Superbikes (or supersports bikes) are fast, powerful and above all, fantastic fun. In fact, few things in life compare to the sheer excitement of tackling corners and accelerating down straights on top of a gleaming race-derived machine. But with power and speed inevitably comes risk, and it’s important that you fully understand how to ride these machines in the safest way possible. Superbikes are completely different beasts to standard bikes, and practice really does make perfect. So, with this in mind you may want to take note of these following tips.
Work your way up
Before you even consider riding a superbike you need to build up your riding skills and gain a sufficient amount of experience on bikes with smaller engine capacities and/or more sympathetic riding characteristics. Riding any motorbike demands a high-level of skill, confidence and focus, but this is even more essential for superbikes.
It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with how superbikes actually work. Watch videos and races, visit events, or talk to others who ride them. This will allow you to expand your knowledge and better understand your bike.
Invest in decent riding gear
No matter what you’re riding, the gear you’re wearing should offer an excellent level of protection. Due to increased speeds you may find that more loose particles and grit flick up from the road so make sure you always ride wearing a decent set of leathers and a helmet with eye-protection.
Given the power and intentionally ‘flickable’ geometry of superbikes you need to be much more sensitive when handling them than with tourers or commuter machines. Learn to ride the bike smoothly; feed the throttle and squeeze the brake lever gently while shifting carefully between gears. This allows the weight to shift predictably. Sudden braking or violent throttle changes can cause the bike to skid or buck.
When you’re riding the bike hold the bars lightly except when you need to squeeze the brake lever. This will give you a better feel for what the bike and front tyre is doing and, in turn, improve overall handling.
If you’re riding in traffic remember that your bike can come to a halt pretty rapidly while other vehicles on the road may take a little longer to stop. Also, when riding on crowded roads, it’s likely that you’ll be driving one of the most powerful vehicles. Make sure you’re fully aware of the speed of other cars and bikes at all times.
If you want to be in a relaxed, upright riding position, buy a cruiser or tourer. Superbikes are designed with aerodynamics and a low centre of gravity in mind and built so that you are basically leant over the machine. The windshields are often very low to help reduce drag but this means that you have to duck down quite a long way to prevent buffeting at speed. Aftermarket ‘double bubble’ screens can help reduce this problem and often make little difference to aerodynamics or visuals of the bike.
Carry out frequent check-ups
Your superbike should always be in good nick so it’s important to carry out regular check-ups. Always check the mains consumable components for damage or wear; e.g., chains, brakes, tyres, etc. Failing to notice that something needs urgently replacing could be very costly, either in wear or tear on more major components or catastrophic failure. Both can be avoided with a few quick pre-ride checks.
Use good fuel
Don’t compromise on the quality of fuel you use as this could significantly impact the bike’s engine and overall performance. When you are giving your bike regular check-ups, don’t forget to ensure that both the oil and coolant are feeding into the engine, and at the very least change engine oil at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals. Changing engine oil more often will not damage your bike but it could extend the life of your engine and clutch.
Know your limits
When you’re riding a superbike it’s tempting to try to push it to its full capabilities, but this can have pretty disastrous consequences. A superbike will almost always be able to outperform its rider so although it’s good to test yourself don’t go too far out of your comfort zone. Before a ride out agree with your mates that you will stop and regroup regularly. Ride within your own limits and never attempt to play catch up as the added pressure can cause mistakes.
Ultimately, if you really want to see what your bike can do in a controlled and reasonably safe environment, check out the regular track days available around the country.