Liter-acy: A look at Liter Bikes

The engine fires and gears are selected. You twist the throttle and each pulse-pumping CC is called into action. As the RPM’s climb, you find yourself struggling to see the road as your life flashes before you, time & space stand still as the quiet scream of the exhaust fills the void left by your departing senses. The world around you blurs as colors swirl together and the laws of physics begin to bend and ply. The wind presses you down as if the sky itself was riding on your shoulders and you dare not peel yourself away from the false-security that is the gas tank. The neurons in your brain fire off like an exploding kerosene factory as you attempt to fixate on a point of reference through the ¼ inch thin plastic visor, your only line of protection against road debris which you may be approaching at speeds the human body was never intended to travel at.  All of a sudden you see a brilliant flash of light and….

You are back in the show room staring at the GSXR 1000 you have been thinking of buying. Make no mistake about it, the sensations that just went through your mind are not fiction. Those vivid delusions are the reality of ridding the fastest production vehicle available to the public…liter bikes. While I mentioned the big Gixxer, brands across the board offer these machines to those who are willing. But the question must be asked: Do those who are willing understand what they are buying?

A liter bike by definition is a supersport class motorcycle with a displacement of 1000 cubic centimeters (CC) and up…what the hell does that mean? Basically, CC’s are the measurement used in small engines to calculate the volume the piston displaces as it travels a full stroke. The more volume the piston must move, the more air/fuel the engine consumes which equates to more power (HAPPY!!). Unfortunately, the world doesn’t care that Americans don’t speak metric so that’s the measurement were stuck with. Now that we have the technicals out of the way, we can get down to the pork & beans of it.

I hear people ask time & again about just how fast does a liter bike go? Seeing as how you now understand what the CC translates to, I can explain the other half of the equation so you can fully grasp just how fast liter bikes are. I have a good friend who has no never heard of the great recession and wants to buy a 2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe Black Series (in white of course) and is willing to fork out $140K for it. @ 500+ hp, 450+tq and 20mpg there is a strong case for it until you come across one more attribute…3700lb curb weight. Why does this number glare-out? While CC’s and HP’s can be really sexy numbers, they are just as easily diluted by the amount of weight those CC’s and HP’s have to move. While Mercedes-Benz engineers are clever, they have yet to figure out a weight-watchers plan for their Black series. Until that day, those 500 ponies must still to accelerate those 3700lbs and that takes time….approximately 4.1 seconds to 60MPH. By comparison, the ZX-10R @ 182HP only has to move 454lbs (not including you) so the weight barely diminishes the HP figure. As such, ZX10R only needs 2.8 seconds to reach 60mph which leaves the impressive black series in the preverbal dust.

Yes, I did say 2.8 seconds, which is less time than it took you to read this sentence. Liters don’t stop there however, they keep pushing. As you run through the band, the unbridled raw power will drive you back in your own seat no matter how hard you struggle. The G’s are relentless and the incredibly fast throttle response can surprise the most experienced riders. There is ZERO lag between the throttle and the push, less than a tenth-of-a-second all the way through to redline. If that doesn’t impress you, then prepare yourself for this. For those of us that have flown before, takeoff is exhilarating. The Engines windup and the runway begins to move past you. Faster & faster, you start to feel the g-force press against your chest and just when you think you can’t possible travel any faster…lift-off. Well, if you were to put a set of carbon fiber wings onto a ZX-10R it would achieve critical momentum (speed of lift-off) which is approx. 180mph about 16 seconds faster than a Boeing 737. In the world of drag racing, that is an eternity.

With the assumption that you now understand what you are buying, the only question that remains is whether a liter is right for you. Most people you talk to will say that new riders who have more money than brains will purchase a liter and end up embedded into a telephone pole. I take a more progressive approach. As I have stated in previous articles, liter bikes only achieve peak HP at a certain RPM. I hold true to my statement that a novice rider who respects the throttle can grow with the bike If, & ONLY if they understand what they have purchased.

I hope that through this article prospective buyers now realize that liters are extremely fast, extremely aggressive and above all else, leave little room for error. They are faster than any production car available and accelerate at & to speeds which are hard to comprehend…even for those of us that have ridden one. So congratulations, you are now liter’ate.

Radar Avenue

Trying to get the attention of the woman of your dreams can be difficult and men will go to extremes in order to gain her fancy. Some spend grueling hours at the gym 7 days a week, thinking that their bulging biceps will do the trick. Others expel Benjamins on fine wines and expensive restaurants attempting to woo the object of their affection into submission (not 50 Shades of Gray submission, just submission). Still, there are those with the cash flow to buy cars whose price-tag could feed a small country and think that women will melt at the mere sight of the manifestation of their enormous egos.  As exhaustive as all this must be, true frustration would set in if all these men realized that turning on a women is as simple as turning a key on a motorcycle.

It’s not that being a muscle bulging, wealthy connoisseur isn’t sexy, it’s just boring. How many times can you go see Paris till it becomes a chore? Fancy cars are nice, but they aren’t practical. Just try sitting in a Lamborghini for an hour, I guarantee that you will be taking the first cab you see to your local chiropractor’s office. While these guys may get her attention initially, the luster wears off, and with it, so does the sex.

So, you don’t have the muscles, money or cars to get her attention off the bat and ask: How will a motorcycle help?  In this writer’s estimation, most women are REALLY interested in two key attributes men can offer them; namely security & excitement. Riding a motorcycle provides those things, and more importantly, continues providing those things….allow me to explain.

Women want to know that their mate can protect them and (some Freud for you dinning pleasure) their offspring. Having their arms around a hulking slab of meat is nice and all, but will said hulk throw-down when it really counts or will he jump off the balcony like Jamie Rohrs (just Google him)?  Well ladies, look no further than popular culture to find your answer. See, popular culture is a reflection of reality and motorcycles are time & again associated with testosterone enraged bad-asses taking names no matter who’s on the list. For example, Terminator 1 & 2 had a killing machine riding a Harley Davidson Fatboy, Top Gun had Maverick racing an F-14 on a Kawasaki GPZ 900 R, and let’s not forget Will Smith taking out a supercomputer controlling thousands of drones riding his MV Agusta F4 SPR (same bike Christian Bale rode as Bruce Wayne in the Dark Night). Even comic book heroes like Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Batman and Judge Dredd ride out to save the day.

Terminator

While these characters are all fictional, each gets the girl and it’s not by accident. So what’s the common denominator…you guessed it, the motorcycles. Image is an unbelievably important factor in attracting a mate. Looks, brains, money, power or cars will NEVER be able to compete with the right impression.  By pulling up on, I don’t know, a black Kawasaki ZX 14R most of the work is already done for you. You are the motorcycle riding alpha-male that society has told her she has been waiting for. This is appealing because women perceive males riding these magnificent chromed and stickered machines as certified tough guys who will stand their ground when things go south. This is the same reason doctors, lawyers, dentists and other office-oriented professionals buy cruisers and trailer them into Daytona. They are trying to live out the fantasy and prove to the females in their lives that they are not as boring as a waiting room.

Kawasaki ZX-14R

So now that she feels the security of being held in the grasp of a fearless ass-kicker, you need to provide the excitement that will keep the fires burning. This is where the ever present sense of excitement every time you fire up that V-Twin (or inline-4 for my Street Bike crowd) comes in. Why is this important? Well, contrary to popular opinion, getting married isn’t the fastest way to end your sex life, however, making things routine is. While there is an element of danger to these machines (read my previous article for reference) that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You need a little danger in your life…it’s good for you and keeps things fresh. Most women won’t come right out and say it, but they enjoy a good adrenaline rush just as much as the next guy. That heart-pumping hormone secreted by the adrenal gland makes you feel alive and gets those pheromones going. This is important because if you don’t occasionally excrete some pheromones, she will find someone who will.

The simple fact is women follow instincts in choosing their mates, instincts that are driven by chemistry, perception and culture. Pulling up on a chromed-out Honda Sabre will go further to filling her criteria then any words, wines or flowing locks of hair could ever hope to. Ordinary men are transformed into Greek gods the minute they title their socially-branded bad boy chariots.

Now that I have summarized your entire relationship from inception to fruition, let’s get real for a minute…is there more involved in closing the deal with her than having a motorcycle? Sure, women are complex creatures, but you need to be on her radar to even have a chance. That is where a supersport or cruiser will take you, to Radar Avenue; next to muscle boy, Trump Wannabe and Brad Pittish. It’s also the gift that keeps on giving, long after you were just a blimp on her radar.

Statutory Red Tape

You are on your way home riding your SV-650 from a day of hugging curbs and offset formations. You’re a little tired and thinking about the barbeque which you are in route to that promises to have beer, burgers and babes. As you take the on ramp to enter the freeway you accelerate in the “acceleration lane” like everyone else accessing the freeway. You keep your eyes up and check for traffic in front and alongside your lane when all of a sudden, doot-da-do…it’s Christmas in July.  As the blues and reds light-up behind you, you look down at your cluster only to realize you’re doing 86 mph in a 55 zone. You pull over like the law abiding citizen you are and begin a dialogue with the officer, only to have him return from his cruiser with a fat ticket.

If you think about it however, there seems to be something fundamentally wrong with this picture. We have all seen the show CSI, or MCSI, or NYCSI or some deviation of the acronym CSI. The perp always has some malcontent; a motive that drives them to commit the crime. That scenario doesn’t fit here, you didn’t mean to break the law, it’s just your SV-650 accelerates faster than your average car in the allotted space given to match the speed of traffic. No, the type of law you broke is called a statutory law.

A statutory law basically means that the state doesn’t need to prove you meant to break the law for you to be found guilty of doing so. I know what you’re thinking, but don’t worry, it gets worse. Not only did you not intend to break the law, the law isn’t even applied to everyone universally. 9 states haves laws which permit cars to travel faster than trucks. If logic reigned supreme, than it would only be rational to allow motorcycles to travel faster than cars, since motorcycles are as different from cars as cars are from trucks; this seems just a little bias. All these vehicles are different and as such should be held to a different standard.

For instance, motorcycles accelerate much faster than do cars or trucks. Their power-to-weight ratio is unmatched by anything else on the road, so this is the equivalent of asking the hare to keep pace with the tortoise; it goes against its nature. Furthermore, most modern day street-legal motorcycles are equipped with a six-speed transmission which achieves peak-fuel efficiency at a certain RPM. For each model it varies, but I seriously doubt any of them thrive at 55, or even 65mph. Additionally, motorcycles are designed to travel at high speeds while retaining their maneuverability and can stop in much shorter distances then their 4, 12 or 18 wheel brethren. In fact, the biggest threats to riders are the other vehicles that motorcycles are mandated to travel the same speeds as.

How many times have you been ridding alongside a large truck when all of a sudden your motorcycle begins to drift towards it? This is because the air the truck is displacing (known as aerodynamic drag) is moving around and underneath it…and so will you if you don’t hit the throttle and lean away. Moreover, riders have to keep a safe distance away from distracted drivers. You know, the teary-eyed 18 year old who is updating her Facebook status on interstate 70 because the world can’t wait the 23 minutes it takes her to get home to learn that she didn’t get into Clemson. Now more than ever riders need to have the freedom to accelerate away from danger without concerning themselves with an arbitrary statute supported by little or no research justifying it.

How do I know that speed limits have nothing to stand on, because they have been changed multiple times with no measurable impact on safety. Some of you reading this may be too young to remember but there was a time not long ago when the highways of the United States were governed by a provision known as the National Maximum Speed Law. This provision of the 1974 Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act granted the federal government the authority to set the maximum permitted speed on state highways. This was a colossal failure as the provision failed to accomplish any of its intended goals. It did not save commuters fuel and it certainly did not make the roads safer. In fact, there is research that suggests this provision made the roads MORE dangerous. Why haven’t you newbies heard of this law? Because congress repealed the National Maximum Speed Law back in 1995…who says congress does nothing (enter joke here). But seriously, no proven safety benefit, not even a marginal one.

So, let’s break this down to its very core. All this hoopla is centered around one rationalization…speed kills. If you ask me, this is a false statement. I have been on a track and gone very fast, I’m still typing, so this statement must be false. It’s not speed that kills, it’s recklessness that kills. Every person I have known that has died on a motorcycle (or in a car for that matter) was either a victim of someone else’s recklessness or being reckless themselves…without fail. There isn’t a shred of conclusive evidence that links faster speeds to a higher body count. So what are proponents of speed laws basing the current limits on you ask? Speculation, which is all they have ever had.

So, what can we do about it? This is a point in your life where you can look to your father’s cliché half-drunken advice for guidance. Mine used to say “don’t start until you can’t stop”, I still have no idea what the hell he was talking about. Maybe your father had something more relevant to add to your life like “start from the top”. That’s exactly what you should do, contact your state governor’s office and voice your opinion. You pay their salary so you might as well let them know you are aware of their hidden bias and that Christmas should only come in December damn-it!

 

The Supersport Candy Store

The best part about surviving the Great Recession is the opportunity to reward ourselves to a bit of the sweet life. For the sake of this article, let’s say you want to buy the supersport you have always wanted. Unfortunately, it’s not a cake walk when trying to decide which sport bike to choose as there are plenty of options to give you pause: color & design, speed & performance, comfort & rideability. In the end however, the final decision will not depend on the bike, but rather on you.

First off, just put aside the thought that you want the “fastest one”. As far as which model is faster within its own class, this is a matter of splitting hairs…we are not talking about seconds, try milliseconds. You would need the equipment NASA uses to measure photons to determine which manufacture has the fastest machine. Your decision should be based on something more personal, let’s explore what I mean by this.

We all remember being kids and walking into our local candy store. Our eyes would light up with all the delicious morsels of shiny wrapped chocolates and sweets that would beckon to us until we began to salivate. Well, if you would like to experience a little déjà vu, just walk into your local motorcycle dealership. Just bring a bib because all the delicious morsels wrapped in shiny-stickered ABS plastics will be beckoning to you until you salivate. Once you conclude your little flash back, you are going to have to decide which one to take home.

Now there are a number of practical guidelines one can use to narrow the field down. As with any new relationship, the first thing you are going to notice is appearance. Now, tastes are as diverse as the people who have them, so lucky for us those crafty graphic design studios considered this before introducing the 2012 models. There is something for everyone, Yamaha’s Blue, Honda’s red & pearl white, Kawi green and Suzuki yellow. The color schemes are phenomenal and the aggressive styling of these machines serves both function & form.

2012 Honda CBR 600RR

The majority of this decision will be in the details, such as where you prefer your exhaust to sit. For example, all three of the Gixxers have the stock exhaust (like you’re not going to upgrade) sitting rightside low.  In contrast, the YZF-R1 carries an under-seat exhaust and the R6 brandishes a stubby-shotgun style. Each exhaust system serves its function, creating back pressure and expelling the waste from the combustion chamber, but are designed differently with one purpose in mind; to give each model a distinct look. Headlights are another feature that is geared towards aesthetics. While three of the brands, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Honda all provide duel headlights on their supersports, the Gixxer alone retains a single housing.

2012 Yamaha YZF R1

Now when considering all the options, don’t panic, you have been here before. As that kid in the candy store you were eventually successful in choosing between caramel nougat or chocolate-covered orange peels. This is the same thing, just with a lot less calories. The next thing you should consider is performance. This can be broken down into two categories: the 600’s and the 1000’s (also known as the literbikes). There is one exception to this categorical separation and I’ll touch on that later. To decide which class is right for you, there are some simple questions you should ask yourself. Things like: is it on my bucket list to break the sound barrier? Or, how many Mclaren F1 owners do I want to send crying home before having to get gas? There are also insurance premiums to think about and experience should play a role in this decision as well.  If you said yes and 8 to the first two questions, then a literbike (1000 class) maybe right for you.

Literbikes are absolute hammers. These machines accelerate faster than almost anything else on the planet. They are not only fast, they are powerful. How powerful you ask? If you were to purchase a car with the same power/weight ratio as say the R1, which is an estimated 152hp/454lbs, you would have to purchase a car with 1018hp weighing 3000lbs. As a base of reference, at the mere asking price of $650,000, the Ferrari Enzo is a little more than halfway there. It produces 660 ponies and weighs a slender 3010lbs. So, in essence you would have to strip down the car and drop it out of an airplane with a cement block on the accelerator to produce the same results as the R1.

You will hear time & again that literbikes are not for novice riders, I’m not so sure about that. The R1 mentioned above is only 152hp at a certain rpm. If a novice had the self-control to respect the throttle, I don’t see a reason why he/she couldn’t grow with the bike. There are plenty of advantages to riding a literbike. This class tends to feel more stable and planted mostly due to the extra weight. The liters have exceptional power throughout the entire ban so you’ll never be without enough throttle. I personally spent 2 of my 3 years riding an R6 wishing for something w/a little more torque. That’s not to say there was anything disappointing about the 6, I was just ready for something bigger.  When I bought my 929, I knew right away that this was the class for me.

As far as the 600 class goes, these bikes are ideal for those who enjoy ridding without the urge to escape earth’s gravity. The 6’s are exceptionally agile, light and quick. All are responsive to the riders every movement and phenomenal for some curb-hugging action. The 6 class is also more economical then their big bothers. Not so much in fuel economy, as 1000RR gets the same MPG’s as the 600RR (depending on how you ride it) but rather in insurance premiums and total costs. As far as sex appeal goes, the 6 class isn’t short on looks. They are as hot & bothered as their liter counterparts…in fact, GSXR family of supersports are triplets; only a trained eye can tell them apart.

This brings me to the bastard of the bunch, the GSX-R 750. Many riders find a happy medium with this model as it combines the power of the liters w/the agility of the 6’s. Being only $600 dollars more than its 6 class understudy makes it an attractive option as well.

2012 Suzuki GSX-R 750

In the end, there are no wrong choices here. Some of us prefer Snickers while others dream black licorice (yuck!). Whatever your flavor, enjoy the sweet ride that comes with the mouth-watering recipe of a supersport.

So they’re dangerous, is that all you got?

Alright, so maybe motorcycles aren’t the safest modes of transportation. We all know the stigma surrounding these magnificent two-wheeled chariots. There are enough reasons to embrace the open road and forgo the fear that may condemn some to pass on one of life’s most rewarding experiences. So, let us explore the reasons we riders may seem to tempt fate.

Nothing compares to the sensation of tearing down a road at mindboggling speeds, hugging tight corners inches away from certain death or cruising your local strip with all eyes on you…NOTHING!! To attempt to put it into words, even for the most seasoned of writers will not do it justice. Trying to describe those vibrant endorphins running manic through your blood will ultimately be a futile effort. Riding can only be experience, never explained.

So don’t let the stigma stop you, people do plenty of risky things every day without regard for their safety and which do not provide the illustrious returns that riding does. People walk across busy intersections, drive cars, eat fast food, drink artificial sweeteners, smoke, have children (that will take years off your life), get married (also takes years off your life), etc. All these activities pose a risk to your safety but people do them anyway. So to say that the risks involved with riding are to great is to not understand that your life is already filled with risks that fall short of any measurable benefit.

Riders, for the most part, embrace the risk that accompanies the calling; they don’t shy away from it with the understanding that living life is not the same as simply being alive.  See, there are certain ideals which give life that exuberance, the excitement which makes it all seem worthwhile. One of these sacred cows is liberation, the proverbial “oxygen of the soul”. The thrust for liberation is part of us, almost as if it were built into our DNA. Liberation is the reason tyrannical dictators fall, the reason nations build armies and the sweet nectar immigrants cross sometimes unimaginable distances to attain…and guess what: riders have liberation on tap!! That is exactly what ridding is at its very core: unadulterated liberation from the monotony that is everyday life

How unadulterated could it be you ask? Let me put it this way: how many things can you recall with absolute clarity regardless of time that has passed? I can recall every sensation I felt the first moments I took my old EX500 onto an actual road. The nerves and anxiety, the excitement and tingling in my extremities, the smell of the freshly laid asphalt with a sweet hint of honeysuckle from the trees lining the road. Gripping the handles bars and turning the throttle to hear the roaring growl of my muzzy exhaust foolishly laced onto the stock headers of a v-twin. It was the one moment in time which for me stands still, encapsulated in a crystal clear vase cemented deep within the recesses of my mind.

 

But Aside from the personal gratification, there are the practical reasons to get skinny and lose two wheels. If you look at the facts, motorcycles are superior to other forms of transportation in almost every way. Motorcycles use much less fuel than cars to travel similar distances which in turn creates less pollution. The less population one creates, the more clean air the rest of us have to breathe. So in essence, riding a motorcycle is not only personally gratifying, it’s a public service.

Motorcycles also take up less space and create less congestion than do their 4-wheel counter parts. So you ask? Well, try driving your car through SOHO sometime, or route 17 in northern New Jersey. Better yet, try merging onto the 405 in LA or I-35E in Dallas and then come back and talk to me. It is astonishing how quickly these super-highways become parking lots because of all the wonderful 4-wheelers trying to occupy every available square inch.

Now for me to address performance disparities, you’ll have to stop drinking whatever beverage you have because if you don’t, it’s going to be coming out of your nose. You would have to spend 6 figures and up on a high end supercar to match even the smaller CC super sports, which are usually offered at around 10K. Even cruisers, which generally aren’t viewed as rockets could outperform most lower-end sports cars with relative ease. There just isn’t much comparison when examining the cost/performance ratios. If you happen to encounter someone who would argue differently, simply point and laugh.

The final point I would like to make before you forward this article to a non-believer, is one based in morality. I believe we have an obligation to ourselves to live while we can. This is not an obligation any of us should take lightly, since it’s human nature to doubt that our time could be running short. We have to live to the fullest while we have the now; because there is no guarantee that the later will ever come. Riding is worth the inherent risks that come along with it, and over 6 million Americans would agree with that. To all those who have yet to do so, kick fear aside, get a badass helmet and prepare to experience that which must be experienced.