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Thread: Superbikes: A new way of life

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    Rusted ken cool's Avatar
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    Default Superbikes: A new way of life

    SUPERBIKES: A NEW WAY OF LIFE.

    INTRODUCTION: This is a feeble attempt in putting forward my feelings at my first experiences into the world of Superbiking, how I got along with my first new Superbike, the pleasures and dangers associated with a machine that seems to tear away from the rest of the world. This is definitely not the Gospel Truth. But the truth is not far from what has been expressed. Followers of the article can put in their criticisms and comments.


    Initiation!

    He asked me how do you feel. I have been wondering about that myself, for some time. How do I feel? I have seen, discussed, touched, felt, talked and dreamt about, read up on big bikes, learnt what are Superbikes. But when I heard over the phone that my bike had arrived and was ready to roll, I was excited as hell. Finally it was happening. After twenty years of dreaming through foreign magazines, trips abroad, searching through sites and blogs, the bird was finally going to be in my hand.

    I was at the workshop. I had taken photographs of the bird while being assembled, the fairing, the electricals. And while this was happening, I was the one who engaged the first self-start. The odometer showed 000000kms. I was thrilled beyond words. The adrenaline kept flowing through me all night and I could barely sleep. The next day I was supposed to ride out sitting on her. How could I possibly sleep!


    PDI


    000Kms!


    Next day late afternoon I was back there. The last touches of polish were being wiped off. The PDI was being terminated. It took some time. But time flew. It was already evening. A few drops of rain blessed the occasion. I went astride on her, turned the ignition key. The Tachometer did the customary swing check and the console lit up. I looked at all the figures clearly appearing bold from blue backlit screens. The green neutral light was on. I pressed on the self-start and heard the engine come to life. If ever machines made music, this was it for bikers! The Yamaha YZF R1 was on.

    I depressed the clutch and engaged 1st gear. I heard the loud Thud of the gear. As I released the clutch slowly, I gently eased the bike on to the road.

    I remember my 1st impressions of the RD350, still very clear in my memory from 20 years ago. Hence I went very easy on the throttle. Really very easy. Changing gears was a breeze. I have not felt anything change gears as easily as this. No bike ever. And I have ridden almost each and every bike that has ever come out in this country with the exception of Zundapp. The closest that came to this kind of shift was the Hyosung Comet. But they cannot really be compared.

    He had asked me how do you feel. I was wondering about that as I rolled down the streets at an easy 4th gear at 4000 Rpm, touching some 80kms an hour. And I still had 2 gears left and I was 8500 Rpm away from the redline! What can I say of what I feel! The feeling is indescribable. There are no words to describe this feeling. It is unlike anything I have ever felt before. This is a bike. And I have ridden bikes before. Nearly 300000kms. They all fall by the wayside. Well, not entirely, but this thing is different.


    The One

    Bikes are bikes. There are two wheels and a motor in between and you twist the throttle and with the some balance you go ahead. But then there are bikes and then there are Bikes. This thing, the R1, felt like nothing I have felt before. Of course it has two wheels, one of them is shod with 190 tyres at the rear. The broadest Indian tyre that is manufactured is 100! Only recently are we having 120 tyres. Let us not even go into comparisons.

    The ride quality is divine once you start getting the hang of it. How do you get a hang of it? Well for starters, you begin to realize on bends and street corners and road curves what counter-steering is all about. Now, if you are a complete layman, and have no idea of what counter-steering is all about, though you just have to look at the innumerable articles floating on the web, it is a technique in which you push at the left clip-on to the outside to take a bend to the left and push on the right clip-on out to take a bend to the right. It may sound strange but that is how it works. What is even stranger is that even on smaller lighter bikes or high handlebars we always countersteer to turn the bike while riding but we are unaware of it. But on a Superbike, it is flagrant. Of course you don’t feel counter-steering at a speed of 10. One has to go beyond 40 to really feel and execute it.

    Secondly, which should have really been the first point, the throttle response; I had initially major apprehensions about how the bike might shoot forward if I am not careful with the throttle. Hence, as I rolled out of the factory, I was ultra careful with my right wrist. And rightfully so. An upgrade in power from 27Bhp to 189Bhp is a quantum leap. If you are not careful and very mature with your right wrist, it might prove fatal. It is better to take precautions than regret.


    Gorgeous Machines, Superbikes!

    Once on the road, going through some stops and starts at the numerous traffic lights, one gets a hang of the throttle, how far you can wring it. Not much really. And as I was extra-careful, I did not turn it around hard and my front wheel did not come up, nor did I bang into the back of some other car on the road which costs half the price of my bike. Not as yet. And I hope not ever. If you can avoid it, unless you are a raving lunatic in which case everything goes, do not ever “wring” the throttle in traffic.

    And as you go along, your senses get sharper, your reflexes get honed, your mind gets more focused. It teaches you total concentration. The whole perception of riding a bike changes as one goes along. Standing at a red light you hear the GZZZRRRZZZZRRZZZZRRZZZ sound under your belly that can only come from a multi-cylinder. You look at your bike, look at the console, listen to the sound coming from down below. You lose yourself in your bike even while standing at the red light and become totally oblivious of your surroundings. And then suddenly when you awake, you realize that the world is staring at you and your machine and there is a sheepish look about you and you try to appear nonchalant as if nothing was amiss. Whereas riding a Superbike in India, you know that there is a lot amiss. I have made a rough calculation; there is one Superbike sold in India to every 80,000 smaller bikes.

    As I rode out of the workshop, in the congested Naraina industrial area, you just about start getting a hang of the huge monster that you are sitting on. And as I said, I was extremely careful of every move of my right wrist, and my left palms for the clutch release. Then finally I came on to the Ring Road with some 300 odd meters of a straight in front of me. I decided to turn my right wrist a wee bit more. I heard the ZZZZUUUUN of the tremendously fast accelerating machine between my legs. 1st gear, 2nd and I was already fast approaching the traffic bottleneck up ahead. I squeezed on the brakes. No feedback from the brakes. I squeezed harder and quickly downshifted to have engine braking. And somehow managed to slow down the near-runaway beast! These were brand new brakes. Now this is important. If you are taking out a brand new spanking Superbike with 000000 on the odometer, chances are that initially your brakes will be working to about 30% efficiency if you are lucky. All the more reason to be super careful on the throttle when you roll out for the first time ever. You have to break into your brakes too which happens pretty quickly by regularly pressing on both breaks alternately and simultaneously on low speeds and by the time you have traversed some fifty to seventy kilometers, your brakes begin to show their six pistons’ worth on the R1. I wa briefed that new breaks have about 25% efficiency. But, if you do not do your breaking-in on your brakes, they would not be ready even after a hundred and fifty kms. Also remember, even when you get used to your big bike, these bikes, despite having phenomenal braking, do not stop easy. It is much tougher to stop a Superbike at 100 than a Karizma at 120+.



    You have a brand new Superbike waiting in your garage, you will find umpteen excuses to take her out for the breaking in period. Or otherwise for that matter. As long as it was not raining, I used to take her out. Just to look at her. Touch her. Feel her. Sit on her. Turn the key and look at the console. Just for the pleasure of it.


    The Warmth Within.

    Once I took her out to get mangoes in a backpack. Now that is not something that one does everyday. But I did it and still do it. Why have a bike and not ride it is what some people believe. I believe and try to walk my talk. Save for times when I go to Nehru Place. I am reluctant even to take my 220 to Nehru Place. Else, I like to take my R1 everywhere in the city as long as I do not have to wait for long hours in traffic jams. About that part, I am coming to it later.

    Anyway, I was riding merrily enjoying my ride, the early days of breaking-in were not yet over, and I was just about beginning to feel and savour the power within. The tyres were still brand new. I could feel the feedback of even a matchstick on the road as I rode on it! I approached a red light and I slowed down. As I nearly stopped, the light turned green. At that moment, I opened the throttle just a tiny bit. The Tacho needle shot up and my rear wheel started spinning nineteen to the dozen. I did not know what hit the bike. Why was she behaving like that? It was a tiny wet patch on the road, barely a metre wide and I rode right on top of it. This was my first experience like this. These were new tyres, the initial Sportmax and they were cold. New tyres need breaking in too. Most of them do. Though my Pirelli diabolo Corsa gave the impression of falling in line right from the word go. But my initial Sportmax seemed and felt harder and did fishtail quite a bit on corners while shifting, and on hard acceleration even starting from stand still. The only time I felt good with those tyres was when I had a pillion sitting behind. Till the end of its days, I never felt too comfortable on those tyres that lasted me 7000kms.

    There is more to tyres on Superbikes than just breaking in. We Indians are used to our usual Zappers and other such tyres on our Indian bikes. They have deep treads in them and the bikes are not too powerful. They “seem” to grip better and they skid less when we brake hard. These are two aspects that you have to keep in mind. I learnt it as I went along. Even the smallest patch of water on the road, these tyres just don’t grip. In slower speeds, with the mildest twitch of the throttle, your rear wheel will spin hard and quick. I have also noticed that even several meters after a wet patch on the road, if I accelerate in the usual fashion, even a tyre as soft as the Pirelli Corsa slips off gaily into a high spin as the tyres were still wet. You can never be over careful. For me, this all was part of learning. To move from normal Indian bikes to Superbikes, you have also to check, know and feel your tyres.



    Okay, what comes next? Wheelies! Is this really a topic? I am not sure but hey, I am not a one-wheel guy! It seems that wherever you look at a guy with a Superbike, he pops a wheelie at random and at will. Well I am not that kind of a person. I cannot “pop” a wheelie to save my life. People also say that while riding a Superbike, the front wheel can come up easily. Probably. But it does not happen to me everyday. At least not initially with all the precautions that I took. But as I started getting the hang of this kind of machine, I started to understand the power better, I realized that power wheelies can happen regularly every time you shift up with the throttle open wide enough and not enough weight on the clips to keep the front down. Of course it is easier with a pillion sitting. That said, it is really up to you if want to pull wheelies or not. I have seen loads of guys do it and it is no big deal I am told. I think it requires amazing amount of confidence and control of not only the engine and clutch release, but also a good sense of balance and equilibrium.


    Feeling her up! Pix: Urvashi Sibal.

    One of the many practical survival things in India that one has to keep in mind is the degree of difficulty in U-turns. One can never over-emphasize the importance of this. Taking a U-turn, riding a Superbike takes practice and you can still come down, if you brake suddenly. The front wheel locks up, you put your foot down, but if your foot is a trifle late in going down, then all you can do is delay the inevitable. Or with practice, with a slight release of the clutch, you can stop from going down. But in that case, you might end up hitting the object/vehicle for which you had braked in the first place. I recommend doing such sharp maneuvers initially with the foot “floating” and with practice, you can start getting it up back on the pegs. Remember that the turning radius of a Superbike is not much better than a car. And a car has a reverse option! I remember one of the first times that I attempted a U-turn with a Superbike was with the Blackbird and while negotiating the turn, I ran out of tarmac!

    Talking about going through traffic, it does not go through stand-still traffic as easily as the other Bajaj Pulsars and CBZs do. In fact stand still maneuverability is terrible in traffic. It is marginally better than a car since it is not as broad and big. Else, if there is bumper-to-bumper traffic, it is practically impossible to bend the clips left and right and wade through traffic to get ahead. It is best to wait behind a vehicle and if it is not chilly outside and you know that traffic is not going to move for a while, switch off your motor unless you really like the heat from the engine coming on to your legs.

    Coming to the heat part; it is not easy to ride a Superbike in our climes with the heat generated from the engine while standing or moving slowly in traffic. It is easy to say that I can take the heat because I want to ride a Superbike. When you are in traffic and your temperature gauge shows 109 and can go up to an amazing 118 if you have a radiator protection and the fans are turning furiously, you will have sweat dripping from your trousers into your shoes and in half an hour you will feel as if you have walked through the swamps of Sunderbans, and you would start looking like wet marinated meat ready to be cooked. It is very difficult to physically tolerate and handle this heat from the engine in heavy slow moving traffic during midday in our country from end April till end September. Add to it the cumbersome and sweaty affair of protective riding gear.

    This is where I have found out a time that suits the pleasures of Superbike riding in this country with unruly, ill-educated traffic players. I try and avoid the rush hours, between 9 and 11 in the morning and 5 and 8 in the evening. Else, during the summer months, caught up in traffic sitting on a heating Superbike, you can end up getting severely dehydrated, hit by heatstroke and collapsing by the side of the road. Early morning or nighttime riding can be a pleasure and boon to avoid the rush and the heat.


    Eyes!


    Night Vision.

    Now let me come to riding with a pillion. My most important piece of advice, do not ride with a pillion for the first 500kms, for your bike’s sake, for the pillion’s sake, and for your own sake. Once you start getting used to your bike, you can try out a pillion.

    The choice of pillion is left to you. I personally prefer a pillion who is not a nervous back seat driver and who is less than 80% my body weight. Though I have ridden with Gasoline Junkie behind me who weighs a quintal, which is nearly 60% more than my body weight. But in this special case, it was not too tough because thankfully Gaso is a very “cooperative” pillion. A cooperative pillion is one who blends in with you and the bike. Remember, each and every impression gets multiplied three fold with a pillion sitting behind. The COG gets higher and thus it is far more difficult to handle U-turns. It takes even longer to stop. And at every red light, you will wheelie your bike. And there will be two heavily marinated humans sitting on the bike!

    I have tried to cover as many aspects as I could remember. Please put in your comments. There are probably lots of elements that I have missed out. And ride carefully with proper riding gear. It is better to be hot and sweaty rather than call insurance for your mediclaim bills. As I said before, this is maybe a bike, with two wheels and a motor in between with a gear and throttle to propel it forward. But then this is much more than just a bike. A Superbike is a Superbike. Nothing quite like it!


    Photo of the author by Sandeep Gajjar

    TEXT AND PICTURES: KRISHNENDU KES aka KEN (Unless otherwise mentioned)



    After 2 years and 25000kms of Sbks, I am still struggling with a lot . Lovemax took a photo of me at a roundabout...


    This thread existed in the older xBhp. Wanted to put this up since the resurrection. Please excuse the delay.

    Edit: This has been an experience loaded with feelings, emotions never before imagined by me. However since this thread is the "New Way of Life", I add an edit: please do look here as well: http://www.xbhp.com/talkies/superbik...many-pics.html
    Last edited by ken cool; 12-08-2009 at 09:36 AM.
    The Wheel was a great invention; Two Wheels with a Motor in between was even better!


    BMW Motorrad Days 2011

    Xbhp's Indo-French Kashmir-Ladakh Tour

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    Thread Approved (10:09 AM 10/22/2008)

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    Ah... This is one of my fav threads... which can keep me reading again and again.... Thanks ken.
    Adoksh likes this.

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    Indeed :-)

    I think this is probably the 10th or 11th time I'm reading this. And it never gets old!

    Thanks once again kenda for this amazing view into the world of superbikes!

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    When i shifted from the zma to the r1, in simple words, i felt like transforming from peter parker to spiderman. I was no more the same person on the road, riding wise and attitude wise. Life after superbike is like Spiderman 1,2,3....lol
    and hence goes my signature
    "With great power comes great responsibility."

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    WiZ
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    Oh my god ! It's up again ! One of the best threads ever.
    I remember taking a printout of this last year and going over it again and again and again....

    Kenda could you give some input on your experience with your older carb ( or was it injected ? ) R1.I just love that retro can and looks.And it was my fav 02 R1 colour combo too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ken cool View Post
    You have a brand new Superbike waiting in your garage, you will find umpteen excuses to take her out for the breaking in period. Or otherwise for that matter. As long as it was not raining, I used to take her out. Just to look at her. Touch her. Feel her. Sit on her. Turn the key and look at the console. Just for the pleasure of it.
    These words can come only from a bike fanatic and no man booker prize winner.

    Brilliant write-up to say the least!

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    wonderful! brilliant write up kenda!.. glad to see this one back up on the site !

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    nice thread !.after reading..it felt like it is literally impossible to keep a SBK in city?

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    Nice Writeup. I can imagine the feeling of riding a sports bike in India. When pulsar 220 DTS-Fi gets a lot of attention... with R1...you are THE god.

    When the first time I changed gear from 1st to 2nd and pinned the throttle of my SV650s....it was no less than magic. I was taking a test ride from a seller....I paid cash on the spot to buy it.

    I can also imagine little pain to have a sports bike but no race tracks around...hopefully it will change soon.

    Have fun. wear your gear. I have almost spent 40% of my bike's cost into protective gears...and it's money well spent.

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