Bikesrepublic

Wahid Ooi

  • 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.

  • The Dubai Police Force hover bike is undergoing trails.

  • But this one hit trouble and crashed.

  • Thankfully the pilot got away unhurt.

The Dubai made headlines when they announced the purchase a batch of hover bikes. But what many feared had come through in this crash video of the Dubai Police Force Hover bike.

The video shows personnel carrying out field tests of the Hoversurf contraption, which resembles a large man-carrying drone.

He first took off straight up, before punching the machine forward aggressively as if to simulate a pursuit. He let go of his right hand for some reason, looking more like a rodeo rider as the hover bike struggled to stabilize. According to other media sources, he was trying to signal that he was in trouble to the ground crew.


The bike then started losing altitude at a hurry and smashed tail-first onto the ground. The rider rolled away quickly from the machine, thankfully.

One other fear, besides falling from great heights, are the open rotors that spin at thousands of RPM. But they seemed to have broken in the crash. They are made of carbon fibre, by the way, and those things are stiff, unless the Hoversurf is equipped with a system to stop or release them during impact.

The Dubai Police Force purchased the Hoversuf at US$ 150,000 a pop for the intention of patrolling the city. A charge could last for 25 minutes at 70 km/h. The machine could be piloted by a human or via remote control.

Video from Videokings YouTube Channel

  • We always talk about grip and traction.

  • But what exactly is traction?

  • It comes from friction but what then is friction?

We always talk about “grip” and “traction.” More specifically, which tyres are gripper and provide more traction other other tyres.

We know what tyres you are thinking of as soon as we said grip. But do you know what traction actually is?

Defining traction

“A physical process in which a tangential force is transmitted across an interface between two bodies through dry friction or an intervening fluid film resulting in motion, stoppage or the transmission of power.”

— Mechanical Wear Fundamentals and Testing, Raymond George Baye

That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? Isn’t there an easier way to describe it?

Friction is good

It has to do with friction. We think of friction as two rubbing surfaces: The rougher they are in relation to each other, the more friction is generated. It’s certainly true with traction. While the tyre’s thread has a smoother surface, the road aggregate is rough, thereby creating friction.

But c’mon, do you think we’re going to stop there?

In truth, even the smoothest surface has peak and valleys like mountain ranges when viewed under the microscope. When two of these surfaces interact, the peaks and valleys complement each other, while two “peaks” sort of “weld” into each other when they touch.

So how does a tyre generate grip/traction?

The tyre’s compound conforms to the peaks and valleys of the surface it’s on. The softer the compound, the easier it is for the tyre’s surface to conform to these irregularities, and vice versa a harder compound.

Also note the temperature of the tyre. The compound becomes softer through not only friction with the road but also through internal friction among its molecules.

This is also how tyre wear occurs.

But what about the traction needed during acceleration or cornering or braking? That’s for another part because it involves vectors, coefficient of friction, forces, mass, etc. so stay tuned.

  • We’ve always seen Valentino Rossi’s pre-race rituals.

  • But are other bikers truly superstitious?

  • Here are some stories we’ve heard of.

Surely you must’ve heard of horror stories among the motorcycling fraternity. But are bikers truly superstitious?

Here are some that we know of.

Right side first

It may seem as a habit, but there are bikers who insist on putting on the right side of everything prior to their rides: Gloves, boots, jacket. It may very well stem from the Islamic decree that everything must begin from the right side, but this habit carries on around the world, too.

What’s that bell for?

You may have seen a number of bikes with bells on them. No, there’s no relation to AC/DC; in fact, these are in the opposite of the song’s famous song.

It’s said that it’s gremlins that cause motorcycle problems, including crashes. Dead battery? Flat tyre? Spotty fuel injection? Blame it them.

So these guardian bells scare these critters away. It’s said that the bells are more powerful talismans if gifted by someone else (Gandalf?). Unfortunately, I’ve not being given one by anyone after riding for more than 30 years. Maybe people don’t like me…

Bike colour

There is a superstition that green colour bikes are bad luck. It probably stemmed from army riders in World War II, since many riders were killed. Yet, Kawasaki has been going strong all this while including winning five World Superbike Championships on the trot! (My personal Kawasaki ER-6f is another story, though.)

But I guess it goes along with each ethnic group or religion. Green is considered good in Islam. Red is considered auspicious among the Chinese, while black is seen as “morbid.” Purple is favoured among the Indian.

Bike number

This is definitely something pretty prevalent, especially among Asians. Four is read as “die” in Cantonese hence spurned by the Chinese, and is “lucky” or “auspicious.” Then there is the combination of numbers. 4448 reads as “die, die, die lucky,” which means being lucky no matter what. 458, on the other hand, translates to “die cannot lucky.” It means the owner will never be lucky until he dies.

For the Malays, the number 4 is considered lucky because it rhymes with “dapat,” i.e. get.

My favourite race number? 69. No, not because of the late Nicky Hayden. To me it means that a**hole is always in front of me.

The passenger footpegs

Some say you’d invite an evil spirit as a passenger by leaving the passenger footpegs down, especially when riding at night. Some say doing so lets your guardian sit behind you.

Which one is which? We don’t know. I always flip the pegs up so that it’s easier to slip through traffic.

The full moon

Research has shown that accident and murder rates pick up during the full moon. No, this is not made up. Does this mean you will crash during the Supermoon? Not in our experience – so far. No, we’ve not met any werewolves or vampires, either.

The pros

Let’s get to these guys. The superstitions do extend to professionals, too. We’re pretty used to seeing images of Valentino Rossi kneeling and holding a footpeg of his bike before he joins the grid. While certain riders insist on carrying a special number throughout their careers.

There are also those we’ve not seen such as riders who insist on applying the decals themselves. Or one rider who must have a spotlessly clean bike (well, that’s more OCD than superstition). Yes, there are ones who cannot have his helmet on the way we do.

  • 600cc supersport bikes were once developed on par with their bigger counterparts.

  • It was the most popular class and outsold the bigger bikes.

  • The class has been in decline but why?

We looked at the genesis of the 600cc supersport models in Part 1, so let’s take a look at more of the groundbreaking models in this part.

As we mentioned earlier, the class became a hotbed for sales across the world as riders sought bikes that are not only cost less to buy, they cost less to insure, too. Besides that, 600cc bikes were getting pretty fast but were still relatively easier to ride than their 750cc and 1100cc counterparts. The category should have seen ongoing developing and good sales, but something happened along the way to cause its decline.

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R (1995)

Sure, the ZZ-R600 was fast and handled reasonably well, but there’ no getting away from its sport-touring platform. No one is going to race that and win.

So, Kawasaki chucked out that format and returned to with a sporty 600 in 1995. With a bodywork based on the Ninja ZX-9R, the ZX-6R had ram air intake too, which upped engine power to 101 hp. That made it the first production 600 to go above the “ton.” It went faster too, hitting 262 km/h.

Now the power wars were on.

Suzuki GSX-R600 SRAD (1997)

Suzuki finally got on the ball and released the GSX-R600 a year after the groundbreaking GSX-R750T. The smaller Gixxer was based almost thoroughly on the 750, albeit with a sleeved-down engine, adjustable but conventional telescopic shocks and 4-piston front brake calipers. But it did have Suzuki Ram Air Direct (SRAD).

It was a manic bike on the road, suited to twisty roads that’ll have bigger bike riders holding back on the throttle.

Yamaha YZF-R6 (1999)

The class is going to get even hotter. Yamaha finally fought back with the sublime YZF-R6, a year after launching the YZF-R1. However, the R6 didn’t share any parts with the R1 except for a compact, light and agile concept.

As per the R1, the R6 received a “stacked” transmission. It shortened the engine and provided the bike with a short wheelbase (shorter than the FZR400RR). That allowed engineers to move the fuel tank backwards and consequently the handlebars toward the rider. It was the beginning of mass centralisation.

The manic inline-Four spun to 13,000 RPM and put out 120 hp. Since it was also light, it accelerated faster and had a 265 km/h top speed.

Triumph TT600 (2000)

Triumph decided to get into the middleweight market too, since it was thriving. It was a brave decision since the new Triumph had to contend with what the Japanese had done for many decades.

So, the Hinckley manufacturer gave the TT600 the best components such as an aluminium frame, fuel-injection, forged pistons, fully-adjustable suspension and top-of-the-line Nissin brakes.

It handled really well, as a result but the engine was blighted by spotty fuel injection programming.

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R/ZX-636 (2003)

With the everyone in the class now fighting tooth and nail, Kawasaki decided to up the power of their ZX-6R. Not in the conventional term, instead by upping engine capacity to 636cc. This “cheater” engine was for the road, while the manufacturer offered a 600cc machine for racing (like how what Ducati is doing currently with the Panigale V4).

It may have been a 636, but it was as close to an engine tuning gone mad. This is why the engine is a favourite among stunt riders (including one Aaron Twight).

Triumph Daytona 675 (2005)

Triumph wasn’t going to give up and 2005 saw the much-loved Daytona 675. Again, they held nothing back in terms of chassis components but the engine also saw it being changed to a triple. The three-cylinder engine has natural primary and secondary balance, besides having the right amount of torque and top-end horsepower. The 675cc is based on the extra capacity allowance for three-cylinder bikes in racing.

Years of development saw the engine grow to the current 765cc, which also powers the Moto2 grid.

The bike and its later variants were the best-handling 600 supersport. Period.

It had to end…

Suddenly, the 600s were gone. Much of it was due to riders moving on to sport-touring and dual-sport motorcycles. Sportbikes, whether 600cc, 750cc or 1000cc were suddenly spurned as riders seek something more practical to fit a whole variety of uses and roads.

Currently, there are only the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R, Suzuki GSX-R600 and Yamaha YZF-R6 soldering on as pure 600cc supersport bikes. However, only Kawasaki and Yamaha are really pushing the development on their bikes. Hang on, though, Aprilia is about to launch their RS660.

There are bikes in the 600cc class at the moment, such as the Honda CBR650R, Kawasaki Ninja 650 but these aren’t true supersport bikes. Still, they’re much more practical at the price of all-out performance.

2019 Honda CBR650R

Will the 600cc supersport class ever see a resurgence? We do hope so.

  • 600cc supersport bikes were once developed on par with their bigger counterparts.

  • It was the most popular class and outsold the bigger bikes.

  • The class has been in decline but why?

600cc supersport bikes were once developed on par with their bigger counterparts and actually ruled the sales sheets in some countries. While there are still three major manufacturers producing them, they seemed to have “disappeared.”

What happened?

Let’s take a look at some of the best 600cc supersport bikes.

Yamaha XJ600 (1984) – The beginning

The Japanese manufacturers were already making sub-600cc machines by this time. Honda had the CBX550 F2, Kawasaki with the GPz550 and Suzuki with their GSX550ES. These were all inline-Fours, with monoshock rear suspension, adjustable forks and disc brakes to boot. Yamaha’s XJ550 lagged behind with twin rear shocks, basic forks and no bodywork.

Then in 1984, they unleased the XJ600, complete with a racy bodywork (which looks much like an RD/RZ), monoshock suspension, all-around disc brakes. The 598cc engine trumped the rest.

Kawasaki GPz600R (1985) – Beginning of the supersport

You guessed right if you thought the other manufacturers would fight back. Kawasaki was the first who did so. What they did was to introduce a new form of 600 – what would become the basis of the supersport class – in 1985. It wasn’t just any 600 wrapped in full-fairing for this was a giant-killer. Legend has it that it would run rings around bigger bikes such as the Honda CB900F, Suzuki GSX1100 and Kawasaki’s own GPz1100.

The engine’s technology was adapted from the GPz900R Ninja (which was the world’s fastest production bike at that point), including the piston stroke. It also had a twin cam, 16-valve head. Liquid-cooling was also adopted from the GPz900R.

Kawasaki didn’t stop there. The bike was given a perimeter frame, adjustable Uni-Trak rear suspension, anti-dive forks, and 270mm diameter brake discs up front. The steering geometry also mimics that of the 900. Finally, it featured radial tyres, which was a new development at the time.

It was the first 600 to be built like a race replica.

Honda CBR600F (1987) – The all-rounder

Honda CBR600F

Honda could’ve fought back with a mad 600, but Big Red has always emphasized rider control which leads to fuller enjoyment. Hence the CBR600F in 1987. It did look racy with the all-enclosing bodywork but as we said earlier, it was made to be ridden everyday, in the canyons on weekends and could still turn in decent lap times at the track. It also had 17-inch front and rear wheels that made for better handling. But most of all, it was made simple and reliable. The CBR600’s legacy lasted for almost 20 years and the engine went to power the Moto2 grid for the first few years.

Yamaha FZR600 (1989) – More sport focus

As competition heated up on the tracks, the 600 class started to take on more sporty vocation like their 750cc siblings. The best example of this was the FZR600. It gained the aluminium twin spar Deltabox frame and bodywork of the FZR750.

The engine however, was a four valve per cylinder job, unlike the FZR750’s Genesis 5-valve head, but the former was given a longer stroke for low down and midrange torque. It resulted in a lively ride, which then became a favourite among the wheelie-happy crowd. It’s said that many FZR600s had oil starvation issues, due to long wheelies.

Kawasaki ZZ-R600 (1990) – First 260 km/h 600

You can bet that Kawasaki always fights back with mo’ po-wa (more power). And they didn’t disappoint with the ZZ-R600. Just like its forebear, the GPz600, Mean Green had upped the GPz900R Ninja to the ZZ-R1100 and scored another world’s fastest production bike title. So, the 600 was again given some of the same tech as the bigger bike.

Along with new-found ram air induction, the ZZ-R600’s engine pushed it to a 260 km/h top speed from a standing start. Not only that, it was faster than most 750cc bikes of the time, and that top speed was just less than 20 km/h lower than the ZZ-R1100’s.

However, Kawasaki somehow made the ZZ-R lineup to more of sport-tourers. But that’s about to change.

  • The fully-faired Benelli 600RR sportbike was spotted in China.

  • It’s based on the 600cc naked bike.

  • It may also share the new TFT screen and keyless ignition.

Seems like the Chinese-Italian brand Benelli dropped a bombshell on us. We had been publishing updates on an upcoming 600cc naked bike, but suddenly pictures of the fully-faired Benelli 600RR sportbike began popping up over the internet.

The picture shows a bike based on the TnT600i platform but wearing the QJiang – for Qianjang Motorcycles (the owners of the Benelli brand) – in China. It’s speculated to be called the 600SRG, after the 600SRK naked bike in the People’s Republic. However, it may be called the 600RR in other markets.

As it’s based on the TnT600 platform, it’s evident that it retains the same engine and chassis. The differences are the underslung exhaust canister of the updated TnT600. There’s no close up shot but it may also include the new TFT screen and keyless ignition system of the new naked bike.

Photo from Thrustzone.com

Eagle-eyed observers also pointed out that the 600RR wears reflectors on the fork legs, signaling Benelli’s wish to comply with European laws. The bike currently adheres to the China IV emission standard, which is the equivalent of Euro IV. Benelli would need to work on it to comply with Euro V if they wished to sell the bike in Europe.

It’s also speculated that the inline-Four engine produces 80 hp. That’s puts it in between the Kawasaki Ninja 650 (70 hp) and Honda CB650R (98 hp). However, the Benelli is (much) heavier at 215 kg.

There’s no information on whether Benelli had reworked the engine. During our last tests, the TnT600i had to be revved upwards of 6,000 RPM for any meaningful acceleration. The exhaust was something else, though.

There’s also no word on how much it costs or when it’ll be released in Malaysia, but we’ll keep you updated.

Photos from: Thrust Zone

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