” means the tyre can go faster than 270 km/h (provided you’re not carrying 236kg, of course).

There are other markings on the tyre’s sidewalls, also. Let’s take a look at them.

TUBELESS

Tubeless. Certain tyres may carry the “TL” designation. Conversely, tube tyres may carry the “TT” symbol. No, “TT” DOES NOT mean the Isle of Man TT.

GT

You may come across a tyre with the GT marking after the above markings i.e. 120/70 ZR17 M/C (58W) TL GT. “GT” means the tyre is designed for heavier motorcycles such as the BMW R 1200 RT, Kawasaki 1400GTR, Yamaha FJR1300, among others. It’s not recommended to mount it on your middleweight bike just because “the GT version lasts longer.” Yes, it does last longer on your Versys 650 because the tyre’s compound and construction are meant for heavier bikes.

MAX LOAD

Refer to (55W) marking above. Virtually all tyres carry this marking. See what this one says? Just like what the load and speed indexes indicated. Also note the maximum pressure, which is 290 kPa or 42 psi in this case. DO NOT ever exceed this.

Four-digit numbers in an oval or rectangle

Together, they denote the manufacturing date of the tyre. The first two digits tells the week, while the last two are the year. For example, “2918” means the tyre was produced in the 29th working week of 2018. While there are 52 weeks in a year, there may not be production during every week.

Rotation or Direction

Every tyre has an arrow to mark the direction of rotation for the tyre, hence it should be mounted as such. DO NOT mount it against the intended direction – even if it “feels better when mounted backwards.” (You may laugh, but we’ve actually had riders telling us so.)

CONCLUSION

So, there you are. There are still more markings and symbols but these are the most important ones.

  • Liquid-cooled engines are common these days.

  • Liquid-cooling needs coolant or antifreeze.

  • Here we describe how the principles of the cooling system and how coolant works.

Engine coolant or antifreeze is a necessity in most bike these days but it’s another thing many take for granted. Do some research and it will turn out that there’s so much to that coloured liquid sitting in a translucent plastic tank.

How does the cooling system work?

It’s about heat transfer.

Credit Dan’s Motorcycle Repair Coourse
  • The coolant/water pump pushes coolant through passages called “water jacket” surrounding the engine block. Some of the heat from combustion is transferred to the coolant.
The KTM 790 cylinder block. The space around the bores is the coolant jacket. The large rectangular hole on the right is cam chain cavity
  • The coolant continues its journey to the radiator. The radiator consists smaller tubes that are surrounding by little fins. These fins provide bigger surface areas thereby absorbing even more of the heat (just like fins on the engine block).

  • Incoming air cools the coolant as it travels back to the engine block. A fan takes over to pull heat away from the radiator when the bike idles for an extended period.

This is why the radiator is also known as a heat exchanger or just “cooler” unit.

What is coolant and antifreeze

First and foremost, let’s talk about the good ol’ Edge-Two-Oh (H2O). Water freezes at 0-degree Celsius and boils at 100-degree Celsius.

This is why we need to add something else to the water to change its freezing and boiling points. As such, coolant and antifreeze are essentially the same as far as product terminologies go.

Ready to use coolants usually feature a mixture of 50% water and 50% glycol. It brings freezing point down to -37-degrees Celsius and boiling point up to between 240- to 270-degrees Celsius.

However, to be more precise, coolant is the medium i.e. antifreeze or water or oil circulating through the cooling system; while antifreeze is the concentrate before being diluted. Most coolants are sold as premixed these days, so again, they are the same. However, do check the descriptions and instructions on the bottle on whether the product is ready to use or needs to be diluted.

What are the types of glycols in antifreeze?

There are generally two types of glycol used:

Ethylene glycol
  • It used to be a common ingredient but its toxicity can cause birth defects, reproductive damage or even death if ingested. It’s appealing to young children and animals due to its sweet odour and flavor. Consequently, it requires specific handling.
Propylene glycol
  • It’s significantly less toxic than ethylene glycol. The words here are “less toxic” at low levels.

What are the types of antifreeze?

There are three types:

Inorganic Additive Technology (IAT)

This is the common green antifreeze with corrosion inhibitor package. It typically includes silicate, borate, phosphate, nitrate, nitrite and molybdate. It has a lower lifespan, typically 2 years.

Organic antifreeze (OAT)

Typically based on a variety of carboxylic acids and derivatives. Carboxylic acids is the general terms for acids found in plants. Coolants with OAT generally last longer (up to 5 years).

Hybrid Organic Acid Technology (HOAT)

It combines both inorganic and organic substances, hence provides the best of both worlds. It’s also compatible with both IAT and OAT coolants, therefore users can just top up their coolant levels, regardless of the type present in the system.

Why can’t I just use water?

Again, it’s because water freezes and boils too early. Corrosion will clog a cooling system and/or cause leaks.

Apart from that, good coolant also:

  • Prevents rust and corrosion of metal parts.
  • Prevents corrosion of rubber hoses and plastic parts.

What about the colour?

Coolants used to be available in green only (I personally call it “radioactive green”) but there are all sorts of colours now. The colours are supposed to mean different proportions of glycol and water, but they are not regulated therefore colours don’t offer a specific guide between different brands.

A bit on maintenance

Coolant doesn’t go on working at its best forever and therefore is considered a consumable. Manufacturers typically recommend replacing it every 2 to 3 years regardless of type used.

We will touch more on maintenance, replacement, handling in a future article.

Credit Mick’s Garage
  • Many modern motorcycles are equipped with electronic rider assist systems.

  • These systems include ABS and traction control.

  • But why do we still crash?

The TC and ABS lights blinked like Christmas lights gone crazy as the R 1250 RT’s rear end snapped to the right, threatening to overtake the front. MFG and CSS training told me to hold on to the gas, to not chop the throttle. So, I held a steady. The rear wheel reversed direction and slid to the left, then continued sliding the right and back to the left.

However, the intensity of the slide started to lose momentum, the slide was now smaller in degree and wound down to four right-left-right-left headshakes.

Still keeping the gas on, the bike and I continued down a straight line. Speed had dropped from 140+ km/h down to just below 100 km/h.

The above scenario wasn’t made up (no need to sumpah laknat), as it happened while I was testing the new BMW R 1250 RT. I had hit a huge rainstorm like a continuous ice bucket challenge on the way back from Ipoh to Kuala Lumpur. I steered too quickly over the white line, which triggered the slide.

Traction control did work, as evidenced by the blinking lights and lower speed at the end. But this episode brought up and important question: Why do riders still crash despite rider assistance?

What do we have?

Most bikes these days are equipped with ABS, while those higher up the scale (read: more expensive) feature a whole myriad of rider assistance systems such as lean-angle sensitive traction control and ABS, engine braking control, wheelie control, vehicle stability control (slide control, in other words), rear wheel lift mitigation, etc. etc. The list of rider assistance electronics would stretch almost from A to Z.

So why do we still crash?

Lowside crash due to too much speed – Courtesy of RNikeyMouse

Rider assistance electronics are just that: TO ASSIST. While they do compensate for clumsy riding and mistakes, it’s only to a small degree as it still depends on the rider to make the correct inputs. Think about it: If the systems take over, we might as well just sit back and let the bike ride itself.

There are a number of factors

  1. Over confidence. That’s right. I’ve met riders who think that the rider assist systems will automatically make them better riders. Sorry to burst your bubble – they don’t. Never go out there and ride without thinking of the consequences of your actions just because the “bike has the most advanced traction control system.”

I’ve seen riders keeping the TC and power settings in “slick” mode when their bikes weren’t on slick tyres and riding on public roads. Sure, they probably liked the bike’s aggressive nature in those settings but keep the consequences in mind.

  1. Not knowing how the systems actually work. Sure, the development of rider assist has come a long way. But remember, they still depend on the rider’s inputs to work.

Let’s go back to the opening story. Things could’ve been tragically different had I shut the throttle as soon as the wheel started sliding. Snapping it shut would cause weight to transfer abruptly to the front, taking the load off the rear wheel. Besides that, engine braking will take effect. These factors will in turn worsen the slide and the bike could’ve either slid out from underneath me or worse, having the rear gripping suddenly and sending me over the high-side.

Therefore, not shutting the throttle abruptly didn’t throw in extra variables into the equation and allowed the ECU to determine the best course of action effectively and quickly.

ABS control unit

That’s the same thing with ABS leading riders to think that they wouldn’t hit an obstruction. While ABS does allow you to brake at the maximum level, hence shorten the braking distance, it’s real function is to keep the wheel from locking up into an uncontrollable skid. It also means that you can steer away from the danger – not braking hard and heading straight towards it!

Also, some riders got spooked when the brake lever started pulsing when ABS activated, causing them to release the lever instead of holding on.

So, what should I do?

The first thing you should do is nothing if the bike slides. Yes, you read that correctly. A sliding tyre is actually looking for a stable position and will find that equilibrium if you let it. Fighting it makes it worse.

If the tyres slide when you’re leaned into a corner, all you need to do it countersteer slightly on the outside handlebar to lift a little and reduce the lean angle. Just don’t lift it with your entire body because that will send you wide and overshoot the corner. Keep looking through to where you want to go and keep the bike pointed that way.

2008 Ducati Hypermotard 1100 S

But most of all, keep the gas on. If you really need to slow down, roll the throttle off smoothly. Snapping the throttle off is tantamount to throwing everything down the road.

The best to do is to take up advanced rider training and learn the correct fundamentals of riding. For ultimate slide control, you can learn it at Most Fun Gym (MFG). For performance riding, you can choose from Alpha Track Academy, Ducati Riding Experience (DRE), PTD, Eric Yong, et al. Also, don’t miss California Superbike School Malaysia.

  • Going too fast into a corner happens to every biker.

  • But you can get away with it.

  • Practice these steps and you’ll come away with more confidence.

A corner looms ahead. It looks like a fast one, so you line it up and steer in. Only to find that the apex is actually further inside. Much further.

The road seems to double-back on itself and here, you’re in the outside 1/3 of the corner and just tipping the bike in.

What should you do? What can you do?

The fundamentals

There are five basic skills that every biker MUST possess: 1. Steering; 2. Vision; 3. Throttle control; 4. Brake control; 5. Body positioning/control. Not necessarily in that order, but these skills need to be invariably present.

Let’s keep these five points in mind as we take you through a butt-clenching ride.

Don’t panic

This is the most important. Panicking will exacerbate the situation; making it worse when you could actually make it home to your loved ones.

The first thing to happen is your body tenses up when you panic. A tense body will lock your limbs in position and cannot provide effective steering forces anymore.

Look through the corner

The best way to overcome this panic or impending panic is to turn your head into the corner along with your eyes (they must be inclusive). Remember that the bike goes where you look. Force yourself if you have to and flick your head to the side and get those eyes focused on the corner’s exit.

More steering input

Remember how to countersteer. Push on the inside and pull on the outside parts of the handlebar in a quick manner. Doing so will snap the bike over quicker.

Countersteering – Courtesy of sPEEDY pADDY

Control that throttle

Should you shut the throttle? Open the throttle? Hold the throttle steady?

The answer is don’t do anything. If you’ve closed the throttle from the corner entry, keep it closed. If you have it slightly open, keep it there and don’t roll off or open it any further.

Any change to the throttle at this point will cause weight to shift, changing your chassis balance.

If you chop the gas, weight will transfer to the front tyre and force the bike wide. Yes, wide. You’d expect the bike to steer better but the opposite happens as the front tyre’s footprint widens, creating a large patch of resistance. Steering becomes heavy.

Throttle control – Courtesy of dreamtime.com

Conversely, weight transfers to the rear when you add more throttle. The front tyre becomes light as the contact patch becomes smaller. That smaller footprint may not react enough to steering forces. Consequently, the bike goes straight. Yup, just like if you chop the gas.

But if you maintain the present state, the motorcycle’s chassis is in its current state of equilibrium. At least, you know that steering effort is still consistent.

If really need be, you can roll off the gas. Roll off as in turning the throttle down smoothly, NOT chopping it.

Once you’re on your line to the exit, apply throttle to balance the bike and blast out.

Stop treating the throttle as an on/off switch. Instead, use it as a tool to control not only the bike’s speed but its chassis balance and grip levels.

Wee bit or no brake

The first track exercise carried out by all California Superbike School students is the “one gear, no brake” drill. We went out there, set third or fourth gear, then control the throttle as we went into and out of corners.

Yes, it’s about throttle control, but it also showed us about how modern bikes and tyres can perform beyond our expectations and fears. Make that 99% of us.

Now, you’re in too fast and room is running out fast.

If you’re already leaned over, touching the front brake now spells disaster. Conversely, dab on the rear brake. Doing so will 1. Create a resistance behind the bike’s centre of gravity; 2. Flatten the chassis. The bike will tighten its line.

The rear brake technique is used by virtually all MotoGP riders.

In the case that you’re just about to turn in, you can apply the front brake but not by grabbing it like you’re trying to crush a rock. Instead, squeeze it to feel its bite, then smoothly let out the pressure as you lean the bike over. Once you’ve seen the exit and off the brake, apply the throttle.

Conclusion

So, that’s it. It all starts from not panicking but do practice the five skills above as soon as you have the opportunity. I do so everytime I’m on my bike. I’d like to add that these drills don’t have to be carried out at high speeds. In fact, you’ll discover that you learn a lot more when you don’t rush yourself into things.

  • Bikers usually talk about performance and aesthetic upgrades.

  • But how many actually talk about brakes and brake maintenance?

  • Today, we look at how often should replace the brake fluid.

It surprises me that in my 33 years of riding, no one had ever asked, “How often should I replace my brake fluid?”

I’ve always been asked what’s the best performance parts such as exhausts and tyres, instead. It’s not wrong to ask about those parts, of course, but brakes are the most critical next to the almost everything else on the bike.

However, I do understand why almost nobody talks about brakes. Modern brake systems are very reliable. Apart from replacing the brake pads whenever they’re worn, the system keeps working: The rider presses the lever and the bike slows down. When the pads are worn again, he replaces them.

In a brake system that performs normally, performance deteriorates slowly and surreptitiously. Consequently, you won’t feel much difference since the last time you rode it. This will continue until we encounter serious problems.

But what about the fluid? Sadly, no one seems to bother. Brakes are working after all. News is, deposits will start to build up in old brake fluid. If you’re unlucky, these deposits may someday flow into the nooks and crannies and block the flow of fluid in the system. In the worst-case scenario, deposits build up or get into the ABS pump and render it useless. When this happens, the part must be replaced, which costs thousands. Believe me, I’ve seen this happen in both bikes and cars.

Old vs new brake fluid

Besides that, brake fluid is hydroscopic i.e. attracts moisture. The system may be sealed but wear and tear can eat away at a gasket or two. The presence of moisture in will lower the brake fluid’s boiling point. When this happens, the brake takes more effort to work. In a bad scenario, the brake lever will feel spongy. In the worst case, the lever has been pulled all the way back and sticking to the handlebar, yet the bike doesn’t slow down at all.

So, how often do you need to change your brake fluid? Every two years, regardless if the fluid “still looks good.” The job is easy enough that you could DIY (do-it-yourself), but you can also visit a workshop if you aren’t confident or need more tools.

What DOT should I use? Just follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. For example, use DOT 4 if that’s recommended. Try not to be seduced by the mechanic’s “Ini barang baik punya (This stuff is good)” sales pitch, especially if the fluid is of different DOT rating or for racing. Racing brake fluids are usually even more hydroscopic!

  • The OEM rubber brakes hoses typically need to be replaced every four years.

  • You can choose to replace them with braided steel lines.

  • Steel lines are more durable.

As we mentioned previously in other articles about brakes, brake hoses are considered consumables, that is, they need to be replaced some time down the road. The question then is to whether replace them with OEM rubber hoses or braided steel lines?

Before we go further, let us explain that most top-of-the-line motorcycle models are already equipped with braided steel hoses, especially sportbikes. As for those in other segments, there are manufacturers who include them as OEM from the factory, while those of the lower categories may not.

So, let’s assume that your bike is fitted with rubber hoses. Rubber brake hoses need to be replaced every four to six years, depending on your manufacturer’s recommendations.

OEM rubber hoses deteriorate over time

Cutaway of a rubber hose (left) vs a braided steel line. See how much simpler is the steel line’s construction – Photo credit crowz.narmir.com

Over time, the rubber becomes soft and will expand when subjected to the high stresses of the brake system. Consequently, you lose braking power. In other words, some of the brake fluid’s pressure’s lost in pushing brake hose outwards, instead of being concentrated on the caliper(s) pistons.

The lever will feel spongy and you lose feel of how much you can taper off the pressure on the lever. This is especially irritating when you need to trail brake into corners – the brake seems to just let go. When that happens, the forks will rebound abruptly therefore shifting the bike’s weight to the back. This will cause the bike to run wide or even overshoot the corner.

What’s the difference between rubber hoses and steel braided lines?

Picture courtesy of Venhill

In a steel braided line, a steel casing surrounds the core hose inside, made of either nylon or Teflon. A PVC protective layer covers the steel line. It’s best to choose the PTFE Teflon core as it can resist much higher temperatures generated during braking.

The steel casing keeps the inner hose from expanding when the brake is applied. As a result, you have a better feel of how much braking you can apply, rather than relying on just the feel of the bike’s speed alone. This is especially helpful when you need to trail brake or letting off some pressure to enable you to steer the bike.

What you shouldn’t expect after switching to steel braided lines

Don’t expect your bike to brake like Marquez’s bike for Turn 9 at the Sepang International Circuit. Braided lines give you better feel and return some of your brake’s power, but you won’t get eye-popping braking all of a sudden.

What to look out for

If you end up getting a steel line with a smaller inner diameter compared to your OEM hoses, do expect that the brake lever will require slightly more travel. This is due to the increase of pressure in the line due to the smaller orifice, as stated in Bernoulli’s Principle. As such, the brake master pump’s cylinder needs to travel a little further.

But more critically, do look for quality steel lines rather than some el cheapo ones. Never compromise on quality when it comes to brakes. Besides, good braided steel lines could last for a long time.

  • The powervalve opened up a whole new performance envelope for two-strokes, especially the YPVS.

  • But what is a powervalve?

  • And no, the RX-Z isn’t equipped with one, despite being touted at RM 70,000.

We were having a chat in Facebook when the subject of the powervalve came up, centering on the YPVS (thanks Derick). It may be a thing of the past, since powervalves served the two-stroke bikes, but it’s never too late to learn, is it?

Besides, the powervalve evolved to be present in the current breed of four-stroke sportbikes, as well. We’ll get to this later.

What is a powervalve?

To understand what a powervalve is (more specifically, exhaust powervalve), and how it works, we have to have a firm grasp on the workings of a two-stroke engine. You can click here for the full article.

READ: How a Two-Stroke Engine Works

To recap quickly, a carbureted two-stroke engine uses its piston(s) to cover and uncover ports in the cylinder to induct and transfer fresh charge (fuel, 2T oil and air mixture) and exhaust spent gases. However, since the fresh charge and exhaust gases are circulating within the same cylinder, some of it will mix, resulting in loss of power. Besides that, some fresh charge will get pulled out of the combustion chamber, into the exhaust pipe, and ultimately in the environment. This was why two-strokes were banned.

Also, the exhaust port is left wide open, meaning there’s no positive exhaust wave. Manufacturers/tuners overcame this by designing the right kind of exhaust expansion chamber to reflect some of the positive wave back to the exhaust port, in order to stuff some of the fresh charge back in.

But, there’s only so much that could be done. Hence why early two-strokes were peaky and needed to be revved to the stratosphere for any decent acceleration and power. What’s more, the powerband was as thin as a biscuit. You’d be lucky if you’d get 2,000 useful RPMs.

Enter the powervalve

It was Yamaha engineers who discovered that altering the exhaust port’s dimensions resulted in different power delivery throughout the rev range. The more the port was covered, the more low-down torque could be obtained. Partial coverage yielded mid-range torque, while the previous fully-uncovered port provided top-end power.

Awesome idea. Unfortunately, you can have only one but not the others. What do you do? The engineers devised an adjustable system.

They produced a slightly oval shaft which ran across the exhaust port. Controlled by the CDI (capacitor discharge ignition) unit and other sensors, this shaft, now called “powervalve” altered the dimensions of the port. It was actuated by a cable and pulley system, powered by a servomotor.

At low RPMs, the shaft closed over the port (with a small aperture being open to let exhaust gases through). When the CDI read 3,000 RPM, it sent power to the servomotor which pulled the pulley, thereby opening up the valve a little more. 3,000 to 6,000 RPM saw a larger opening, and then opening fully above 6,000 RPM. This was why two-strokes equipped with powervalves blasted off above 6,000 along with a change of exhaust note.

Yamaha called this system the Yamaha Powevalve System or YPVS in short. Its first production use was in the 1983 RD/RZ350 LC (or LC2 as it’s more popularly known).

The results were telling. The 1980 RD/RZ350 LC produced 47 hp at 8500 RPM and 40.2 Nm of torque at 8000 RPM. (Notice that there’s only 500 RPM spread between maximum torque and maximum horsepower – that’s the sign of a peaky engine.) The 1983 RD/RZ350 LC YPVS, on the other hand, produced 58 hp at 9000 RPM and 40.2 Nm of torque at 8000 RPM.

Still peaky, but what the spec sheet didn’t show was the much better low-end and midrange torque and tractability.

Yamaha had actually begun using the YPVS since 1977 in their race bikes with great results, thereby cementing their name in the history books. The YPVS gave Yamaha bikes so a great an edge that they refused to let go of two-strokes for so long.

Also note that YPVS is only available in liquid-cooled two-stroke Yamahas. So, no, the RX-Z isn’t equipped with the system despite being touted at RM 70,000.

What’s next?

Other manufacturers also began equipping their engines with powervalves of their own designs, since they had to circumvent Yamaha’s patents. We’ll cover this topic in the next part.

  • There’s a saying “light is right.”

  • Instead, we are always too engrossed with horsepower.

  • Let’s talk about power-to-weight ratio in this article.

We’re all so caught up by horsepower figures that we usually overlook many other areas of performance. One very important principle regards weight, or the lack of it, to be more specific which leads to the saying, “light is right,” which also corresponds to power-to-weight ratio.

That’s what all the brow-ha-ha over the likes of the BMW S 1000 RR HP4 Race and Ducati Superleggera V4 lies.

What does lightness bring

In Newton’s Law of Motion, the lighter an object, the less force is required to make it change direction of motion. It’s all in the equation: F = ma where F is force, m is mass and a is acceleration. As such, force has a larger figure when mass is higher, acceleration being equal.

For the rider in you and I, it means that it’s easier to make a bike change directions, accelerate and decelerate.

But an even easier term to understand is “power-to-weight” ratio. It’s a simple math by dividing the engine’s horsepower to the bike’s weight. Let’s show you a few calculations so you can see for yourself.

The Weight Loss Route

Let’s take a generic 1000cc sportbike, as an example. Let’s say that the engine produces 200 hp and the bike weighs 180 kg.

So, 200 hp/ 180 kg = 1.11 hp/kg

Now, say you managed to drop some weight by swapping out the stock exhaust system with a lighter aftermarket item, shaving 15 kg in the process.

200 hp / 165 kg = 1.21 hp/kg

Now, you drop even more weight after dumping the rear passenger’s seat and the footpegs. Besides those, you removed the entire tailsection and install a tail-tidy. (Note here that we’re not encouring you to modify your bike!) You shaved another 8 kg in the process.

The power-to-weight ratio now is:

200 hp / 157 kg = 1.28 hp/kg

The Brute Power Route

For comparison’s sake, let’s assume that you don’t want to swap anything out, thereby maintaining the bike’s stock weight of 180 kg. Instead, you look to push power higher by performing modifications to the ECU, injectors, etc., which nets you an extra 10 hp.

Thus,

210 hp / 180 kg = 1.16 hp/kg

That’s lower than if you had chucked out 10 kg of weight.

Let’s try to equal 1.28 hp/kg. To reach that ratio, you would’ve to modify the engine to produce:

1.28 X 180 kg = 256

Yup, your engine needs to produce a MotoGP-level 256 hp.

Conclusion

Triumph Daytona Moto2 765

As you can see above, the easiest route to making you bike go faster is by lightening it. It’s also much cheaper because you can remove superfluous parts on your bike, compared to installing go-fast stuff such as ECU, exhaust system, injectors, valves, pistons, conrods besides engine work such as porting and flow. You might as well just buy a homologation special superbike!

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, your bike will be much easier to ride with lower weight. It’ll accelerate quicker, while saving much more engine power and fuel in the process. It’ll take less distance to brake too, saving your energy and causes your fingers and arms to tire less.

To wrap up, there’s another saying: “Losing weight is free horsepower.”

  • We see MotoGP riders ride the way they do on TV.

  • They are the best riders in the world.

  • Should we copy how they ride?

Week in week out (apart from 2020), we see pro riders in Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP battle it out: Leaning their bikes so far over that they drag their knee and elbow sliders on the track.

Then we head out to Karak Highway and see riders who clamber all over their bikes like MotoGP riders but are way slower than riders who ride so relaxed and upright. Or like that food delivery fellow who stuck his leg out while braking for corner, only to have the road grab his sneaker and fling that leg up and back so violently that I thought it was going to be ripped off (quite comical).

Should we ride like MotoGP riders? They’re the best riders in the world thus they must be doing something right, correct?

Not necessarily.

Why do Pros Ride the Way They Do?

 

First and foremost, equipment.

Their bikes are fitted with so much high-end gear that you and I could never imagine having on our standard roadbikes. But more specifically, tyres and chassis.

Here’s a fact. Marc Marquez was the one who brought the elbow down technique to MotoGP. Why did he drag elbow? He first tried and then honed the technique when he was in Moto2, which he found was difficult to ride. Remember that the Moto2 “manufacturers” consist of frame makers, not the main manufacturers themselves.

Also, all MotoGP riders who raced against him have said that he doesn’t use as much lean angle in the class. It’s because the Honda RC213V isn’t a bike for the traditional long arc, high midcorner speed cornering style. Instead, Marquez unlocked it’s secrets by braking hard, dumping it in very near the apex, stand it up early and blast it out of corners.

Dovizioso, Braking, Tyres, Aragon MotoGP 2012

Contrarily, the Yamaha YZR-M1 is low and long, built for the traditional long arc cornering style, which pays off in high midcorner speeds. This is why Jorge Lorenzo leans the bike to 62 degrees off vertical. The higher your midcorner speed, the further you have to lean for a given corner.

But it’s tyres and the bike’s chassis which allowed the riders to ride as such.

One great example was when Michelin took over from Bridgestone as the spec tyre supplier.

The Bridgestone has a very grippy front tyre. As such, riders could carry lots more speed into corners. Besides that, they could brake very late and hold lots more trail braking into corners.

It’s the opposite when Michelin first arrived: The rear tyre had so much more grip. Yamaha’s factory team test rider found out the hard way and crashed heavily in Turn 3 at the Sepang International Circuit (the fastest turn). Another test rider crashed at Turn 5 (downhill, sweeping left). The regular riders started complaining that the front tyre lacks grip.

Because of that, riders began braking harder when they were upright and used less trail braking.

Another example?

Brembo thumb brake on Lorenzo’s Ducati – Credit Brembo

Jorge Lorenzo remarked that he never used the rear brake on the Yamaha but he had to do so on the Ducati to make the bike turn into corners and when in corners to make it hold the line.

But what can we learn?

Countersteering – Courtesy of sPEEDY pADDY

The best things we can learn are the fundamentals of riding.

Watch closely how they squeeze the brakes instead of slamming down on it. How they trail brake into corners: The let the brake lever go progressively until full lean, followed immediately by rolling into the throttle (best guy to watch is Andrea Dovizioso). Study how the countersteer into corners: Watch closely as the push on the inside bar, while pulling on the one outside. Look at how they turn their heads to look through corners instead of keeping them in a straight line with the bike.

So, stop trying to lean way off the bike to pull the bike down into corners like Marquez. Note here that lean angle follows corner speed, not how much you pull.

Archive

Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on YouTube