Further Motorcycle Column, VIII – Enough is Enough

Further: Enough is Enough | Thoughts on MotorcyclingWhere does the average street motorcyclist, or even the far above-average rider, set his bar of satisfaction? Didn’t someone once say it’s better to ride a slow bike fast, than a fast bike slow?

My pal Rick, when discussing this subject, states that it is always better to have more than one needs. I agree, but how much more? Why do we want, and pay a premium for, the fastest machines when few of us can use all the power and abilities thereof?

Don’t get me wrong. I adore fast bikes and modern engineering, but the latest crop of go-fast machines go, often, much faster than most of us can ride, even if there were no speed limits. I’m not raising this subject to preach or advocate for any restrictions other than those that are self-imposed by virtue of reason.

Perhaps it is our penchant for allowing advertising to color our thinking — maybe it’s the idea that if one buys a bike with the highest specifications one’s judgment can never be impeached and that buyer must really know his stuff.

Of course, many riders are perfectly happy with their choices, and don’t hear the Siren’s song of more power. My thoughts are about sportbike riders and their quest for speed. Do you really need and can you use 200 horsepower and 200 mph capability, or do you just love to bench race? There must be an element of ego involved in a purchase like this and I’m not excluding myself from this judgement.

I know there are strong opinions on this subject. Concurrent with writing this column is KTM’s CEO and President Stefan Pierer declaring in an interview with Alan Cathcart that the Austrian company’s upcoming RC16 Superbike would be a track-only bike. Pierer said, “As soon as the RC16 is available for customers, we will stop with the RC8…with the increase in safety concerns, I’m afraid bikes like this don’t belong on the street, only on a closed course.”

I’m thinking that there are already a few bikes that fit this description. Kawasaki’s new Ninja H2 reviewed this issue is supercharged and blisteringly quick, and the H2R (about 300 horsepower— track- only with, as yet, no racing class to enter) must be the poster child for stupid fast or ludicrous speed. We have a 1000cc limit in certain racing classes and 1200cc in others, yet sportbikes are being enlarged to 1300cc and this number will probably grow. Older riders will remember when 78 hp made you king of the canyon, if you knew how to ride.

In the past, we found that buying top-of-the-line was the way to get the performance we craved. Now, top-of-the-line models have abilities far above the talent of the average rider. Old habits taught us to believe that it was best to buy the biggest and baddest and, whether we could use all that power or not, bask in the glory of the numbers.

Now that we see power to weight ratios approaching two pounds per horsepower, with chassis and tire combinations that will allow a skilled rider to remove patches of leather from his elbows, is this a must-have form of transportation?

If you race it, sure, but if you are anywhere but on a racetrack, perhaps it is time to reevaluate one’s mission. Glory in the knowledge that you have made a smart choice in selecting that lesser bike that gives you all that you, personally, can use and saves a lot of money at the same time.

I don’t often ask questions in my columns, but this subject begs so many answers. I suspect little will change as a result, but I admit the need to re-evaluate my choices, as there are so many phenomenal motorcycles available now whose specs don’t have chart-topping numbers. It would be a shame to miss out just because they don’t go faster than a speeding bullet.

Column from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine; for subscription services, click here.