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Big bikes make you lazy

Shubhabrata Marmar  /
28 Jan 2016

I've been riding a slew of big, fast motorcycles and they're horrible. For your riding skills, that is. I thought I'd take a moment out of the gloating to warn you.

Big machines are incredible fun. Their power is intense. The other range of abilities needed to harness the power makes the experience richer and more memorable too. Best of all, big power takes the stress out of many things and makes things simpler.

My favourite example is riding 1,000km to Bangalore on Sarfera, my KTM 200 Duke and later on Ferine, my Triumph Street Triple. Both completed the journey in about 12 hours and I cruised at roughly the same indicated speed for the trip. Obviously, average speeds were nearly identical too. But at, 120kmph, say, the 200 is nearly maxxed out while the 675 is sitting in the meat of its torque, unstressed and far from its performance envelope. The reduction in stress from that alone is astonishing. It is the reason why a 165PS tourer in heavily-regulated Europe makes complete sense.


But here's the interesting bit. Big bikes make you lazy.

Older riders (yes, older even than me) tell you that two-stroke riders, especially the ones who knew how to go fast, were superb riders. This is true. That narrow powerband of the two-stroke and much less advanced chassis and tyres made them hard to ride fast. Riders had to be skilled, pay attention and stay focussed to extract performance. They couldn't be lazy. You got lazy and forgot one gear change and you'd be out of grunt and lolling about, hoping for the revs to climb back into the zone.

KTM 390 Duke track test (1)

In a similar way, big bikes are more capable than smaller ones, so speed is easy to find. And that ease can make you lazy.

Just the other day, I found myself falling repeatedly out of the 390 Duke's sweet spot. Because the previous days were spent on much bigger machines whose extraordinary torque meant that I could just roll the gas on blindly and find speed. Similarly, I found myself in many places where I would normally have downshifted earlier on, I hadn't and was caught frantically downshifting to find a better place in the revs for the next part of the ride. I'd gotten sloppy!


Now, if you don't have a big bike, no sweat, focus on riding well. If you do have a big bike, or many, you might find it useful to invest in a smaller one. Something just fast enough to keep you happy. Riding it well will need work and sharpen up your skills as well as concentration.

Yes, two bikes is better than one!

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