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.