Accessible high performance is a simple idea: design a motorcycle so the average experienced rider is able to access much of its performance capabilities daily and without a race track. Another way to say this is just “having fun.” Accessible performance could make for a fast track bike, too, the average rider may actually be able to ride quicker laps than with a full on race replica and enjoy the experience while doing it.
In spite of their best hopes and intentions, the average Joe on a GSX-R is no Mat Mladin. While the GSX-Rs and similar bikes are great machines, you can’t begin to sample their real potential without a track and a lot of skill. On the street, many well ridden motorcycles are equal to or better than a GSX-R in the hands of a less skillful rider. Wouldn’t it be nice to ride a motorcycle that makes the most of the skills you have, something a little more forgiving if you happen to be in the wrong gear? How about a motorcycle with a power band you can sample at legal speeds without having to be in first gear? Accessible high performance.
Some riders are shocked to discover you can go pretty fast without having to be in full tuck behind a small fairing. Maximum straightaway speeds may require it but even at the races, dragging their knees at 70mph in a corner, racers don’t need to lay on the tank, maximum corner speed and lean angle are a delicate balance of traction and power, and a bike designed with accessible performance can give you the same thing without the compromises required of a 180mph top end.
Make no mistake, this does not mean tiny engines and low performance, it means accessible HIGH performance that you can sample more often. The small engine crowd might say a tiny high winder is all you need, just wring it out and you’ll have your fun, but big meaty power is what brings the smiles. Torque is a big factor, especially at low rpm, precisely where the big V-twins deliver. Triumph triples, too, plus lots of other engine configurations if designed right. The old “tuned for midrange power,” a phrase over used in advertising, might mean something again, instead of just being a way to sell detuned versions of engines that work better when spun up.
Buells are on the right track, they handle pretty well but lack the pure power. Their acceleration is limited by the engine even at low speeds. There’s no reason why accessible high performance shouldn’t provide the same brutal acceleration from zero you get in the big inline fours, it’s just doesn’t have to carry on through 150mph and beyond, and, if designed for lower speeds, the power band can be a lot wider, just like your smile when you hit it.
“Accessible high performance” is great for advertising. Once riders begin thinking in terms of accessible performance, the brag factor of being able to say your bike can do 185mph or is ridden by the Superbike champion goes away as other riders ask “OK, but what can YOU do with it on the street?” Which would you rather do, brag about your bike’s potential or show a little more of your own? An excellent comparison would be to take several experienced (but non racer) riders out to the track and, with cameras rolling, let them go for best lap times on two bikes, one would be a GSX-R or something similar and the other would be an “accessible high performance” bike. Feeling more secure and not having to worry so much about which gear was right and how many revs were necessary just might have the accessible performance bike winning the race. Wouldn’t that be an eye opener? Afterwards, ask the riders which bike was more enjoyable, overall, any bets on the answer?
Motorcycle magazines with their highly skilled riders on staff, pick apart the handling and performance of anything not in the ultra high performance category where most of us wouldn’t notice a thing, because we don’t ride there. The magazines are already aware they contribute to the “gotta have the ultimate motorcycle” state of mind. It’s a catch 22 situation, as soon as they become experienced, competent road testers for all kinds of bikes, their skills and perceptions find fault everywhere and some high rpm soft spots or handling quibble at 150mph brings negative marks. To measure accessible performance would almost require testing a bike while prohibiting any track time. Take it around town, across town, out in the country, ride it to work and go on a tour. Do a little canyon carving, in other words, ride where most of us ride, but absolutely no track time allowed and then see how the bike measures up. If it’s marginal on the street, say so. If it works like a champ, report that, too. Don’t you think a few “Best Bikes” lists would change a lot? You might see real buyers with real cash making different choices in the showrooms, too.
Just because there’s an ultimate performance race ready motorcycle at the dealer doesn’t mean anyone should buy it for street use. You can go just as fast on a daily basis and be more comfortable in the process with an “accessible high performance” motorcycle. Less ultimate performance, more accessible performance, … more happy riders, … sounds like a winner. I wonder what that bike might look like. I wonder if the manufacturers would go there.