Get a litre class motorcycle if you must but a 600cc bike is all you need in India.
Speed! Speed! Speed! These three words keep ringing in our minds day in and day out but little do we all know that the quest for going faster is at times pointless. We all have this vision that by the time we retire from our jobs, our provident funds will help us purchase a hyper motorcycle, something on the lines of the Suzuki Hayabusa. Of course jumping to a Blackbird rivalling machine isn’t a sensible task but hey, we all have got it planned. Within the next five years, we shall get a more powerful bike and by the time we retire, we would have experienced all the categories of motorcycles (middle-weight, litre-class, etc), so it’s natural to get something faster, like the fastest accelerating motorcycle in the world.
The plan is excellent, in fact all of us at MotorBeam thought very similarly, till reality struck us in the face. You see, we have been shouting it out loud that a middle-weight (like a 600cc) is all that we need in India but manufacturers keep dolling out litre class machines (because it’s easier to get them here). No doubt litre class bikes are super-duper fast and boast of reaching 100 km/hr from standstill in under 3 seconds, that is faster than most supercars. However that’s not the point. The point is, you really can’t use more power than what a 600cc bike offers. Something which inadvertently got proved in the real world.
Just recently we picked up the Z800 and ZX-14R from Kawasaki for a road test. So both of us riders headed towards Mahabaleshwar from Pune. Now remember, one is an entry-level 4-cylinder superbike while the other is the legendary ZX-14R, the fastest accelerating motorcycle in the whole wide world! The difference between the engine capacity of these bikes is a freaking 600cc apart, that’s like a middle-weight motorcycle difference. We tanked up both the bikes to the brim and headed on our way, riding together with no restriction on any rider to ride fast or slow.
Once on the saddle, it was the ZX-14R which was easier to get used to as it doesn’t feel heavy and the clip-ons make the steering quite nimble. The Z800’s heavier steering and quick lock-to-lock meant some time was needed to get accustomed to this beast. So the ZX-14R was moving quicker as we were exiting the city but every time the ZX-14R would open throttle and try to make progress, the Z800 would end up catching it at a red traffic signal. So having a faster bike in the city is of no use, you are going to be as fast as any other bike.
Out of the highway, things weren’t any different. In spite of having 90 PS of horse power disadvantage, the Z800 would keep up with the ZX-14R all the time. So if you are talking about doing 200 km/hr, the Z800 was right there although for the brief moment when the ZX-14R would whizz past to 240 km/hr, the Z800 wouldn’t fall back by much. Once the ghats started, the Z800 was at an advantage (fresher tyres) but again neither bikes were being ridden on the limit (we weren’t on the track after all) and thus neither bike went out of sight. The ZX-14R has a load of electronics and the person piloting it (you don’t ride a ZX-14, you pilot it!) was complaining that when you give full power, the KTRC (traction control) would intervene, no such happenings on the Z800 which is devoid of electronics.
In spite of taking the same route and riding at similar speeds (for the most part), the Ninja ZX-14R came into reserve even after boasting of a bigger fuel tank. But the most crucial part of this whole ride was, both riders ended up fighting to ride the Kawasaki Z800 because even though it was slower and less flamboyant, it was the more fun bike to ride, putting a wider smile on the face of the rider. The case in point here is simple, acceleration numbers and top speed figures are all academic, if you want to have fun on a motorcycle, it need not be the fastest accelerating bike in the world, it can be anything which can make your heart skip a beat. Remember it’s always more fun to ride a bike slower at its limit then to ride a bike fast while having a lot of reserve power on tap. As the old adage goes, it’s not how fast you go, it’s how you go fast.
The lack of good roads in India means you really can’t exploit a hyper bike to the limit, thus making it unattractive as a middle-weight offers more fun in our conditions.