- Motorcycles, Sports Bikes & Riding
The 08 Honda CBR 1000 RR and Sport Bikes in general - my experience
I wrote this article not only to talk about the 08 Fireblade, but a little about sport motorcycles in general, their advantages and disadvantages relating to other bikes. Recently I've been adding some security tips for inexperienced riders as well, given the nature of this type of bikes. The lure of sport bikes is tremendous especially for young and inexperienced riders. They are beautiful bikes, and what they offer is all easily translated in numbers (hp, 0-60 times, top-speeds, circuit lap-times, etc) and visible performance on the races, on TV. These features, however, are only a part of the riding experience. I've bought the 08 Fireblade around February 2008, without ever having tried a 1000cc (1k) sport bike so this is what I think about it and sport bikes in general:
Regarding the looks, the 08 CBR 1000 RR aka 08 Fireblade has a difficult look. It’s difficult to like it especially at first sight. The nose of the bike looks like it was “punched in” like some say (a change that was madeupright and balanced to improve the high speed cornering related to aerodynamics). But as you spend time with it and you examine the details you’ll probably slowly start getting used to it and possibly even end up loving it. When I look at other sport bikes now I find they are too pointy and have exaggerated angles, as the lines on the 08 Fireblade are very subtle and almost classic like. It’s like a wolf in sheep’s clothing heheh.
The Fireblade is, as all sport bikes, a machine built almost exclusively for performance, speed and maneuvering. As a result, comforts that come standard with even the cheapest of bikes are almost nonexistent on this one: There is no support for luggage racks for example. It’s not that it would be more expensive to build these bikes with these supports. It’s just that the main purpose of these bikes is circuit performance and, anything that gets in the way of that, was cut off the bike to shave weight and improve aerodynamics. So if you plan to carry heavy stuff around on a daily basis you should consider installing one of those after-market bag systems like the “Ventura system” (This kind of system is very good in the way it holds lots of stuff and a great deal of weight) or other more simpler options like the Kriega rucksacks or even the Honda optional tail-bag, though there's always the problem you can't leave these soft luggage systems unattended on the bike, like you would if you were dealing with typical hard-luggage. If it's light stuff, it's more simple as you can just carry a backpack. If you don't see yourself adopting these solutions and want typical hard luggage I think sport bikes are maybe not the best choice. This was my experience at the time. In the meanwhile there might appear some kind of hard-luggage system that takes care of this problem. Experienced riders know this but it's still probably worth mentioning to the inexperienced that you can't exceed a given speed when you have luggage systems, cases, etc attached to your bike or your luggage will likely break off from your bike and you'll have to play the game "find my personal belongings all over the road" (that is if you hear it break off). There is also the danger that beyond those speeds, the bike may become destabilized even if your case/s don't break off.
I was also a bit frustrated when I found out it wasn’t going to be simple to mount a GPS device but I’ve already seen some pictures of a Garmin Zumo successfully mounted on this bike. If you usually ride with a pillion, you might also want to reconsider getting this bike (or type of bikes) unless he or she is relatively agile and can sit in a cramped position for the duration and doesn't mind sitting on a rock solid seat with no hand holders. Even the rider’s seat isn't as plush as you’ll find on naked or touring bikes. You can get that one replaced though because there’s a factory “e-cushion” seat which really makes the difference or so I read. If you’re lucky, your girlfriend doesn’t mind the punishment of that back seat. But there’s another thing. The suspension of sport bikes is anything but soft. I mean, for track standards it is actually soft because they softened it up for the road as much as possible, but it’s still hard as rock, and you’ll definitely want to stay clear of potholes and such because it will hurt. If you live in a place where the roads are in really good conditions, you will love the suspension. If you live in a place where the road is full of patches, potholes and irregularities in general, then you might want to reconsider choosing a sport bike because it’s a little like riding one of those bicycles with no suspension: you feel every little thing on the ground. Your comfort in sport bikes is also affected in the riding position, which is very much advanced. If you have back problems it can be an issue especially after an hour riding it. It’s also hard on your wrists especially at the beginning because they are constantly on a position which is not ideal and they support the weight of your upper torso when braking (later, with experience, you’ll get used to deal with this by using your back muscles to support this weight and relief your wrists so it gets easier). Your neck also suffers because you are constantly “looking up” in this position. It’s always good to stop riding after one hour or even less so your body doesn’t get strained. If you’re on a long trip for example, you really need to pay attention to this as if you exceed a certain riding time without breaks, it doesn’t matter how long you rest afterwards because you’ll only recover with a good night’s sleep.
One thing I’ve noticed is that, if you exercise regularly, riding these bikes is a lot easier on your body than if you don’t. It really makes a huge difference. The gear ratios on this bike (and probably all 1k sport bikes) make it a pain to follow slow cars or riding in slow city traffic. Be ready to have an aching left hand in heavy traffic situations (even using all fingers on the clutch which is direct and not hydraulic) This is not the ideal bike to be used in those situations. Not this one, not any 1000cc sport bike. Sport 600cc’s differ in the way their lower power and different gearing allow for more ease at slow speeds but then they also lack the power at slow revs… Also, the 08 Fireblade comes with a stock exhaust that has a system which cuts a lot of exhaust noise while you’re below 4000 rpm. For me, this is great because I’m not a big fan of loud exhaust unless it’s an occasional vehicle.
Ok, now that I’ve warned the possible buyer about the comfort and practicality issues of this kind of motorcycles I’ll get on with the good stuff. Sport bikes offer handling like nothing else, and the first time I rode one I was leaning down for a turn in the same way I did with all the other bikes I rode before but I got a scare because I was turning way too much and almost hit a car on the lane to the right. What I noticed right away is that it takes half the effort to turn these bikes than the effort you have to put in turning bikes of similar weight. This is because sport bikes have a low center of gravity. The result is, you can charge like a lunatic to a corner (please don't take this literally. You can take turns much faster than with other bikes of similar weight but you still have to slow down ;) and, at the last second, start braking smoothly and it will turn very easily with “scalpel-like” precision and control, without any complaints (you place the bike where you want in the turn with little effort). It is truly exhilarating to ride it hard when the situation calls for it (and allows it). Also, like many of its type, is very very stable: at speeds, cornering, accelerating and braking, it never shakes or stuff like that. The main sport bikes are the 600cc and the 1000cc, and while the 600cc are lighter and more agile, they lack power in the low rpm and so, to ride them fast you have to rev them considerably, and that’s where the 1000cc come in: they have power all over the rev meter, so every little input on the throttle will translate in a surge of power (a smooth one in the low rpm's) to the rear wheel , but they’re heavier. This is where the 08 Fireblade plays some cards. It is said it is so small and light, it almost feels like a 600cc on steroids. I didn’t actually feel this because I never rode another sport 1000cc, only a 600cc (a Honda CBR 600 F Sport) but I can say there isn’t too much weight difference between the two. This difference is especially noticeable when you’re man handling the bikes. Because the 1k sport bikes are so powerful all over the revs, the tires (namely the rear tire) have to be in very good condition because worn out rear tires will slide very easily under acceleration and the bike will fishtail. Also watch out for gravel, dirt, water, road marks, and utility covers (or any metal surface) on the road when accelerating even with good tires, especially if you're cornering, where it can result in a low-side or high-side.
The dealer folks used to scare me with horror stories about the 1000cc sport bikes on which many young guys get killed these days. I even talked to a guy at the dealer shop whose friend was lost in an accident on a brand new Fireblade some years ago. They advised me to get used to a 600cc for some time and, only then, moving on to the 1000cc but having tried my friend’s 600cc for some months was enough to experience the 600cc.
You see, whenever you’re riding a 600cc around town or even on the motorway, if you’re riding on low rpm's, (this is bound to happen because you don’t always want to hear the sound of an F1 engine while you’re cruising and you sometimes want to have a smooth ride and save gas) and you suddenly need to accelerate, the bike practically doesn't move, and that can be inconvenient in some situations.
Now that I think of it, I consider the 600cc sport bikes more dangerous bikes than the 1k because they only accelerate decently at high revs, where all bikes are very nervous and sudden, and where it’s much easier to slide the rear wheel under acceleration or lock it while downshifting (which happened to me countless times on the 600 F) and because these 600cc usually don’t come with slipper clutches (which would prevent the rear wheel from locking while downshifting) they really require a smooth and precise input under penalty of crashing. This, together with their F1 style rpm range, does make the 600cc more adrenalin packed to ride. The 1k sport bike, on the other hand, will put a smile in the face of the ones who prefer absolute and omnipresent power with the least fuss.
The 1K sport bikes are much more complete bikes than the 600 in many aspects and the price difference (If you're choosing between the two) is worth it in my opinion. Also, I really consider sport bikes to be safer than other bikes because they handle so much better and have the power and braking power to get out of situations. But this is only true if you don’t adjust your carelessness to what the bike can take and if you ride responsibly.
The first thing I noticed with a 1000cc was the power was all over the rpm range. From the moment you engage first gear, you gently accelerate and the bike will show its immense power, although the best part (or scary part for me heheh) is still at the end of the rev meter nearing 11000rpm (I’ve rarely been there). That’s when you really have to hold on to the bike. Let’s just say, it has more power than you probably wanted when you got it but this power only comes out when you tell it to. One of the qualities which were attributed to the Fireblade was the smooth power delivery. I couldn’t check this myself since I don’t have experience with other 1000cc but it does seem very smooth to me. Unlike its predecessor, it has a slipper clutch, so you can relax while downshifting and you can choose whether to blip the throttle or just to make a smooth downshift. It’s always more efficient to blip the throttle when you need the fastest braking power with the most stability, especially if you’re on a track. But if you're riding in a relaxed way, with cruising speeds and light braking, blipping the throttle is completely unnecessary, unless in an emergency braking and will probably just add unnecessary wear to both your bike and yourself. The brakes work very well. I only use one finger on the brake and it's all it's needed. You must exercise caution using the rear brake though (I think this applies to all bikes without abs). It is set up in a way that makes it harder for you to lock the wheel because it requires a little effort, but the best thing to do, in an emergency braking, is to leave the rear brake alone because, although in controlled conditions you would brake better also using the rear brake, in an emergency situation, you usually have an instinctive reaction and you'll very likely step on it too hard and instantly lock the rear wheel and crash. To make this even worse, when you're braking hard, the weight of the bike is transferred to the front leaving the rear very light (too light) and the engine braking itself can be enough to lock the rear wheel (not so much on this bike because it has a slipper clutch but even so), so no rear braking upon surprises. To sum up, the bike has a very smooth power delivery and also smooth and stable braking (the 09 Fireblade even has a sport ABS system that automatically brakes the best possible in each situation (including rain and surprises), which I would love to have in my bike, but I’ve contacted Honda and they say the procedure would be too expensive.
The bike is, as expected, tremendously fast. It makes any road look like it only has turns because you’re going through the straights so fast. It demands very watchful eyes and concentration because it feels like it takes less time to accelerate than to brake. The good thing is, because it has the power in the low rpm's, it encourages a softer, less frantic riding (unlike the 600cc). The top speed of sport 600 bikes is around 161/ 170 mph (259 to 274 km/h) and they’re slow to reach that final speed, and the top speed of 1000cc sport bikes is around 186mph (300 km/h). This makes it very natural for the Fireblade to cruise at insane speeds on the highway. It’s even very quick and easy to reach speeds like 155mph without realizing you’re going so fast, the good thing is it’s also very easy and fast to return to lower speeds when you start seeing cars for example. It’s highly advisable to keep an eye on the speedo because you really don’t feel high speeds on these 1000cc bikes; you just feel the point when you’re starting to go faster than 60mph but after that it’s a little difficult to tell. It’s very advisable to start decelerating and/ or braking with a good safety margin when you see traffic up ahead, because of this. Just take your earplugs because the wind will leave your head buzzing in the end. One thing you can do is get the optional higher windscreen (there’s a clear one and a tinted one) and it really makes a difference.There are even better after-market options (like Puig for example) that offer better visibility with less optical distortion. It’s not going to eliminate the wind completely (far from it) but it really helps. And be ready to clean the mosquitoes and their blood (well, it wasn't theirs anyway) out of your helmet (you really have to have a good full face helmet that's well fitted and has a dense liner because of the wind speed), your suit, and your bike at the end.
One of the good things about the Fireblade is it has an onboard computer that tells you the instant and average fuel consumption and, also, the spent fuel. This is really great as it gives you a real option to choose your type of riding. You’ll find that the fuel spent depends completely on the way you use the throttle. An example: If you’re going 50 mph (80km/h) you’ll be doing around 47mpg (5L/100km), if you’re going 124mph (200 km/h), you’ll be doing around 27.67 mpg (8,5L /100km), if you’re going full speed, which is around 186mph (300 km/h) you’ll be doing around 17.42 mpg (13.5L/ 100km). When the fuel reserve activates, you have 0.79 gallons (3 liters) (almost sure) left to get to a gas station, and an additional "spent fuel" indicator will come up and count up from zero so you know how much fuel you have spent since the reserve was activated. But I found out it’s very easy to make an average of around 39.2 mpg (6L/100km) if you ride the bike in a relaxed way (it announces an average of 47mpg (5 L/100km) in the onboard computer but I’m not convinced . I’ll have to make the math one of these days. So it’s a very economical bike although it’s a serious powerhouse.
Regarding maintenance, I don’t do the maintenance myself but it has been relatively affordable. I even broke one of the mirrors which has the turn-signal incorporated (it took a significant impact), and it was surprisingly inexpensive to replace the whole part. But I’ll be more knowledgeable in this department in a few years. Until then I will trust what is said about Honda’s reliability heheh.
To sum it all up, the 08 Fireblade is not a great looking bike, at least at first sight, but you grow fond of its different design. It’s an uncomfortable bike (as with all sport bikes) and definitely not recommended for bad roads, slow traffic situations; or for people who have body posture issues. (It helps to exercise to improve the comfort though). It’s not an ideal bike to tour because it doesn’t carry hard-luggage (you have to get an aftermarket bag type luggage system) and also because it doesn’t offer an acceptable level of comfort needed for long travelling distances. After like 60 miles of riding in normal traffic (or just less than 10 miles in heavy/ slow traffic) or one hour of normal riding on it, you’re totaled. Riding it slow is excruciating, and the wind protection is scarce. This bike, or type of bikes, is for the ones who ride for the adrenalin and want to feel their heart throbbing and that ride for fun or for sport. It's especially recommended for the ones who plan on frequent track-days. Outside the track, these bikes are never completely in their element and they painfully remind you about it each time you ride into a less perfect road or traffic situation. If you already have a main means of transportation such as a car or another bike, and you intend on acquiring this bike as your secondary means of transportation, only for the occasional pleasure ride, then this is a great choice; if, on the other hand, you intend on buying this as your only means of transportation, and you'll depend on it for every type of situation, tired, having lots of stuff to carry with you, on a common basis, etc., then I strongly advise you not to do it, not this one, not any sport bike out there. If this is going to be your only means of transportation, go for a comfortable and practical bike that allows a more upright body position, more comfort and a decent volume of hard luggage. Honda's DCT technology (or any auto shift tech from any other manufacturer) is great for heavy traffic since it allows you not to have to manually shift or use the clutch in those situations. If you're going to spend significant time in heavy traffic with your bike, this is your best option. If you only ride in the city traffic with your bike, then you might even consider getting a light scooter instead. Like all sport bikes, the 08 Fireblade handles brilliantly. It’s a 1000cc but it feels like "a 600cc with a nitrous oxide system". It’s very powerful though it can be very cheap to feed. Is it faster or slower than its rivals? Whichever the case, that very slight performance difference between rival sport bikes is virtually undetectable in road-going terms. Most people won't even be able to tell the difference on a racing track. When it comes to sport bikes, manufacturers take great care that their product very closely matches its competition in performance. You would have to be either a racer or a test rider to be able to make that difference so, for you, the consumer, it ends up being a choice of aesthetics (sound, looks), features, reliability, manufacturer assistance in your area, etc. If you're going to choose a bike, choose it, not because it was the fastest in some magazine test, but because of the qualities that you can actually appreciate yourself. But these bikes are definitely not for everyone.... If you're not willing to sacrifice your riding comfort, your pillion, a decent luggage capacity, capability to ride or cruise slowly, and versatility; if you're not willing to have a limited choice of routes based on the quality of the asphalt, then you're better off with a more civilized motorcycle (although it's said the fireblade is the most civilized of the 1k sport bikes) Unluckily for me, when I bought this bike, I didn't consider these handicaps very well. It turns out what I needed was a different type of bike. A sport-touring model probably...
I've recently rode the new Honda VFR 1200 and, to put it simply, it's a much better bike for the road than the fireblade and without losing any adrenaline or significant power (on the road). First thing I noticed is the bike feels almost as light as the fireblade! I didn't believe how light it felt while I was manhandling it or riding it slowly. I don't know where all the announced weight went, really... You only really feel the weight difference when cornering, so you have to slow down considerably more before a turn, but you'll recover the previous speed very quickly. On the track, the fireblade is a better bike because it corners better and it has more top end power, and all the road going issues are inexistent there, but that's only on the track. The new VFR is, like they say, a road-sport bike (it feels so light, it really couldn't be called a sport-touring bike.): It has all the power you need without sacrificing all the comfort and convenience a bike should have on the road. It has plush seats, a much more upright riding position and a much more comfortable suspension (these three alone make a huge difference in the ride quality) It also has hard-luggage supports, and it's best acceleration is tuned to take advantage of road speeds (the power is where it's most needed for road use) It's much easier to accelerate fast from a standstill with its wonderful V4 engine. Even though the Blade is faster accelerating, you'll actually find it easier to accelerate fast with the VFR than with the Blade. But It's also a very easy and enjoyable bike to cruise slowly with, unlike the Fireblade or other supersport bikes. Another advantage of this bike, at least for me, is the fact that it has a very nice shaft drive. As you probably know, shaft drives are maintenance free so you will never have to worry about any chain maintenance, including constantly cleaning and lubricating (at least for me, this was a pain, not only because of the work but because it's messy and unpractical, not to mention that, a badly maintained chain, can get you in serious trouble riding fast (e.g. missing a gear while preparing to corner while riding fast, in which case, you're not likely to make the corner) so, chain maintenance isn't something you can dodge on fast bikes with a chain drive. it's an inevitable ritual. You can like it though. I didn't (and that's an understatement heheh). So, unless you're definitely going to use your bike on a track very frequently, take my advice: If you're thinking about getting the blade, definitely test ride the VFR1200 first! In my limited experience, It's the best fast bike I've ever ridden on the road, by far.
If you're an inexperienced rider, I seriously advise you to read the information below
I think it would be irresponsible of me not to emphasize how difficult it is for someone new to motorcycles to be careful or responsible enough on a sport bike, after passing the initial stage of fear and caution (some riders are actually very careful even past that stage, but not most riders, especially not sport bike fans). When you're new to motorcycling there are a lot of dangers on the road that you're still to meet. And it takes time, experience, to progressively adapt your riding to these dangers. At the beginning, you are especially vulnerable because you're prone to make critical mistakes either by dangerous maneuvers, excess of acceleration or by lack of awareness of possible dangers on the road. Put that together with a very fast bike and you've got a recipe for a serious accident which will probably result in you getting seriously injured or killed. A general law of vehicles is that speed will always cost you. It will cost you money (more or less depends on what may happen). Inevitable costs of speed are gas and tires; costs you may escape (or not) are speed tickets, your driver's licence, material and/or medical expenses from crashes and, ultimately, your health, your freedom (if you kill someone) and your life or, at least, your life as you know it. I would risk saying that, when it comes to riding a bike, there is a direct correlation between impulse (or adrenalin motivated) choices and disaster. Never make maneuvers about which you are not sure. You will constantly have "ideas" while riding. Some of these ideas, you will be pretty sure you can do; other ideas, you will doubt more. Never do the latter. If you doubt a maneuver, there's a good reason for it. Doing a maneuver which you are not sure about is even more dangerous than driving fast. If one of these ideas come up, let it sink in a little bit and really think about it before you do anything. Weigh the consequences. When you're stressed or angry, impulse maneuvers are much more likely so these situations require a huge self-control. Stress and anger cause accidents, and not only on the road. Generally speaking, the carefully planned choices which take the most patience and kill some of the fun, are also usually the ones which don't put you in harms way. Your rational self has to overcome your impulses and your impatience when riding. There's still lots of fun within these safety limits. If you want carefree fun though, expect consequences to follow.
This is a limited list of stuff that is going to happen in your riding experience: oncoming vehicles including fast bikes cutting the turn or completely in your lane (while dodging or overtaking another vehicle for example, or just simply driving recklessly); someone swerving a car for whatever reason getting in your way right when you're about to overtake them; someone talking on a cellphone and running a red light crossing in front of you; someone entering the road or your lane fast without looking; dirt, oil, water, bumps, big pot holes, manholes without covers, trees, children or a dead animal right in the middle of a turn, and many more. These are all things that happen frequently. Almost all have happened to me, and more than half of them several times already, luckily I wasn't going too fast and I was able to dodge them. Many of these things are going to happen to you on your riding experience, probably when you least expect them. It's just a matter of time as every seasoned rider knows.
Even with a green traffic light, never cross a junction without checking if the way is really clear. Too many people die trusting green traffic lights. Slow down to a speed that allows you to fully stop before crossing until you confirm that the way is completely clear. Unfortunately, green lights are still not intelligent and so they don't know whether someone else has crossed the red light on the other side and is coming your way. You always have to check it yourself. I would be dead 3 times already if I would just carelessly advance upon green light. The first time this happened, it was just pure luck that that saved me because I was lazy to accelerate, and this was when I adopted this rule. The other 2 times it was this rule that saved me and, on the second time, 3 vehicles crossed in front of me at intervals of 4 or 5 seconds (it was a police chase and there were big vehicles blocking the view of the junction) so, had I advanced after the first one crossed, I would have been hit by 2 police transportation vans at high speed and which either didn't have their sirens working or didn't have sirens at all. I'm only counting those situations where the speed of the oncoming vehicles was such that death would be certain. All these situations happened during day time with lots of traffic and low visibility. Don't let cars behind you rush you into the junction.
In moderate to fast speeds, on a road with more than two lanes available, avoid choosing the lanes in the middle, since there are double the chances of someone hitting you from the sides (especially if there's heavy traffic), so, if possible, try choosing a lane with most vehicles on one side only, which is much safer and easier to control. If you can't, then always aim at having free space at least at one of your sides whenever possible. Don't sacrifice safety distances (front and behind) for this though, those are more important. A given speed has a minimum braking distance so, on a turn or anywhere without visibility, you should be able to brake on the visible patch of road. Don't count on what you're expecting on the other side. Be especially careful when you're on a road with cars parked on the side because any of those cars might suddenly get in your way even in reverse so slow down to a "stop-possible" speed and cruise as far away from that side of the road as possible. Also slow down to a "stop-possible speed" when a road has lots of junctions with low visibility, or buildings from which kids can come out of running, or any other potential surprise factor. Think ahead. It's also good for you to test your bike's braking capabilities. Knowing your braking power will add to your riding security by helping you adjust your safety speeds and distances and also by helping you to brake better in an emergency, especially if the bike doesn't have ABS. When you're riding on a road often used by motorcyclists and racing enthusiasts, or a road with twists and turns and low visibility in general, keep to the inner half of your lane in corners because chances are, some of that incoming traffic is going to invade your lane in those corners. edit > (I had made a serious mistake here and wrote "outer half" instead of "inner half" by lapse so sorry for that) < edit
Tires (race track vs road):
Motorcycles are especially vulnerable in the rain: Road lines, utility covers, or vegetable matter diluted in the water for example, is all it takes for a motorcycle to slide off in a turn and be ran over by oncoming vehicles. Generally speaking, when the road is wet, forget about speeds. Be extra careful with the speed you approach corners (in most cases, the grip is drastically reduced so you really have to slow down considerably more than you would if it wasn't raining), also be very careful and smooth leaning the bike, accelerating and braking. Doing two of those at the same time, be extra-gentle with the imputs. With wet metal surfaces such as tram lines, all it takes to slide off, is for you to slowly go over them (the thinner your tires are, the more likely they are to skid over wet tram tracks). I risk saying wet metal is equivalent to ice in slipperiness, so don't use roads with tram lines when they're wet (I almost crashed because of doing it). If you find yourself on one of these roads and have to go over (or cross) a wet tram line (from the left half of the lane to the right or vice-versa), do it fast, use the momentum so the tire will slide across the highly slippery surface of the line without getting stuck on it and lose traction to reach the safety of the asphalt on the other side, also be as upright as possible when you do this (generally speaking, in any slippery surface, lean the bike the least possible and try compensating by shifting your weight on the bike). Use all the space you have to progressively build up the speed needed to transfer the tire over the track, so you will, ideally, get as far away from the track as possible and then start building up speed towards it (keep the movement slow enough that you will be able to stop it in time to keep to your lane). If you can't reach enough speed not to get stuck, if the rear tire does get stuck on the sliding surface of the track and the rear of the bike starts going sideways, don't lose your cool, don't brake, just keep the front wheel facing forward (regardless of where the rest of the bike is pointing) and hope for the best. It may take some time but the odds are the bike will straighten itself out. If the front tire gets stuck on the track, that's a bigger problem and you may not have the time or chance to do anything but do your best to keep the bike upright and balanced and react to the erratic movements of the front wheel, your feet should also be ready to touch the ground because, when the bike is out of control and it violently leans to the left and right, your feet touching (and consequently pushing) the ground may be the thing that stabilizes it. If it's raining or if it has rained and the roads you have to go through have metal surfaces that you can't avoid, the best thing to do is not to use your bike and find another means of transportation. But, even in dry weather, keep in mind that race track pavement grips much better than road pavement. Race track pavement feels extremely coarse and abrasive when you run your hands on it. Conversely, highly worn out road pavement feels smooth when you run your hands on it and can be extremely slippery even in dry conditions, so remember that whenever you decide to mimic racing rider's lean angles and cornering speeds on the road. You can get away with it many times but you're going to go down sooner or later. It's like playing against the casino: "the house always wins" except that, in this case, you can think of the casino as "the laws of physics". The best thing to do is not to play against them, or to give up while you still have the upper hand. You don't want to put yourself in the hospital for who knows how long and lose the bike all for just a piece of adrenalin. Remember that you have much much greater chances of sliding off than racing riders do: not only do they have special pavement, they also have special, brand new, pre-heated, asymmetrical multiple-compound tires (to behave differently on right and left corners), a cyclic circuit with controlled conditions such as pavement temperature and amount of water, number of right and left turns, etc and tire choice according to all these variables, and they still slide off sometimes. Do a quick check on your tires before you ride off, be careful what they go over (gas, oil) at service stations, garages, etc, constantly evaluate the appearance of the pavement you're on, slow down accordingly before cornering and be progressive to accelerate out of the corner. Highly worn out pavement makes it possible for your bike to slide off at slow speeds even in dry weather. Low temperature and dampness will make it even worse. The more reflective the pavement is, the more worn out and, thus, more slippery it is (if you can see the reflection of the car up ahead on the pavement, then really watch out). All these factors and others will add up to the overall chances of sliding off, while low speed and slow, smooth and light inputs (acceleration, braking, leaning and counter-steering) have a crucial role in counteracting those chances.
Remember there are lots of ways to get adrenalin without risking yourself so much (and others), such as track days or even without risking your bike (kart racing for example). A friend has even suggested that, if one loves track days, one should get himself a cheaper non homologated circuit bike, even if it's smaller displacement, which is really a great idea for track day enthusiasts because it allows you to learn how to use a bike's full potential (learning how to carry speed through the corners, etc) with the added advantage of not risking so much money (and your day-to-day vehicle). This also allows you to be more relaxed, focused and risk a little further, enjoying yourself more. Something you can do is get a non homologated 125cc 2stroke or 250cc 4stroke. This is a good way to start because, they already carry lots of speed through corners so it's probably more than you can handle if you decide to give it 100%. Low power on low rpm's may be an issue on the street but not so much on track days, since the riding flows and there's no stop-and-go among other problems, it's even an encouragement to keep cornering speed.
On a little side note: remember that, on a track day, you will trash 1 set of tires, and not just gas, and these tires don't come cheap as you probably know, so it's much safer and probably also cheaper (depending on the specific tire: smaller displacement bikes have cheaper tires and cheaper replacement parts in case you crash) to get race tires for that day (adjusting the tire pressure for track day use). Even if you buy a lesser brand, race tires will always perform better than their street counterparts on a track. They have to be properly warmed up though (1 or 2 laps on the circuit depending on the weather), and race tires warm up slower than street tires. Whatever you do though, never ever use race tires on the street because they are not prepared for street use and will eventually suffer a "catastrophic failure" (if you are not familiar with this expression, it means a sudden and total failure). This issue was explained to me by a racing tires professional. He explained to me the details but I forgot after 3 years. But take this very seriously. Beyond certain speeds, tire wear increases at an incredible rate. So there's another reason not to roll the throttle at every chance you get, when you're on the highway.
The danger of sport bikes:
To be truly prepared for a sport bike, one needs first hand experience to really open one's eyes to the dangers on the road (including the road itself). Until you are sure you genuinely understand the reality of the dangers on the road and weigh every risk factor before you roll the throttle in any given situation. Until you expect the unexpected, and you count not only on the dangers of your own riding (like if you were alone on a track), but also on external dangers, then you better play safe and get a bike that's moderately powered to cushion the consequences of your mistakes. In most cases, less speed equates to bigger chances of surviving intact. You can still get in a lot of tight-spots with a 56hp CBF 500 (which is a typical example of a beginner's bike) if you're not careful enough. This is not about sport bikes being difficult to ride. Although uncomfortable and, sometimes, downright painful, they are actually easier (handling-wise, not comfort-wise) and more predictable to ride. They respond better than other bikes when thrown around and are harder to crash at identical speeds. Due to their extreme handling, stability and more advanced components (like rigid lightweight frames, advanced suspension, better brakes, steering damping, better tires, etc) they are more forgiving than most bikes. They had to be more forgiving, reaching speeds like that, except that, the accelerations and speeds they allow for, are all but forgiving. (They allow you quickly to reach breakneck speeds on any short segment of road which security features (pavement quality and cleaning, turn angles, traffic and pedestrian behavior, type of junctions, etc) weren't designed to have vehicles going round at those speeds. The problem here is excessive confidence coupled to lack of experience (unawareness of danger). Edit> A good rule of thumb when you get on a sport bike for the first time, is to use a lot less throttle. As obvious as this may seem, this is basically the core of the problem in the change to a sport-bike. You're still used to using the throttle in a way that's excessive for a sport bike. Gentle and, especially, shorter accelerations are in order, at least until you get used to it. And, by "getting used to it", I don't mean being able to do it like 2 or 3 times, I mean be progressive in how hard and how long you roll that throttle with experience. Get used to the speed gradually. <Edit
Movies and computer games
Remember, all it takes is one second of miss judgement to destroy both your health and your expensive bike. Forget what you see in movies, and computer games because most of it is complete fantasy (they always stretch reality and make the bikes go faster than they can without crashing, just to make it look more appealing). If you race bikes in computer games, my advice for you is to stop doing it right now because, at least for me, they motivate reckless riding by giving you the feeling that reality is more tolerant than it actually is. This is very subtle and any small mistake in riding can spell disaster. Don't get me wrong. Video-games are an excellent way to learn how to ride/drive when you're too young to do it in reality. I had a very easy time learning how to drive because of all my gaming times but, as soon as you start doing the real thing it's best to lay off video-games.
Accidents and their consequences:
I had a relatively light accident where I only broke my ankle and had to undergo surgery 2 times over the course of one year, one to attach an ankle plate and the other one to remove it (I had to remove the plate because it was somewhat painful even after it was supposedly healed, especially when doing more intensive efforts like trekking etc. Only after removing the plate, did the ankle return to almost full normality) and spent months with a cast on my leg, some of which, on a bed, without even being able to walk around for more than a minute or two... and when I did, I had to do it on one leg, and even going to the bathroom was a troublesome task - a complete waste of time. More serious accidents have much more serious consequences (I had this accident while riding a little 125cc DT125R, which is an awesome bike, and even safe but I pushed it too much while cornering (on a summer afternoon on a dry road). Motorcycle accidents usually have much more serious consequences than this and this accident was one of the things that helped me open my eyes on the road. Unfortunately, for many people, it takes wake up calls such as this. Luckily it wasn't worse.
You must try to wear as much body armor as you can. On a sport bike, you should always get leather racing type combinations or suits and not cordura ones because these will cause lots of wind resistance (you will feel like you're being pulled back) and buffeting and this really disturbs your riding especially at higher speeds (on slower bikes this isn't so problematic). I have a Dainese jacket and pants combination that join together with a zipper. I think it's the "Dainese Delmar leather jacket and pants"). It's a little difficult to move in it but if you are planning on riding fast sometimes, you should wear something of this type. Also get good leather gloves with armor and racing type boots (these don't allow for much movement but there's a good reason for that). These rigid armor leather combinations (jacket and pants) may not be practical but it's definitely the way to go with sport bikes not only because of much better aerodynamics and very low wind resistance, but also because it has very high abrasion resistance so, in case you fall and have a long slide in the asphalt, your skin won't get burned so easily. The overall tightness of the equipment in the joint areas is intentional in the way that it helps restricting joint movements beyond what your articulations allow.The armor will considerably reduce the injuries in case you hit something.
Of course that, even though it might seem this armor is very tough if you punch it for example, the reality is, if you impact a hard immovable object like a tree, a post, a car, a wall, etc. (and the side of most roads is riddled with deadly objects waiting for you to crash against them, unlike race tracks) at more than, say 30 mph (50 km/h), or even less, even these top of the line protections won't do miracles since they're just a thin light layer of polymer with some padding, impacting a much harder and heavier material. That's why they have gravel, straw bales, tire walls and, some times, air fences at every turn on race tracks to slow the bike and cushion the impacts of the rider's bodies, which is how racers rarely hurt themselves seriously when they fall. They still get seriously hurt when they impact each other for example or in some freak accidents when they hit an unprotected surface on a low-risk area. And if they rode without their suits on, they would definitely not walk out of most accidents they have, even with all the race track protection measures. If you use these protections, they will make the difference between nasty injuries and light injuries in lots of occasions, just not beyond a certain point so ride carefully.
When I fell off my bike, I was wearing my leather racing-type combination, but I chose the wrong pair of boots that day (I left the armored racing-type ones at home because they weren't easy to walk with) and I wore standard leather riding boots with no armor and that's how I broke my ankle. If I didn't have the rest of the protective equipment on though, or even those standard boots, it would have been much worse. These racing type combinations and suits offer, not only passive protection but also, active protection in the way that they deliver more confidence and concentration on your riding and, so, make you less prone to make mistakes (they can give you excessive confidence though so careful with that).
If you're thinking that it's just not practical to wear all this stuff on a day-to-day basis, then you're right: it's not, and this is because these bikes and protection equipment were not conceived for day-to-day transportation, they were made to ride at high speeds, on track days mostly, not to be practical. If you do get this type of sport leather equipment and you have no luggage system on your bike, you will, often times, be confronted with situations where you get at your destination and you have to carry all the equipment on you when you get off the bike because you have no place to leave it at. With time, this may become a major hassle, depending on your personality and on what you plan to do once you arrive at your destination. This is why I'm now opting to get one of those foldable travel-type, one-piece suits that go over standard clothing and just ride slower to compensate for the decreased security. This way I have less weight and volume to deal with once I arrive at my destination and I also have standard, practical clothes on, that don't get in the way of whatever I'm doing there. These suits also offer the potential for better protection against the elements, depending on the model. With this decision, I'm following a very valid principle which is, riding slower gets you more security than than any expensive suit at high speeds. Sport leather suits are the best there is in security but not very effective to stop the cold or rain, so you will have to additionally get something over it for those cold and wet occasions. For me, those motorcycle rain jackets and pants made of one flexible non-breathable layer usually do the trick at both keeping me warm and dry but when the cold reaches a certain threshold and it's not raining, I usually wear a snowboard jacket over the suit, and also snowboard pants depending on the case (at this point, you can temporarily say goodbye to the aerodynamic advantage of the sports leather equipment). I also wear a neck gaiter and winter motorcycle gloves. Standard sport leather gloves offer little to no cold or rain protection. By themselves, they are only good for when the weather is moderate to hot. You can try to wear rain overgloves on them though that's not very practical. If you can only afford one pair of gloves though, it's still the best thing to go with sport leather gloves since you can use them both in hot and cold weather (provided you have rain overgloves). Don't ride with your hands too cold because the speed of their movement will decrease dangerously.
Still referring to leather equipment, If you don't like having to wear this much protection equipment whenever you ride (I have to say I also got tired of it), then it's an even worse idea to be riding fast. There's also the problem of being caught by police at high speeds, (if all the other factors don't scare you already) and these speeds are not looked lightly upon by the authorities, as you know. So, as you can see, there is a dilemma here because, if you can't ride it relatively fast on the street, then, considering all its road-going disadvantages, is it really worth having for anything other than track days? These bikes still have good qualities that can be enjoyed at moderate speeds, such as wonderful handling and a brutal amount of power for overtaking any vehicle on the road with ease and safety, though there are way more comfortable bikes with equivalent power, such as some sport-tourers, so the handling ends up being the only really "unique" usable quality that stands out on these bikes for street use. Leaving track-days as the only refuge where you can really make a more satisfactory use of them. All of this motivated me to sell the bike back in 2010 (I wrote most of this article before this. This is no longer true now, with all the edits I've been making. The original article is now probably the smallest part of what you see presently.
Overtaking other vehicles on the road:
Edit > Never overtake in a situation with limited visibility. This includes most turns and parts of the road hidden by a lower elevation. It's easy not to notice entire parts of the road, with moving vehicles, completely hidden by a lower elevation. And this happens very frequently. It happens, especially in long straights where it seems the road is completely clear, and then, suddenly, a car or a truck appears to pop up from the ground right in front of you when you're overtaking. Also avoid overtaking with foggy weather, very heavy rain, etc) because the odds are, you'll be unlucky enough to be surprised by an incoming vehicle before you can complete the overtaking. < Edit. Never overtake have unless you're absolutely sure that you can. It's better to waste a few seconds (or even a few minutes) than your life. Again, you'll be amazed at how fast you can lose your bike or become a paraplegic because of bad judgement on a split-second decision especially if you're in a hurry. If you're in a hurry, or if you are considerably upset with something, if you're late for anything, just remember that the consequences for going faster than what safety allows is way, way worse than what can happen if you get late or whatever is upsetting you. Nothing is worth riding faster than what safety allows. Nothing is worth ignoring that intersection. If, at one given time, you're on an impatient state of mind and you feel like you'll have difficulty controlling the urges to accelerate then it's better not to get on the bike. If you get late, it's bad of course but if you try to get on time and you crash, then you're in a world of trouble and getting late will be the least of your troubles. It will be a joke compared to having crashed. Always put things in perspective. Whenever I'm riding somewhere and I'm late, I don't try to get there faster, I prepare myself for getting late. There is a very good reason you don't go faster every other day. If someone's waiting, I prepare my "verbal defense" as best as possible. There are things that we are not expected to control. Traffic is one of them. I also prepare myself for people being upset with me. If you're about to lose some opportunity unless you ride faster, then just prepare for losing that opportunity and use that as an incentive to get to the bike earlier next time. The consequences of crashing can last for years or even all your life instead of just being a bad moment in your life. When you overtake a vehicle, all the space you have (even extra lanes) should be considered beforehand to potentially evade problems so you have to be aware of who is in that extra space (or extra lanes) before overtaking.
Maintain as much distance as possible from the vehicles you're overtaking. Never go much faster than the vehicles you're overtaking, especially if you're overtaking more than one vehicle at a time and also if there is only 1 lane in each direction. If you have empty lanes between you and those vehicles then you can overtake them a little faster.
Always overtake at a speed that allows you to brake in case one of these vehicles is not aware of you and does something unpredictable and dangerous (such as initiating an overtaking maneuver themselves, suddenly making a turn and cutting you off (these things happen), or even having to evade something up ahead (this is another good reason to maintain lateral distance because it also allows you to see more up ahead, check for obstacles ahead of those drivers, etc.
As you're overtaking a convoy of vehicles, only set your sight to the final reentry point if you're sure you can make it. If you're not sure, set intermediate reachable (realistic) reentry points and only advance when you have the next reentry point defined because, if some vehicle comes along and you have to quickly get back to your lane you need an empty space to fit into.
Never tailgate anyone because, not only is it completely unnecessary with a powerful bike but you are also putting yourself and your bike in the hands of whoever is in front of you (it may not be a very good driver).
have your left thumb at the ready on the horn and be ready to brake.
Not knowing when to use the horn is an accident waiting to happen:
Dealing with unaware drivers/ riders, analyzing and predicting their behavior is actually one of the things that takes up most of my concentration while riding, along with analyzing and predicting other dangerous situations. (conversely, the riding itself: security maneuvers to deal with each of these situations, for example, that's already mechanized). It's very easy to be distracted on the road and not see a car approaching or know about its presence near you, especially if you're inside a vehicle with the windows closed and it's even easier not to see a motorcycle. If you're a conscious rider, the most dangerous situations for you, on the road, will derive from the fact that, each time you ride (every single day where I live) there will be lots of other drivers (or riders, etc) who are not aware of your presence and who will put you in danger.
As I said earlier, most dangers from others are avoidable. Besides slowing down, using your horn properly to warn other drivers of your presence is absolutely critical to prevent a huge number of accidents. Your horn sort of works like a remote control's "stop button" for drivers who are unaware of you. Most of the times, if used timely, it will help stop them from hitting you or getting in your way. If my horn stops working, the only place I'll ride the bike to is the mechanic, to fix it. It's just too dangerous to ride without a horn. I rather ride in the rain than without a horn.
These are 3 very typical situations (there are others) where you need to use the horn: (1) low visibility and the possibility of someone approaching in a dangerous narrow road or intersection. In this case, you honk like once just to warn whoever might come from the other side just to let them know you are there, allowing them to slowdown and place themselves better so you don't crash. If it turns out there's no one there, no problem because the objective, which was to pass safely, was attained. (2) vehicles which are stopped on the side of the road ahead of you but looking like they're getting ready to enter the road, cutting you off. As amazingly as it might seem, many people fail to see incoming vehicles before entering the road. Lots of times they look in the wrong direction and just go. Other times they do look in your direction, but long before you were there, and then they take too long looking in the opposite direction and advance when it's only clear in that direction, so use the horn once or twice just to make sure they know you are coming. If they start moving towards the road anyway than enter emergency mode (start braking, prepare do dodge and use the horn continuously now) and only stop honking until you are sure they see you and stop; (3) vehicles already in motion, on the lane to your right or left, start invading your lane, or vehicles which are approaching from an entrance ramp or intersection don't look like they're going to give you the right of way and are in a collision course with you. You can also use your horn in lots of other situations such as warning drivers around you of something up ahead such as an accident or a pedestrian (in conjunction with emergency lights); warn distracted pedestrians who are about to cross the road; wake up someone who fell asleep on the wheel (this would be the vehicle suddenly veering off course for no apparent reason. It happens to lots of truckers and bus drivers here in Europe); warn drivers who are invading someone else's space ahead of you (only do this if you're on the same side as the person that's about to get hit, otherwise, the distracted driver will think the danger is on the opposite side and you'll likely end up doing even worse), etc... Whenever you see any vehicle or person looking like he/she is about to do something dangerous or whenever you see someone clearly distracted displaying erratic behavior on the road, then use the horn.
Don't be shy to use the horn because it will be the death of you on the road. Just use it whenever necessary as much as it takes for you to be heard. Few people will take offense if you dose it properly and if the situation calls for it. If someone gets angry, just politely apologize afterwards, even if you know you were right to do it. The most important thing is averting the accident but it's also important not to start a conflict over something so small. I usually mimic a parking proximity sensor: I start by giving spaced short taps and, the closer they get, the faster I repeat, until, if they keep approaching or start moving, I finally press it continuously. Also, prevent what you can beforehand, but use the horn first and only then evade them, not the other way around. If you try to evade them and disregard the horn even if for a second, this seemingly small delay in warning the distracted drivers is enough for them to complete the maneuver and hit you since you may only have little space. Even if you manage to swerve away from them, they will not stop until they complete the maneuver unless they know someone is there. It only works if it's done in time to prevent them for moving. I'm not telling you to stand still while you honk, and also, don't expect they will hear the honking and just sit there, because they might be listening to loud music or be half deaf or their car might have a high degree of sound proofing or even all of these together (and it really happens sometimes that they don't hear it), but the first hundreds of second should be spent on hitting the horn button (unless you are sure the driver is approaching to fast it won't make a difference) or, if you can, do both simultaneously. If you're quick to honk, most times, you'll stop it before you have to evade anything. When you start your evasion maneuver, keep in mind not to do even worse by moving in the path of a faster vehicle. Accelerating and braking are also options for evasion but don't brake if you don't know who is behind you. If you don't know who is in that other lane, it's a risk you are taking since you might be ran over by a faster vehicle and the horn might also help here. Sometimes, we might tend to extend our arm and tap the erratic car but the horn is probably more reliable and lets you keep both hands on the steering. When you don't have visibility and want to warn incoming drivers, just hit the horn once or twice and slow down while choosing the safest side of the lane. After you warn someone, don't be angry at the person or anything like that. Drivers get distracted all the time. After the driver halts his action then he will already know what he did so there's no point in talking about it. Even if it was someone using his/her cellphone, or doing some other completely irresponsible thing, you're not going to accomplish anything by starting an argument on the road, you're only going to do worse. I've stopped cars from hitting me lots of times by properly using my horn. Practice reaching your horn fast until it becomes a reflex. And if you change bikes, you have to practice again because horns sort of change place from bike to bike, even if by a short distance. If you think your horn is under powered then you should get a proper one. Just don't exaggerate (you want to be heard, not scare people to death or cause accidents yourself). Is all this really necessary you ask? If you were driving, then it wouldn't be as necessary but, on a motorcycle, you can't afford to be hit by cars next to you, even lightly. Light signals are also helpful at night. In certain scenarios, they are even more helpful, like when the other driver/rider is facing you for example, or if you want to have a light preceding your bike at a twisty road to warn other drivers. On the other hand, if there are incoming vehicles with their high beams on in those twisty roads, they will likely not see your own high beams until you cross each other on the same turn so you have to honk when they are approaching to ensure that they will keep to their lanes. But before using light signals or high beams to warn other drivers/riders, be sure that they are in a position that enables him/her to see it because their side or rear view mirrors might be maladjusted or broken or you can be in their blind spot, etc.). If you think they might not see it either stick to the horn or use both. Don't forget to turn off the high beams before you come in their direct field of view or they won't be able to see the road and you might cause an accident and may even take yourself out in the process. Generally speaking, if you see the high beam of an incoming vehicle turning off before they come round the turn, that means they saw your high beams and already know you're there so that's your cue to turn yours off. I usually don't cruise on twisty turns with the high beams on because, even though this warns other drivers/ pedestrians of your presence, it prevents you from seeing other lights as well so what I do is I just flash the high beams a couple times on the worst turns (the tighter or most dangerous). This way I'm able to see any incoming lights while still making my presence known to anyone on the other side. Just remember that, just because you're warning any human of your presence using the high beams on a twisty road, that doesn't mean that there isn't anything else blocking your lane in the middle of a turn for example or big pot holes, etc so always dose your speed to prepare for that.
other safety stuff:
Don't just rely on the horn to avoid collisions on the street though. When I see alarming patterns in someone's driving, the first thing I do is notice who else is near and then I just move away from this erratic driver or, if i'm about to cross paths with them, I just slow down as much as possible and also keep as much lateral distance as possible when crossing them.
Be aware of faster bikes, and even cars behind you. Occasionally, some people will try to overtake you in dangerous and unpredictable ways, such as using the right side of your own lane, for instance, and passing you very fast while leaving very little space between you and them. Many riders and even some crazy drivers will overtake you using the right side of your lane. It's more common for riders to do this since they can easily fit in the space you leave available. And this can be done in a safe way if you signal your presence to the rider you're overtaking and you don't pass too fast but that's not the case in many cases. The best you can do to defend yourself from these situations before you even see them coming, is to avoid making unpredictable changes of position within your lane. Avoid unnecessarily zigzagging within your lane. When someone overtakes you, they first check your position, see a hole where they can fit, partially in your lane and, thinking you won't move, they instantly go for it. If you keep your position while they making their maneuver, there's a good chance they won't hit you, but if you do move, then there's good chance that you'll be hit or even ran over if it's a car. Even if you think no one's actually behind you, you'd be surprised at how easily a rider or even a car can suddenly appear right next to you without you noticing it. Many powerful cars and bikes are also very silent, so be both predictable and try to be aware of your surroundings, especially when you're changing positions within your lane. It's very common to be surprised by bikes overtaking you from both your left and right, in your lane (some of them really fast) but, occasionally, some cars will do this too.
Adapt progressively to higher speeds
At higher speeds, the riding is very different. Not better, but more unforgiving, requiring more concentration and constant real-time calculation in most aspects. The speed of most vehicles usually allows for intuitive riding/driving in the way we corner, brake, relax, etc. We don't need to think much about things because we intuitively react as things happen. Most things happen at a speed that allows our brains to manage without actively thinking about it. But the crazy speeds these sport bikes can reach, demand constant real-time calculation and planing ahead. Cornering beyond a given speed becomes very difficult (or even impossible if you misjudge the corner). At a high enough speed, the bike doesn't "want" to turn. It wants to go forward and so it takes some physical effort and experience for you to be able to do it by means of weight shifting and also counter-steering. Braking also begins to take considerably more time to the point where you can't just react to something that appears in front of you. You have to pre-calculate the distance of stuff that's still far away (more than you're used to) and brake in advance to compensate for the added time it takes to slow down; the suspension will also react much more violently to any irregularity on the road, so you also have to take this and other unpredictable elements into account, etc. In other words, your margin for errors shrinks incredibly. Due to this, it is very important that novice riders build their speed progressively to adapt to this decreased tolerance for mistakes that comes with increased speed. Don't try riding at high speeds in just one step or two because it's likely that one corner may get the best of you or that you will simply approach a braking point too fast. Even your lack of confidence derived from not having experience can worsen these mistakes by limiting your ability to react. Also, even at the same exact speed, there are still very different degrees of difficulty in cornering, braking power, etc depending on the road itself, the wind, the grip, even depending on how sharp you are feeling that day. This is why you should set a ceiling (a top speed limit) for some time, and slowly raise that ceiling in small steps whenever you are really sure you control any possible situation or variation at that speed. The longer you take to adapt to each given speed, the better chances you have of not doing mistakes. Don't do like many riders who crash their brand-new bikes because they can't wait to reach that speed and ride above their present capability. Like my grandfather used to say. It isn't going anywhere (in this case, the bike) so no need to rush. Don't try to match the speed of your more experienced friends and don't let your friends pressure you into going faster. Go at your own speed and your friends will wait for you at the destination (you get there faster in your bike than in a stretcher). Also, if you don't see the point in going faster than a certain speed, then I applaud you because, even though many slower bikes would be better in that case (since sport bikes sacrifice so much for speed), it's always more mature and intelligent not to push a vehicle to its limits on the road (That's what tracks are for) and you have much to gain from it.
Riding in strong winds
In my experience, sport bikes are very little affected by wind when compared to other bikes, possibly due to their high-speed-ready aerodynamics. Even so, it's worth saying some things on this subject. Sometimes the wind can get to a point where it becomes a real struggle to keep the bike going in a straight line. At this point, there are several things you can do to help mitigate this problem. If none of them seems to be working, the best thing to do is to stop the bike and wait it out. The first thing you should do is to make yourself smaller on the bike. Take a more advanced, less upright body position so the wind will have a smaller area to push you and the bike. Also get ready to counter-steer and weight-shift (using your torso) more than usual.
One of the tricks that I found useful in strong cross winds when there is more than one lane and other vehicles near you, is to ride alongside a tall vehicle, such as a bus. These vehicles offer great cover from heavy winds. Of course that, many times, there aren't any large vehicles to ride alongside with so, in this case, you have to use other strategies.
Riding with strong wind gusts can be a nerve-wrecking experience especially if there are other dangerous factors like your lane being too small and/or you have other vehicles too close to you for example. One important thing is to relax, focus and dissipate any nervousness because it never helps. It's normal that the bike moves and gets pushed around and as long as you limit or control that movement and don't let it go beyond a certain point. The wind will usually push the bottom of your bike to one of the sides. If you didn't react to this, it would result in the bike turning to that side. To avoid this from happening, during each wind gust, all you have to do is to apply the exact same amount (not more, not less) of feedback to the bike in the opposite direction by counter-steering and weight-shifting with your torso. It's easier than it seems, the worst being your nerves. These forces will balance out so you keep moving straight. As you are doing this, you have to be ready for when the wind gust stops to immediately stop applying that feedback because, in the absence of the wind gust, your feedback will quickly make the bike turn to where the wind is coming! So you are constantly reacting to the wind gusts while the bike does a slight dance from side to side within your lane. All you have to do is constantly do this over and over and over until, eventually you'll get used to it and don't even notice it anymore. In simple terms, the wind pushes from below, you compensate by tilting above in the opposite direction, but always ready to stop tilting when each gust stops. Because wind gusts can be very fast, unpredictable and inconstant, it's very important to be calm and focused so you can act sharply to the changes. Some gusts are so short that they don't practically move your bike, so it's important to be ready for false-alarms since they can trick you into turning the bike. Riding in strong winds is only possible to a certain point depending on how strong the wind is, how light and aerodynamic your bike is, how much space you have for the bike to "dance around" in your lane and also, the terrain, grip, etc., and the speed you are going at.
One thing I've noticed, that helps minimize the effect of wind gusts, is to ride faster. The faster you are riding, the harder it is for any force to move your bike laterally, be it your own efforts to turn the bike (counter-steer/ weight shift), be it the wind pushing it from side to side. The bike becomes less affected by lateral inputs in general, with speed. But be careful as going faster can be a double-edged sword:
First of all, you're riding in a dangerous situation, and crashing at a higher speed is obviously worse than doing so at a lower speed. Also the power of counter-steering and weight shifting becomes progressively smaller with speed so only raise the speed to a point where you are sure you can still control the bike with the added difficulty of the wind.
Some winds gusts can be strong enough that raising the speed will still not be enough to compensate for their strength and you will now find yourself in a hairy situation where you are farther from being able to stop. So it's imperative not to misjudge the strength of wind. Especially if the road in case doesn't offer a great margin for error.
Distractions and multitasking
Edit>: I cannot stress enough the importance of this one, since it may very well be the most important safety rule for a motorcyclist on the road. This one is usually obvious for new riders/drivers but, with time, as people gain confidence on their riding/driving skills, they also get too comfortable, complacent and oblivious to the most obvious dangers. I've made this mistake a fair amount of times already and almost paid dearly. So this is something that you will have to keep reminding yourself each and every time you get on your bike, for as long as you ride, in your life. You can never stop thinking about it while riding. < Edit. Despite the fact that we sometimes have to check what's happening behind us or to the sides, you should always do that as fast as possible and only if you can do it safely. Never let anything distract you from what's happening in front of you. You'll be amazed at how fast things can change in front of you, especially in heavy traffic. All it takes is for some vehicle to brake or change lanes in front of you. If you take too long to check something behind you or laterally, or if you get distracted with the beauty of the landscape or with some attractive person on the sidewalk, or even looking at the scene of a road crash or anything else that captures your attention, and "too long" may be as little as one second depending on the case, you may find the rear of a vehicle at a much slower speed, or even stopped, right in front of you giving you little or no time to brake. If you're sleepy, you're much likely to distract yourself more than you should so, in this case, try to limit your distractions even further and focus only on what's in front of you. If you do look back or to the sides, immediately return your attention to the front (don't take more than half a second as a rule when you're feeling drowsy). This situation probably gave me some of the biggest scares in my driving/ riding history. Luck was on my side and I was either able to brake or evade the obstacles but I won't let it happen again. Distractions are fatal on the road. And I'm not even talking about operating cellphones and such. If you do that you're even more likely to distract yourself so you better stop on the side of the road, do your texting or talking and only then move on. It's certain that, in many situations it's not safe to stop on the side of the road, but it's much less safe to multitask while riding/driving so you have to choose the lesser of two evils. The same goes for sleeping, it's not safe to sleep on the side of the road but it's way safer than trying to battle sleep while riding, especially when your head starts to nod. A five-minute nap on the side of the road can recharge your batteries for an extra hour or so, riding/driving and save you from a potentially fatal crash. Even if you risk a ticket, it's still worth it. Just sit, lean against something the safest way you can and you'll quickly awake when you're recharged. I usually carry an energy drink with lots of caffeine (such as Red Bull for example) with me, when I'm tired and there's the chance that I might get sleepy. A simple energy drink can save your life (but only use energy drinks in these emergencies because these drinks have been suggested to cause serious health damage to your kidneys and heart when drank regularly). Returning to the phone subject, I have acquired a Bluetooth headset for my helmet (from Cardo Systems) which really helps because I can answer calls and even read text messages (with text-to-speech technology) using my voice.
One of the most dangerous and hugely underestimated situations regarding distractions, in riding, is riding in groups. When riding in a group, it's common for one to try and communicate with the other riders and, many times, due to the lack of efficient communication devices, riders will dedicate a great deal of their concentration to improvise body language, etc to try and get their message through. While you're making this seemingly harmless effort to make yourself understood or understand what the other rider is trying to tell you, it's very easy to forget what's going on around you. Another element of distraction while riding in groups is trying not to get cut off from the group. It's very easy for you to overlook a simple routine check, like doing a "lifesaver" to be able to fit in a quickly closing gap between cars to follow the riders ahead of you for instance. When riding in groups, you must follow a simple rule that must never be broken, and which is, the road takes 95% of your attention, and your friends take the other 5%. Yes, this means that you're going to be ignoring your mates a lot while riding. This means that, if someone is trying to tell you something, look forward and signal that person to pay attention to the road. If that person insists/ if there is something that really needs to be talked about, you can either ignore them and keep paying attention to the road or use the turn signal and park so you can talk. Trying to communicate without a wireless communication device, while moving, is not an option and will put you in harms way sooner or later. Regarding your effort not to be cut off from the group, being cut off from your group is an integral part of riding in groups. The moment you accept being cut off without getting nervous about it, you're already ten times safer. You should never be focusing your riding on not being cut off. That's way too dangerous; Instead, keep the occasional eye on your mates, of course, but totally focus on your own riding and what's around you, as you would normally if riding alone. If you get cut off, relax and keep riding normally because, chances are, you're going to run into them sooner or later at the lights or something like that, or they'll just slow down and wait for you. The worst case scenario is them gaining a little distance on you and, when they finally notice it, they stop and call you or something like that.
You should take preemptive steps so you won't have to worry about getting lost. The first thing you should always do is, know the destination and, if possible, know the way. Don't let your friends tell you to follow you without telling you exactly where they're going first so that, even if you get separated, you can still get there by yourself, ask someone etc. Never depend on the other riders to know where you're going because this is a recipe for disaster. The second thing is, always arrange instructions for everyone to follow in case someone gets lost before heading out. Riding in groups is already more dangerous just for the simple fact that, even if you don't want to, you're already expending a great deal of attention to the group, even if you don't notice it, so be extra careful in those situations. If possible, get a wireless communication device (the only one I'm familiar with is the one from Cardo systems but it's likely that there are more) and try to encourage your friends to do the same so, at least, you can keep your eyes on the road while communicating with your friends. Trying to improvise communication takes a huge deal of your concentration, way too much to leave enough of it to ride safely, and you must never underestimate that while riding.
Riding with a pillion
In my opinion, the best way for a pillion to secure him/herself on sport bikes is to lean forward like the rider and place his/her hands on the fuel tank, as if pushing it (this information is only related to sport bikes or equally fast bikes with a tank in the same position, If your bike has a back rest and hand holders for the pillion, that's a different case, at moderate speeds only though). This way, the pillion's forward lean protects him/her from falling back in accelerations and, at the same time, his/her hands pushing position on the tank firmly secures him/her in hard braking, all without pulling or pushing the rider. If the pillion holds on to the rider (hugging the rider's torso or placing hands on rider's shoulders), in the event of hard braking/ acceleration, the pillion may easily pull or push the rider off his riding position, while simultaneously loosing his own support, thus creating a potentially hazardous situation where either one or both may fall of the bike. Therefore, holding on to the rider on a sport bike , is only suited for slow speeds and soft acceleration/ braking, or very safe conditions such as a long straight with total visibility for example. Placing your hands on the rider shoulders is much more dangerous than placing your hands around his/her torso, so it should only be done if the pillion is aware of the acceleration and braking forces and already has some experience with them and is ready to immediately change position if needed. I usually only did this when I needed to rest my back but only in these safe conditions.
Edit:> Where the majority of fatal motorcycling accidents happen:
I have learned recently, by doing some light research on the internet, that the major types of fatal motorcycle accidents can be included in three categories: crossing intersections; overtaking or filtering through traffic (fatal filtering accidents probably happen with due to excessive speed); and losing control of your bike at speed on a bend. So, if you think about it, this means that you can basically sum this up in three other categories: Distraction, hurries/speed and underestimating danger. If you make an active effort to avoid these most of the times, your level of safety while riding will increase dramatically. I can definitely tell you, from experience, that this is almost definitely true, since most of my near accidents (and also my one accident) fit perfectly into these categories. < Edit
Don't let all these safety warnings scare you into not getting a bike:
Riding bikes is an awesome experience and, the truth is, the vast majority of these dangers, (even from other people's actions on the road) is avoidable by you, just by being proactive, anticipate by concentrating on analyzing each situation and recognizing probable outcomes and make it difficult for the situation to occur or effect you. You can find many safety rules like this online (on videos, on forums, etc) always keeping in mind that some of the advice out there, despite trying to help, is not one hundred percent correct, so always also use your own critical judgement and, especially, get your info from several different sources. Also, even some great security rules are not the best in all situations. There are always exceptions where these rules are superseded by other rules pertaining to particular situations - An example - While it's always good to keep a distance from the right side of the road when there are parked cars on that side (because there's always the real chance someone will suddenly come out and get in your way), in many other situations, that same position on the left side of your lane, may now make you unsafer because, now, instead of parked cars on your right, you may have traffic to your left, for instance, or you may have a dirt strip on the left side of the lane, or you may be opening yourself to unexpected overtaking from your right, or something else. In other words, each situation is a different situation so always be aware that, just as the road changes, as you ride, and different things come up, the rules you adopt will also dynamically change as you ride. And rules that will keep you save in some situations, if incorrectly used (due to ignoring other factors), may make you unsafe instead. A rule that is generally good in many situations is, try to keep your distance from the biggest danger factor in that particular situation, be it parked cars, a dirty section of your lane or with more potholes or irregularities (these are generally on the right side of your lane but not always), more vehicles, pedestrians, etc. All these rules and routines on the internet may seem too many and overwhelming at first, learn a few at a time because, even though they take a little time to practice, they soon become second nature and so there's always space for new ones and they are well worth it. You have to know that, what can happen, will really happen if you're not careful. You can do the same circuit 364 days in a year and nothing happening and, at the 365th all hell breaks loose, so don't get comfortable in the illusion of safety. That's often times when things go wrong. You have to adjust your riding to prevent being victimized by hidden dangers. If you're this conscious and careful on your riding, and if you know when and where you can enjoy your bike a little faster (by norm, only in deserted places you already know, with good cleaned pavement, visibility and no junctions), and also if your riding skills aren't as low as to endanger yourself, then the risks you're taking in riding are actually low. Most accidents are avoidable (by prediction, not just reaction) and happen because of lack of awareness, regardless of whose fault it is. Last but not the least, if you decide to get a sport bike, keep in mind these are highly sought after by thieves so get an alarm and always leave it near a place where people are always present (an alarm is only useful in that case) or, if you have to, a heavy duty chain and secure the rear wheel to some sturdy structure.
I recently got a great little gadget for my bike that I just couldn't avoid mentioning here, since this is a real game changer for those of you who may spend some periods of the year when you don't ride your bike a lot and, especially if you have an alarm on it, you'll usually find yourself riding it just to keep the battery from dying (true fireblade story lol). There are probably other devices out there that do the same job but the one I got is called Optimate 3+, and what this beauty does is, it allows you to charge your motorcycle battery without having to remove it from your bike. In fact, not only does it charge the battery, but it also kind of optimizes it (or repairs it, if you can use that term). The way it works is, you install a very small component that connects to your battery (or you can have it installed like I did) and this component then has a plug which you can conveniently use to connect the main charging device, which plugs into a standard wall socket. So it's as simple as that, once the internal component of the device is installed on your bike, the only thing you have to do to keep the battery charged, is plug it to the main device (which, in turn, plugs to the wall) and leave it there for 3 or 4 hours (assuming the battery is in good shape or it will take longer). The device uses an LED code to tell you whether it is currently testing the battery, charging it, or whether it is finished, in which case it will either show a code telling you that the battery is in good shape or a different one telling you that it's not. My current bike lives on the street (poor thing) and, during the winter, I haven't been using it a lot. And, even with the alarm constantly on, I've been maintaining the battery by using the Optimate like once or twice a month, so it's really something that I recommend to all of you riders out there who need to keep the bike rideable (with a battery) but don't want to have to ride it just to charge it. If you own a garage, then this is 100% convenient but, even if you don't, you can do as I do and just buy a long cord or take it somewhere near where you can plug it into a wall socket to give it a full charge. The device also comes with regular battery clamps for when you need to charge a battery that's not in your bike
Edit > Yesterday, I have regrettably learned that a famous YouTube motorcycle vlogger, probably the first YouTube motorcycle vlogger, known as Mordeth13 (aka M13) has suffered a considerable accident and, given the experience M13 has in motorcycling and, also the proximity we feel to someone who we are in touch with, even if just as viewers, it can be especially disturbing to any of us experienced riders out there, that this possibility is always there, regardless of how experienced we are. We are all used to hearing about stuff like this in the motorcycle racing world but we tend to attribute it to the fact that they're racing so, it's never as near in our minds but whenever something like this happens out there on the road, with someone we are familiar with, it kind of rocks our world, in a negative way. The accident has left M13 with permanent marks, and I would be lying if I said it didn't make me reconsider motorcycling altogether a few times already since it happened. I probably will continue riding for now but, each time I do it, I notice that I find myself riding increasingly more cautious. I wish M13 a speedy recovery and, If you choose to ride a motorcycle, always remember that this is a very real possibility and doesn't only happen to others. Danger is waiting for you around the corner and it's up to you to keep it from getting you. < Edit
Keep the rubber side down.