The term ‘speedway’ is used all around the motorsport industry to describe the World Superbike series, but what exactly does that mean? Well, let’s explore.
What is Superbiking?
For decades, motorcycle racers have been competing in shorter races, mostly in Europe, until the concept of ‘Superbiking’ was born. The World Superbike Championship was created to specifically cater to the demands of motorcycle enthusiasts who wanted to race longer than 300km, but with less restrictions than in a standard road race. That’s right – you want to go really fast? These are your new digs. Just make sure you’re aware of the differences in terms of rules and regulations.
The World Superbike Championship Is Different
Let’s have a quick comparison between a ‘standard’ road bike race and a World Superbike race. A standard road bike race is 200km long and it follows the rules and regulations set by the Royal Automobile Club in London (the ‘RAC’), which was founded in 1881. The World Superbike race is similar in length (150-300km, depending on which class you’re in) but the rules are completely different. The main difference is that a World Superbike rider is allowed to use all the gears (as compared to the limited pace in a standard road bike race). That means that the engine can rev much higher, and thus, much more power is available. The other main difference is that gearboxes are not allowed in a World Superbike race. Instead, each gear is selected using a clutch, and clutch control is much more important in these races. If you’re not using a clutch, you will find it very difficult to change gears in a hurry, because the clutch will have to be reengaged before you can even begin to shift gears. That means you have to take your hands off the handlebars for a brief moment while you’re changing gears. In a standard road bike race, this is usually no problem because there are no other riders for whom you have to consider. You’re basically just looking out for yourself. In a World Superbike race, being isolated from your surroundings means that you have to be even more attentive to your riding style and habits and pay special attention to your gear changes.
Many Gears, Higher Horsepower And More Speed
Most motorcycles have two or three gears which are chosen based on the terrain and the weather conditions – rain, shine or cloudy. The number of gears ranges from two to five, and the higher the number of gears, the more extreme the riding style can be. World Superbikers have more gears than standard roadbikers and the difference is quite drastic. If you’re used to riding a standard road bike, it will be quite the change to transition to a seven-gear bike, but this is what the series is all about. You’re competing for the best overall lap time and that means using all the gears, no matter the terrain or weather condition. Of course, this also depends on which class you’re in, but even in the premier class, where the lap times are usually fast, you will find yourself using all the gears because you never know when you might need a bit more speed.
No Fancy Drinks Or Snack Shops
Most road bike races offer some sort of refreshments at certain points along the way. These are usually small refreshment stations where you can get a drink or some snacks. The World Superbike Championship does not offer any of those things along the course. It would be one thing to have a few drink stations or food trucks, but the teams and the riders are pretty determined to avoid any sort of break in concentration. These are serious athletes who want to go fast and they don’t want anything to slow them down, including food and drink. The same goes for pee breaks, although in this day and age, you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t need a break now and then.
No Splitscreen TV’s Or Portable Gaming Consoles
The majority of road bike races are held in European countries, with a few select events taking place in Asia and Australasia. The TV coverage of these races is usually quite good, and it provides fans with the exciting scenes they want to see. However, the on-course entertainment is quite limited because there aren’t many options available beyond the teams’ hospitality. This is significantly different in a World Superbike race, where the teams are provided with portable gaming consoles and access to all sorts of entertainment, including online streaming services. If you’re in hospital or rehab at the moment, you can usually find something on DVD to keep you company while you heal (and maybe even learn to ride again).
More Banging And Thumping
The other significant difference between a World Superbike race and a standard road bike race is the sound that they make. If you’re not used to listening to loud motorcycles, then the first time you encounter them on your car stereo, you might not believe your ears. The difference is that much more emphasis is placed on the musical aspect in a World Supercycle race. The riders are not only competing for the best overall time but also for the fastest individual lap as well, which is mostly a rhythmical effort as they shift gears, accelerate and brake to the beat. It’s not unusual for fans in the grandstands to be dancing or singing along, either. These are full-blown musical performances that can be a lot of fun to watch (if you’re into that sort of thing).
More Excitement And Drama
Last but not least, we have the crashes. Let’s not kid ourselves here – accidents do happen and they’re usually pretty spectacular. In a road bike race, the accidents are usually due to human errors or equipment failures, and thus, they’re usually pretty tame. However, in a World Superbike race, things are a lot more dramatic. Teams and riders are racing for a victory lap and when they get into contention with one another, it’s usually at full throttle. This is because they’re trying to take the lead as soon as possible to try and pull away and get that much more speed. With less restrictions and gear variations, there is a lot more opportunity for accidents and mishaps. It makes for exciting viewing, especially if you’re a fan of the sport.
So there you have it – a beginner’s guide to the differences between a World Superbike race and a standard road bike race. As you may have guessed, being a devoted motorcyclist is not easy, and it requires a complete rethinking of your strategy. If this sounds like fun, then maybe it’s time to consider switching to motorcycling. You’ll have a new favorite pastime, and it’ll give you a whole new perspective on life.