Speed Is Relative…

Here’s a little something that always makes me feel better when I go to the track and some other rider passes me like I’m standing on the side of the track making sandwiches .

relativism: The doctrine that no ideas or beliefs are universally true but that all are, instead, “relative” — that is, their validity depends on the circumstances in which they are applied.

It gives me something of an out. He’s faster than me because… (fill in the blank) Or I could go that fast if…

Going fast on a motorcycle is a combination of many different factors, some physical, some mental, and some mechanical. Speed is essentially a simple equation with no single part being greater than the other. Without one, the others are basically rendered ineffectual. If we break speed/ going fast down into these three parts we find:

Physical – strength/endurance, one must be fit enough to muscle the bike around.

Mental – one must have the ability to keep the throttle turned on and keep it there.

Mechanical – the bike must be tuned to provide the most confidence to the rider.

From all of this one would surmise speed is a relative thing, that is, your sense of speed depends on your circumstances. Have you ever been driving a car, perhaps one different than your own and looked at the speedometer only to find that you are going much faster than you thought you were? Somehow in this other car your perception of speed had changed, giving you the feeling that you were not going as fast as you actually were. Did you ever trade bikes with a buddy and feel like you were just cruising only to hear him say he had a hard time keeping up with you? Or have you ever been riding and felt like you were going really quickly only to be passed like you were going the other way? It’s a humbling experience, nearly all of us have had. What I am saying here is your actual speed is relative to your perception of how fast you are going. If you don’t feel like you are going fast, you could probably go faster.

This begs the question, what can we do to change our perception of speed? There are several things, first we can get more physically fit. Fitness is critical when riding. If you’re out of shape things go downhill fast. When we become tired we make mistakes which can make us feel like we are going too fast which in turn, slows us down. Next, our mental state when riding is influenced by many factors and confidence is high on the list. Confidence can be raised by experience and practice. And last but not least is mechanical, a properly prepped bike will do wonders for your confidence.

The next time you are out riding, take a look around you to see other riders’ bikes and notice how they are set up. You will likely see a large number of bikes with after market exhaust systems installed. Currently, for most modern 4t bikes, an after market complete exhaust system starts at around $600 and can easily reach $1,000. Generally speaking, these systems provide a small increase in horse power on top, usually 4 or 5%. The question is, does this increase in power translate to faster lap times? Most likely not, few riders out there have the ability to tap into all the power current 4t’s have anyway. In most cases any increase in your confidence and ability to go faster based on this investment is non existent. Plus you generally give up the same amount of power on the bottom end for the gain on top which could actually make you ride slower.

Take this example. If your local track has 20 turns and you were able to shave ¼ of a second off each corner because you were able to break later and get on the gas earlier you would go 5 seconds a lap faster. Let’s say those twenty turns were joined by 40 “sections” and you could shave an average off 1/8 of a second off each section. You would be saving another 5 seconds per lap for a total of 10 seconds. If you are running a 10 lap race you would be finished a full minute and a half faster.

The question is, how can you do this? Read our RG3 suspension review for the answer

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