Are big bikes competitive?

Last night, when we were 2 sheets to the wind Beast and I got into a discussion, not an argument, but we both didn’t agree with each other. I would like to see what you guys have to say. Can a stock Honda CBR 1000, Yamaha R1, or Suzuki GSX-R 1000 be a competitive race bike with a good rider, without modifying anything except tires. I am not talking about AMA, or Superbike. I am talking about more of the local scene like club racing, but we are talking about racing not club events. So with a good rider and everything stock, except for tires could it be competitive in a racing league?

I don’t think so, just because of the demographics. Most of the parts in my opinion on these bikes are made for more practical use of driving it as a weekend warrior. I have never owned a “big bike” but I have been in the racing scene for years with cars, and I am in the racing scene here in Taiwan with small 2-strokes. Even the cars that are sold to be “race ready” aren’t. Usually the suspension is toned down and is softer for a more comfortable ride, the engine is probably detuned a bit, a lot of the stock parts are probably heavier than you would want for a race car and the brakes are going to be setup to last longer. This is an argument about new motorcycles not cars though. So I don’t think that a stock motorcycle could be competitive with a good rider. In my opinion you will need to change the tires, master cylinder, brake line, maybe the caliper, change the suspension, tune the engine for a different more race effective power band, lighten the bike, etc. Also let’s not go too far with the rider, we are not talking about Rossi, this argument is about the motorcycle. So could it be competitive? What are you thoughts?

If you’d like to use the track as a baseline for performance in Taiwan, which I think is not a bad idea, I’d have to say that big bikes can indeed be competitive out of the box. I’ve done some asking regarding this question to some big bike racers, not alot so I’ll ask around some more, but it seems that quite a few racers do little to no modification aside from tuning their already decent suspensions. The big difference between big bikes and small bikes and what makes them less competitive is the difficulty involved in riding them agressively in my opinion. It takes alot more skill and guts to ride something that big and expensive. Thats why its not too common to see the big bikes go fast, but I believe that the bikes themselves do have the potential.

I personally don’t want to use Taiwan as a baseline because that track is not the norm. Almost all the tracks back home are wider and longer, some being 5-6 times longer. I know most of the guys dont do that much to their bikes here, but you and I are running about the same time as these guys so that just shows that their not even using their bikes to the full potential. So lets stick GAMFA out of it.

The “RR” and “R” liter bikes are certainly not only safe, but capable, out of the box. Hayden or Rossi on a stock liter bike would clean any amateur’s clock on a MotoGP bike. That said, nearly all racers use bunches of aftermarket parts, ‘coz they’re lookin’ for that little advantage to compensate for their shortcomings elsewhere. I knew an enduro racer who was overweight, but rebuilt race engines for a business… needless to say, he had the most hp in the field, but still couldn’t win.

Yeah that’s where I came in. The bikes are a street legal RACE MACHINE. Out of the BOX they have way more potential than most riders can ever use to their fullest potential.

Among the big bike scene i hung out with back in California…most of the track day riders always agreed the only thing needed were tires. I also agree that people modify their big bikes to compensate for their own abilities. Most guys would only add exhaust for sounds and brake lines for added feel. Otherwise they’re left stock.

The stock suspension can be adjusted to pretty much suit any track/rider within reason. The brakes are full on race brakes with HH sintered race pads (all big bikes come stock with them now), the engine is super strong and robust, reving to upwards of 15,000 RPM and making over 160hp (1000cc bikes), and they’re quick as hell 0-60mph in around 3 sec.

Where RK and i got off to our debate was that factory raced prep cars cant be compared to big 1000cc motorcycles that are designed for the racetrack right off the assembly line (Yamaha R1, Suzuki GSX-R1000, Honda CBR-1000RR, etc.). True even factory race cars must meet some means of practicality…be it safety, convenience in some form or another (trunk space, AC, passenger room, etc.) And the majority of cars are sold with the intention of being a daily driver. Where i feel a motorcycle is not intended to take Timmy to school on and to go pick up a gallon of milk and carton of eggs. I feel they were intended to do one thing only…GO FAST.

That’s my argument.

If you wanna compare superbikes with cars perhaps you would want to look at supercars, not daily commuters.

In this comparison you will find the true attraction of the superbike, comparable performance at a fraction of the price.

[quote=“maunaloa”]Hayden or Rossi on a stock liter bike would clean any amateur’s clock on a MotoGP bike. That said, nearly all racers use bunches of aftermarket parts, ‘because they’re lookin’ for that little advantage to compensate for their shortcomings elsewhere. quote]

Yes I agree, but this is not the argument. Hayden, Rossi are professional racers that have more track time then a freak’n train. Our argument is really the bike itself. I have been around the car scene ever since I have been able to open my eyes. I have owned hotrods, classics, daily drivers, race cars, dune buggies, slightly modded racers, full on original classics, 4x4’s, and small cc motorcycles since the age of 16. (this does not make me better, I just mean that I have lots of experience around cars.) I have raced cars and small cc motorcycles, but never the big bikes. So in my experience the stock parts that come on these cars just can’t take some of the abuse a race car endures during a racing season. Some parts are ok, but most of them need to be replaced.

I remembered one time when I first started racing I killed a set of stock pads and 4 rotors on my GTI out at the race track one time. The next time I did it again, so I had to buy aftermarket racing pads and which solved my problem (this is just one example.) So in my experience I wouldn’t think that these stock parts would hold up in a racing season. Most people buy these bikes for a weekend warrior or local club events, how many people are actually racing them? Of course they would be perfect for club weekends where it is just practice sessions and not actually racing (even though you might have friends that are really competitive on the track and it seems like racing.)

I really agree with you guys, especially Beast, but I just don’t know. It seems like you guys are proving me wrong. I still just can’t believe those stock parts can hold up. Maybe I have to just believe, because I won’t be buying one anytime soon.

You guys also talk about how a lot of people add performance parts to compensate for their inabilities. I couldn’t agree more, but also people outgrow their bikes/cars and they need that extra performance. In my racing experience the best thing to do is add parts slowly so you can actually see what these parts are doing. First do the tires, after months of getting used to it, then get the brakes, and after months of getting used to them, get the suspension, after months of getting used to that, maybe make some engine upgrades.

I have been riding my NSR for 4 years here; a year ago I finally got it on the race track and practiced religiously for one year. The stock NSR had great times, but slowly adding performance parts my times got faster, and my riding positioning improved. Now I have pretty much a full race NSR and I hold the record for the fasted lap in my class. So my whole argument was that these bikes with their stock parts will hold their own, but not do well in a racing season class where other bikes have aftermarket performance parts.

Thanks Dogma for the email, wicked.

The consensus is one cannot buy a race-ready car at a typical car dealer, but in contrast, R or RR class motorcycles ARE race ready, available at any big bike dealer.

Will R and RR class motos go faster/handle better/stop quicker with aftermarket parts? Of course they will, but that’s a different question than are they “race ready” out of the box.

A standard bike will never be competitive vs a race modified bike of the same model.

Thats the machine, the rider ability is a different discussion.

but you can race ANYTHING. you can take your current scooter, 25 years old, and race it. you won’t beat much apart from other 25 year old scooters though, and it may blow up on you, but it is RACE ready as it stands.

are big bikes competitive out of the box? of course they are, just you can make them even better in some cases. and the other question is, competitive against what? i guarantee you that i can beat any one of you guys riding one of them, if you were riding a rocking horse.

I think that’s just it…You really cant believe how incredible those things are until you’ve tried them. Logically you cant believe something so structurally sound can be sold to the public for just a few thousand dollars…But in reality it can be done, and that’s why its so addicting to so many people…and also why so many people get killed on them.

Its just really hard to fully explain and comprehend until you’ve tried it for yourself…on a racetrack or along the back of a sleepy mountain road.

I once heard that the amount of engineering involved in a modern day sport bike is comparable to that involved in a jet fighter.

The brakes wont fade or warp like a car’s will…it wont foul plugs like racing can do to cars, the suspension can be fully adjusted to be as soft or stiff as you’d desire…Purely amazing.

[quote=“Dogma”]A standard bike will never be competitive vs a race modified bike of the same model.

Thats the machine, the rider ability is a different discussion.[/quote]

And this is exactly what I am saying. If you take a stock bike in a stock class of course it will be competitive for that class, but if you take a class where they are allowed to modify parts and a decent rider uses a completely stock bike he won’t be competitive.

Also I still don’t see those stock parts being competitive, those brakes are going to overheat like crazy, and those suspensions (even though you can adjust most things) won’t make it halfway through a season without being rebuilt.

Some people have made good points, well done.

Competitive with what? is the question. Of course they would be competitive with similar bikes. I think the issue is in comparing how close an off the shelf superbike is to a race bike, and then comparing an off the shelf car with a racing car. Any fool can see that a proddy bike is very close to a race bike, and likewise that a road car is nothing like a racing car. Even a supercar is nothing like a racing car in anything but performance.

The brakes on modern bikes are unreal. My 636 had those old non radial Tokico 6-pots on the front and after I changed the lines and the pads they didn’t fade at all, even after three days of hard use through the French alps. The brakes on modern bikes (mine was a 2002 model & they’ve come on a lot since) are perhaps the closest things to race bikes.

Of course you can improve anything, but do you think any race teams get through a season without rebuilding their suspension? They don’t even make it through a race weekend!

Asking if a bike is competative is a very open question. It all depends on where you’re riding. As said by a few, yes, the supersports are race-ready from the box, but a few tweaks never hurts.

Personally, in my dreams of I can afford it I change pipes for weight/sound/look … wheels for weight… suspension depending on the bike. A 1098R has darn good suspension already. Power seeking though… is not important.

[[ PS. Yeah, I’m semi-back. Still waiting for my bike to be fixed though :fume: ]]

I don’t understand the question. A big fancy superbike straight out of the box is of course competitive with other bikes like that. So is a 25-year-old 50cc scooter, with other bikes like that.
But if you take a big fancy superbike and modify it to perform better, then surely its by its very nature “better” than the unmodified one – otherwise, what’s the point? Can a person make use of the “betterness” or not is a better question. Rossi could probably thrash me around the track on a 250 even if I was riding a fully modded R1. That doesn’t make his 250 more competitive than my R1 though, does it? or does it?

My take on the question posed links safety to performance expected when driven at full clip on a track. A production “sports car” would be unsafe, a production R/RR liter bike would be safe. Put aside aftermarket improvements. Driven off the showroom floor, most production sports cars would roll or spin-out at race speeds.

places a cup of water in the cup holder, full to the brim

I must become… smoother

Come on Maunaloa you can’t be serious, either you really don’t know or you gotta be relying heavily on the “most” in your statement.

“Most” American sports cars perhaps…even then though you gotta be driving like a plonker to spin out and rolls are very rare, both being mitigated by the amount of traction control applied with modern techniology

And if you ride a superbike like a plonker your gonna come short too.

As much as I love bikes and prefer them over the cars I cannot agree with your statement because its just not fair.

There are a slew of production sports/super cars that are just as track capable as the bikes.

Try to watch a show called Topgear and some of the specials by Jeremy Clarkson where supercars are evaluated on-track.

But even putting aside the uber expensive Porshe’s, Lambo’s, Ferraris, Koenigsieggs et al.

There are many sportscars that are just as track focused as the superbikes.

Try a Lotus Elise, Nissan GTR or a Caterham 7, or even this:

Take any, repeat, any R/RR liter bike to the track.


Take “most” sports cars (Miatas, Honda S2000, etc.) out to the track, turn off the A/C, and drive at full clip. Scary.

Swings and roundabouts mate.

Generic “sports cars” can only be compared to the generic “sports bikes”:

See my previous posts for acceptable comparisons to supersports and suberbikes please.

I think Miata falls under entry level for the bike comparison.