Does a smaller bike make you a better rider?

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by TheQ, Sep 11, 2021.

  1. TheQ

    TheQ Been here awhile

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    I recently sold my '18 RE Himalayan and was wondering if a lesser / smaller bike can someone make a better rider as I found that I handle my much bigger Triumph Explorer now much more like I did the Hima. Before I had lots of respect for the weight, the power etc.. I was afraid to drop the top-heavy Triumph especially in tight / slow situations. That fear went away after constantly changing between the two bikes. I still have respect but I'm not afraid anymore, which makes a big difference in the riding experience.

    Now I wonder how inmates here think about it.

    Cheers
    Q
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  2. Geschift

    Geschift Long timer

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    Sounds to me like you’ve simply mastered all required skills on the Himalayan, and can now use’m on the Tiger with the uppermost of faith in yourself.

    I do think that starting on a lighter bike is a recommended way to go, I know it’s worked for me.
    But … there are as many opinions as there are people haha!
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  3. rd400racer

    rd400racer Long timer

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    My first real bike growing up was a 71 Honda SL125. I rode that thing way more than it's credentials called for simply because it was my only form of transportation. Then at 19 I bought a brand new 81 750F...what was actually a Superbike back in those days. I want to think that my little SL helped me tame the beast but the truth is they were nothing like each other. The F was simply a progression of my motorcycling life.
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  4. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Long timer

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    A smaller, lighter bike is indeed easier to toss around than a larger, heavier bike.
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  5. klaviator

    klaviator Long timer Supporter

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    Back in 89 I went from an FJ1100 to a EX500. I quickly became a much better and faster rider on the EX500. I feel much more in control of smaller, lighter bikes.
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  6. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades... Super Supporter

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    I think it does, just look at what Rossi did, starting with the 125 GP, going to 250 GP and then to 500GP/MotoGP. Virtually all MX SX racers came up through the 250 class to the 450.

    Riding a smaller bike (less power) takes the sheer speed away, to go fast one has to be better in corners, keeping momentum in and out. On the street it is easier to lear good cornering and braking techniques on smaller bikes. Personally I started street riding on a Kaw 400 triple, not the kind of handling of an RD400, but adequate. Lower power didn't emphasize frame flex and all. Ito run with the Big Dog Z1 riding friends I had to learn cornering better to keep pace. Eventually I was far better than all, but one or two, still riding the 400. Other aid was less intimidation by the big engine too capable ogf triple digit speeds too quickly.

    That's my take on it.
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  7. anotherguy

    anotherguy Long timer

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    Comparing any of us to Valentino is......well silly.

    A smaller bike can make things easier to master but the key is knowledge and practice. Lots of practice. After 57 years of riding and racing I still practice the basic stuff. Almost every time I ride. If you feel intimidated by a bigger bike it can hamper confidence which in turn retards progress. If that's the case a smaller bike may be a good idea. Being honest with your expectations and end usage will make for a better purchase. No matter what you choose the first six months is said to be the most likely time to bin a bike. Give it some time and go easy for awhile.
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  8. TheQ

    TheQ Been here awhile

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    Well thanks for the input so far - I started back in 84 with a Vespa 50s moped followed by a Aprilia Tuareg 50 (the moped to have back in the days), made my license and bought a Suzuki DR 500 Dakar from which I switched to the more powerful DR 750 Big ending up with a Triumph Tiger 900 - the first EFI model - which I kept for nearly 20 years. After the last service the workshop told me that I'd be better of selling it. All the parts you need when you drop it (tank, side panels etc) are no longer available from factory. On top I felt it's time to switch to something more modern but the iterations between the 900 and the explorer never spoke to me. However sold the 900 and got the Explorer which I felt was right but quickly found out some negatives and was not recognizing during the short test ride eg. never had issues on longer trips with my shoulders etc..

    After the first season with the Explorer the Hima hit the market and I bought it cos I liked the looks and engine. I rode a lot and found not to have any problems. So I tried to understand the differences between the two in terms of ergo. The improvements made riding a lot more fun. Next have been the lousy tires and with the change from Metzeler to Michelin gone was the fear to fly off the street - so much confidence provide these tires. Than I found out how to get rid of the vibrations and ways to deal with engine heat (thanks for both to this forum and inmates here who helped a lot).

    It is really as if I would though all my experience have learned again how to ride and what to look for thanks to this little bike from India.

    Cheers
    Q
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  9. baekdongmul

    baekdongmul Been here awhile

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    Top level racers of all motorcycling disciplines practice both dirt and pavement on tiny bikes as much or more than on their full-size rides, which I think says it all
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  10. Vertical C

    Vertical C Long timer

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    It's about how knowing how bikes will react as they get pushed, if you have already been there on a small bike it's easier on the big bike.
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  11. VX Rider

    VX Rider Long timer

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    My take from the last few weeks

    Past 6+ years on a near 500 lb VX800. against the recent experience on 380lb 300cc Ninja

    I know apples to plums.

    The weight and handling difference is encouraging to push the bike a bit harder confidently
    because the lower weight and how that translates to how it feels in corners and ease of course corrections.

    Switching back to the bigger bike, and my long term comfort with it, still adds some intangibles
    about how I ride it now, against how I was riding it in the past.

    One of the tings I know it has helped me do better/different is work the gearbox and to mindful of
    keeping the engine within the fat part of its rev range.
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  12. BikePilot

    BikePilot Long timer

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    I think it does, certainly on a MX or track bike. Nothing builds dirt bike skills like racing a 125 for a few years.
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  13. Tripped1

    Tripped1 Smoove, Smoove like velvet.

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    That may be an advantage on some of the bigger bikes.

    What is the fat part of the powerband? The throttle is on :lol3

    Yeah that carries in road racing as well. You think think you are bringing the mail, then some 12 year old on a 250cc two-smoker rips around on the outside like you are stopped....
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  14. Ray916MN

    Ray916MN Dim Mak

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    I don't think riding a smaller bike per se makes you a better rider, I think riding different bikes makes you a better rider. In my experience every bike responds differently to control inputs, so to ride a bike well takes some experimenting to determine the control inputs that works the best with a given bike. Weight through the pegs, tank, body position, throttle application, you get the combination right and you feel the natural stability and sweet spot of the way a bike handles. Your steering inputs take less force and you feel like you can remove your hands from the bars leaned over and the bike will track the line. Everytime you get on a different bike you experiment with all the different inputs you have to control the bike till you find the sweet spot. This exercise, helps remind you of all the inputs and ways you can control a motorcycle and helps you remind you how it feels when you get the inputs right.

    I have over two dozen bikes and ride a different bike virtually everytime I ride. My ability to find the right control inputs and my sense for when I'm using the right control inputs gets better and so does my riding. I'm much less given to thinking a bike has a handling problem and more given to thinking I'm not riding correctly (or as well as I could be).
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  15. motu

    motu Loose Pre Unit

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    I've always preferred a small bike to push hard, if there is too much power it is harder to use it all safely...but good for the ego.

    But does a big bike mean it is more powerful ? I used to have a BSA M20 - a 500cc bike with 13hp, but more torque at 18 ft/lbs...I had it in a later model 650 frame, so it would've been over 400lbs. This bike changed my riding style - I learned to never, ever back off, it took too long to build up that speed again...so the throttle was just kept wide open, into corners, over hills, down hills, you just passed cars where ever, never lose that momentum. 13hp with a 125 is a lot of fun, 13hp with a 400lb 500cc bike was serious business, it required concentration and commitment.
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  16. Sal Pairadice

    Sal Pairadice Captain Obvious Supporter

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    Definitely. Also, a right sized bike will teach you even more. I find big AV bikes often have that top heavy too big feel, even though I love them. So it takes a little more mental effort to get " The Perfect Line" , and sometimes I find myself making small corrections and trying to manage the big bulky powerful machine. The smaller bikes, especially ones with big front wheels for me hold a line better, take corrections easier and just generally make me more confident as small inputs seem to work better.

    When riding my old Triumph Bonneville suddenly I am taking perfect lines and going WOT out the exit of turns.
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  17. SRG

    SRG Long timer

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    Trials bikes are an extreme example. Way fun and a great way to learn/practice. If you get a chance to ride one, do it and if you have a place to ride and the $$, buy one.

    Another thing about learning on light bikes is that falling usually doesn't hurt you or the bike much.
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  18. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades... Super Supporter

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    Obviously don't get it... If the racing organizations require starting out small, there just might be something to it. Plus if you follow racing over the years you may be aware of the trend that started in the 80s, racers developing their skills racing around on bikes like the XR100. Ken Roberts used to have riders like Bubba Shobert, Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey playing around on them. Learning two wheel drifts while playing and racing on small bikes, then transferring what was learned to 200 mph racers. This is still done, plus MX and supermoto playing for both fun and learning. If they can develop more skill on small bikes it just makes sense that most anyone can learn more.

    On the other hand you do get the benefit of starting small and working up.

    My example of how friends and I compared over time showed I had more development of skills over the same time frame. I saw the same thing off road, in riding on my 125 it required better skill to ride fast. When I raced, it wasn't unusual to pass riders on 250 and open class bikes in the technical or rougher sections. Learn to ride well, then add faster. Too big a bike can absolutely stunt rider growth for a number of reasons from higher weight to horsepower within 10% of a superbike that can get an inexperience rider in over one's head quickly.

    Much like learning basic math before tackling algebra, and algebra before calculus, a rider needs to learn basic skills to practice before using those basics to develop more and better skills. You can't practice what has not been learned to at least low level proficiency.

    The small bore bike allows learning skills without difficult and sometimes dangerous peripheral distractions, like throttle control of 120 hp (or 60 for that matter) or trying to toss around 500-600 lb while learning maneuvering and cornering. Once skills are mastered in a shorter order on a small bore, a rider can then practice and eventually move up to a bigger machine and find they can do so much quicker and safer. Riding the small bore bike the rider can make mistakes with throttle or maneuvering with far less bad consequences. Mistakes are going to happen, no question about it. Minimizing the outcome is the trick. Better to overcook a corner on a light lower powered bike than coming in triple digit speed (some can do that in third gear) or on a raked out land barge. So much easier to make correction, a bit more time to do so too. After learning skills comes refinement through practice.

    When in the dealership I also saw what I speak of. Most riders who were able to go big bore first usually had off road experience on small bore off roaders first. We saw similar situations off road. Riders who started out on smaller or less powerful bikes did well if they went bigger. Few off roaders went open class size because by the they knew enough to know what was best for their use. Most riders who started small continued riding. Many who went too big stopped. they either scared themselves silly or the never learned the fun and rhythm of riding. Just going fast on the straight stretches only holds one's attention for so long.
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  19. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades... Super Supporter

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    I started off roading on a Yamaha 90 Enduro rental in 1970 and my first bike a Sherpa T in 1971. The trials bike doesn't take a huge amount of space, just the ability to have objects to ride on/around/over. Great fun when you work to avoid dabbing.
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  20. anotherguy

    anotherguy Long timer

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