From street bikes to two-strokes, 600cc sportsbikes to supermotos, different bikes require different techniques. Whatever you ride, get the best from your bike with the help of the finest riders on the planet
How to ride a fast sportsbike
By Nicky Hayden
Feeling unequal to the task of hustling 180bhp? Worried about highsiding on the high street? Let Nicky Hayden talk you through the black art of riding very, very fast
Uniquely placed to offer advice on riding the most powerful bikes on the planet, Kentuckian MotoGP ace Nicky Hayden is a glutton for horsepower. "Peak power or midrange? I prefer more power everywhere," confesses the American. "Horsepower is my friend." A very close friend – having smoked the supremely powerful 990cc RC211V Grand Prix bike to the 2006 MotoGP world championship, Nicky struggled on Honda's less spectacular 800 before signing to ride the most brutal GP bike of the modern era, Ducati's thorny Desmosedici.
Of the myriad skills required to tame a really fast bike, Nicky's clear on the most crucial. "Throttle control is very important," he says. "It's important in the dry but in the rain and when the tyres go off it's everything. I guess mine comes from dirt track racing (Nicky was a top-level dirt tracker long before he was a road racer). To work on it you need to focus on what you’re doing with the throttle. Then you can try to get a feel for it."
Loved for his lurid style, in 2009 Hayden is keen to calm his dirt track-style corner exits. "I don’t want to be sliding at all in most cases now," he says. "It may look cool but it doesn’t help lap times. With the electronics and tyres as good as they are now, you’re better off riding with the wheels in line – hooked up and moving forward – though sliding is a tool; you can finish off a corner with a slide if you’re running out of real estate on the way out."
What speeds up must slow down and Hayden insists speed on a really fast sports bike is as much about a confident braking technique as it is peachy corner exits. "The secret is to ease the brakes on, not just grab them – ease them on and then pull very, very hard," he says. "If you just grab them the rear wheel will come off the ground. It's also important to learn to brake deep into turns. Trail braking is one of the skills that separates great riders from good ones. I use a lot of rear brake; to slow down, to stop wheelspin and to load the bike and keep it more stable in transitions and over crests (dragging the rear brake will stop a powerful bike lifting its front wheel over bumps and humpback bridges) – but the truth is I rely on the rear brake too much. The reason I use such a big rear disc (at Repsol Honda Nicky's rear brake disc was far meatier than team-mate Danny Pedrosa's) is not so much for power but to keep it from over-heating."
Posted: 17/03/2012 at 22:11
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