See that bike above? That used to be mine. It’s a Yamaha TRX, and it’s a sort of fake Japanese Ducati (check out the trellis frame) with a 270-degree crank in its parallel twin, designed to mimic the characteristics of a V engine. It serves up around 80bhp, which in the motorcycle world isn’t a whole lot. And yet, it’s still a stupidly quick bike.
It accelerates faster than a 991 Porsche 911 Carrera S, but it cost me a measly £1000. If you want to go this quickly in a car, you’d have to spend a hell of a lot more. And don’t forget, as you’re going that fast while outside, the sensation of speed is even greater. I used to love the scenery blurring around me while countless flies experienced explosive oblivion on the visor of my Arai Viper crash helmet.
The reason why bikes are so quick leads me neatly on to my next point…
With me on board, the weight of my old TRX was around 270kg (190kg was the weight of the bike). That gives an impressive power-to-weight ratio of around 300bhp/tonne. But that’s nothing compared to something like Ducati’s new 1199 Superleggera. Here’s a bike that weighs 166kg and has 200bhp, so once you factor in a rider and do the maths, you get 826bhp/tonne.
To put that in context, an Italian exotic of the four-wheeled variety - the LaFerrari - manages 707bhp/tonne, and that’s before you bring the weight of a human into the equation.
Even the most pared-back, basic sports cars can’t compete with motorbikes for pure involvement. After all, on a motorbike, you’re using your own body weight to steer the thing.
You’ll never be able to corner as quickly as a car when the contact patch of each tyre is so small, but who cares? Riding a bike fast is a much more active, intense experience, not to mention much more difficult. That last bit might sound like a criticism, but it’s not; it means that when you nail a set of corners, you feel incredibly satisfied.
I’m not just talking about the ‘nod’ with bikers, there’s a real sense of community in the bike world where people want to chat to you and look out for you. You get that with the petrolhead community, of course, but it’s harder to come by when you’re not at your local meet or at an event. On every nice Saturday or Sunday afternoon, friendly bikers are everywhere.
I’ve experienced the ‘looking out for you’ thing first-hand, too. After crashing once (my own fault) several bikers stopped to make sure that I was OK, and one even stuck around until the ambulance came, and insisted on exchanging contact details with my riding buddy so he could check up on my condition later in the day.
Commuting to work is usually something you do on your own, so it’s a bit of a waste to have all that cumbersome metal around you when you’re sitting in traffic. Instead, you could be on a bike, being able to filter (or ‘lane-split’) between all the traffic and get to your destination much faster. Oh, and if the destination is a busy city centre, you’ll have a much easier time trying to find a space for your bike.
With CT’s office slap bang in the middle of London, I wouldn’t dream of driving in to work; it’d take me three hours (as opposed to one on public transport), I’d get slapped with an £11.50 congestion charge every day and I’d have nowhere to park upon arrival. However, if I was still riding, I just might saddle up and take the bike in every now and then.
It’s not all sweetness and light when it comes to bikes. You have absolutely no weather protection, so when it rains, you’re in for a pretty miserable experience. Oh, and when the weather is good, you’ll cook in your leathers, unless you’re happy to wear shorts and a T-shirt at which point you risk leaving your skin at the mercy of the tarmac. Which I wouldn’t recommend.
On the subject of clothing, all the protective gear takes time to get on and off, and as a result, there’s not really any such thing as a ‘quick ride’ as there is with a ‘quick drive’. And if you’re short on time, you might end up deciding not to ride at all.
I also don’t get excited about the bikes themselves in the same way I do about cars. There’s something about the shapes of cars I love, from big, bulky super estates to curvaceous two-seater sports cars.
Most importantly, there’s the whole safety thing. Given that you’re riding something which can’t stay up of its own accord, you have to accept that at some point you’re going to fall off, whether it’s of your own doing or the fault of some inattentive idiot that didn’t see you. I’ve fallen off, and everyone I’ve ever ridden with has crashed at least once.
I got to the point where I wasn’t willing to accept the risk, which is why I find myself in this current hiatus from bikes. Will I ride again? Never say never. But if you’re a biker, you have my undying respect.