Motorcycling sports – Bruno Chevolet
Published Jun 27, 2018
Most sports have distinct competitions for men and for women because of the average natural difference in muscular power between both genders. However, a few sports disciplines, in spite of being physically very demanding, do not make this separation.
A specific case is motorcycle racing: at the top level, women and men compete together in spite of the physical disadvantage for women.
Motorcycle racing could be a fantastic gender equality showcase, provided talented female pilots could succeed in overcoming the following hurdles, besides their physical (muscular power) handicap:
- They have to fight for a position in a very male and very masculine environment;
- Success in motorcycle racing, like in car racing, highly depends on the competitiveness of the material and in turn on sponsoring budgets, hence on business/marketing decisions often made in environments with a masculine culture.
Practically, we see very few women in such “gender equal” top-level competitions: no one in F1 racing, and only very, very few in motorcycle world championships.
Business decision-makers should consider actively supporting better gender equality in motorcycle racing, not only out of passion or philanthropy but taken as a real business opportunity:
- Be it for promoting internally and externally their D&I company policy;
- Be it for marketing their brand and products in a very distinctive and dynamic way.
Hundreds of millions of people worldwide watch the MotoGP world championship Grand Prix, and 30% of that audience are women – with an increasing tendency.
Reading for the Ladies:
Here are some further hindrances for women bikers:
- As there are so few women competing, there are also few audiences
- Thus, less sponsors
- Thus less advertising with women on the covers of magazines for example
- Thus less female competing against female
- Thus women’s racing is not televised as much as men
- Thus Apparel focuses on men. It is a challenge for women to get the right gear.
- Thus sexism, racism and discrimination
- Thus don’t have enough money / sponsorship, to purchase the bikes, apparel and entry fees.
- Thus putting up with men’s belittling, rudeness and brazenness and defamation.
- Thus there are few women who are not promoted, in media and marketing
- Thus the seat height on the bikes are higher for men, so the ladies have difficulty in finding the correct seat height
- Thus women get teased by men and women
- Thus women are less physical and strong as men, or have the stamina
- Thus women tend to be more emotional
I personally have been riding for 17 years. Over the years I had: Bmw, Honda, KTM, Suzuki and my favourite – The Triumph.
I would attend track days/breakfast runs, and there were a small handful of ladies
The greatest sport or entertainment!
Right. Let’s deal with some of the Dangers and safety of motorcycling on roads
Where do 70% of motorcycle accidents occur? – Intersections
This is an issue, especially at intersections, where approximately 70 percent of motorcycle-versus-vehicle collisions occur.
Riding motorcycles is dangerous. Motorcyclists account for 14% of all crash-related fatalities, even though they are only 3% of the vehicles on the road. Motorcyclists are 28 times more likely than passenger-vehicle occupants to die in a car crash. More than 80% of these types of crashes result in an injury or death.
The good news is that important progress is being made in reducing how dangerous motorcycles are. The bad news is that riding a motorcycle is still very dangerous, especially when compared to driving or riding in a passenger car and there are still far too many fatalities and preventable deaths.
More than 50% of fatal crashes involve collisions between motorbikes and motor vehicles such as cars and trucks. Specifically, 57% of the motorbikes “involved in fatal crashes were collisions with motor vehicles in transport.”
Importantly, 76% of fatal motorbike/car accidents involve a car or truck striking the motorcyclist head-on. Only 7% of these fatal types of accidents involve a car or truck colliding with the rear of the motorbike.
Cars and trucks making left-hand turns are particularly dangerous for motorcyclists. In fact, 42% of fatal motorbike-car accidents involve a car or truck turning left while a motorcyclist is going straight or passing or overtaking the car or truck.
Speeding plays an outsized role as a cause of motorbike accidents and in the cause of death of the rider/operator of a motorbike than with the death of a driver of a passenger car or a truck. Specifically, 32% of motorcyclist drivers involved in a fatal motorbike-car accident also involved speeding, as versus for only 18% of drivers of passenger cars, only 14% of drivers of light trucks and 7% of drivers of large trucks.
Helmets are 37% and 41% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorbike drivers and passengers, respectively. That means that for every 100 unhelmeted motorcyclists killed in motorcyclist accidents, 37 drivers and 41 passengers would have been saved if all 100 had worn helmets.
Let’s deal with the dangers of biking in competition
There are 2 parts to this, riding a MotoGP/sport bike and racing.
The way you ride a sportbike on track and the skills required, are completely different to riding a normal bike on the road.
It is almost impossible for someone who has never ridden a sports bike on the track to ride a MotoGP bike at a decent speed on track (provided they even let you try one).
You could cruise around slowly, but if you try to corner like the MotoGP riders or go anywhere near the speeds they are doing, you’ll most likely end up crashing.
The simple answer is Temperature.
Riding a motorcycle fast requires the tyres and brakes to be at the right temperature, and the only way to generate temperatures on the track is to be aggressive.
If you’ve never accelerated hard on a motorcycle with close to 200hp (>250hp in MotoGP’s case), it’s a really scary thing to do. The bike wobbles and shakes all around. Your vision literally warps as if you’re in hyperdrive. Sometimes the front wheel comes up, and you’re tempted to release the power.
When you get close to your braking point, that’s the scariest part. Before you reach the brake point, every fibre in your hand will beg you to release the throttle, but you need to keep it pinned. If you brake too early, you’ll need to add power to reach your apex when you’re leaned over – not good. If you’re too late, depending on your safety buffer, you’ll probably be in the gravel trap.
Next comes the braking. I don’t know how hard you’ve ever braked before, but braking on track is completely opposite to the street. You brake hardest first, then trail it off. You essentially get thrown forward when braking, and you’ll hit about 1.2G on a sports bike with slicks or 1.5G in MotoGP (A typical E-brake on the streets will be about 0.7G). You’ll also have to downshift here and be careful to count the gears. Miss one and you’ll be heading towards the gravel trap. Go one extra, and you’ll lock up and slide the rear wheels. Shifting on MotoGP & race bikes is reversed compared to street bikes.
If you don’t brake hard enough, you’ll regret it down the road when you go into the corner too fast. Also with the carbon discs, you need to get the temperatures up ASAP for them to bite, which means stomping on them HARD. Anything less and you will be in the gravel trap. At this moment, the bike will start to squirm about, you’ll feel the rear becoming light and sometimes slide.
If you’ve done the corner entry right, the bike will have some resistance in turning in, and your natural body instinct will tell you that you’ve entered too quickly. You panic and reach for the brakes due to instinct, and a split second later you’ve lost the front or stood the bike up and headed towards the gravel trap.
The way to get over this is to force your way in by counter-steering and leaning the bike in more. Keep your head up and look towards the apex and then to the exit. You have to look further than what you normally do on the streets. When the bike is at its maximum lean, your knees (and elbows) are scraping on the tarmac, and it’s the most beautiful feeling in the world.
Right after the apex, you pick the bike up. About a third to halfway before it’s fully upright, you have to pin the throttle. The electronics will kick in and the bike will squirm about. You hang on for dear life, but without gripping the bars too tightly as it’ll cause the bike to shake more. You’re blasting to the next corner and the cycle repeats.
Racing on the other hand is a different story. It’s more about psychology, mental strength and physical endurance. You’ll do the above about 300–350 times in a single race, without making a single big mistake. One wrong move and you’re out. There’s no reset button or replay, and you might end up seriously injured. Also, your opponents are constantly playing psychological tricks and mind games with you.
Being the leader is actually the most stressful position to be in, not many can handle the pressure and you’ll often see rookies that leaders make mistakes or crash out.
But if you’re not in the top few guys, endurance will be your biggest challenge. I’ve done several track days and mini-races, and though I’m nowhere near the top guys, I’ve not been able to do more than 10 laps without making a mistake. At some point, it’ll all be clockwork, and it’s easy for your mind to drift. You start to wonder things like how many laps it has been, when will this session end, did I count right… and then the physical tiredness kicks in.
This is why I have the utmost respect for those who race at that level (including WSBK, BSB, ASB, AMA, etc). It’s something that takes years and years of practice. Not anyone can hop onto one of those machines, or even a prepared production race bike, and get anywhere near what those guys are doing.
Take a look at this read:
This is quite interesting: https://ehlinelaw.com/blog/is-riding-a-motorcycle-worth-the-risk
What is the most dangerous motorcycle race in the world?
Isle of Man TT: The world’s deadliest race
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First held in 1907 the Isle of Man TT is the oldest and arguably the most dangerous motorcycle race in the world. Held on public roads around the Island, the Snaefell Mountain Circuit is 37.73 miles of pure insanity.
Written by Sam Smith
With courtesy of Ricky Johnson and Chris Sackett
MOTOCROSS IS UNQUESTIONABLY dangerous. Like every form of motorsport, it involves a vehicle—in this case a small- to medium-displacement dirtbike, almost always under 500 cc. And it requires that you go out and go faster than someone else.
The catch comes in the bike. Unlike, say, a race car, the design of a racing motorcycle has little impact on its operator’s safety in a crash. If you fall off a bike, you’re going to hit something—usually, but not always, the ground. Motocross and its stadium-born cousin, Supercross, increase the risk, with their big speeds, close traffic, and propensity for bikes to fly through the air in the course of normal competition.
Off-road bike racing is undoubtedly awesome, but you can’t argue that the sport contains a certain amount of seeming impossibility. How do people do this and not break bones every five minutes? Has modern technology changed injuries? And what does a career racing dirt bikes teach you?
To get a better idea of how motocross riders stay alive, we talked to three people from different corners of the moto world: provocateur Ricky Johnson, who retired due to injury at the ripe old age of 26; Chris Sackett, the vice president of Bell Helmets, the company that invented the purpose-built motorcycle helmet; and Jeremy Appleton, a motorsport specialist for safety-gear manufacturer AlpineStars.
They all viewed motocross a little differently, but each man had two things in common: A love for motorcycles hauling ass on dirt, and a desire to see guys do it as safely—and quickly—as possible.
Is there any correlation between talent or experience, and how often a rider falls?
Ricky Johnson: You fall at a much higher frequency in the beginning, because you’re learning. You’re constantly pushing the envelope. But once you get to the pro ranks, you start learning how to conserve yourself. At least some pros do. They’ll have a freak accident or they do crash every now and then, but it’s not on a frequent basis, because they can’t because any injury takes them out of the championship.
Conserve yourself physically, or also mentally?
RJ: Your job every weekend is to show up. Your next job is to perform. And the ultimate goal is to win. But first thing, you have to be healthy. So you have to make sure that you’re not overtraining, that you’re not taking unnecessary risks, that you’re trying to constantly be faster and better and better. But do it so that you’re not throwing yourself on the ground.
Is it in any way tied to the engine size of the bike? Or is it all the same—if you’re at the beginning of the learning curve, you get hurt, no matter the equipment?
RJ: No, a smaller displacement bike is definitely the way to go. I work with military special forces [training them to ride motorcycles], and all these guys are very strong, very capable, very alpha males. And the first thing they say is, “I want a 450.” And I say no, because when you have a newer rider, he panics, he doesn’t know what to do to save it. And so a lot of times, guys will get hurt on the bigger-displacement bikes because something will happen, they’ll grab a handful of throttle, and the bike takes them either into something that they don’t want or takes them faster into a section where they were trying to slow down.
Chris Sackett, Bell Helmets: The sport of motocross is pretty violent, it’s pretty aggressive, but there are different levels. A guy who’s been doing it for years is going to be jumping further, higher, going faster. They might not crash as often, but when they do, it’s probably more violent.
When you fall in a race environment, is it like on a street bike, where you occasionally have a choice in how your body lands? Or is it just a case of things always moving too quickly—you hit where you hit?
RJ: It depends on the crash. I encourage people to stay on the bike if they can. You have the suspension and linkage and tires and all of this thing that will absorb a lot of the shock, if you, say, jump too far. A lot of times, when a bike goes and they get scared, the beginner seems to want to jump off first. But sometimes things happen so fast, you don’t have a choice. You’re along for the ride.
To the layman, it looks like the safety gear hasn’t changed much over time. That can’t be true.
RJ: Certain elements have changed quite a bit. The two single biggest improvements—one is knee braces, the ones you can buy off the shelf. They can save a severely blown-out knee, an MCL and things like that. And then the foot protection. There are not a lot of ankle injuries—the boots are so much better than they used to be.
The same thing applies to motorcycles. They run bigger foot pegs than they used to, to give guys more of a platform, and the suspension is so much stronger—but in turn, the guys are jumping ’em further and jumping ’em bigger. So once again, gravity comes back into play! [Laughs] It’s great when you’re goin’ good, but when you crash, you crash.
CS: There’s such a variation in crash energies, and the certification for motorcycle helmets—and when I say certification for helmets, it’s the same certification for all motorcycle helmets, whether it’s a street helmet, or a scooter helmet, or a motocross helmet. They go after the worst accident you could possibly have, the energies you’re going to see and actually possibly survive. And they kind of set the standard around that. So helmets historically have been manufactured to pass this standard that’s pretty high-energy.
There’s now a lot of focus on low-speed energy, protecting the wearer against low-speed crashes, and mid-speed crashes. A new system of injuries is rotational, where your brain is actually rotating inside your head. And that can cause connective-tissue tears, which can lead to concussion, brain injury, that sort of thing. So we’re doing more comprehensive testing in a development process. In the end, what you get is a product that’s gonna help protect you in a lot more variety of types of crashes.
Jeremy Appleton, Alpinestars: Safety’s kept pace with the development in technology with bikes and tracks, every bit of the way. With body armour —because motocross is such a physical activity, either taking place inside a stadium, which is hot or outdoors, in the summer months—riders have been reluctant to wear a lot of close-body protection. Simply because it increases physical stress. It’s hot and heavy.
So with the advent of improved materials and better design and production techniques, we have much lighter, but improved body protection. So riders are now able to wear protective impact shields under their jerseys. In the past, you might have seen riders just wearing a basic plastic protector on top of their jersey. It just prevented them from being bruised heavily, from all the stones and dirt fired out from the bike they were following.
That seems like a remarkable amount of nothing, in terms of protection.
JA: Things have changed, particularly in the United States. With the advent of these huge aerial Supercross tracks, we’ve also introduced neck protection, because we’re seeing increasingly—and unfortunately—catastrophic neck injuries. Paralyzations.
Is the increase in paralyzing crashes attributable to anything specific?
JA: The [faster] bikes and the jumps have undoubtedly contributed, simply because riders are travelling quicker, flying higher, and the margin of error is coming down. Because speed and height are more difficult to control.
But the biggest single issue has been in either landing badly or losing control, and then being pitched off the bike as the result of getting a jump wrong. Seeing riders being launched into the ground head-first with their bodies following their heads—it’s like a falling spear. And the human neck is just not designed to take massive compressive forces.
For a long time, helmet manufacturers didn’t publicize safety claims, either because the public didn’t care, or fear of litigation. So helmets didn’t evolve or at least didn’t seem to.
CS: All the way back to 1954, when Bell invented the first motorcycle helmet—it was a composite shell with an EPS liner. Until the last few years, everyone’s been using that. Now, the liner got thicker, and the standards got harder to pass, but other than that, there hasn’t been any change.
A lot of it had to do with, since the ’90s, litigation just got out of control in the United States. In the early ’90s, there were 25 helmet companies, and it got whittled down to, like, five, just from litigation. Some rightfully so—some companies were putting crap onto the market, and people were getting hurt. But the reality is, when you have ambulance chasers, no one wants to talk about safety, or what their helmets do to protect the rider, because it’s just going to get you into legal hot water.
JA: I’m afraid all that we can do is be entirely honest. To say, look, we’ve designed this to the maximum capability of what we believe is currently possible. Be that with materials or the construction or the design and the sheer performance, if you like, of the product. But we cannot guarantee that any piece will do the job completely.
Motorcycling, in whatever form you enjoy it, has risks associated with it. You can mitigate the risk by wearing good levels of protection and good product, but you can’t remove the risk entirely. It’s an unfortunate fact of life.
CS: We and many other large companies have stayed away from safety being the focus on [marketing]. It doesn’t mean that we weren’t developing and designing helmets, because that’s the sad thing—in the last five or ten years, we’ve actually made a lot of progress in the composites we use, the way we mold foams, etc. We’ve been able to mould foams in different densities [for different impact speeds], in different layers, for the last ten years. But if we dared talk about that, or gave the consumer the perceived notion that it would make them safer, we’d have problems down the road.
It’s very easy when we haven’t been telling the story of helmet evolution, for companies to come in and go, “Look at this shiny object! We’ve put these smoke and mirrors in this helmet, and it’s different!” Quite frankly, we’ve put a lot of these smaller helmets to the test, and they test horribly. But long story short, [we decided to] jump in very carefully. We’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on testing, and getting a little more daring with our claims, and backing it up with science.
With gear, are most of these components designed to work together, or can they all be paired individually?
JA: Alpinestars, obviously, we build body protection—chest protection, knee braces, back protection—and then the neck support. When it comes to the helmet, it’s a slightly different thing, because you’re introducing a product that’s being created by a different manufacturer.
What we did, given that the relationship between the helmet and our neck support system is so critical, we made a conscious effort to go and see the key helmet manufacturers, to explain our research and the design we had come up with. Just so they could understand how significant the design of the base of the helmet is, it helps get the load away from the neck and onto the neck support. Which is a rigid device that fits below the helmet.
So in that respect, we’ve made a conscious effort to try and make sure that, even though we are not in control of the design of helmets, our technology could work with other products on the market. But in other respects, it’s hard, because we design our body protection systems to work with our neck support—there’s a cutout on the chest and on the back to allow the neck support to fit properly with the upper-body protection. But if you buy a product from a different company, it doesn’t necessarily go together.
Do a lot of riders change their riding styles with age, maybe focusing more on safety?
RJ: Me personally, my style didn’t change a lot—I just kept honing, just minimizing mistakes. But I got injured at a young age—I had to retire [at 26], after another rider landed on me. Just a freak accident. Before that, it was all about winning. It’s like Days of Thunder: “I’m more worried about bein’ nothin’ than I am about bein’ hurt.”
But it doesn’t have to be a national pro. You talk to a kid in the 9-to-11 intermediate class, they’re there to win, and they’ll go through a burning wall to do it. In motocross, just like in wrestling and MMA and Special Forces, you find a lot of alpha males that wanna be The Guy. And they’re willing to put up with the pain and take the chances to do it.
For all you gamers out there! PlayStation has some awesome biking games. Take a look at these, just to name a few: taken from https://gomotoriders.com/best-ps3-motorcycle-games/
- Ride 3
- Isle of Man TT: Ride on the Edge
- MotoGP 18
- Road Redemption
- Trials Rising
- The Crew 2
- Grand Theft Auto V
- Days Gone
- GTA IV: The Lost and the Damned
- MotoGP 10/11
- Midnight Club: Los Angeles
Where to buy your bikes and apparel, to name a few:
Triumph: – https://www.triumph-motorcycles.co.za/
Suzuki – https://suzukimotorcycle.co.za/
Ducati – https://ducati.co.za/
Yamaha – https://www.worldofyamaha.co.za/
Please note: I do not take any responsibility for an accident, disability, death, public liability, third party, medical costs, destruction of property, damages to self or others, destruction of all equipment, disability, personal liability, general liability, self-harm, suicide, harm to livestock, harm to animals, harm to children and intentional bodily harm, for using any of the listed products and suppliers. Please consult with the manufacturers and instructors, when buying the equipment that is suitable for you.
If you have the itch, go for it, it’s an exhilarating great sport!
When you are ready to hop onto your bikes, please take a moment and bow for people that are disabled, that cannot take part in such sports.
My views, comments and content are strictly are of my own opinion and researching and are not governed or influenced by any marketing of companies or brands. It is of my own free will to mention companies and brands that supply sporting equipment pertaining to the sport in the discussion.