Everybody loves a Car vs. Bike ding dong. Here is a top five of my own; areas bikes are superior to cars.
Acceleration – modern performance cars are fire breathing monsters, take the 4WD Nissan GT-R, for example. It’s a formidable machine which can launch 1.7 tonnes of engineering excellence to 60mph as fast as a Superbike. But once it gets going, and the wind starts blowing, there is still nothing that clears off quicker than a motorcycle. Watch this great vid of the GT-R being overtaken by a Ducati at full chat like it was standing still.
The reason? Power to weight ratio. To start, the car has lower gearing to take advantage of the increased traction available through those four driven tyres. As the speeds rise higher however, the bike has an advantage being lighter, and having a better power to weight ratio. As speeds climb over 100mph, the car will always win out, at high speed, the force holding back the motorcycle is drag (wind resistance). Both the car and the bike exhibit drag. The car is pushing more air out of the way, but it also has more power and more torque available to do that. On a top speed run, the vehicle with the highest torque to drag ratio wins, this is usually the car.
Cornering – Do you like the feeling of having your head pulled off? Me either. I didn’t ride in a high performance car for many years whilst I was living in London. When I did get a ride in a fast car, I realised how much more enjoyable cornering on a motorcycle is, especially for passengers. As a motorcycle corners, the bike leans over, so the weight, which is pushed to the outside of the corner by centrifugal force is actually acting down through the seat, pushing the rider into the saddle. Cornering fast in a car is very much a flat, sideways affair, and is consequently far less pleasant as you need to prevent your head from being thrown all about the place. There is a reason that Formula 1 drivers have necks like rugby prop forwards……
High Speed Cruising – Weeeeeeee! Going fast is fun, whether you’re on two wheels or four. But there is something about sustained high speed cruising on a motorcycle which is incredibly satisfying. On a bike, the faster you go, the more stable it becomes as the wheels gain inertia and their gyroscopic force increases. At increasingly higher speeds, the steering input has less effect. In a car, the faster you go, the less stable it tends to be, the more your steering input affects the line. High speed cruising on a bike is more relaxing than in a car (once you are out of the wind blast).
Now if you are trying to change direction at high speed, a bike’s stability can make the process hard work. Ask TT riders how many pairs of boots they go through in a typical week wrestling their bikes around the mountain course.
Fuel Economy – high performance cars are great fun, but they don’t half burn through the fuel. Not so with bikes. Modern litre sportsbikes bikes can achieve 50mpg at a steady 90mph. Your car? Not so much. A smaller footprint to the wind blast means a bike is pushing less air out of the way at speed, and as the drag increases in proportion to the square of the speed, cars have a lot more air to push out of the way to keep up that speed. They have the power to do it mind, but that 4.2 litre engine is going to burn through the fuel PDQ. If you feel guilty about destroying the planet with your high speed driving, get a bike and save the planet one litre of fuel at a time.
Less Massive – there is something wonderful about propelling a light vehicle forward. ‘Taking off’ on board a modern Sportsbike is a bit like being fired out of a canon, or perhaps fired off the deck of an aircraft carrier. It can be fun to do the same in a car, but you can sense the car’s greater inertia, which makes it feel heavy. There is a greater force to overcome the inertia. Under (F=ma), if the mass of a car is 10 times greater than a bike, and the accelerating force is 10 times greater, the vehicle will have the same acceleration (10F=10ma), cancel out the 10’s. A jet plane may accelerate as quickly at a motorcycle, but it feels big and heavy and substantial. A motorcycle feels light and flexible and easily thrust forward. If you like feeling light and flexible and free, accelerating on a motorcycle is where it is at.
Lighter mass to accelerate also means less wear and tear on the planet, less fuel burned, less tyres consumed, less brake dust created, and less oxygen consumed. Sold! To the man with the green tank top.