The weight of a motorbike is an often-overlooked aspect, as bikers are more commonly drawn to the more glamorous specifications such as top speed, power and acceleration. So, it is important to consider the effects on your ride of a heavier motorcycle.
A heavier motorcycle will present a different challenge even if you are an experienced rider, and for a novice rider it may present a frustrating deviation from the fundamentals that you have been taught which could make the overall learning process more difficult.
Every biker has their own riding style and over years of riding this becomes instinctive. Riding a heavier bike will require you to deviate from this style, which can change the way you ride completely. Below, we will go into more detail about the effects of riding a heavier motorcycle.
What Is Considered A Heavy Motorcycle?
First of all, we need to work out exactly what a heavy motorcycle is. Motorcycles are as diverse as they are fun. It’s a fair and honest assessment to say not all motorcycles are the same, so defining what a heavy motorcycle can be difficult. There is a general consensus that any bike above 182kg (400 pounds) is considered a heavy bike, but bikes can weigh considerably more than that benchmark.
Various aspects of a motorcycle can cause it to be heavier than another, but the most important factor will be the engine. A 1000cc motorcycle is almost guaranteed to be heavier than a 600cc and this is something that must be taken into account when deciding to buy a motorcycle.
How Will It Affect Your Steering?
One of the many joys of riding a motorcycle comes from flying through corners, using your body weight to become an extension of the bike. A bonus of our favorite mode of transport is that the agility and forgivingness of its steering allows us to feel like we’re right on the edge whilst remaining in fully in control.
Unfortunately, one of the main things affected by a heavier bike will be the steering. The steering will be more sluggish and less responsive and as a result will be less forgiving than a lighter bike.
On a lighter bike, if you were to understeer or approach a corner in a poor position, it could be rectified quickly and safely with a quick alteration of your bodyweight, allowing you to carry on riding. These corrections can be harder to make quickly on a heavier bike.
This will require you to be more precise with both the accuracy of your steering and your bodyweight management, particularly if you a rider who likes to get their knee down.
How Will It Affect Your Speed And Acceleration?
Let’s be honest, one of the main reasons we all ride is for the feeling of speed. Whether that’s maintaining high speed through a corner that makes your spine tingle, or the breath-taking moment when you twist the throttle and go from 0-70 as fast as you can blink. But having a heavier bike not only makes you work considerably harder for these thrills; it also narrows the margin for error.
As previously mentioned, heavier bikes will often have larger engine. In spite of this, as a general rule heavier bikes will have noticeably lower rates of acceleration due to the extra weight. This makes accelerating out of corners a bit slower, and this may cause you to fall behind during group rides or to push yourself in an unsafe manner to try and maintain more speed through corners.
This ties back with the previous point that you need to have the skill to get the steering in the corner absolutely perfect, as the cocktail of having less forgiving steering mixed with ambitious speed is a recipe for disaster.
Being able to maintain a consistently high speed is not just about the bike being ridden, but it’s also about who’s on the bike.
Your confidence in your own abilities will allow you to fully commit to every part of your ride, making tougher situations, such as high-speed corners where there is less than ideal grip available, much safer. But on a heavier bike this same confidence will need to be built up again and your comfortability at certain speeds in certain situations will change drastically.
Due to the added effects to steering and the brakes, it will force you to reassess at what speed you should be approaching situations and whether you’ll realistically be able to achieve the same things at the same speed as you would on a lighter bike.
This in itself is a challenge, as us bikers at times can be quite narrowminded. But relearning your limits when it comes to speed is just another one of the many challenges facing bikers who chose to take on a heavier bike.
How Will It Affect Your Brakes?
The answer lies in basic physics. A heavier object moving at the same speed as a lighter one will take longer to slow down and come to a stop. If we use an extreme example from our four wheeled cousins, a bus will obviously take longer to stop than a medium size car, if they are both travelling at the same speed.
This difference will of course affect your riding style, and it means when cornering you have to consider braking noticeably earlier than usual, in order to negotiate the corner in a safe manner.
More Awareness Required
Another aspect to consider is general awareness and safety. You need to be more aware of the other vehicles around you due to the increased stopping distance, as you need to know how much space you need to conduct an emergency stop for example.
Braking technique and timing are skills that even the most advanced riders can continuously improve. Having to relearn and retrain when you’re a rider who has been set in their ways for so long can be too much for all but the most devoted riders.
Having to relearn when to brake and the level of braking force required is arguably a necessary aspect of every new bike. But with a heavier bike, due to the margins for error being notably smaller, the challenge can be much more difficult.
How Will It Affect You At Slow Speeds And Whilst Maneuvering?
Every motorcycle can turn into a clumsy and awkward mess when driven at very low speeds. My instructor from when I first learned to ride told me if someone said to her that they drove 200 miles at 5mph she’d be more impressed than if they did it a 200mph, and that is an opinion shared by anyone who has spent more than ten minutes on a bike!
So, when you take a particularly heavy bike into that situation, you must exhibit a very high skill level in order to keep yourself on the bike. The lack of maneuverability becomes an issue if you live in a place where the law allows you to filter (lane split) as you need to ensure that you have full control of your bike at all times in these close quarter scenarios.
This is why you often see riders on much heavier bikes, like Harley Davidsons, waiting in traffic like everyone else. It also imposes certain techniques you must apply when at junctions, such as putting the foot of the direction you wish to turn down in order to support the weight of the bike more effectively, and if you lack the strength you can rule out shuffling if you stop short.
Parking a motorcycle can be a nightmare at the best of times, but this nightmare can be made worse with a bike with a bit more weight. With the reduced agility and extra effort needed to shuffle, nine times out of ten you’ll find yourself off your bike conducting a ten-point turn attempting to get in or out of a spot most lighter bikes would easily slide in and out of.
Do These Extra Challenges Make Riding Them Less Enjoyable?
Whether you’re a recreational rider or if you’re a daily commuter, the primary reason we choose to put our leg over the saddle is the sheer thrill you get from riding. Flying down the road and throwing yourself into corners can be the most welcome of escapes from the stresses of day-to-day life.
The Thrill Of The Ride
When you’re on a bike the only thing that matters is you and the road, and whether you just have a blast on the weekends with your friends or if you’re doing your daily drive into work, the enjoyment of these rides can really be the be the catalyst in having a great week.
With this aspect being such a crucial element of being a motorcyclist, how do the extra challenges of a heavy bike affect your enjoyment? This is really a matter of what you look to get out of your rides.
It Can Be Less Enjoyable
If you like to just cruise around a country road enjoying the scenery, riding a heavier bike will definitely make it harder to enjoy your time riding due to the extra effort and attention you have to pay to your riding.
Alternatively, if you’re a rider who really likes to test their metal and are looking for a fresh challenge, a heavier bike might be the test you’re looking for.
A Good Challenge
Riding a heavier bike will force you to really hone your skills on a motorcycle and really take your riding to the next level. If you then choose to drop back down to a lighter bike, the skill progression forced upon you by the heavier bike will give you a noticeable boost and may make you feel like a more confident and overall better rider.
But for a novice rider, a heavier bike may slice your enjoyment in half and even possibly deter you from a life on two wheels altogether. This is due to the fact that, if you don’t already have the fundamentals nailed down, a heavier bike may frustrate you as the rate of progression will be much slower than that of riding a lighter and more forgiving bike.
It may also lead to a few more dangerous situations due to you lacking the skills and awareness to deal with the added challenges of the heavier bike. Each time a situation like this happens, it could knock your confidence and may even make you nervous about jumping on your bike. This may take some time to get over, slowing your progression even further and drastically affecting your enjoyment.
Riding a heavier bike to the same potential as one of its smaller counterparts and in a safe manner is definitely not something to be taken lightly. Some of the fundamental joys of riding a motorcycle will be harder to achieve and to do so you will be required to really be on top of your biking skills, needing to be more accurate with braking and steering in particular.
A heavier motorcycle is harder to ride in almost all respects and depending on the circumstances may even be more dangerous than a lighter motorcycle. But it may also offer a new challenge for riders who feel that their riding is becoming stale, and in almost all cases riding a bigger motorcycle will force you to become a more refined and more aware rider.