I’m a helpless victim of it.
I’ve just taken possession of a new (to me) supermotard motorcycle (a MuZ Baghira, pictured below the fold). After a week of commuting on it, one simple question presents itself to me:
Why the heck does anyone ride any other kind of bike?
Much of my riding is commuting; TG and I have only one car between us (the Mighty Odyssey minivan) and find that we can preserve our sanity in Los Angeles traffic best by commuting on motorcycles. But I also sportride (ride somewhat quickly on the interesting windy roads in the Los Angeles and Central California hills) and tour.
I’ve typically owned sportbikes (motorcycles that are also used for roadracing, like a Suzuki GSXR-600) or sport-touring motorcycles (motorcycles that start as racing motorcycles but are redesigned for more comfort and with a focus on covering log distances, like my old Triumph Sprint ST).
They are aerodynamically designed – the sportbikes typically have top speeds in excess of 150 mph, and the sport-tourers typically will run about 130. This means the rider has to crouch down over the motorcycle; the most extreme production racing motorcycles…like the Ducati 998 or Yamaha R6…are affectionately known as “racks” for their uncomfortable riding positions.
In reality, even the most “squidly” (unsafe, irresponsible, unskilled) riders don’t use the high-speed capabilities of their motorcycles to any meaningful extent. There is some benefit to the aerodynamics at fast highway speeds, but for riding in the city or on local roads – even the curve-ridden fun ones – the benefit is pretty limited.
Enter the motard.
There is a large class of motorcycles designed for riding in the dirt; the rider has to sit erect to be able to balance the bike in a constantly-changing traction environment and be able to control the bike in a wide range of attitudes.
They have long-travel suspensions to get the bike over obstacles, and engines optimized for low-speed torque rather than high-speed horsepower.
But they have skinny wheels with knobby tires designed for dirt and mud, instead of smaller wheels with wider street tires. Some genius came up with the idea of putting street wheels on a dir bike, and the motard was born.
Back in the 1980’s, the ABC television show “Wide World of Sports” came up with the idea of a race that would pit motorcycle road racers against flat track riders against motocross riders, and called it “The Superbikers”. They rode the precursors to supermotards on a course that was flat and bumpy dirt and asphalt. The sport took off in Europe, and is just in the last four or five years reaching the United States.
And so people started converting their dirt bikes to motards, and motorcycle manufacturers started following them.
I’d read about motards, and when my sore neck suggested that a more upright position would be useful, picked one up.
And now that I’ve been riding it for a week, I’m kicking myself for not getting one sooner.
Riding in traffic is far easier and safer then on a sportbike; I can see and be seen far easier because of the height and vertical posture. The wide handlebars, quick steering, and strong acceleration from a stop make threading through traffic far easier as well.
I’ve only done a little riding in the twisties with it, but have a feeling that I’ll have far more fun on my 50hp motard – and possibly go as fast or faster – as on my 100hp sport-tourer. I think a day ride to San Francisco would be more tiring, but horses for courses, as they say.
It’s getting almost 47 mpg, parks anywhere, uses less road, and gets me to work with a grin on my face.
If you ride, you ought to think about getting one…so meet Thalia, the MuZ of comedy and playfulness: