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Essay The Physics of Motorcycle Roadracing

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Despite what some people may think, motorcycle roadracing is not only a highly strenuous sport, but there is much more involved than just twisting the throttle and turning the handlebars. There are a number of powerful forces working on the bike and the rider. There is, of course, the downward pull of gravity, friction between the tires and the track, and centrifugal force which acts to the outside of the turn. The key to cornering at high speeds is to perfect the lean angle of the motorcycle so that the force of gravity reaches equilibrium with the centrifugal force attempting to stand the bike back up. If the bike is leaned to far, it falls over. If it is not leaned far enough, centrifugal force pulls it back up and the turn is not sharp enough. If there is no lean at all, extreme enough circumstances could even cause the motorcycle to tip over in the opposite direction of the way it is turning, much as a four-wheeled vehicle will tip if turned too sharply and quickly.

Acceleration

One of the first considerations a rider has to think about is how to start the motorcycle in motion. I am not referring to having the motorcycle turned on and in gear (although these are important, too), but rather to the necessary precautions one must take when moving forward on a high-powered machine such as a sportbike. If too much forward thrust is given right away, the front end of the bike will lift off of the ground. This is because all the acceleration is coming from the rear wheel, and it has a tendency to push the back of the bike up under the front. Some showy riders like to do this on purpose, but if they do not find the proper balance point, they are likely to wheelie over backwards...

Steering Method #1: Countersteering

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...efer treaded tires, still made of the more pliable rubber. Tires with some tread are much less likely to hydroplane upon contact with moisture on the track, and tend to grip better than slicks in cool weather. There are also rain tires for those gung-ho types who won't call the races off for a bit of rain.

Sources

1) Cocco, Gaetano. Motorcycle Design & Technology: How and Why. Motorbooks International; MA, 1999.

2) Code, Keith. Soft Science of Road Racing Motorcycles. Motorbooks International; MA, 1998.

3) Jaehne, Gary S. Sportbiking: The Real World (The Advanced Riders' Handbook).

Brentwood Christian Press; NY, 1998.

4) http://www.worldsuperbikes.com/

5) http://www.geocities.com/thadr6/myhomepage.html

6) Trevitt, Andrew. "Counter Steering VS. Body Steering: The Great Debate," Sport Rider. Vol X, Number 5,

October 2002. Pp 92-96.



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