Superbike is a generic term for motorcycles with large capacity engines that are very powerful and so can accelerate extremely quickly and attain very high speeds. These can include super-sports, cruisers, hyper-tourers and even some super-motards. Sbk’s are motorcycles nonetheless and eminently rideable provided the rider calibrates his/her actions in strict accordance with the dynamics of the motorcycle.
Tips and points-to-ponder for riding superbikes:
Be clear and honest about your mindset. An aggressive attitude that gets triggered into competitiveness at the smallest pretext is a very dangerous and usually fatal combination with a superbike. These bikes demand that you ride at your own pace of learning.
Learn to become focused and stay focused on the ride. Superbikes can really stretch human ability and reflexes to their utmost and even beyond, in a jiffy. Only concentration on the ride at hand can save a riding situation from transiting from close to risky to fatal in the span of a few seconds.
Things to remember about handling. Some call it counter steering, some known it by positive steering. It is to initiate a turn toward a given direction by momentarily steering counter to the desired direction (“steer left to turn right”) which is very useful during high speed corners. Practice makes perfect! Start with low speed and gradually increase by experience.
Proper riding gear is of paramount importance when riding superbikes, not just for protection from a fall but as protection from the wind and debris thrown up by other traffic. At speeds around 150kmph, a small stone chip can hit hard enough to puncture and penetrate human skin. Think of what it can do to an unprotected eye.
A high level of riding skills already developed through serious learning-oriented riding on lower capacity bikes goes a long way towards safe super-biking. Learn as much as you can both off-road (through reading, videos, televised racing events, the internet, interacting with experienced superbike users) and on-road while riding. Remember, learning never ends in motorcycling and more so when riding superbikes.
Smoothness in operation of all controls is of utmost importance with superbikes. Rough handling of the throttle can induce a sharp wheel-spin that can have your ‘rear’ on the road before you realize what happened. And so it is with the brakes. Respect both these controls and learn to shift gears as smoothly as you can, taking special care while down-shifting (even on bikes with the ‘slipper-clutch). The engine-induced braking can lock the rear and send the bike in a skid. In that case, ABS was created to deal with such problem.
Increase your margins of safety under given conditions when riding a superbike compared to what you did while riding smaller capacity bikes. For example, go easy in heavy traffic, avoid weaving through lanes and keep an alert eye on those rear-view mirrors. Remember your bike can brake quicker than almost every other vehicle behind you. Getting rear-ended on a superbike is a very real possibility.
Keep the motorcycle’s equipment level in the best of shape. Stick to the recommended maintenance schedule but still keep a sharp eye for obvious and impending mechanical failures. Slack chains, worn brake pads, low oil or coolant levels, weak battery, low tyre pressure, fused lights or worn out tires, all or individually can contribute more or less to an unsafe ride. Some safety issues like worn brake pads, low oil level or slack chain are obvious for their effects but others like a fused brake light bulb that can make the following car rear-end you at night even when you braked ‘normally’ are not so obvious. So ‘all-ship-shape- is all-safe’.
These bikes have complex and expensive hardware and so take care to ‘feed’ them the proper fuel, oil and coolant. Bad fuel causes a drop in power and overheating in the short term and can severely damage the engine internals in the long term. So take care where you refuel from. And keep a mileage log for the bike. Not primarily for economic reasons but because ‘fuel consumption’ is a good indicator of engine health.
Most superbikes are so made these days that at least one of their headlights is always on while the engine is running. This is a very good safety feature making the bike visible from far off and even through heavy traffic. If this is not a standard feature on your bike, remember to ride on the low beam all the time, night or day.
Other road users in a country like ours, that have a sparse superbike population, don’t expect a motorcycle to move so fast as a superbike can. Don’t expect them to anticipate your high approach speeds and get out of your way. They usually won’t. Slow down to ‘common motorcycle’ speeds when riding through a populated area or where people are expected to cross the roads.
Riding on our mountain road like Gerik or Cameron Highland on a superbike seems very enticing and is admittedly very enjoyable. But always remember that a superbike is NOT flickable as our ‘kapchai’ and so keep a very safe inside line during turns. High speeds invariably result in wider turns and you will have no chance to change your position towards the inside of the turn if another vehicle has encroached upon your outside lane. Braking while leaned is also no remedy as it too will result in a skid and a fall. In fact while on mountain roads, it would be safer to ride a trifle slower on a superbike than you would on your smaller bike.
Wet roads, whether due to rain or spilled water or whatever, can be a real pain on superbikes. Their soft-compound tyres have minimal grooves (to keep the maximum amount of tractable rubber on the road) and so are not very efficient at dispersing water from under the contact patch. Also the powerful engine can easily induce a wheel-spin under such low-traction conditions. So be very gentle with the throttle, especially while exiting turns and when starting from a stop. And the same care is critical while braking too. Locking up either or both the wheels is a distinct possibility on wet roads.
Take a pillion with you on a superbike only after you are thoroughly familiar with its behavior with just ‘you’ on it. As a thumb rule, do a few hundred miles on the bike alone, under differing conditions and at differing speeds to get the hang of things. Then take as pillion only someone who explicitly trusts your riding abilities. A pillion who ‘resists’ leaning and tenses up during acceleration and while braking can seriously upset the bike’s balance and things can go from bad to dangerous in a moment.
Compared to a small bike, the acceleration on a superbike will necessarily feel a LOT stronger and this can scare most pillions. Same with braking. Talk to them before the ride and tell them what to expect.
It is extremely important to wear safety gear from top to bottom when astride a Superbike, in fact any kind of bike!