Opinion: Weight over power


Riding the Diavel V4 in January was a nice way to start the new year. It’s a great motorcycle for so many reasons, but the engine really was the leading star. Ducati really knows how to make an exciting motor and this 1,158cc V4 Granturismo is an absolute gem. But beyond the awe and admiration, it also got me thinking – this is fast enough.

Almost exactly one year ago, I got to spend three days at the race track with another V4-powered Ducati, only that one made FORTY horsepower more than the Diavel’s already ferocious 168hp. That Streetfighter V4’s speed was borderline overwhelming for my mind and even when I finally started to come to terms with its violent acceleration, I never felt anywhere close to having used its potential. 

And that’s interesting because on the road, I thought that the Streetfighter V4 was the nicer bike to ride compared with the Streetfighter V2 – not only because its motor felt more special but also easier to use at lower speeds. But if you were to offer me the choice of Streetfighters to ride at a race track today, it would undoubtedly be the 153hp Streetfighter V2

I suppose I’m not a good enough rider yet to be able to ride one of these 200hp-plus monsters to a satisfying extent that goes beyond Instagram-worthy images. That’s a thought I have every time I ride Ducati’s phenomenal Panigale V4 as well, including most recently at Sepang last year. It’s an amazing, amazing bike, but one that very clearly highlights the limits of my skills.

So that’s solved then, right? ‘Mid-spec’ 150-170hp superbikes are the way to go, right? Well, yes, but that brings up the second problem – weight. Both the Panigale V2 and the Streetfighter V2 weigh as much (or even a couple of kilos more) than their V4 siblings and this is where I feel the future of the sportbike game needs to start focusing.

It’s awesome that these mental 200-plus-hp things exist and long may their reign continue. But instead of relentlessly moving upwards from the number 200 when it comes to power, I’d love it if we also started moving downwards from the same figure when it comes to weight.

Everything gets better when a bike is lighter – it just feels so much more intuitive, rewarding and responsive when you can cut the weight down. If you ever get the chance to ride a fully stripped-down track-spec RC 390 or R15, you’ll understand the magic of lightweight machines. Come to think of it, one of my most memorable track experiences ever was on the TVS ARRC spec RR 310 – a bike that made about 50hp, but weighed just 110 kilos fully fuelled.      

And that’s effectively what I dream of – a future of sporty motorcycles where a significant chunk of the development process is dedicated to using state-of-the-art material sciences and manufacturing processes to reduce weight as much as possible. 

I fully appreciate the allure of a huge power figure, but we’re at a stage where only pro-level riders can come close to the limits of these bikes. Enough with worshipping the big numbers, I’m all for lighter is better!

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