MotoGP is considered the pinnacle of motorcycle racing, which implies that the bikes racing in the MotoGP must be very special – and they are. The differences between MotoGP bikes and normal bikes are what makes them the best in the world and entitles them to race in MotoGP.
The 10 main differences between MotoGP bikes and normal bikes are:
- MotoGP bikes are more expensive
- MotoGP bikes use more complex materials
- MotoGP engines are more powerful
- MotoGP bikes use more advanced technology
- MotoGP bikes use better braking systems
- Normal bikes use different tires
- Normal bikes are much heavier
- Normal bikes are more fuel efficient
- Normal bikes are easier to ride
- Normal bikes have a seat for a pillion rider
A comparison between the top motorcycles in the world to the normal street bikes we use every day doesn’t seem to be very fair, but it can reveal some interesting facts about both categories of motorcycles. Below, we take a closer look at the differences between them.
MotoGP Bikes vs Streetbikes – 10 Main Differences
1. MotoGP Bikes Are More Expensive
The cost of a MotoGP bike has been estimated at above $3 million, but the actual cost may be much higher given the number of factors to which attaching a price tag will be difficult. MotoGP bikes are funded by motorcycle brands that have a vested interest in winning races because of the publicity and reputation that the company gets and the increase in bike sales of the brand.
Millions Are Spent On Research To Get An Elusive Advantage
All of the big motorcycle brands have their own Research and Development departments that are constantly doing research in their quest to build a better product. MotoGP bikes are the end result of many decades of research that has yielded some of the best innovations in the motorcycle world. Companies have poured millions of dollars over the years into research that is never-ending.
The knowledge gained from this research is constantly incorporated into their MotoGP bikes to give them advantages that nobody else has. Is it possible to attach a price tag to knowledge that has taken some of the brightest brains in the automotive industry world years to discover? And if so, what would it be?
These are tough questions to answer, but it doesn’t change the fact that many of the advances in motorcycle technology that are used in normal bikes today were once used in the MotoGP and filtered their way down to street bike level.
2. MotoGP Bikes Use More Complex Materials
The most common metals used in the motorcycle industry are iron and steel, with aluminum entering much later. Iron and steel are used for their cost effectiveness, strength, and ease of availability, even though they are very heavy, which takes its toll on the bike’s performance. Traditionally, iron and steel have always been the backbone of the automotive industry.
The newer metals that have taken over their position are magnesium, titanium, and carbon fiber. These metals are not so easily available and are much more expensive compared to iron and steel, but they have the advantage of being lightweight and strong. Magnesium is about 75% lighter than steel, with the added advantage of having the highest known damping capacity of any structural metal.
What Is Damping Capacity?
The damping capacity of a metal is its property to dissipate vibrational energy absorbed from mechanical stress. Magnesium also has a lower melting point, so it is used in magnesium alloys with other metals such as zinc and zirconium added to improve its overall structural properties.
Titanium And Steel
Titanium is another metal that is extensively used in making many of the parts that go into a MotoGP bike. Titanium is as strong as steel but 45% lighter, which is a huge advantage on the racetrack. Of course, this comes at a hefty price because titanium is a very rare metal, and steel can be considered cheap next to it. Steel is just iron with carbon added to increase its strength.
The amount of carbon added to iron determines the grade of steel. A number of grades exist, from low-carbon steel to ultra-high carbon steel, which is used depending on the requirement and the application. Irrespective of the grade of steel used, the real block that prevents titanium and magnesium from being used in normal bikes is their price which is beyond the reach of most people.
Titanium, magnesium, and aluminum have an additional property that is highly valued in that they are non-corrosive, unlike iron and steel, which has to be constantly looked after to ensure that rust has not been able to develop on it. Once corrosion sets in, it can be removed, but not without weakening the iron part that is corroding.
The use of vanadium, molybdenum, and cobalt in steel alloys has become the norm, where small quantities sufficient to change the properties of the base metal to resist corrosion are used. This also drives up the cost making it viable only for the more expensive bikes. For normal bikes and weekend riders, it is still out of reach.
3. MotoGP Engines More Powerful
MotoGP engines can deliver over 280 horsepower at full throttle. It is possible that most engines have gone well past this figure since most companies do not want to divulge complete details of their engines. Each company does its own research at the cost of millions of dollars per year, and the knowledge gained from this research is used on the team bike.
Critical parts of the engine, such as the pistons and crankshaft, are made from special alloys optimized to have properties that the part requires and are manually checked by team engineers. Compare this to the mass-produced bike, where any piston gets used in any bike as long as it fits. The customization helps in squeezing out every last bit of power that the engine can produce.
Most normal motorcycles prefer to use the inline-four engine for a number of benefits that do not matter to the MotoGP rider. Since the average city rider is more interested in the reliability and lifespan of the motorcycle, the straight-four is better suited to the task as long as it has the capability to power the bike safely.
The inline-four cannot churn out as much power as the V4, which is not a problem for street bikes, although it vibrates more due to its longer stroke. Every second, 300 liters of air is pumped through a 1000cc engine at 18,000 rpm from intake to exhaust. This process needs power, which the V4 does easily compared to the inline-four.
4. MotoGP Bikes Use More Advanced Technology
Every team that races in MotoGP represents a major motorcycle manufacturer with their own in-house Research and Development department. The R&D department has one sole purpose, which is to make better motorcycles and engines by every means possible. All the alloys that are used in manufacturing the engine are first tested by the R&D team before being approved for use in MotoGP bikes.
Most of the advancements that are used in MotoGP bikes are never revealed to the public because of the need to keep the knowledge secret. It is only when the company realizes that the competing teams are using the same technology as they are that they decide to reveal the secret, and the secret isn’t a secret any longer.
It is only when everyone is using the same technology that it is incorporated into normal bikes for all to use. By this time, years may have passed since it was first used in MotoGP, which only goes to show how wide the gap in technology between MotoGP bikes and normal bikes is. The cost factor is another big restriction that hinders the use of MotoGP technology in normal bikes.
The Cost Factor Is Also A Barrier
If incorporating a piece of technology into normal bikes entails raising the cost above what the manufacturer considers to be affordable, it will not be added. Examples of this can be seen in many premium and tourer motorcycles that have the latest features, which are not available in lower-cost bikes.
It is only when the effect of mass production takes over to bring down the cost to affordable levels that the technology becomes widespread among all classes of normal bikes as well. The popularity of the new technology also determines how cheaply it can be made only if demand for it escalates sufficiently.
Certain types of technology that use expensive titanium and magnesium alloys will never become cheap enough for it to go mainstream via production motorcycles, so their use will always be limited to MotoGP. Normal bikes have to make do with their current status until new cheap alloys with high strength and low weight are discovered.
5. MotoGP Bikes Use Better Braking Systems
Currently, the official supplier of braking systems for MotoGP bikes is Brembo, which manufactures a number of braking systems for street bikes as well. Their latest offering is a 355 mm (13.97 inch) carbon disc brake in addition to their regular 320 mm (12.59 inch) and 340 mm (13.38 inch) discs. Compare this to the standard 320 mm (12.59 inch) steel disc brakes that are fitted on most bikes.
MotoGP teams have the choice of 12 brake discs of different diameters in High Mass or Standard Mass material specifications. Their latest offering is the 355 mm (13.97 inch) carbon disc with ventilation that claims to reduce the build-up of heat inside the disc by the use of vents or a number of small holes drilled into the carbon portion of the disc.
Since MotoGP bikes race at very high speeds, the use of carbon fiber discs is required to maintain high stopping power in conjunction with a larger rotor. They also need to withstand and dissipate the vast amount of heat generated from braking during the 100 km (62 mile) race as the rider uses them to their maximum in the corners.
Even though carbon fiber discs can withstand temperatures of up to 800 degrees Celsius (1472 degrees Fahrenheit), they have a shorter lifespan of about 1,000 km (621 miles). A normal street bike uses standard steel disc brakes that are not likely to heat up to even half that temperature.
The Thumb Brake
An innovation that is used on most MotoGP bikes but is yet to find popularity on normal bikes is the thumb brake. Although thumb brake kits are available that can be fitted onto any bike, most normal bikes do not use them. Normal bikes do not need them as the brake pedal is adequate for most riders, but it is useful for those who prefer to apply the brake using the thumb.
The thumb brake is a lever that is fitted on the left handlebar and can be operated by the rider’s thumb to control the rear brake. First used by Mick Doohan after he had a leg injury, it was later used by Valentino Rossi and is currently used by the majority of MotoGP riders. It allows the rider to operate the rear brake with his thumb leaving his feet free to shift his body weight on the turns.
For the MotoGP rider, the thumb brake is an easy way to keep his feet free to maneuver his body without losing control of the rear brakes when cornering. The thumb brake removes the need to use your foot and allows you to use your hand instead, which some may prefer.
6. Normal Bikes Use Different Tires
The official exclusive supplier of tires for MotoGP bikes is Michelin, and they will continue until the end of the 2026 season. In 2016 Michelin took over the reins from Bridgestone, who were the first official tire suppliers for MotoGP bikes. Tires are an important part of a MotoGP race, and differences between them can mean the difference between a win and a loss.
After tires were standardized across all MotoGP bikes, the difference between the top 15 riders was cut down to 8.92 seconds making the race more competitive than ever before. Dry tires, also called slicks, are used when the track is expected to be dry and wet tires are used for wet tracks. Dry tires are made from different compounds, soft, medium, and hard, while wet tires are soft and medium.
More important is the fact that different tracks have different numbers of right or left turns and areas that wear down the tire excessively. The way to deal with this is by using asymmetrical tires where one side of the tire has rubber made with different compounds from the other side. These tires are meant to be used on certain racetracks, and using them on other racetracks could be disastrous.
Can MotoGP Tires Be Used On Normal Bikes?
Tires made for use in MotoGP are manufactured from rubber compounds very different from normal tires. The tires are much harder than normal street tires as they are optimized for the track and need to be used at specific tire pressure and temperature. To ensure that conditions are correct, pressure sensors are fitted onto both wheels.
Their lack of treads means that they wouldn’t get any grip on a wet or dirty road, leading to a dangerous situation where the bike goes out of control. The tires are designed for use on the racetrack and cannot perform as well anywhere else. Normal tires take into account the fact that the average road surface varies, and their treads are designed accordingly.
The reason some MotoGP tires are called slicks is that their surface is completely smooth without any treads. This is perfect for the racetrack because they need to have as much surface area in contact with the track as possible. The greater the surface area in contact with the track, the greater the grip.
How Hot Do MotoGP Tires Need To Be?
The same slicks commonly used by MotoGP bikes on the racetrack are useless on any road that isn’t up to the same standard, and they need to reach a certain temperature before they are at optimum performance. This is usually above 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit). So how hot is 100 degrees Celsius?
To give you an idea, the boiling point of water at sea level is 100 degrees Celsius, at which mark the slicks are just getting started. Ideally, a temperature of above 120 degrees Celsius (302 degrees Fahrenheit) is needed for these tires to work at their best. Getting to this temperature on a public road is next to impossible as traffic and road conditions would not allow it to happen.
7. Normal Bikes Are Much Heavier
The construction of normal bikes means they are much heavier than MotoGP bikes. Most of their parts are made from cheaper metals so that the cost of the bike can be kept low without considering the amount of extra weight that is being added. The tubular steel frame of a normal bike is much heavier than the aluminum frame of a MotoGP bike but also costs less.
Many of the engine parts are made from cast iron so that costs can be kept low but cannot compare to its counterpart in MotoGP, made from light magnesium alloys. According to MotoGP rules, the minimum permissible weight of a MotoGP bike is 157 kg (346 lbs). Most MotoGP bikes weigh very near this figure as extra weight means lower speeds and more fuel, which is limited by the MotoGP rules.
In contrast, some tourer bikes of 1000cc and above weigh over 400 kg (900 lbs). Bigger bikes easily go over 340 kg (750 lbs), while the common sport bike clocks in at about 180 kg (400 lbs). For its weight, the 1000cc tourer engine outputs a shoddy 100 horsepower compared to the MotoGP bike, which outputs more than 280 horsepower at less than half the weight.
8. Normal Bikes Are More Fuel Efficient
MotoGP bikes are allowed 22 liters (5.81 gallons) of fuel before the start of a race that is between 95 km (53 miles) and 130 km (81 miles). Based on an average of 110 km (68 miles), we can see that the bike must be able to travel 5 km per liter of fuel (12 mpg) or else the rider will run out of fuel before completing the race, which has happened quite a few times!
Normal bikes are designed to be much more fuel efficient, with one of the famous tourers, the Honda 998cc CRF 100 Africa Twin Sport, doing 19.6 km/l (46.2 mpg). This is an older bike, and newer models are capable of much better fuel efficiency.
However, the fuel efficiency figure of a MotoGP bike is taken at a very high speed, and it’s unclear how fuel efficient a MotoGP bike would be at, say, 55 mph. It’s likely that a MotoGP bike would have decent fuel efficiency at lower speeds, but they probably wouldn’t compete with the most fuel efficient road bikes on the market.
9. Normal Bikes Are Easier To Ride
Normal bikes are much easier to ride than MotoGP bikes for several reasons. The less powerful engine is easier to control on a normal road motorcycle. With a more powerful engine, it is easy for the rider to let things get out of hand by opening the throttle beyond controllable limits, leading to a potentially disastrous situation. This extra power would make a MotoGP bike hard to ride for an absolute beginner.
MotoGP bikes don’t have traction control or ABS, which are present on many road bikes. The tires are also meant for all weather conditions, and as long as the bike speed is kept within safe limits, the tires will keep their grip on the road. However, if your road bike is much heavier than a MotoGP bike, it could be argued that the lighter MotoGP bike would maybe be even easier to ride in some situations.
10. Normal Bikes Have A Seat For A Pillion Rider
Since we are making a comparison between MotoGP bikes and normal bikes, it may not seem right to mention the fact that normal bikes have a pillion seat. But the fact is that on many occasions, the pillion seat proves to be an asset and is an essential part of the bike that many weekend riders cannot do without, especially when a friend decides to tag along.
The pillion seat can be used as extra space to mount a box or carry bags on a long road trip. On a motorcycle, space is hard to find, so its utility value of it will only be realized when a good amount of space is required to store clothes or camping essentials.
MotoGP bikes use the best that technology has to offer along with innovations that help riders stay safe throughout the race while travelling at speeds of 200 mph or more. A normal street bike has little to show against its more powerful cousin, but they are often more fuel efficient, easier to ride, and they’re a lot cheaper too!