If you’re a fan of motorcycle racing, you’ll notice that the bikes used in MotoGP are very different to your average street bike. Aside from the more powerful engines and the unique chassis, you may also wonder why MotoGP bikes don’t have any mirrors.
MotoGP bikes don’t have mirrors as they would cause drag and, as the rider’s head and body are constantly shifting throughout the race, even if there was a mirror, it would be difficult to look at it most of the time. Mirrors could also become damaged in collisions, leaving debris on the track.
Below, we’ll elaborate on these reasons and discuss in detail why MotoGP bikes don’t have any mirrors, before also discussing how MotoGP riders see behind them, and the important role of pit boards.
Do MotoGP Bikes Have Mirrors?
MotoGP bikes are not fitted with mirrors as they cause drag which can slow down the bike. As the rider’s head and body are moving constantly throughout the race it would be difficult to look at the mirror even if it was fitted. A rider can hear if another bike is close behind which is good enough.
The only time the rider needs to know what is happening behind them is when another bike is attempting an overtake. At this time, it is the responsibility of the rider behind to take every precaution while overtaking the bike in front so that they overtake safely.
Mirrors can also be a risk to the rider’s safety. If the bike falls or skids, the mirrors breaking could scatter sharp glass pieces into the rider’s suit and surrounding area which creates risk for the other riders as well. This would likely lead to a stoppage in the race, which is obviously undesirable.
The Effect Of Drag
Drag has a major effect on motorcycle speed as it works to resist the motorcycle and rider at high speed. Almost all parts of the bike that are exposed to the air are shaped to reduce the aerodynamic drag. It is the reason riders hunch behind the fairing so as to minimize the drag caused by their bodies.
As increases, the level of drag increases faster, which is a good reason to remove anything, including mirrors, that can increase drag. So, as MotoGP riders want to go as fast as possible, it would make no sense to add mirrors to their bike that they’d never use. But why would they never use them?
MotoGP Riders Keep Shifting Their Bodies
Every MotoGP rider has to position themselves on the bike correctly for perfect balance. As the race progresses, the rider has to shift their bodyweight on the corners and then back again on the straight making it a continuous adjustment process in the pursuit of high speeds and rapid cornering.
It would therefore be difficult to position mirrors on the bike that the rider can look at during this never-ending body balancing act, as their head position is changing all the time. This is just another reason adding mirrors to MotoGP bikes would be useless, but without them, how do the riders see behind them?
How Do MotoGP Riders See Behind Them?
MotoGP riders see behind them by looking over their shoulder. Doing this at speeds close to 200 mph is obviously risky, but looking behind and using their peripheral vision is the only way a MotoGP rider can see who is behind them without mirrors. They can also hear other bikes around them too.
What About A Camera?
In this day and age of miniaturization, it is completely feasible to fit a lightweight high-definition camera to the rear of the bike and connect it to a screen on or near the instrument panel so that the rider can see what is happening behind them. The fact that it hasn’t been done yet suggests that it has no value for the rider, and it could just be an unwanted distraction.
There is no necessity for a rider to know who is behind him or how far ahead he is as it only interferes with his concentration during a race. Once the race starts the rider has to concentrate completely on riding their bike to the best of their abilities, and a screen showing who is behind them would just be unnecessary.
KEY POINTS• MotoGP bikes don’t have mirrors for many reasons, with the main one being they would increase drag for no real benefit
• Riders are always moving around on the bike, meaning they’d struggle to get a good look at their mirror anyway
• MotoGP riders can see behind them by looking over their shoulder
Does MotoGP Use Pit Boards?
MotoGP teams do use pit boards as a way of communicating with their riders. Pit boards are used to convey a number of messages to the rider. The most important messages usually inform them of their position, if there is another rider close behind, and the number of laps remaining.
The team’s second mechanic holds up the pit board so that the rider can get a good look at it when they go past on the pit straight. Messages on the pit board are written in abbreviations and codes that are common to all the teams.
Do MotoGP Riders Use Radios?
MotoGP riders do not use radios. There is no radio communication during a MotoGP race, and this sets it apart from many other big motorsport series. However, there’s no real need for radios in MotoGP, as they have digital dashboards and pit boards they can rely on instead.
This is one of the biggest differences between MotoGP and Formula 1, because the Formula 1 driver has constant two-way contact with his team throughout the race via their radio. In MotoGP, once the rider leaves the pit, they have no contact with their team except for messages that they put on the pit board, which is one-way communication with no way to reply to their messages.
The MotoGP governing body approved the use of sending wireless messages to the rider’s dashboard in 2018. Even though this system of informing the rider is superior to the pit board, it is still one-sided without giving the rider the means to reply back. However, MotoGP races are much shorter than F1 races, and the lack of regular pit stops negates much of the need for radios.
KEY POINTS• MotoGP riders don’t communicate with their teams via radios
• Instead, they receive messages via pit boards and on their digital dashboard
• Unlike F1 drivers, MotoGP riders don’t have much use for team radios
MotoGP bikes don’t have mirrors because they would add unnecessary drag to the bikes, potentially slowing them down. Because riders are constantly shifting their weight around the bike, there would be no good position in which to put the mirrors, and they can just look over their shoulder instead.