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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Aerodynamics and Reality – MD Readers Respond, Part 2

In the Part 2 of Aerodynamics and Reality, we continue to share our readers’ opinions regarding riding in a more upright seating position. The responses can be found here.

  • Go for a long ride into a strong wind, 8 hour ride. You will be wishing you were out of the wind. Also, sitting upright puts more pressure on the butt which brings on the horrible numb butt thing. I’ve a ducati ds1000ss which probably looks like torture to most people but not so, these are great for long rides, 4 hours before the sore butt sets in and a short rest takes care of that. Having low set footrests results in less ground clearance which will not help the wider bikes. Have a look at the motogp machines, the footrests are way up to allow more lean. Also the wide bars have a detrimental effect on streamlining, which is just inefficient, more fuel used, less speed. Also the seating position effects attitude, on the Ducati I feel like a hungry shark amongst the mullet, alert always and never a dull moment. Sitting upright, with your head moving side to side, forwards and backwards is a torture on a long ride. High fairings seem to mostly cause turbulence. Having a low riding position and being held up by the wind is great for me, I say increase the speed limit!
  • feel this subject is one of those,”never going to be perfect” things in life. When I rode motocross, those big, wide upright bars were great. Slower speeds, terrain that was never the best, all made for the control of upright position,(usually not on the seat), the one that got it done. Enduro required a very similar stance but the bars were narrow to handle the woods,(east coast). A little more muscle was needed but it was better than a tree reaching out and grabbing you. Clip-ons would never be considered for either situation. Riding a “standard” or “cruiser” is great for commuting and sightseeing in the country. A nice pace, no need for any real speed, and the wife loves looking around in Amish country. Always somewhere to stop if the “tush” gets a little tender. Here is the kicker. Every year, a group of us ridin buddies head down to VIR for the races. We start on interstate from the east coast to get to West Virginia. A day spent riding all sorts of twisties and hills gets us to the races feeling satisfied. Getting down on the tank seems to help those tight turns because of lowering the center of gravity. Try it on a sport bike. You can actually feel it. We ride back along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive where at Front Royal, VA it’s back to the interstate and home. Usually 1200-1400 miles in 3-4 days. We do this all on sportbike/race replicas with some sling over saddlebags. Love the power and protection of being tucked in on the interstates. Love the handling/braking in the twisties. I disagree with visability problems,(mirrors depending on bike). One always has to be looking. The West Virginia part keeps one so busy fatique/aches do not appear to be a problem for us. Skyline Drive at 35mph can get a little painful but hey, there’s plenty of areas to view the skyline. We are all in our early fifties. I feel that as a human being, I am the adaptable part of the equation. It really is whatever makes ya happy and is it available.
  • I grew up on dirt bikes, as did almost all of my friends and family. The problem is that none of my friends ride on the street with me because of the uncomfortable “crouched” position required to get a decent performing bike, and the extreme heft of anything (affordable) with an upright riding position. Cruisers are out of the question for any of these performance junkies too, even for long trips.
    If only the manufacturers would give us the high end components (read: better SUSPENSION) and LIGHT WEIGHT of the sportbikes in their Z1000’s, FZ1’s, SV650’s, 919’s, Speed Triple, ect, we’d be getting somewhere… Some have the right idea, like the KTM Superduke and Duke690, MV’s Brutale, ect. But they are just too expensive! I mean TEN GRAND for a SINGLE in the 690 Duke?! The 110hp cbr600rr doesn’t sound so bad anymore…
    Hopefully somebody gets it right soon, because I know a lot of people young and old who would join the street ranks with me if they could find the right bike.
    It begs the question, how many more are out there waiting?
  • [Still trying to recuperate from a serious broken fibula and trying to keep away from the bike (LC4SM to be exact)] I still feel that SM is actually the safest way to go. you get good ergonomics (OK, OK… KTM makes us all feel like Parkinson’s), you get good suspension, great grip. no care about how large the tank is or how good you can lean over it. no care about a scratched fairing and how bad it looks if you drop the bike (scratches and mud look cool on these bikes). looking at the SS market today the average user spends most of his time (let’s all admit) in the city or travelling from one starbucks to another. Let’s face it: our non-riding friends are not expendable and we try to live on their terms. So why not prefer a bike that you can squeeze in here and there to park? Or even better, in countries where bikes are not so bound by rules (such as using the emergency lane on the congested hiway, or using the pavement sometimes to park) SM and naked give you every sort of ease. What’s the use of getting SS bikes if you’re gonna keep squeezing that left hand all down the boulevard. besides those behemoths are too fat to filter through cars…
  • Dead on correct. After riding street and track, it was plainly evident riding positions that are suited for the tack, do not work on the street. If you want superior visibility, awareness, bar leverage, agility, comfort, control, along with superbike punch, handling, brakes, chassis, wheels, etc. then the answer is simple. Aprilia Tuono! A Mille with body work stripped off and a higher handlebar. By far, the best and most versatile streetbike I have ever owned. Rather feels like a motard on steroids.
  • “As a former dirt bike racer, I can’t help but think that most riders feel a greater sense of control sitting upright on a motorcycle.”
    That is my opinion, exactly. Especially in the tight twisties, and back roads that may be in a bit of disrepair. I ride a Ducati Multistrada, I find it to be the most fantastic sport travel bike. Being so comfortable to ride, and agile in the turns, you can just eat up the backroad miles. I find it easy to log long days, and waking up, itching to get on the road early the next morning.
    I am interested in riding the new KTM RC8, when I saw the reviews that said the ergonomics were sport touring like, that perked up my ears………..sounds like an interesting machine.
  • The answer ..strictly personal .. but an updated ZRX1200. It could use a bit more fairing wind protection and a diet to get rid of some of the pork, but a great motorcycle for the everyday riding in the mountains of CO. At 68, I want to enjoy my motorcycle riding in the mountains we and therefore need the MOTOR to pass that line of 3 cars and a pick-up pulling a horse trailer at 45mph struggling up the mountain. Passing that group in one pass normally finishes with something close to 120+mph showing on the clock and that is relatively normal pass during the summer. I sold my ZX-11 due to the crouching ergonomics but love the ZRX. I tend to ride 20+ mph above the speed limits and put on 300+ mile days regularly. Hate Interstates and love the twisties.
  • How about a 600 or 1000cc bike built with the ergonomics of the new 250R? Give folks the look and the comfort at the same time.
  • Looks like I am the odd one out here- I have a Yamaha YZF600R, the old bike. There is always someone faster-, right Rossi. So it comes down to how you use the bike. For me 43,000 + miles on a sport bike. I love this bike for the long haul (great wind protection) and then when you get there- rip up the corners. I was passed by a super motard on the track at VIR- but then he was passed by a 10 yr old on a 125! Ride your own bike and enjoy:) It was your magazines articles that got me into my bike in the first place- I love it thank you.
  • I think there is a tremendous market for a comfortable bike with good wind protection, suspension components, power and light weight. My ideal bike would be something like the Suzuki GSXR 750 with upright bars, lower pegs, factory hard bags, heated grips and stay under 400 pounds. Don’t cheapen the suspension or “retune for mid range”. I am 67 and currently ride a 2002 Honda VFR800 but I would be all over a GSXR 750T (touring) as I just described.
  • Great topic!! I’m 45 and ride a Honda VFR 800 with Heli bars. I do a lot of highway and feel it is the best compromise. I sit up a little and have a good windshield 80+ mph. I love the ZRX, FZ1 and Bandit but with all the wind on the highway it would kill me. The true sport tourer would put me too far away from sport so this fits the bill. No if they could only build one that got 50mpg I would have 2 in my garage.
  • I agree with the overwhelming consensus here, as usual. Here in Southern California everyone is obsessed with what is “fastest”, usually one of two ways. They either have the suction cup mohawks and terrify drivers by popping wheelies, or lane splitting too fast (often at the same time) or they are the guys who only ride to Palomar and back on weekends so they can gum up their tires and scrape their pucks. The universally pooh-pooh anything comfortable or over 2years old. I thought that the do it all middleweight bikes like my Hawk GT were thing of the past; bikes that can tour, commute comfortably, or go to track days. Everyone who rides that bike feels like they can’t do wrong, it is so easy to ride. I have never had any problems keeping pace with anyone at a sane (for the street) pace, but I never have back or wrist problems either. The older I get, the more I appreciate the smaller more universal bikes. I have a Bandit and VFR 400 too. There is hope, though, bikes like the GSX 650, Street Triple, SV, and Monster 695 give me hope that there are people know the value of these sensible bikes which are often more fun to ride since their capabilities are accessible to almost anyone at street speeds. I just hope people pick up on them, not many bought the Hawks 20 years ago, maybe the public is ready now.
  • I agree with your position on naked and upright i.e. “Standards”. I’m sixty-one, and I ride an ST1300. It’s the first dressed, non-UJM I’ve owned, and good as it is, almost everything wrong with it is traceable to the fairing. That said, I’m putting my money were my mouth is. I have a deposit in with my dealer against the first 2009 CB1100F to pass through his door.
  • I have, on and off, read your website since 2003. As a design professional in the motorcycle industry (ex of XXXXXX, currently the President of XXXXXX Motorcycle Design in Spain) I found your piece on April 2nd of particular interest, so I felt compelled to write. Your conclusions, that aerodynamic fairings do little to support fast street riding, are in fact 100% correct, and it is nice to finally see some common sense from a journalist / enthusiast rather than merely recycling old myths and baseless declarations that have floated around for years.
    Modern motorcycles, from SuperMotards to Super Sport, to most Japanese Cruisers employ, as you correctly said, such marvelous suspension, materials, electronic and engine technology as to completely overwhelm the real world needs and skills of 95% of motorcyclists anywhere. As any honest biker knows, the limits of the man are far greater than the limits of the machine, and except for the few who actually race or professional road testers (Mostly ex-racers), nearly every sports bike is more a tool for show than to fulfill the actual rider’s skill envelope. The result is that with so much sheer power on tap, the fairing’s function has lessened in proportion to riding position, as so much surplus power is available to punch through the air at the relatively low speeds that fast road riding demands (say, under 150km/h). One only has to look at the shrinking overall dimensions and surface area of, say, the Yamaha R6 since the first version in 1999, to see that while power output has steadily increased by nearly 45%, the screen and wind protection have been sharply reduced with each new generation. By contrast, the rider sits further and further forward, and the handlebars are less inclined and somewhat “flatter” in order to give the rider more leverage. The resulting machine is far less aerodynamic than it used to be, but acceleration and top speed have not suffered, as a result of the all important improvement in power to weight.
    As for the aerodynamic “aids” that now appear on motorcycles such as the aforementioned R6, the wings, winglets, intakes and other plastic bits that press releases assure are all in the name of improving aerodynamic efficiency, the tragic reality is that it is all for show. Motorcycle’s are inherently aerodynamic disasters, because they are made up of so many broken surfaces and an uncontrollable large component (us, the riders) that ruin any attempt to control air flow, air pressure, or maintain a clean wake, that the best we can do is limit frontal area, control internal airflow as much as possible, and not worry about what happens after the front fairing ends. The amount of turbulence caused by the rotating front wheel virtually eliminates the need for a belly pan or fairing lower in real world conditions, at anything except very high speed, straight line runs. If there is any doubt about this, then look at MotoGP and witness the same variety of fairing designs, from the traditional, slippery Ducati (which, incidentally, boasts no greater straightaway top speeds this year than Nicky Hayden’s Honda’s heavily cut down fairings) to the sharp, angular (not so aerodynamically pure) shapes of the Kawasaki. I had the great privilage to work on the 2003 Yamaha M1, where I learned that with 4 stroke power, the problem of too much fairing became not air penetration (slicing through as neatly as possible to eliminate drag components), but rather to control areas of contrasting air pressure in the turns when the bikes were leaned over. Notice that around that time (2003) we all started drilling holes in the side panels of Grand Prix 125, 250 and even some 500cc machines. The problem (at Yamaha at least) was cured by reducing fairing, and total lap times went up.
    Making a perfectly aerodynamic motorcycle is very very easy. BMW, NSU and MotoGuzzi did this 60 years ago with streamliners that enclosed the whole machine, enabling NSU to set world records in Bonneville with a lowly 250cc single (in the area of 200mp/h!). In the modern age, our task is to make bikes that sell by virtue of qualities that make each and every ride safer, and “faster”. Contrary to conventional street wisdom, the designer’s role is not to make the street bike better by assembling established components, but to understand the total science of the machine (handling, technology, manufacturing costs, ease of use, durability, and yes, performance) and finding the best compromise. Fairing design is, alas, pretty much an emotional pursuit driven by market trends and a few talented people worldwide. I quote wikipedia
    “Due to the highly emotive and often symbolic nature of motorcycles as social and cultural instruments, the practice of designing one has now become just as much an exercise in intuitive human psychology as rendering the relevant observations into metal and plastic.”
    I hope you find this interesting. I look forward to reading your site comments.
  • I have long believed that attributes that make a great race track bike don’t necessarily translate into a great street bike. While I am impressed with and desire the latest technology, I don’t think that race bike ergonomics, power delivery, and fairing protection is ideal for the street. Too bad manufacturers can’t take what they’ve learned from the race track and offer it in reasonable street focused bikes.
  • And besides, when you get to your destination, your back/arms/wrists aren’t convulsing in pain.
  • I’ve always been an ardent fan of the upright riding position, which probably stems from the fact that my first experience on two wheels was on a Schwinn, the ultimate. My first motorized experience was on a ten-year-old BSA Catalina way back in 1968. Since then my bikes have all been standards. Sport bikes, while fun, encourage a riding position which can be excruciating after a short while, esp. at my age, though I have to admit I do enjoy riding them. The foot-forward cruiser position never inspired much confidence, and I don’t much like bouncing along on my tailbone, so I eschew them entirely. Comfort, control, confidence: Give me a Standard every time.
  • Seems to me, there’s a traditional abundance of “race replica” recreational hardware with features and potential far beyond the practical utility or grasp of consumers. We are prey for the marketing exploits of the makers.
    I’d venture to say there aren’t many of us mortals who can “out-ride” the low end of today’s sporting hardware, upright or prone.
    How many of us haven’t followed a race replica rider performing race acrobatics, while we –more elegantly– swept through the twisties in an upright position, at the same speed?
    Then again, how many of us haven’t seen a skilled race replica rider carve a corner –on the inside of the roll axis– (i.e. hangin off) with riding acumen we hope someday to achieve, notwithstanding arguments of street sanity?
    It’s hard to argue the aerodynamic practicality of prone position riding, but since the rider is a big part of the mass of a laden bike, where the human mass is positioned relative to the bike’s roll axis, does affect control. Whether the rider benefits from this difference is another matter.
    My experience transitioning from upright to prone ergos is that more complex body positioning effort and more sensitive (un-weighted) steering is required to maintain or exceed cornering speeds, which were achieved more naturally in an upright position.
    But, as I get older, I question whether these bolder exploits shouldn’t be confined to track environments.
  • I have always ridden naked bikes not just because I prefer the brutish looks of bikes like the Monster and Speed Triple (my current scoot), but because I prefer the ergonomics. Not only are nakeds more comfortable, but I find the upright seating position and wider handlebars allow for greater leverage and body english allowing me to hustle the bike through twisties with more confidence and speed than the more powerful sportbikes I’ve sampled. If wind protection is a must for the pansies out there, I’ve ridden an older model R1200S and a Bandit 1200 with bikini fairings that provide great protection from the wind while offering comfortable ergos. The laws of physics do not require torture rack positioning at sub 120 mph speeds or especially street-safe speeds.
  • Quick background, my name is XXXXX XXXXXX and I race road bikes and ride supermoto during the off season to train.
    There are two different aspects when comparing and considering the “supermoto” or “MX” style of riding to “road race style”
    First, the bike, a road race bike has a shorter wheel base and lower center of gravity and of course much shorter suspension travel.
    Supermoto/MX have a longer wheel base, sit much higher and of course have a larger area for suspension travel.
    Road Race bikes typically weight on average between 360 to 400lbs depending on displacement and the supermoto’s usually come be between 280 and 300…some a little more and some a little less.
    Supermoto has a greater area of clearance and because of the weight difference are usually pushed under the rider so the rider sits on top VS road racing where the center of gravity and clearance is much lower so the rider needs to “hang off” and use their body to steer the bike allowing the greatest amount of contact patch.
    Supermotos are usually a 100mph tops and are designed for tight courses VS a road bike which is made for high speed corners. Riding supermoto style on a road bike works for slower turns (tight turns) however, the suspension travel of a supermoto doesn’t work quite as well in high speed turns because of the suspension travel (harmonics lead to greater movement hence they are not as stable as a road bike). Reason is at very high speeds the weight/suspension travel loading can be difficult to manage hence, why supermoto courses are tight courses and road racing course have a high speed design.
    For the street, I ride supermoto and I find that I do not have to ride as fast to have fun. Road race or “sportbikes” can be fun on the street but to realize their full potential properly and safely they really need to be unleashed on the track.
    In my experience, the combination of both will teach riders both styles and provide a better understanding on how the body positioning plays part when riding a motorcycle.
  • I agree with you about faired sport bikes and going fast. I am a former roadracer and supermoto racer that now rides an SV1000 naked with MX bars which are even taller than stock. I feel much more comfortable while riding, both cruising and going fast, in this position. The wider MX bars give me more leverage and control than narrow clip-ons and a much more comfortable stance as well. For most street riding, the speeds are not close to high enough to get any advantage from a fairing or tucked position. And I have yet to do a track day with the SV, but I feel confident that I can more than hold my own against full sport bikes. As an added benefit, wheelies are easier too.
  • From what I understand aerodynamics in racing are regulated to keep the bikes slow. Back long ago when MV, Norton, and others still raced, manufactures designed the bikes to have correct aerodynamics. Racing officials thought ( correctly or incorrectly ) that this trend was making the bikes to fast and therefore too dangerous. Aerodynamics do make a difference, an measurable difference. In the salt flats more than one small engine (one account of an 750cc) vehicle with extremely modified aerodynamics have made records, or just been plain fast.
    Today’s sportbike’s fairings are designed to keep some wind of f the rider, create a nice pocket at high speeds, and most of all – make the bike look good. I think most fairings are only useful at high speeds ( over most highway/freeway speed limits ), this isn’t a bad thing though, I enjoy my “nice” air when cruising at 85mph. I’m not the only one either, on my commute, and rides high speed “cruising” is what we do.
  • ABSOLUTELY! Not only do I feel I have more control, I also believe the sensations of motion and speed are stronger. Nothing beats bikes like the Hypermotard (or even my dirtbike around the neighborhood) for the “fun factor.” Speeds feel faster, acceleration feels stronger, and I get my fun at (or closer to) legal speeds while being naturaly restricted to a top speed that won’t blow me off the bike. But almost all of the bikes in this segment are ugly, heavy pigs with detuned engines and soggy street oriented suspension.
    Why is the Z1000 so much heavier than a ZX10 if there is so much less to it?
    Why does Yamaha’s Fz1 weigh so much? It even has the same motor as the R1, albeit “neutered for torque.” obviously it’s not an ancient lump weighing it down.
    Why don’t they cut some weight from the biggest butt on the block, suzuki’s b-king? Might as well get a goldwing if you want that fatty.
    Ducati got it right with their hypermotard, but it costs more that the newest literbikes, and it is underpowered in comparison, even if it has decent low end torque.
    Actually, the new CBR1000RR would probably feel pretty sweet with a set of taller and wider bars, but I’m sure I’d foul my knuckles on the fairing turning it to full-lock…
    Enough of my rambling rant, the point is I’d be a happy rider if I had a good veriety of hypermotard style bikes to choose from with low weight and cost, but quality suspension and brakes. It would be nice if they weren’t ugly as sin too.
    Until then I guess I’ll keep aimlessly wandering dealerships while I’m saving up for the ducati hyper.
  • I agree with your assessment, but the position you gain on a sport bike is a natural position your body takes when going fast on two wheels. The next time you see a kid in your neighborhood riding a bike, ask him/her to go fast. The first thing they will do is tuck down/ lower their head and pedal as fast as they can. I don’t think most children understand aerodynamics or the concept of what they are doing, but they do it.
    I have spent conciderbale amount of time on two bikes a 06 Triumph Bonneville and a BMW F800st. I have found the bolt upright seating position on the Bonneville to be great when it comes to comfort and control but the lack of wind protection will wear me out quickly. The BMW allows me to ride all day and when needed to let me get tucked in behind the fairing and attack the local twisties. I will mention that the F800st does have a handle bar and not clip ons like normal sport bikes.
    Lastly I recently rode a Ducati 848 and was very disappointed! I found that bike to be painful when riding it. I am sure on a track that this is a great bike, but on the street I found it to be a torture rack.
    So for me, I have found the in between position of a sport touring bike to be the best. I get the all day comfort, better control and wind protection but not the wind blast of a naked and the pain from clip ons.
  • I agree that it is much easier to ride in an upright riding position. It is also much more comfortable, and I find it more exciting to boot. Problem is, the high performance motorcycles with performance parts and engines are either sportbikes or cost a fortune. Give me the EXACT same weight and performance as the new cbr1000rr, and don’t make the suspension soggy and springy budget crap and I’m all in.
    Oh, and let me slide little closer to the front too. I love sportbikes I just wish there were more LIGHTWEIGHT choices in the market. R1 weight in the FZ1. Again, I’d scoop it right up. Let’s see who agrees.
  • Yes, an upright sport bike, sounds great to me. I like the upright position, and also like the sport bike handling, why can’t the two be combined? I would like to have a cruiser that handles, performs, brakes like a sport bike. That’s why I don’t own a harley. But I’m still searching, motards are great, just need a luggage rack, for commuting.
  • Disagree, I’m afraid. While it may not be necessary for steering control, given the power output of today’s litre-bikes, on those machines at least this kind of riding position assists in keeping weight over the front, to aid prevention of wheelies (which, as we know, often look impressive, but do nothing to help forward progess).
  • I totaly agree with the point you made about not needing a sports/faired bike to go fast, I have a CB900F and ive been fast on it before (240kph) but pesonally i prefer the wind directly on me. i find that fairing makes turbulence – my dad owns a GTR1400 that i rode the other day, there was a bit of buffeting. i also have a XR250 and its fun to go fast through the twisties also with my brothers ktm lc4 640. I think the racing/faired bike is more of an image thing than about going fast.
  • Absolutely, only above extended triple digit speeds is the seating position of the current sport bikes effective for anything but ego. Since I do not go to the track and need a valid drivers license to commute; this has little value to me.
    Give me a naked bike and the option to customize with a different bar bend and/or sweep any day!
  • I have a 06 1200R Sportster I have installed a “Speedscreen”. This has made a big difference in comfort at higher speeds. I think it’s very important to change the flow of air around the rider. I have a new helmet that helps too, Shoei X-11.
  • I commute and run errands on the motorcycle. Upright-ish and with a cafe fairing. The small fairing improves the gas mileage by about 10% in most riding and far more than that on the freeway. Naked bikes have horrible drag coefficients and simply waste huge amounts of energy. I’m not attracted to full-plastic sport bikes, but I appreciate some effort to make the bike more aerodynamically efficient.
  • First the Aeros….They’re not important to go 50 to 80 mph except for rider comfort and most windshields that will do that are a wash when it comes to drag because the rider usually has as much frontal area as the windshield itself. Adding something like a Rifle fairing or a curvy sport shield may even give a slight reduction in drag coefficient.
    The standard upright position is vastly superior for most street riding. It’s easier on the spine, back muscles, wrists, forearms and ankles. It also affords a much better (or at least easier) 360 deg. situational awareness because ones head can swivel more easily and the mirrors on standard types (even sporty bikes like FZ1s and Bandits) usually give the rider a better view of traffic behind and not as good a view of the riders elbows and shoulders. The riders head is also usually significantly higher allowing longer sightlines and thus providing more time to anticipate developing situations.
    Street legal Super-Motos have all this and a sportbike power to weight ratio but have little wind protection, a CG that is unnecessarily high for a mostly on-road bike and the long travel suspension, while it soaks up bumps, also makes huge geometry changes on braking and acceleration.
    My personal opinion is that the near ideal machine for all-around conditions is a mid size to liter size twin with upright ergos. I personally want a driveshaft or belt because after 37 years of riding motorcycles I can’t find one real good argument for a chain on an everyday bike. I may have found my ultimate personal street bike in the BMW F800. I just have to decide which flavor.
  • Aerodynamics play a major role for those people that don’t only ride around the block on their bikes.
    It is not a big surprise why BMW’s are (or have been) so much beloved in the LDRider community. The wind protection offered in combination with their comfortable seating position (= upright) makes clocking miles rather easy. So far the BMW R1100RT that I once owned did provide the best protection against the elements (read rain). Even in heavy downpoor I could stay completely dry. It’s a shame that other manufacturers don’t provide this combination.
    As to your ABS comment on Honda. It’s a shame that Honda on one side tries to offer more bikes with ABS (which should be standard in my opinion). However the stance that Honda takes on some of those bikes (especially the GoldWing) is completely contradictionary to putting safety on a higher importance. The fact that people have to buy pretty much all other options (except the Air Bag) makes this a show case of corporate profits before customer safety. Unless Honda is changing those strategies they just proove that rider safety is non of their real priorities.
  • I agree most track days are small courses and they really offer no advantage to a fairing motorcycle. The only advantage I see is the standard clip on handlebars as they offer easier high speed corner control which i see as a plus. That being said I have an xb12ss naked and have put clubmanns on it and the control is just as good. The plus when I drop her no fairing costs that alone is worth it.
  • I can understand where you are going with this. I’m 6’2″ and ride an 06′ 636 and I’m actually able to sit straight up on it if I want. Personally I like the ergos on sportbikes when compared with other styles be them standars like an SV and a whole lot more than (couches) cruisers. I’m not really into the look of naked bikes either but hey, to each their own. Having friends that are closer to 5′ and seeing them on my bike makes sense to your observation though. I seen my buddy practically laying on the tank the whole time he was on it and I realize that for him, they don’t make sense unless he would find himself on the track.
  • Someone needs to explain this to the guy’s I smoke in the twisties on crotch rockets while riding my 950 adventure.
  • While I agree with you that riders used to dirt bikes and off road racing will be more comfortable with that type of seating position, the old time sport bike guys will probably like a more sport bike oriented position. Not extreme mind you, more like a BMW r1200s, a Honda VFR, or a mid ’90s Ducati Supersport. Being one of the old time sport bike guys myself, riding a Multistrada S felt like a foreign language trying to ride it fast. And as you know, this is a really good handling bike. It would just take a while to feel at home with it.

    The real downside to upright bikes like the SM’s is that the trip to the twisties is almost as tedious, (but in a different way), as a sport bike.

  • I recently sold my 93 Katana 750. When I had it , I often asked myself if the fairing helped when riding in normal traffic. Not really, only at race track speeds. I also got tired of tearing the plastic off whenever I wanted to work on it. A fairing can be a canvas for some killer art work but hardly has any practicality in the real world. We need a return to the standard bikes (naked bikes) with great gas mileage for today’s high gas prices. Your web site is one of my favorites…
  • Well, this is why I will always have a standard/naked bike in the garage… I can burn down the local backroads at any speed I like, humiliate most squids on the latest sport bikes if the mood strikes me, and be comfortable riding all day long on my ZRX-1200. My cousin often follows close behind on his R 1150 GS BMW with 17″ wheels and sport rubber, and good friends on Tuono’s, Bandit’s, Z1000’s are usually along as well. And in the garage, is a GSXR for track day duties, as well as an SV 650… because I try to ride with some restraint on the street. What is amazing is how slowly the standard/ naked bike idea is taking hold over here. In Europe, they are quite popular. Perhaps the Supermoto craze will help.
  • I’m 54 and still ride a dirtbike at a decent pace so I just naturally feel more comfortable in the upright position.
  • Not only do I feel more in control in a motard/adventure bike/dirt bike (upright) position, but my ability to see well down the road – and to be seen by other drivers – is much enhanced over the that of riders in either a crotch-rocket crouch or a way-down-low feet-forward reclining cruiser position.
  • Dirck, stop sniffing the castor bean oil and listen up for a minute. I think you are missing several important points regarding body position and its contribution to rider control.

    One point is the riders weight is a significant percentage of the total weight. Lowering the roll center by body position, (using Honda Speak ‘centering the mass’) greatly contributes to the ease at which a bike can be transitioned from side to side. It can increase or decrease stability in a corner also.

    Another related contribution is fore and aft weighting of the bike by moving the riders position. This adds or subtracts from available traction and can aid the rider in entering or exiting a corner.

    You are correct in describing the contribution of style in bike design and I do agree that an upright position can help provide leverage on the bars when compared to a race tuck position. I think careful attention to setup can mitigate that however.

    Of all motorcycle design, I think Aprilia has done the best job of the more upright position. Aerodynamic improvements to bikes from racing have greatly aided todays rider compared to the boat anchors we used to ride. My Ducati 999S is very stable in strong cross winds, and comparing it to the upright position on my KTM 250 or my old skool 1981 (bought it brand new) Kawasaki KZ1000J is laughable.

    Finally I would disagree with your statement that a supermoto is fast. Willow Springs Raceway’s turn 8 is scary fast, as in “6th gear flat out crack the throttle to turn in fast” not 4th gear 4 stroke 450cc supermoto at the Grange fast.

    Here on the central coast of the Golden State where I live and play, there are roads my Ducati is supreme and there are roads the motards rule.

    Different strokes for different folks, but for a trip to Big Sur I’ll take Il Nero, my Ducati.

  • As a rider who grew up on H1’s and CB 750’s with their ergonomically (up)right riding position,I could’t agree more! At least in sane ( speeds this is a superior riding position regarding traffic overview and bike control. It is also the correct riding posture regarding our back and neck and wrists,a subject which becomes more and more clearly as ones body ages… Come to think of it,I meet a fairly high number of sportbikers resting their left elbow on the gas tank…..resting their neck and wrist. But let the riders themselves choose,give us naked bikes with top of the shelf components,and mature riders “in the know” will Buy them simply because og the comfort and consequently joy they provide while riding them!
  • You could not be more correct. I can easily go faster on my stock XR650L, with knobbies no less, than faster riders on sport bikes. Just as long as the road is tight enough so they can not use their horsepower advantage. With 25 more horsepower as I had on the Husqvarna NOX I owned for a while – I’m gone with even sliding the corners. I guess it’s all those years racing Xcountry. I’m much slower on my 900SS by comparison.
  • I agree with you about the leaned over ergos on most sport bikes being a little overkill for typical street riding. I feel that the ergos on my ’06 Honda VFR are just about perfect – it has a full faring with slightly leaned over, relaxed ergos that are all-day comfortable (a nice compromise between the extreme ergos on most sports bikes, and bolt upright seating which can get a bit tiring at highway speeds). IMHO, it’s the perfect bike for old fat guys (like me) who want the sport bike look, but don’t have money in the budget for a chiropractor. Now if Honda will just upgrade the VFR to the V5 1000 cc I keep hearing about – a bit more torque and hp to haul my slightly oversized butt around….
  • For the street, I think you’re right about aerodynamics, street bikes, and reality. On daily ridden roads, aerodynamics don’t mean as much as they do on a race track. How is that? On speeds less than 75 mph or so, aero’s don’t account for as much of a HUGE gain as a lot of people think they do. Sure, aerodynamics DO have an affect, but it’s all about the purpose of those aerodynamics. On a race track you’re worried about downforce, high pressure, low pressure, or just getting the wind off the rider and around the bike as smooth as possible. But on the street, all of those mean very little. On the highway the main goal is to get air off of you so it’s not so damned windy and/or loud (also for mileage). On back roads you’re talking about sub-50 mph riding. Now THAT type of riding is where I think you’re spot on that it has taken the introduction ,and growth of, supermotos in the industry to really hit home the notion that aerodynamics may not be as big of a deal for daily riden bikes as previously thought.

    I’ve only been riding for 4 years and I’m almost ready to sell my viffer and buy a more naked bike for daily fun and commuting. Too bad there aren’t any V4 nakeds out there. I just can’t seem to get enough of the pull and the sound of that V4!

  • I tried the sport bike position and my 67 year old body said “CHARLIE HORSE” Besides, girls in convertibles look more interesting and then everything is upright.
  • As an old guy (51) who does a occasional track day every now and then on my R1 at a track like Sears Point, I must admit that when a fellow rider blows by me on a motard, I’m little jealous. Not because he’s faster but because he’s not working as hard as I am. More leverage along with less weight and less horsepower allows him to dive deeper in the turns and carry more speed. At Laguna Seca or Thunder Hill things might be different. I have a 2008 KLR (I plan to motard) that I can hustle though tight turns faster than the R1 but nothing like the R1 for the high speed stuff. For comfort a ST1300 takes care of my touring needs. If you know of one bike that will do it all let me know and maybe I could get a car in my garage.
  • My thoughts, I have ridden sport bike my entire thirty one years of riding. I am an ex club road racer. I love to go fast! I have just recently switched from sport bikes to a BMW R1200RT. All I can say is WOW! This bike can carve up a canyon road at ninety five percent the speed of a sport bike, while sitting upright and providing wind protection and comfort that no sportbike can approach. I arrive home after ridding three hundred miles of winding roads and feel like I can go again. Don’t even get me started on how much better this bike is two up.
  • I couldn’t agree with you more. 8 years ago I was riding a ‘99 Ducati SS, which has ergonomics that are only marginally better than a 916. I sold that bike after 3 years and bought a Triumph Sprint RS, then after a few more years I got a Speed Triple. I’ve never been happier with a bike because it is so nearly ideal: it has better suspension and handling than either the Sprint or Duc plus it provides a more natural, relaxed, upright riding position. At any quasi-legal velocity, the Speed Triple is one of the sweetest, most enjoyable bikes there’s ever been. IMHO, a Tuono or 1050 Tiger are the only other bikes that come close to it – the former being a little racier, and the latter a little more versatile.
  • Amen.
  • Couldn’t agree more, at least for the twistest of roads. Attached is a pic of me in my upright riding position, caused by a life long off-road racing habit. This is was taken at Deals Gap while I was way way ahead of my two knee dragging R1 mounted road racer wanabee buddies. I believe in really tight venues, like the Gap, the upright position isn’t a liability at all, and actually allows you to “Throw” the bike side to side easier. It also permits you to transfer your weight front to rear quickly as well. When upright, I feel I have more control when the rear begins to slide so the fear of low-siding is lessened. However, in high speed sweepers even I revert to the classic road racer form.
  • Oh, boy.. this one’s gonna get you some letters.

    I’ve never been a big fan of race-bike ergos on street bikes. I love the looks, but not the effort it takes to ride one at normal speeds. But then I’m a 50-something with bad knees, so I couldn’t ride a sportbike much beyond a trip to my chiropractor and back anyway. I am, however, a fan of naked bike ergos, with top-mounted, wider bars, mid controls and more of an “upright” riding position.

    I’ve owned a Ducati Monster, a Triumph Speed Triple, and a R1200GS Beemer. I could ride the GS nearly as fast as he majority of the sportbike lads in the twisties and not seek medical attention at the end of the day. I couldn’t keep up with them on the straights, but then I’ve ridden more than one big-inch V-Twin that will run sub-10 second quarter mile runs – in a straight line. I’ve surprised more than one sportbike rider with the GS in the mountains of western NC.. a GS will keep up with just about anyone on the twisties.

    My current steed (the bike in my stable of seven that I ride most) is a relatively new R1200R. I haven’t had it in the mountains, yet. Soon…

    I demo’d a Ducati Hypermotard on the Blue Ridge Parkway last year, and I could see where a bike with Motard ergos would be as fast, if not faster than just about anything on two wheels – on the twisties. What a blast!, but I wouldn’t want to spend all day in the seat looking over the bars of one, however.

  • Personally I think aerodynamics on a street bike are more about comfort than performance. If you are moving quickly enough on a 600cc machine that you are worried about aerodynamics you are embarrassing the rest of us. On the street I would be more worried about Suburbans than air molecules.
  • After 11 years of riding sportbikes my next ride will be a Kawasaki KLR650. Why change from a 2005 R6 to an enduro? My R6 was a fantastic bike, but for every day use in all kinds of traffic conditions the upright riding position is way more practical. Comfort is another factor with an upright riding position. After an hour on the R6 it was time for a long break. A ride on a 2008 KLR650 last year in many riding conditions was a surprise-I was not only having a great time, the KLR was easier to ride in traffic with greater comfort.

    At 50+ years old reality is setting in that an upright riding position is necessary if I want to continue riding bikes. (No, I’m not going to ride a cruiser!!)

  • IMHO the design of the sport bikes is to keep the rider low because of wind resistance, if you put a cruiser windshield of a sport bike it wouldn’t achieve the top speed it would with out it, besides, if the air flow wasn’t a factor why at the end of a 160 mph run down the back straightway do they pop up at full arm length catching the wind to slow down, the actual design of the sport bikes body work passing air is debatable, there’s more show than go difference. When you look back at the race bike design the only fairings that have been outlawed are the Norton, NSU and BMW dust bin design fairings, they were very effective, it would be interesting to see what would happen if one was put on a new generation 600.
  • Having been a streetbike rider off and on since 1974, I have to tell ya just one word – motard. In addition to other bikes, I’ve owned a ’69 H1 triple Kawasaki, a Rickman framed 750 Honda, a Moto Guzzi 850 Le Manns, a GS 750 Suzuki, a RD 350 Yamaha, and a more recently, a ZRX 1200 Kawasaki…

    NONE of these bikes even come close to the overall enjoyment I get from riding my lowly XR650L duel-sport thumper Honda with 17″ Excel wheels, Pirelli Diablo sport tires, Pro-Circut slip-on, 320mm front disk, and some jetting mods. This is certainly no KTM, but the satisfaction of giving a group of 5 sportbikes a good whoopin’ on twisty Glendora Mountain Road is.. well… PRICELESS! – and they were filming themselves too! How sweet.

    I don’t think I will ever go back to a fat, heavy, slow-turming multi-cylinder bike. In fact, I rode a friend of mine’s Ninja a couple weeks ago, and it felt like a road-toad. He rode the lowly Supermoto for about 10 Angeles Crest Highway miles, and now he can’t get rid of his sportbike fast enough to pick up a ‘Tard. Turns and stops on a dime, and then gives back change!

    I certainly don’t care for it’s lower freeway speeds, but it doesn’t draw “black and white” attention like a sportbike, being “just a dirtbike” – but once off the freeway and onto the sidestreets and twisties where the real riding happens, its all I can do to contain myself in just riding for the absolute joy of it!

    It is FAR more enjoyable to ride a slow bike fast, than a fast bike slow. Any squid can point and shoot a hyper-speed sportbike in a straight line. It’s funny, but whenever I have pulled up alongside a sportbike here in town at a stoplight and we both turn the corner at same time and I happen to scoot around it faster than him- without exception, he gets really upset and then blasts by me on the next straight like he’s been shot out of a cannon – hilarious!

    Street Supermoto – truly the best kept secret in all motorcycledom.
    I kinda feel sorry for those guys who are paying sky-high insurance rates, getting triple-digit speeding tickets, eating up $250 apiece track tires in 1,000 street miles, and fighting a heavy, uncomfortable 160hp bike just to try to get it to go around a tight corner fast – and then get smoked by a 35 horsepower motard going around on the outside, the rider sitting comfortably upright, beeping his horn all the while.

    I paid $1800 for the bike stock. $20 a month insurance… PLEASE don’t tell anyone the truth about those stupid looking “dirtbikes” on the street – because I am still smiling inside my helmet so much my face hurts! Shhhhhhhh…. Now where did I pass that RC-51??

  • I have ridden nakeds, and motards… You can get me back on my R1. Its like riding from a crap whistley helmet, to a nice snug quiet one. sure you can get the gist. I understand your point, but thats mine
  • The tighter the twisties the better a more upright riding position feels. Being upright gives a broader range of movement to better handle hairpins and decreasing radius turns. Fast sweepers or any corners where you are at lean for a long time feel better in a more prone position. These turns are predictable and getting through them is aided by a position that is less exposed to the airstream and more stable at speed, and which allows smooth, incremental side to side weight shifts.
  • I had a red/white/black 94 CBR 600F2 from 97 to 2005. I had heli riser bars on it and while riding around Highway 9 in the Santa Cruz mountains, figured out that holding the tank tight with my knees was wonderful to take the pressure off my wrists…nice reliable bike, fast and on those mountain roads and flowing curves, when I got it right it was pure heaven……

    In 05 I walked into the showroom and saw a black DRZ 400SM with the gold front shocks and fell in love. Sold the F2 to a neighbor for a song and was soon riding the tight back roads in Austin, Texas where I now live and noticed how much more lean angle I was carrying through the curves…I missed the power of the 600, but it was more fun to ride a smaller bike harder through the curves. I was wearing the tires all the way to the end!! wow.

    It took some getting used to the tall seat initially. A few months later I was riding with a buddy who had a SV650 and we traded bikes……suddenly I was so uncomfortable…the high knees up to my arse, ears down to my elbows position seemed so ridiculous to ride around on the street….boy was I glad to have the DRZ400SM back.

    It is an absolute joy to watch accomplished racers wring the sportbikes around a race track. I have done a track day at Laguna Seca on my 600 and enjoyed the sensation of the great grip, speed and being so close to the ground (turn 10!!), but I don’t have the time or money to keep doing track days to get better. My current bike is great to get to work on a quiet country road and is great for an hour early on a Saturday or Sunday morning to scratch around on a tight winding hilly road and get my fix. Let the wanna be hotshots crouch over the fast bikes , but I am content on my supermoto and am glad the manufacturers finally had the sense to bring us supermotos and upright naked bikes!!

  • I think you are absolutely right about riding position. Having ridden since 1970 on all sorts of bikes I have always been most comfortable with handle bars that are pretty much straight across and fairly wide (sometimes called long horns or Moto Cross bars). I feel that when the stuff gets deep I have more control over the front end from a sit up position as well as having better leverage to control a frame that isn’t doing what I want it to do. Once while riding my Land Yacht at about 70 on the freeway the front tire blue. From a sit up riding position with wide bars I was able to keep the 750 pound monster up right for a long time (my riding gear showed that I didn’t hit the pavement at more than about 25 mph). Sure the racers (and wanabys that ride too fast) might get a bit more speed for the available power by tucking in behind the tiny sport fairings but for control and better vision I’ll take an upright any day.
  • Lets get one thing straight first, I’m 27yrs old and I’m in excellent shape. My wrists don’t hurt on a sportbike, and my back is fine, even after a long trip.

    That being said, I own a 2001 Ducati Monster S4, and I recently traded my 2004 RSVR Factory for an equal year Tuono. I’ve gone on several cross country trips on my ’92 Nighthawk.

    There is no benefit for me to be almost lying down on a bike. I believe that I can handle a motorcycle MUCH better when i’m sitting upright. It’s simply more natural feeling. I could never get comfortable on the RSVR. I felt odd trying to steer it around curves. I have no problem going around the same curves and dragging a knee on the Tuono or the Monster however.

  • As the owner of a 2003 Speed Triple i can assure you i have blasted past many a full faired sportbike as if it were a cruiser. part of that is rider skill /experience i guess. But realistically on the street, Naked bikes rule.
  • I have ridden road and race bikes since the 60’s and have always been surprised by the gap between the reality of the crouch race position and its effectiveness on fast highway road riding. I recall 1974 and 1975 when my road bike was a BMW R75 and my race bike a now legendary Ducati 750SS. The Duc was licensed and often I would ride the same 20 mile stretch in SE Ohio on both bikes the same weekend. With the occassionally poor pavement, possible oncoming traffic, leaves, debris, etc., the Duc would be uncertain with the very low bars, no elbow leverage and stretched out position. In this very twisty, hilly 20 miles I routinely was several minutes faster with the lower powered, drum braked, 4 speed R75 than the wonderfully sophisticated 750SS. Late in 1975 I took both bikes up to Nelson Ledges, where I had raced in 2 24 hour races and many sprints with the Duc. Needless to say, on the Duc I was almost 5 sec per lap faster…there is your point, 30 years ago. Race bikes are marvelous, formula 1 performance, on a track. Given the limits of the highway, no matter how wonderful the road, give me the leverage of the upright, bent arm position any day. Of course, its great to have both bikes available. The past is prologue, some say.
  • Yes, You want wide bars for leverage with your weight forward to keep the front planted. Superbike bars, torque motor, slight rear set on the feet but still able to shift body weight
  • Will you please stop spreading the notion that an upright riding position translates to superior control of a motorcycle in the twisities? Next you’ll be telling everyone that a broad torque band and a low center of gravity will make the average rider a better canyon carver than a hair-trigger throttle and brick-wall brakes! Do you have any idea what that will do to the street cred of us old guys on airhead BMWs?
  • Couldn’t agree more . The sit-up position of a Dual sport, Super Motto is relaxing . The wide bars provide not only leverage, but place the bars so that the pectoral muscles can do part of the job of controlling the bike. In addition, the feet are under the rider, where there can be more pressure on the foot pegs, allowing for weighting of the chosen peg, giving, even more control of the bike. Rear sets to a degree, take this ability away . I currently ride a F650 Dakar BMW , that I’ve ridden nearly 70,000 miles, and have owned several other BMW starting with the R90S, K75S, R1100S and the K1200RS . All with fairly low bars. Along with being narrow. .The Dakars riding position best all of those above in the control and comfort areas.
  • I own and ride sportbikes,motards,dual-sports,street trackers,et al.Agreed,anything above 60-70mph,unless you’re on a cruiser going straight,sportbike-like position isn’t necessary.And unless you’re tucked in behind that fairing,it isn’t necessary,either.I can ride quicker on twisties with dirttrack/off-road bars than anything else,albeit tighter radius turns.
  • you are also much more comfortable for long rides.
  • This is something I’ve thought about myself having recently owned a DL1000 and an FZ1 and FZ6 and 599 as well as a CBR1000 and CBR600 and an R1. It’s the exact reverse for me and my very fast riding partner. We both tried the upright position courtesy of the above mentioned bikes and two different KTMs – Duke and SuperDuke – and found that clip-ons and weight over the front wheel made for more confidence and higher corner speeds. I did find that my DL1000 would kick the ass of an R1 when the curving pavement became rough and broken. Long travel suspension made the difference. On smoother pavement the shorter travel suspension of the R1 would compress less and recover sooner and made for a faster ride. I guess we should ask Valentino or Casey whether, discounting the wind, they would go faster with an upright position.
  • Aerodynamic drag force is proportional to the square of the speed, but it is also proportional to the product of the frontal area and the drag coefficient. The drag coefficient represents the aerodynamic quality of the shape irrespective of the frontal area, which is why you have to multiply the drag coefficient by the frontal area before you can know the drag force on a given object moving at a given speed. When a rider sits upright, the drag coefficient and the frontal area will both increase, and it is reasonable to estimate that the drag force at a given velocity could increase by perhaps one-third as compared to a fully tucked position behind a small fairing. If the drag force increases by one-third, then the quantity of energy spent on overcoming aerodynamic drag, over a given distance at a given velocity, will increase by that same proportion, whatever it happens to be. The total quantity of energy spent over that distance will not increase by nearly as much, because only a portion of the total energy spent is spent on overcoming aerodynamic drag. (The specific distribution of the total energy spent, between overcoming aerodynamic drag vs. friction within the engine and drive train, varies with the speed, since the mechanical friction does not increase as the square of the speed.)

    Acceleration is proportional to net force, net force being the difference between the drag force and the force that is applied to the bike at the contact patch of the rear wheel. When the drag force is small compared to the applied force, proportional changes in the drag force yield an insignificant proportional change in the net force. When the drag force is high, at speeds approaching the limiting speed where the applied force and the drag force are in equilibrium, the proportional change in the net force can be as great as one-half of the proportional change in the drag force. In other words, if the estimate of one-third happens to be realistic for the increase in drag force when the rider sits upright, then the decrease in acceleration at very high speed would be no greater than one-sixth.

    But is any of this relevant to street riding? It depends on (1.) how fast you like to ride, (2.) how important acceleration at high speed is to you, (3.) how important comfort is to you, (4.) how powerful your bike is, and (5.) whether you care about how much you spend on fuel. The bike that I ride most often, a ’97 CBR1100XX, provides as much acceleration as I ever want, even when I am riding at unmentionable speeds. With the ConvertiBars that I installed, I sit almost upright, mostly behind a Givi screen. Whatever loss in acceleration there is, I compensate for that loss unconsciously by opening the throttle more. The actual penalty for me, then, is fuel consumption. If gasoline prices get to the point where I find myself choosing between riding uncomfortably and riding slower, I will choose to ride slower.

  • Sportbike sales is about “cool”. Ask any successful sportbike salesman. Buyers come into showrooms looking for the most current, successful race bike in street-legal trim. The percentage of sportbike buyers who take advantage of track-days or high performance riding schools is very small in comparison to total sales. When Supermoto-style motorcycles take on the “cool” of MotoGP bikes in the world of racer-boy peer pressure, their sales will rise. For now, “MotoGP-style” is the “cool” every sportbike buyer wants.
  • These photos were from 1978 and show me on a 400 KTM 2-stroke enduro spanking most of the Formula One bikes at a WERA race through the city streets in Terra Haute, Indiana. Sitting upright and riding like a modern Supermotard bike, I eventually finished 3rd in Formula One and I won the 410cc Superbike class on the KTM. An upright riding position is not an impediment to going fast under many riding situations. That’s Arlund Crump behind me on # 146 and I believe that is “King of Club Racing” Ed Key on the # 300 Honda 750.
  • In my experience, leaning forward from a standard upright seating position increases the weight on the front end, which seems to increase stability in corners. The degree of benefit that is provided by forward lean seems to vary from bike to bike, possibly due to the fork’s rake angle, and possibly due to the bike’s suspension settings and weight distribution front to rear.

    Many supermoto bikes (Tuono, etc.) position the rider considerably closer to the triple-tree than is the case for standard bikes. The forward seating position on supermotos might negate the benefit of forward lean in corners.

    Under these circumstances, forward lean would not be an issue of aerodynamics because the benefit is felt at slower speeds, when wind blast has little impact on performance.

  • I have been riding for 38 years ( started when I was 16) and I have owned 50 bikes. I currently own four. I have always gone for high performance bikes. But the trend to make high performance bikes with “aggressive” riding positions have always left me out in the cold. I have tried to convince myself that aggressive riding postures were comfortable and form follows function. But now that I am old, I have realized I am much more difficult to self-delude, I find the comfort and control from a more upright riding position is answer to the question. Big HP or not. I want bars not too high but the right amount of rise to allow me to lean into the wind at normal highway speeds. My Kawasaki ZRX bars are high enough to be comfortable but low enough to negate the human-sail effect at 70 mph. My Kawasaki H1A has lower bars than stock but with about the same forward lean, but certainly not clubman bars. My Valkyrie Interstate gets by with higher bars because of the backrest. Even on my XR650R, I like the stock bars that are a bit lower than the latest dirt bike trend. And for a bike to just throw a leg over and ride around below highway speeds I always liked Dual Purpose bikes. So I guess it’s a Goldilocks thing, bars certainly not to low or to high, and footpegs not to high or too far forward.
  • you are correct me growing up motorcross, i truly don’t understand these mfg.’s a sport bike is NOT a street bike, i road in “pain” for a short time on them. eventually moving to a cbr1100xx, hayabusa, and now Honda ST1300, upright riding ,comfort know the rest. I got tired of stopping to stretch every hour and i will never trade comfort for the small advantage they have over a modern sport-turing bike in real world conditions.
  • You are SO right but…….why did it take this long to work it all out?? My friend used to ride his Norton Commando quicker (on a twisty tight road) than most average squids manage on todays “super”bikes. Mike Hailwood was no slouch, nor did he need to put his knee down.
  • Agreed!
  • Comfort is not inconsistent with control of the bike. Given the choice of a Hayabusa or a B-King, a GSX or a Bandit, the bike which allows you to hold your head up without neck or back pain, will be the bike best suited for real world riding.
  • I think it depends on how you ‘grew up’ on a motorcycle. I started out riding one of my dad’s old BMWs before I got my first bike (a ’99 R6). I rode that R6 for about 15000 miles before getting on any other type of motorcycle, and when I did it was a DR-Z400. I really didn’t feel very comfortable with that bike for a long time, and I’m pretty sure it was due to the upright riding position. I finally did get used to it, but when switching back and forth between the DR and the R6 I always noted how I felt like I couldn’t tell what the front tire on the DR was doing, whereas the R6 seemed to provide so much feedback from the front…. the front of the DR was just always vague in comparison. After gaining a bit more experience riding several other motorcycles, sportbikes, dual-sports and standards, it’s become fairly clear to me that the more upright I am on a bike, the less I feel from the front end, and usually, the less confident I am in the front tire. May not apply to all people, but for me, I just feel a lot better about riding the more front-wheel biased the weight is, which usually means a more forward, less upright riding position.
  • I feel a greater sense of comfort riding upright. That’s the sole reason. Well that and I never have a hard time seeing through the opening in my helmet, as some report from the world of 6oocc sport bikes. It just may be that I am 54 years old, have arthritis in my lower back, shoulders, hips, and probably my neck as well that makes an upright position on a 30 year old motorcycle better than laying down on a brand new, shiny, sport bike, so much more attractive. But I don’t think so. It is simply the riding position from hell, just doesn’t do it for me. Too soon old, Too late Smart.
  • This is certainly a conclusion I’ve reached having had many motorcycles in 22 years of riding. I live in the santa cruz mountains in northern California commuting on a BMW GS which I consider my ‘supermoto’ and have finally sold my Mille and am resigned that I can go as fast as I care to upright, and faster than the majority of non number plate adorned sportbikes in my neighborhood. My DR350 is my second bike perfect for the tight bumpy and beautiful back roads near my home. I have loved sportbikes but my aging knees have made my enjoyable time spent on them a shorter duration. Apart from some time spent on Laguna Seca I find myself not really missing owning a racing style sportbike. Now bikes like the new speed triple or a supermoto are starting to appeal to me as my next fun bike, something I could put my Helimot leathers back on again to ride!
  • I definately agree; sportbikes are becoming too extreme for the streets in some ways. For the majority of riding, there just isn’t a need for such a riding position. I do find; however, find a slightly forward riding position to be the most comfortable. With that, I always modify my sportbikes with bar risers and I’ve ever lowered the pegs slightly on one. It would be nice if manufactuers offered their sportbikes with a touring configurement. I don’t want to lose the performance of a sportbike nor the protection offered by the fairings but I would really appreciate a softer seat and less agressive seating position.
  • I have become convinced that riding a prone position sportbike on the street is a distinct DISADVANTAGE to the rider. There are many reasons, but my favorite right now is that the rearward seating and footpegs puts the riders weight well back from the pivot point of the steering. Any loss of traction followed by the back end stepping out is difficult to control because the riders weight is acting like a pendulum. On a motard type bike, the riders can sit very close to the steering pivot. In this case, when the rear end steps out, it has a natural tendency to re-center because the rider’s weight is well forward of the rear wheel. In emergency braking, sandy corners, swerves, rain riding and other street situations, I feel this could be a life saver.
  • I know that my riding style is better served by a Supermoto type bike rather than a Sportbike with fairing and a set of clip-ons. I have ridden and owned both. I feel more in control with the physical reality of having leverage from real handlebars as well as more leverage from an upright posture. If you doubt this leverage issue try a serious tank slapper on both and see the light… I was raised on dirtbikes and am sure I am biased about this but if you put me on a KTM 990 Supermoto and a another guy on an open class Sportbike and send us up a really tight, curvey road I bet the KTM is across the line first… It’s just easier to throw the bike around with leverage. If there are 180 mph straights involved then the Sportbike has he edge but really how many “real world” contests involve 180 mph straights..?
  • While I am the first to agree that modern-day race-track-derived sportbikes are incredibly exciting, the assertion that just riding one of these is a recipe for the quickest way down a public road is probably wrong in most cases. Having spent lots and lots of time on a repli-racer I do agree that there’s a certain excitement associated with feeling like you’re riding the tip of a missile powered by the hand of The Almighty Himself, hugging the tank and hitting the hyperspace button. And excitement is one of the things that makes riding so enjoyable. So there’s absolutely no chance I’ve given up on sportbikes!

    As you suggest, however, I agree one shouldn’t fool oneself into believing one of these tightly focused machines has the most relevance to quick transit over real-world roads. I discovered for myself one recent summer after riding the same twisty mountain road back to back on my RC51 and then V-Strom 650 (reasonable approximations of repli- racer and upright machine with wind protection, no?) that the comfortable, upright, in-control feeling of the V-Strom was conducive to a faster and certainly more confident progress on unfamiliar, tight, bumpy, realistic mountain pass roads. The superior view of the road ahead combined with greater steering leverage on the V-Strom gave a supreme confidence level that was hard to match at sub-80 mph speeds on the sportbike. I’m no Miguel DuHamel, for sure, but am fairly experienced with lots of miles on several kinds of bikes, and therefore might represent some sort of average of skill among experienced street riders.

    No doubt the faster rider in a group will be faster on any of the bikes available and speedy riders do often choose sportbikes. But many a sporty-bike rider has been passed, I suspect, by a good rider enjoying the comfort, confidence, and better view of the world from the saddle of a more upright machine. This is a trend I hope to expand upon over the local roads this summer. 🙂 I hope it’s not just because I’m getting older that I suspect the benefits of most modern sportbikes begin somewhere north of 80 mph and that’s just not where most of us spend most of our time if we want to do this for a good long while

  • The other (I think major) point that you did not bring up is Visual Field. When riding on the track not only are you going much faster you are required to look at a much smaller field. When riding my HM1100s vs. my sport bike, I find it much easy to scan the side roads.
  • give me a cbr1000 with the ergonmics and wind protection of the vfr800 interceptor, and I would be in heaven A comfortable superbike that could be rode all day
  • I agree, I like my KLR and feel totally comfortable riding through the twisties on it as fast as I dare.
  • Of course the leaned forward position is not needed for a street bike. What makes me ride a sportbike is just down to the fact that I like the style and I rarely ride for any great distance so I do not need more comfort. My second bike is a V-strom which is for sale purely because I do not need more versatility than my TLR gives me. Just like a Cadillac versus a Corvette. The Cadillac makes more sense but the Corvette just feels right.
  • Not being a sport bike rider I can only comment on observations made while riding “standards” equipped for touring.

    My previous bikes have been a Suzuki Bandit 1200, a Kawasaki W650, a Honda Nighthawk 750 and my current ride, a Suzuki Boulevard M50. Each has been equipped with one or more windshields over its touring life, usually 75K miles or more.

    I find that a full coverage shield with lowers provides a bit better gas mileage than more abbreviated shields. I think its because the rider is the most non-aerodynamic thing on a motorcycle. The large shield seems to smooth the air past the rider (and saddlebags if it has lowers) much better than smaller shields. I’ve consistently noticed better gas mileage, about 2-4 MPG better than with upper body only type shields.

    By full coverage I’m speaking of a Slipstreamer Enterprise or National Plexifairing type vs. Slipstreamer Spitfires of Hellfires or police type shields.

    In really hot weather they’re a bit warm, but if adjusted so there’s about a 1 and 1/2″ gap over the headlight enough air enters and flows upward to help a bit. In the cold and rain it’s nice to have the protection from kneecaps to head.

    I live in MN so spring and fall riding make up a large portion of my season — if I lived in AZ it would probably be different.

    My two bits worth,

  • I agree with your statements. As a Buell XB12Ss Lightning Long rider and supermoto aficionado, I can attest to the fact that you don’t need a multitude of plastics to be an aggressive, fast rider in the “twisties”. Many of the naked and supermoto bikes available in today’s market compete favorably with modern sportbikes in typical canyon carving. I am also a track day rider, in which I ride a Honda CBR 600. At track speeds is where you see the aerodynamic differences between naked bikes and a fully faired sportbike. I have tracked both the Buell and the CBR and have found that lap times are close, but the comfort of wind protection behind fairing of the CBR makes for a safer and more enjoyable time. I tend not to tire out as quickly on the CBR due to the wind protection. I am not a fan of fighting the wind resistance on the Buell when exceeding triple digits on the track.
  • Agreed! I love my 2001 Yamaha FZ1. Does everything well.
  • I am a long time sport bike riding enthusiast. As the years began to catch up with body, I found the crouched over position was less appealing. Luckily, the thought of looking for a more comfortable riding position coincided with the appearance of the Triumph Tiger and the Suzuki V Strom. The BMW GS was already a likely choice but at a much higher cost. I purchased the V Strom DL1000 and found a bike that was upright, comfortable, and still blazing fast in the twisties. It was like getting a new lease on my poor body. The Tiger and GS are certainly included. I would hope that other manufacturers would take notice. Honda’s Varadero would also be a great choice if it were to come to America.
  • I agree with you about the aerodynamics of street riding. Until one gets to very illegal speeds, there is little need to crouch over the fuel tank. I ride a 2000 Triumph Sprint RS with a Sport-Touring riding position. The bars are elevated a couple inches above the triple clamp and the footpegs are slightly rearset. However, it works well for a slight lean into the wind at highway speeds, but no real strain on my back or wrists. (Please note, however, that I do exercise regularly and maintain a trim physique.)

    If I could afford a second bike or newer sportier bike, it would be a Triumph Daytona 675. From what I have read, it offers real sport bike performance and real world street performance and relative comfort. On the other hand, a supermoto style bike would be a lot of fun and would rate well as a commuter for its control and visibility over the traffic as discussed in your recent feedback column.

  • I totally concur with your reasoning’s, and it is funny that it took this new Supermoto craze to bring it to light more. As a lot of us “aging” riders who have been riding on sportbikes for over 25+ years have come to find out, we still can have a whole lot of fun. I say it has come full circle. In the 70’s and early eighties we were riding around on much more upright “superbikes” that at the time were state of the art even with there flexy flyer chassis. Then like most sportbike nuts, we migrated to the latest and greatest slowly, myself as a example from the GPz line to the Ninja 900, then to the GSXR/CBR and so on for over another decade, then slowly as you realize with a bit more wisdom, that “hey, nice to be a bit more comfortable again like the old days, but with the modern weaponry “, so some of us looked for those GT class bikes like the VFR, or Bandit, but then found those neutered compared to top of the line sportbikes when it came to suspension, power, or quality of chassis.

    The next step was to take a superbike and attempt to make it more comfortable with handlebar risers from the likes of Heli-Bar or LSL, a reasonable fix to the bike, but still we suffered with limited seats comfort [yes, aftermarket seats like Corbin or Sargeant do help, but still not like the seats of the one piece designs of the early 80’s] or a look that just wasn’t like the original. Finally now, consumers have lots of fun, comfortable, choices in motorcycles to choose from. If your just looking for a city/canyon bike, any of the modern sport standards [naked bikes], Supermoto’s, or adventure bikes offer upright ergo’s, are confidence inspiring around town or in your local canyons, some are of course even still fun on a track day, and all will embarrass that same full blown superbike rider in any location in the real world other than top speed. Some of course make good practical commuters to use as that excuse to sell the wife on the idea too. My personal current “perfect” bike I own and ride, the new Suzuki B-King. Definitely won’t run with Supermoto’s in the tight stuff, but is still amazingly fun for its size, agile, top quality suspension and chassis, comfortable ergo’s and seat, and un-neutered motor make it both VERY entertaining to ride, yet also a bike you can ride all day. Now I just need a Supermoto bike to complement it and all will be good in the world!

  • I think there’s no question that you’re right about riding position having little to do with going fast on the street. But, my reality is that I’m so used to leaning my bent over torso forward and to the side going through turns aggressively, sitting up to do it seems foreign, uncomfortable and not at all confidence inspiring. I suppose that if I were forced upright by having someone surprise me with a supermoto in my garage, it wouldn’t take me too long to get used to the idea.
  • The main factor in motorcycle control is having your legs under your body where they can be used to control both your own weight and the bikes. The situp and beg position with your legs out front so popular with cruisers is the worst possible position for control. All you can do is wiggle your butt with very little input from your legs.
  • Just wanted to say that, having had a Honda Hornet (naked) and currently a Varadero(trail), I Couldn’t agree more. As a matter of fact, occasionally, some of my riding colleagues who drive sport bikes fall behind at twisty roads.
  • Nice write-up Dirck. The best riding position for true Motorcycle comfort and control is the position that the fewest number of bikes offer. How sad. Most of us are leaning forward with our legs scrunched-up and heads cranked-up straining our necks. Or we are leaning rear-ward and reaching out in front of us with both our hands and feet towards the controls.

    Riders are denying themselves the pure “Joy” that motorcycling has to offer with so many people in un-natural riding positions. Why give up comfort and control to “Look Cool.”

    I too come from the dirt world and still own and ride a KTM 525. My street bike was chosen based on finding a bike that fit the riding position I felt the most comfortable with and knew put me in total control of the bike.

    Too much is at stake to make choices based on others perception of what they think is cool.

    Thanks for the good write-up. Let’s hope others “get” what you are talking about.

  • Just a quick thought Dirck – I DEFINATELY felt more in control when I moved from my SZR660 sportsbike crouch to the Moto Guzzi Breva 750, which has a neutral riding position. My freinds also commented that I was straight away riding smoother, safer, and quite surprisingly faster. Over here in the UK there are quite a few people who use their sports bikes as a weekend pleasure devices switching to supermotos. They don’t do big mileages, carry big loads, or cary pillions, they just want to have fun. A supermoto does that.
  • agree. With the rider in a more upright position the front tire carries less body weight and therefore a greater percentage of the demand on the front rubber can be assigned by the rider to cornering forces (rather than friction associated with rider weight). Also the front suspension can be more dedicated to road irregularities than simply to bearing the weight of the rider. Because inertia during deceleration throws all the weight forward both of these effects (on the front tire and suspension) are most pronounced at corner entry – which I think for most riders is the most challenging/disconcerting/fun part of any good ride. So a more upright position is best for cornering – so long as the rider can still sense feedback. My caveat to these comments is that for very high speed corners that allow/demand that the rider use a lot of body weight to achieve extreme lean angles a taller sit might make turn in easier, a hunkered down position allows higher precision inputs. And for all those reading these remarks remember that my best qualification may just be that I just got a good night’s sleep at motel 6 last night.
  • You nailed it, Dirck! Much of the sportbike’s aerodynamic advantage is lost unless the rider is tucked in with chin on the tank behind the minuscule windscreen — a small percentage of the time for most who ride them in real-world daily use.

    I’m a long-time (since the early 70s) roadracing fan who fully understands the appeal of sportbikes. I even went to the trouble to build a Yoshimura-engined, Rickman-framed-and-faired machine before sportbikes were available from any but a few of the “exotic” European manufacturers. For my efforts, I was rewarded with exciting performance and styling as well as theunfortunate realization that I couldn’t ride the thing for more than 30 to 45 minutes at a time without significant wrist/neck/back discomfort (I won’t even address the “traffic ticket” issue). More importantly, I also found that it was much more difficult to maintain a “360 degree awareness” in traffic as the “head-down” riding position and the virtually worthless mirrors made all but forward visibility difficult at best.

    I still take advantage of any opportunity to enjoy rides on more current sportbikes and am amazed at the readily-available technology and incredible level of performance. While they are certainly better in every way than my early bike building effort and are capable of truly mind-boggling acceleration/braking/cornering, the disadvantages of the racing-style riding position remain the same. OK, I realize that because of my advanced age,what used to be “discomfort,” would now more accurately be called “pain.”

    Anyway, for street/twisties/highway riding, I much prefer the more comfortable upright seating position, greater handlebar leverage, usable mirrors and heads-up attitude of most naked, supermoto, sport touring, dual sport, or adventure touring machines. Their upright rider posture makes them easier and safer to maneuver in traffic by placing riders higher relative to surrounding vehicles. This makes it easier to see over/around traffic, and equally important, to be seen. In the end, I can ride longer and stay more focused on potential threats than when mounted upon a sportbike.

    Thanks for helping to get the word out, especially to those who have grown up on sportbikes and haven’t yet enjoyed the pleasures of other types of bikes.

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