MotoGP bikes are among the fastest motorcycles in the world, but they are very similar to city bikes in many ways. Because they are optimized for performance, their engines can crank out much more power than a regular street bike, leaving many fans wondering if MotoGP bikes are hard to ride.
MotoGP bikes aren’t inherently hard to ride. The bikes aren’t much heavier than many street motorcycles, and they operate fairly similarly too. However, racing these bikes at speeds of up to 200 mph is where the difficulty lies, making MotoGP riders some of the most talented on the planet.
Does this mean that riding the bike in a race is hard? What does it take to be a competitive rider? We look at the skills needed and what gives MotoGP riders their edge below, so join us as we pry out the crucial details of riding MotoGP bikes.
How Difficult Is MotoGP?
MotoGP is one of the most difficult forms of motorsport. MotoGP riders must race at speeds of up to 200 mph all while watching the riders around them, and leaning into corners at angles of up to 60 degrees. Riding a MotoGP bike in this way is also inherently dangerous.
Getting to the top in any sport requires a lot of practice and dedication and MotoGP is no different. Every champion who has stood at the podium has put in thousands of hours of practice and kept his body in peak condition so that he is prepared to race. The sacrifice and self-discipline needed to achieve high goals are beyond the capability of most.
Are MotoGP Bikes Heavy?
MotoGP bikes are not particularly heavy. The minimum required weight is 157 kg (346 lbs), which is close to that of the average street motorcycle. Most bikes used in MotoGP will be as close to this minimum weight as possible, as lower weight usually means faster top speeds.
A 250cc city bike weighs about 22 lbs/10 kgs less than a MotoGP bike, which is good news for many, because it means that almost anyone who knows how to ride a motorcycle can ride a MotoGP bike. In fact, there are a number of street bikes that weigh much more.
KEY FACT: Some 1000cc tourer motorcycles weigh as much as 244 kg (540 lbs), about 50% more than a MotoGP bike
A tourer rider who is used to a bike that weighs almost 90 kg (200 lbs) more than a MotoGP bike may be happy to hear this, but there are other differences that make riding a MotoGP bike more complicated. After riding a very heavy tourer that responds slowly, the acceleration and responsiveness from a MotoGP’s throttle takes some getting used to.
Why The Tourer Weighs So Much More
The main reason why the tourer weighs so much more is because of the materials used to build it. A production bike uses standard materials with the total cost in mind, but a MotoGP bike has no such restriction and uses titanium, carbon, and other costly alloys. These materials cannot be used in city bikes because they would drive the cost above what an average person is prepared to pay.
Most of the parts used in a MotoGP bike are made from materials that are never used in production motorcycles because of their prohibitive cost. A MotoGP bike has carbon disc brakes that are far superior to steel disc brakes, with an aluminum frame with many of the bike parts that are critical made from carbon fiber including the swingarm and the front fork.
Some of the latest alloys are composite metals made from a mix of steel, zinc, magnesium, titanium, and copper that are designed to be as light as possible while retaining their strength. Wheel rims that are made from magnesium weigh less than half of the same rim made from aluminum although they are much more expensive.
The Frame And Other Parts
The motorcycle frame also known as the chassis is one of the most important parts of the bike as everything else fits onto it. The standard city bike uses an iron or steel frame designed to be long-lasting since weight is not a factor, but the type of frame will vary depending on the cost of the motorcycle.
MotoGP bikes use parts made from carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer, also known as CFRP, extensively. Carbon fiber is very light and extremely rigid with excellent strength, so it is used to make mudguards and fairings. It can withstand high temperatures, so it is used in disc brakes as an effective alternative to steel disc brakes.
Carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer is combined with parts that can use its strength or its heat-resistant properties and is used in parts that use aluminum to add extra strength. Currently, MotoGP rules do not allow the use of carbon fiber in wheel rims. Since it requires an expensive manufacturing process, its use is limited to industrial applications where cost is not a consideration.
KEY POINTS• MotoGP bikes aren’t inherently difficult to ride, but they’re not necessarily easy to race
• The bikes themselves are actually quite light compared to many production motorcycles
• Their low weight is largely due to the expensive materials they’re made from
How Powerful Are MotoGP Bikes?
MotoGP bikes can put out around 290 horsepower. The teams are allowed to use engines with displacement up to 1000cc. Several bikes claim to have crossed 290 horsepower, but when it comes to MotoGP racing, power isn’t everything, as the driver’s ability is extremely important.
The Construction Of A MotoGP Bike
MotoGP bikes are made using the lightest materials possible to save weight. The frame is made of aluminum or metal alloys that have been tested for weight and strength. Most of the critical engine parts are made from expensive alloys that would never be used in a street bike because of the extremely high cost.
The ignition and other electronic systems are state of the art, and many trickle their way down to production motorcycles after their use is discontinued at the racetrack. The disc brakes used are made of carbon fiber compared to the steel disc brakes used on street bikes. The tires used are provided by the official tire supplier and have different treads for the track.
As the treads are different, the tires do not work as well on the street and need higher temperature to get their optimal grip. These tires are made from complex rubber compounds that are designed to work optimally within a specific temperature range that is higher than a street bike tire is used to. The compounds used to make the tire need some heat to soften, so that the tire can work normally.
The MotoGP engine used for racing is the best available at the time and uses the most advantageous materials that money can buy. Even though a lot of information about the engine is kept secret, it isn’t very hard to make an educated guess about its power and performance based on the way the bike moves. The two engine configurations that are used are the V4 and the inline-four (or straight-four).
The Electronic/Engine Control Unit
The electronic/engine control unit (ECU) keeps the engine running in peak condition by monitoring its performance and continuously adjusting key parameters that affect its power and torque. A number of sensors feed it information on the engine status so that it can make adjust the air/fuel ratio and make small changes in the engine ignition timing that optimize its power output.
Simplified versions of racing engine control units are used in production motorcycles that can do similar but less comprehensive engine control. This is only natural considering that a racing ECU is very expensive and difficult to maintain for low-end motorcycles and its advantages are not as indispensable because the bike’s performance is not critical.
The Cost Factor
Many of the parts used in a MotoGP motorcycle use magnesium alloys or titanium. Titanium is extremely expensive and is used in making valves, exhausts, and nuts and bolts. By regulation, its use is banned in the frame, swingarm, and fork. These lightweight but high-strength metals are used in many parts of the bike where there is a weight advantage to be gained.
The advanced electronic systems that are fitted on MotoGP bikes are made using the latest designs and technology available. These systems are not available to the general public as they use proprietary methods that are kept secret.
KEY POINTS• MotoGP bikes are very powerful, putting out up to 290 HP
• They are made from high-end materials, many of which are not available on normal production bikes
• All of this adds up to make MotoGP bikes extremely expensive
What Sets MotoGP Riders Apart From Normal Riders?
What sets MotoGP riders apart from normal riders is their mental focus, incredible discipline, and excellent physical fitness. A MotoGP rider is comparable to any top athlete, and they possess the mental and physical components critical for success in this highly competitive sport.
The MotoGP rider has to keep total concentration and cannot relax for even a second. At such high speeds, any lapse in control could prove fatal. Body posture and balance have to be constantly changed near the corners and at the straights so that his lap time doesn’t suffer. All of this comes from thousands of hours of practice on the track and dedication to being the best.
Everyone wants to be a winner, but how many are ready to do the hard work that is necessary to achieve difficult goals? MotoGP is one of the riskiest sports that finds few takers when it comes down to the fact that major bodily harm is a possibility. This is what separates a champion from a wannabe.
MotoGP bikes aren’t necessarily hard to ride. The clutch, brakes, gear lever, and throttle are all in the same place, so there is nothing majorly new to learn. With that said, there is a vast difference between being able to ride a MotoGP bike and being able to ride it at up to 200 mph in a race.