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. chainslap

    chainslap BlessedarethesicK Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2009
    Oddometer:
    5,254
    Location:
    The Dirty South
    I don't disagree.

    But that wasn't the question. The question was " Does am smaller bike make you a better rider?" (sic)
    #41
    MATTY likes this.
  2. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades... Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    23,483
    Location:
    Delaware Ohio
    Boy, you better contact Kenny Roberts, Colin Edwards and numerous others and tell them. The fools have been training top level road racers for years using some bikes as small as XR100Rs. Seems their opinions differ. Especially Roberts, who commented that if racers can drift both wheels on an 8 hp dirt bike on dirt they can drift a 150 hp GP bike. Do you know something they don't?

    Colin Edwards, two times World Superbike Champion and former MotoGP racer, does training on dirt riding TTR125 Yamahas at his American Supercamp. They say:

    About Supercamp
    American Supercamp is a riding skills and balance improvement course for ALL motorcycle riders using aggressive and innovative riding drills composed by the best riders in motorcycling (Carr, E. Bostrom, Edwards, and more). The camp is designed to force students to critically think about their actions and the effects on the handling of the motorcycle. The camp focuses on improving your techniques of cornering for safety and speed; improving your abilities going into a corner, getting out of a corner, and if need be, past the competition.

    [​IMG]

    Street Riders
    We wish the world was a perfect place, but it's not. Road debris, animals, cars, and any number of variables can cause a loss of traction or the need for a panic stop. We provide training for exactly those situations.

    Roadracers
    It is no secret that many of today's top roadracers have a flat-track background. Flat-track riding teaches riders to control slides at both ends of the bike. And, when you seek to push the boundaries of traction, you slide! We show you how to better understand how these slides work with and effect roadracing bikes.

    Flat Trackers
    No where else will you be able to get as much in depth knowledge and analysis about the keys to getting into and out of the corners faster than with drills designed by the some of the best TT and oval riders ever!

    Motocrossers
    Generally speaking, the most time to be gained on any track is getting in and out of the corners faster. That is exactly the focus of American Supercamp

    Supermoto
    The unique demands of supermoto riding are all covered right here. From the key elements of sliding to dealing with wide variances in traction, you will find the necessary tools here.


    By the way, my flat track racing seemed to help a few times when the back end stepped out on my street bike when hitting some loose stuff... and it was only a 175 Bultaco Sherpa S. I guess I should have fallen down.



    Pretty picky about a common keying error, aren't we?

    And, ignoring a small keying error, the answer is still yes riding a smaller bike can make you a better rider.
    #42
    Big John Sny likes this.
  3. anotherguy

    anotherguy Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2009
    Oddometer:
    17,400
    Location:
    the hills
    Race dirt track.

    A fine example.....he rode the RC 211V to a world championship-against Valentino Rossi. 250+HP no ABS,TC,Anti-wheelie...talent and skill. That he learned like this.
    nicky-hayden-dirt.jpg

    [​IMG]
    #43
    DR Donk likes this.
  4. klaviator

    klaviator Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 28, 2008
    Oddometer:
    18,763
    Location:
    Huntsville , Al
    I have seen plenty of riders on bikes too big for them that couldn't ride for shit. They were clearly intimidated by their bikes. Moving to a smaller bike would have been the best thing they could do to become better riders. After becoming more skilled and confident on a smaller bike they would likely have been better riders on a bigger bike. Or maybe they would have realized they really didn't need that bigger bike and just stayed on the smaller bike. It really depends on the rider. Some riders start out on a 1000cc bike and do fine but that's not something I'd recommend for most riders.
    #44
    Bucho and DR Donk like this.
  5. chainslap

    chainslap BlessedarethesicK Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2009
    Oddometer:
    5,254
    Location:
    The Dirty South

    Don't be such a tool as to write a book trying to prove you're right. I don't care to read that crap. It's meaningless rhetoric.

    My point is very simple. Try to follow along.

    Riding makes you a better rider. All types of bikes. All kinds of conditions. All types of weather. Take classes. Ride with friends. But ride. That makes you a better rider.

    Don't be so dense and defensive.





    #45
  6. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades... Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    23,483
    Location:
    Delaware Ohio
    Sorry to put you into such a defensive mode.

    Of course it's meaningless to the ignorant, ignore facts.

    What this thread was about is well proven. Never asked anything about any of your topics. It was about becoming a better rider through riding a smaller bike. Not whether riding longer or any other of the off topic stuff you mentioned would help.

    Don't be so ignorant.
    #46
    DR Donk likes this.
  7. AwDang

    AwDang Enabler

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2014
    Oddometer:
    4,852
    Location:
    MABDR mile 0
    Not always, riding with ineffective or bad habits just keeps reenforcing those habits. Everyone can still benefit from Some coaching. At least you recommended classes
    #47
    DCTFAN likes this.
  8. Big John Sny

    Big John Sny Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,615
    Location:
    Irving, Tx
    And before he rode flat track he raced in Texas Mini Grand Prix racing YSR50s
    #48
  9. Big John Sny

    Big John Sny Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,615
    Location:
    Irving, Tx
    riding smaller wheel bases fine tunes your front to rear weight transfer better.
    Riding with less horsepower forces you to learn to carry more speed in the corners.
    Competitively riding smaller displacement/horsepower allows you to push limits with less cost to rider and equipment when there are mistakes.
    Really the only way to find the limits are to occasionally go over them. Doing it in an environment where you can just get back up and try again does make you a better rider.

    Riding really is a funny thing where every natural reaction you have is almost wrong.
    you turn left to turn right. You lower your body closer to the ground to gain more ground clearance, you relax your body and let the bike find its own line to correct errors (you control less to regain control)

    You have to have an environment to make mistakes to teach your body to react correctly when stuff goes wrong and your body goes into fight or flight mode. It is amazing to watch guys whose body completely relax when the tires start to come out from under them. It takes a lot of tires sliding out from under you to get to that point. Riding smaller and riding dirt (or other lower traction surfaces) helps get you there. Someone off the bike that can see what you can't is critical too. What you think you feel will lie to you sometimes.
    #49
    AwDang and DR Donk like this.
  10. Big John Sny

    Big John Sny Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,615
    Location:
    Irving, Tx
    #50
    Bucho and DCTFAN like this.
  11. Wildmtn

    Wildmtn Still Lost

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2017
    Oddometer:
    384
    Location:
    Northern Colorado
    Based on some recent discussion it would seem that professionals train on smaller bikes, raced on smaller bikes before big ones and advocate training on smaller bikes (Supercamp). If you are a lousy rider on a big bike riding a smaller bike wont make you a good rider but getting training and practicing on any bike perhaps especially a smaller one will help you become a better rider. Taking training (or racing for that matter) on a smaller bike should be safer and cheaper.

    The items in italics are what will make you a better rider IMO.
    #51
    DCTFAN likes this.
  12. DCTFAN

    DCTFAN 2019 CRF1000LD Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2016
    Oddometer:
    2,306
    Location:
    GA
    Agreed.
    Just one more add:
    There is always a better rider than you on the same bike (no matter what size/class)
    #52
    Big John Sny and AwDang like this.
  13. AwDang

    AwDang Enabler

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2014
    Oddometer:
    4,852
    Location:
    MABDR mile 0
    And quite often that rider is a meer 12yo.....
    #53
    Big John Sny and anotherguy like this.
  14. Tripped1

    Tripped1 Smoove, Smoove like velvet.

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Oddometer:
    38,919
    Location:
    Land of Endless Summer.

    whipping around the outside on a little 250cc two smoker....
    #54
    AwDang likes this.
  15. nostep

    nostep Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2019
    Oddometer:
    348
    Location:
    San Diego
    Ok, so let's say you're 6'4" 190 lbs with a 35" inseam and you're looking for a "small" bike partially for the purposes discussed here.

    My main desert riding partner is my brother and his oldest is just turning 5. Next season, he'll probably be on a gas powered bike and coming out with us. We won't be going as far or as fast on many of our outings for a number of years.

    Let's say I want to use that opportunity for family time to also practice fundamentals on a "small" bike.

    Where should I be looking? I'm willing to do some things like change out springs and ergo stuff to help make it work. I "feel" like too physically small of a bike wouldn't be very useful for learning. Something like 80% of a full size bike. I would think 21-18 for wheels.

    Street legal is not required. Top speed of 45-50 mph should be more than enough.

    TTR125? CRF150 big wheel? Anyone gone down this road as an individual not a school?
    #55
  16. SRG

    SRG Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2004
    Oddometer:
    3,454
    Location:
    Central Va.
    Montessa 4RT
    #56
    Bucho and JETalmage like this.
  17. MATTY

    MATTY BORDER RAIDER

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2014
    Oddometer:
    8,012
    Location:
    England On the Scotish border
    I feel there is way to much OVER THINKING going on in this thread now.
    ride a bike just do it often. If you have literally zero bike riding experience, them throwing your leg over a bike that weight in at over 600lbs and 100HP or more is going to have a much bigger chance of putting you on the ground (probably at slow speeds and setting off on a uphill tight turn or drawing to a full stop ) , the weight is a thing a beginner MIGHT not get right first off.
    With bigger heavier bikes its crucial to keep the thing stable and controlled, like drawing up to a full stop. Easy just natural to the experienced, but a area of POTENTIAL danger for the New comer.
    With Experience the weight will seemingly melt away , only reminding the rider its very much still there when you or the bike gets out of shape, Then you have Big things happening, that your experience MIGHT or MIGHT NOT. get you out of jail free In this motorcycling monopoly game:lol2.
    Its all about control Once the bike is moving from stationary, Beginner and experienced alike, are presented with the SAME realisation . (this is heavy) But a experienced rider will immediately settle down and perhaps the bikes mass wont even register as such just adapted to instinctively. Where as the beginner MIGHT over react to the bikes feedback, This might end ok but if things go out of synch too far its going GROUND WARDS fast.
    With a Lighter bike, If any rider gets things out of synch, the bike could be recoverable by physical input, but with a heavier bike its less likely.
    But in reality. if a beginner, had only say a 1980 Yamaha XS1100 , he or she Would need to Start by Basic control at slow speeds, And The weight will always be there to remind them, when they did not get things right.
    Of course there is a potentially greater risk of a beginner being injured from even small low speed fails, but hey people of all ability's get hurt falling off 50cc bikes.
    It really is about little steps first, Balance control its all there and very relevant at any speed. With trials and in fact any bike balancing on the spot is a good discipline, it teaches you, how minor or seemingly minor input by yourself by mistake or seemingly inadvertently will unstabalise things, and just how hard it is to regain control of the balance.
    With Experience comes improved ability, to FEEL ANTICIPATE Pre empt and evaluate in split second time and put in input that might / Should save the day.
    So do i think a smaller bike makes you a better rider? Simple answer NO!
    And I think if all you have is an XS1100 then use it, Practice practice and practice. No substitute for hard yards. And i think low speed control practice is a brilliant way of mastering motorcycling. One other thing. Seat height. I have not seen reference to this aspect on this thread(If you did mention this here then i apologise).
    Dirt bike ADV bikes they have become very high in the seat heights , now i am only 6 foot but even on my Old XT600e the seat high is really to high. i firmly believe the compromise of a little less ground clearance or suspension travel is one worth contemplating in the name of better handling and manoeuvrability man handling etc.
    #57
  18. JETalmage

    JETalmage Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2014
    Oddometer:
    1,223
    Mastered? I wouldn't go that far. Quite the contrary, I dare say that if TheQ were to ride a lot on a lightweight dirt bike, he would find it translates to improved confidence and ability on both his Himalayan and his Triumph.

    I'm not knocking the Himalayan, but it's over 400 lb. Hardly a lightweight, nimble dirt bike.

    Look, I'm not anything anyone would call a great rider, and don't play one on the internet. But 53 years of riding has convinced me of this: The riding ability (and safety) of any mortal of any given skill level is dramatically improved by a history of riding lightweight dirt bikes.

    The lighter the bike, the more it teaches you that motorcycling is an act of participation, not one of just being a dead weight piece of luggage. Trail riding is where you safely become accustomed to the feel of losing traction and even falling without panicking. It's where you learn that body English dramatically affects what a bike can do successfully without resorting to excessive power or dropping the clutch, and that tensing up and trying to brace against what the bike needs to do is something to avoid.

    The lighter the bike, the more it encourages you to push your limits; to try the next-level personal challenge while minimizing risk.

    Nothing teaches you that better than a Trials bike, because they are even dramatically lighter and more nimble than conventional-wisdom trail bikes. They enable you to experience things you think you can't do without resorting to excessive throttle and speed.

    No, riding a trail bike or a Trials bike is not going to make you ride a bulky V-Strom 1000 with 100 lbs of luggage strapped to it like you can ride a 250 lb trail bike, let alone like a 150 lb modern Trials bike. Physics is physics. The heavier the bike is compared to your body's mass, the less your body English can affect the disposition of the bike, given the same effort. But the tactile principles and reflexes and dynamic intuition and expectations still translate to better automatic control in dicey situations. You ride with better, freer control, which can make all the difference.

    JET
    #58
    Big John Sny likes this.
  19. JETalmage

    JETalmage Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2014
    Oddometer:
    1,223
    I'm no Ryan Young. The best I ever achieved in club-level Trials was middle of 5 classes (called Sportsman in STRA). But I'll share with you one of the most effective pieces of advice I ever got for exactly the common situations with which you are struggling:

    On my own property, on a section I myself had 'ribboned off', I was on my Sherco and one of my far better-skilled riding buds was on--of all things--his vintage Greeves. I could creep at barely-moving speed, full-lock on that particular turn on the upward climb out of a small ditch, but ran over the 'ribbon' (actually the flared base of a tree) every friggin' time, while he cleaned it with ease.

    Tired of my frustration, Steve just said, "James, the more the bike leans, the tighter it can turn!"

    I cleaned it the very next time, and then over and over again.

    Never forget: There's a very good reason that seat is so low: It gets the frame of the bike out of the way so your own legs don't prevent it from leaning. That applies just as much at barely-moving speed as it does at greater momentum. I knew that, but was so focused on the 'tightness' of the turn that there I was, automatically concentrating so much on the steering that I was simply failing to let the bike lean.

    It's part and parcel of one of the most basic and hard-to-overcome errors in Trials: That habit so entrenched in our wrinkled brains that causes us to automatically lean our bodies into a turn, just because the bike does. Doing that throws everything off-balance. It's sometimes described in other terms, like "dropping the inside shoulder", or "leading with the shoulder." But it's why so many points are dropped on those seemingly hair-splitting hillside turns. The tightness of the turn is compounded by the visual sense of the slope of the hill. To our long-acquired reflexes, we think the ground just has to be perpendicular to our wheels, and it takes deliberate thought to overcome that impulse.

    Ask yourself: When riding straight across the side of a hill, where should your body be? Hanging a little toward the uphill, so as to make the wheels more perpendicular to the slope, for 'better traction"? No. No gymnastics required. Just stay vertically balanced above the bike.

    Now assume you have to turn downhill. What do you do? Initially, it feels all wrong; but you're turning downhill, so the bike needs to lean downhill. So you move your body uphill. You're really just keeping your body mass and that of the bike balanced relative to gravity. It just feels and looks wrong.

    What really feels wonky is making yourself use the same principle when turning uphill: It's so counter-intuitive to lean the bike into what feels like 'more' uphill--which means moving your body mass toward the downhill side--but again, you're just letting the bike lean in the direction it needs to turn while keeping the combined body and bike mass centered over gravity. That's how you avoid that infuriating dab on the uphill side.

    The rule-of-thumb is simple: The bike leans in the direction of the turn, so balance requires shifting the body mass to the 'outside' of the turn. That applies whether turning uphill, downhill, or on flat ground. It underlies everything from those 'impossibly' tight ribbons to those beautiful floating turns you see the upper-classmen do.

    Easy to say. Not so easy to make habit. ;-)

    JET
    #59
    ZiaThunder likes this.
  20. zeerx

    zeerx Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,540
    Location:
    Haverhill, MA
    I rode a KDX 250/200/220 for 30+ years. Got pretty good. Got on a DRZ400 and it almost crippled me. YMMV.
    #60