Big bikes vs. Small Bikes

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by mikem9, Feb 1, 2014.

  1. hscrugby

    hscrugby "That guy"

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    One thing to remember that everyone seems to forget, race bikes are friggin light... They weigh less than a lot of the dual sports mentioned here, and not much more than that pig of a tw200 you mention.. the busa's etc yea, they are heavy.
    But a modern 600 or liter bike is VERY flick able with unlimited acceleration and braking. I have ridden 450 sumo's, (and I have a 450 ktm) and there are very very few places that you can be as fast on one as on a modern RR..
    that said, for adventure purposes, light enough to pick up, heavy enough to not break with the luggage you need...
    My 450 with more oil, and a sub frame...
    I don't ever want to try and deal with a bike even as heavy as my dr650 was in the dirt again. My CBR954 was lighter than my dr650...

    That said, the KTM 640s, husky te 610 all seem to get it right to me..
    I think for any type of slab, 50-60hp is the absolute minimum. And any "long trip" I can think of is going to end up with some stretches where you'd want to be able to go faster than 70 mph... And they don't weigh TOO much...
    #61
  2. Wraith Rider

    Wraith Rider Banned

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    No. The bigger bike needs more force to be controlled. That's all. In everything else it's equal. (If both bikes follow the same concept and are equally well made of course.)

    I certainly am faster on a more powerful bike than I would be on a less powerful one. Coming out of every corner I am.
    #62
  3. Bud Tugly

    Bud Tugly Gnarly old curmudgeon

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    Back in the 70's I had a 125 Kawasaki that topped out at a little over 70mph and I rode at 60mph commuting on 2-lane roads. Later I had a 250 Yamaha twin that would hit 90mph and could cruise all day at 70-75. These bikes made roughly 12hp and 30hp respectively. The idea that you NEED big power to ride on the road is bogus IMO.

    Now granted, a big powerful bike is a ball to ride under the right conditions. A nice hilly road with wide gentle sweepers is like being on a roller coaster that's under your control. Also, having power in reserve is a very good thing when the traffic gets heavy and fast.

    But to me "adventure" involves dirt and tight, rough trails and that's where heavy and too much power will just give you grief. It's all about the happy medium for me.
    #63
  4. rlmankins

    rlmankins Adventurer

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    having ridden for 50 years on every kind of bike and every kind of surface I have to say I love big bikes. I live in the desert, no tight 2 track, lots of back country roads, and mountains. I bought a Triumph explorer 1200 and am having a ball. It is a pig off road but I am learning. Do not like sand, can do it but it is tiring.
    My sundays start early, 50 miles of twisty blacktop at speeds that would make a 650 puke, breakfast with my craazy friends, saddle up pick destination and leave. Normally a 20 to 30 mile ride at speed to our offroad start. 40 to 60 miles of interesting desert riding, slow, Then lunch. After lunch another 60 miles or so of offroad, then catch super slab home at 90plus on cruise control.
    Have a kdx220 for serious work but hardly ride it any more.
    Heavy is a relative term, rode Goldwings and Harleys for 30 years places they should have been, Triumph is ok.
    No excuses, I have ridden every single track trail within 300 miles of my house and was bored. Doing them with a big adventure bike makes them interesting again. Did have to start going to the gym so I can pick it up:)

    Also going to Dust to Dawson and Cabo this year. Nedd to be able to do 500 miles days for days at a time.

    Small bikes are fun but am riding different roads now.
    #64
  5. duckman

    duckman co conspirator

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    but the z rex and gold wing make for a better story
    #65
  6. BDMJ

    BDMJ Adventurer

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    Bikes are fun period. There are advantages to both sorts of bikes too. Finally, in almost every case the rider is the limiting factor for performance.

    Light bikes require a lot less work to flick over in a turn, handle rough and loose surfaces better, and are much less tiring to ride aggressively. They also get blown around by the wind and are less comfortable for extended straight line riding.

    Big bikes are fun to pull out of a corner on the gas, can be ridden in a "point and shoot" style, and flat out amaze with their acceleration. However they really punish poor riding and can be incredibly tiring when ridden hard.

    After taking my big bike to the track, I realized that I just wasn't going to have the same sort of fun on the street on that bike. So, I have plenty of fun on and off-road on my little bike. I can push the bike hard at legal speeds, which is what entertains me.

    In short, figure out your priorities and how much you are willing to compromise them (or buy more than one bike).
    #66
  7. scootrboi

    scootrboi Long timer

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    About 25 years ago I was reading an article in a motorcycle magazine. The writer mentioned an old man in Italy who was riding by on an ancient Vespa in a beautiful Italian city, making the assumption they had grown old together. Now I am 60, and maybe in ten years I will still be riding an ancient scooter. My younger brother offered me the use of his 1500cc HD tourer to keep it in use while he recovered from an injury. I tried it on a short run up a gravel town road, managed to turn it around in a wide place and almost lost it on a wet spot. The pressure on my leg was intense. I have missed the boat on large motorcycles, it seems.
    #67
  8. tkent02

    tkent02 Long timer

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    I caught the boat, got back off. Always wanted a bigger bike, until I got a few. Big Beemers, big Suzukis, several others. Great at two up on long high speed highways, not much fun anywhere else. I still have an 1100, but I don't ride it much. Don't ride two up on high speed highways all that much. The F800GS I ride a little more, as my wife is more comfortable on the back, especially on rocky dirt roads and such. If it were lower and lighter I'd like it better. Most of my street riding is on my old GS550, or DR 350, or for just running down to the store usually my wife's DR 200.

    I have a 450EXC for serious fun in the dirt, I wish it was smaller, lighter. 250 - 400ish maybe.

    The smaller bikes are just so much easier, quicker through the crooked roads, cheaper to operate, and just overall a lot more fun to ride.

    But then again I could give a rat's ass about impressing anyone with what I ride.

    Harley guy as I got off my wife's DR 200, "That's a girl's bike!"

    "Why yes it is, it is my wife's bike. What gay pirate did you borrow that one from?"
    #68
  9. OhBoy

    OhBoy Got Out

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    Had a GL1800, it was a comfy rocket ship. Rattled on dirt roads. Heavy
    Got a KTM690, go anywhere, seat not comfy. Light
    Got a GSA1200, powerful and comfy, pack everything, go almost everywhere, heavy.
    KTM350-500 are all within about 10 lbs of each other.
    Long rides I take the Bimmer
    Short technical rides, take the Katoom.
    #69
  10. SloMo228

    SloMo228 World Class Cheapass

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    Of course! It was fun, too - just sloooooow to avoid breaking off that ridiculous oil sump on the Rex (or getting trapped under a half-ton GL)

    [​IMG]
    #70
  11. Wraith Rider

    Wraith Rider Banned

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    There are large motorcycles and there are large motorcycles. A Panigale is considered a large motorcycle as well and it's something completely different than a HD tourer.
    #71
  12. Bud Tugly

    Bud Tugly Gnarly old curmudgeon

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    So much of this depends on where you ride, and that's why we'll never all agree. If you live where there's a lot of high speed multi-lane roads and your off-roading consists of mostly gravel roads or wide open spaces then big is good. OTOH folks whose riding involves things like boulder-strewn single track, twisty trails through thick woods, deep mud, soft sand, etc. and rarely go on roads other than quiet secondary highways are going to favor small and light unless they are so talented that they can horse a big bike through that stuff.

    Dual sports in the 350-650cc range come close to being the perfect compromise but the drawback for many folks is that they are only mediocre at doing things like single track or long freeway trips. That's why we each may need at least 3 bikes: a big long-range powerhouse, a nice light woods-weapon, and then a compromise bike for the times you just want to meander.
    #72
  13. gearheadE30

    gearheadE30 Long timer

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    Yeah, this is a lot of what it comes down to. Everyone wants something different, and has different preferences. that's why there are so many bikes on the market, and why we all ride different ones.

    I have a small bike and a big bike, and I've done trips and singletrack on both. I'm the kind of person who gets a huge kick out of taking vehicles to inappropriate places, so even though it's heavy and can be a struggle, I love taking the 950 trail riding. And I'm not really that great of a rider, either. :deal Other people hate taking big bikes off road, and there's nothing wrong with that.
    #73
  14. Pecha72

    Pecha72 Long timer

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    No. If bigger means heavier, then the heavier bike´s tyres will need to have more grip than a lighter bike, to be able to go around a turn as fast. And if bigger means bigger engine displacement, then forces created by engine rotation are bigger, means the bike won´t change direction as easily. So, a heavy bike with a very large engine, won´t go around the bends very quickly regardless of who´s piloting it.
    #74
  15. tkent02

    tkent02 Long timer

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    Even with no weight difference, no power difference, no other differences at all, the shorter wheelbase bike will out corner the longer wheelbase one. It will turn sharper, faster with less lean angle, and will change from left to right or right to left much quicker. It's just physics.
    #75
  16. JohnCW

    JohnCW Long timer

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    Haven't read all the posts so sorry if already covered.

    I have both a large and small 250cc dual-sport bike. The big bike is great for high speed week-end country runs, but the small bike is far better as a city commuter. The big bike can only do one thing better in the city, accelerate away from the start at lights, only to wait at the next red light.

    I can get to work faster on the 250cc bike, sticking it up the gaps in stationary traffic is much easier, easy to slot into a crowed bike parking place, etc. It is just heaps more fun in the urban jungle.
    #76
  17. Wraith Rider

    Wraith Rider Banned

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    No. They need the same grip. To achieve that, the surface pressure has to be the same, what's no problem since heavier bikes normally have bigger tyres and increase the flat spot by their higher mass. Long story short, mass doesn't influence cornering speed.

    That's what I said. One needs more force, that's the only difference, but both bikes are equally fast through the corner.

    That's relevant for something very tight like a kart or Gymkhana track. Not for the compared to that wide corners of public roads. (With the one exception of very tight switchbacks.)
    #77
  18. Pecha72

    Pecha72 Long timer

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    funny then, why smaller capacity racing bikes can often go around a track not much slower than much bigger & more powerful bikes.

    Back in the days of 2-strokes, 250cc GP-bikes could at some track get very close to the laptimes of 500cc GP-bikes, that had double horsepower, and about 50km/h more top speed. Looked to me like 250's went around the bends a LOT faster.
    #78
  19. klaviator

    klaviator Long timer

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    I have owned large bike and small bikes. They were all fun but overall the small bikes have been more fun. This is both on and off road. The fact is that I ride all my bikes off the pavement even if they are street bikes. Most large bikes are pure overkill on the roads I prefer to ride. While it is possible to ride a large powerful bike fast on a tight twisty road, for the most part the riders aren't capable of doing it. I have passed many slow riders on 150+ hp sport bikes on 250-350 singles. Sure, with a fast rider they would have left me in the dust but the majority of riders out there can't come close to the capabilities of their bikes.

    I have known many people who owned multiple bikes. In most cases they were faster on their smaller, lighter and less powerful bikes. Personally, I went from an FJ1100 to a EX500 many years ago and was much faster on the EX.

    Off road I was much faster on my KDX200 than on my 350 or 650 thumpers.

    I enjoy exploring when I go riding. There are just some places I won't take a large bike for fear of getting stuck. Take a sub 300 lb bike down a trail and you can always find a way to turn around if the going gets too tough. 500+ lbs........good luck.

    My next "adventure" bike will most likely be a 250cc single set up to go touring. I took a 2100 mile trip on a 250 a couple of years ago and it did just fine.
    #79
  20. Wraith Rider

    Wraith Rider Banned

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    1. Did you just say that a small bike is faster than a big bike, because it's not much slower?
    2. That it looks to you if small GP bikes were faster around bends is because they use a wider line, while the big bikes use a shorter line, because they have the power to accelerate in a shorter time than they would have used to go the long way round at the higher speed line the small bikes use.
    #80