In the late seventies to mid eighties, ABC featured something on Wide World of Sports that would quickly become their most popular show of the period. In a made-for-TV series, called Superbikers, showdowns between the top professional roadrace, dirt track and motocross heroes took place at Southern California's Carlsbad Raceway on a track made of both twisty ribbons of asphalt as well as bumpy, jump-filled sections of dirt. The bikes were similar to what you might find in a rural racetrack-blessed town; dirtbikes with lowered suspension running on street tires. Sure, it looks weird, "but you oughtta' see this thing go, paw. Real fast like. Jimmy's Gixxer can't even keep up in them twisty parts. Tee, hee, he."The American racers, with help from a small overseas contingent, took these bikes to the next level. Infused with equally liberal doses of cash and professionalism, Super Motard paddocks started to look like regular races instead of local Saturday night gatherings at the Dairy Queen.
Unfortunately, after a short but extremely successful run, ABC's show had its cord cut and the series promptly faded into beta tape memory, only to live on in Europe as a shadow of its former American self.
But as times change so do people's interests. And with the resurgence of big bore, moto-worthy thumpers and bikes like KTM's Duke -- which was built as a turn-key 'motard racer for the street -- interest in the series is enjoying quite a resurgence in various parts of the country. People are once again longing to see big thumpers backed into corners, trailing smoke, leaving black stripes, only to slide the rear end on the way out of the turn, continuing the plume of smoke, the stripe of melting rubber, all with the front wheel in the air. It's like nothing else, really.Supermotard (also known as Super TT) can not only be fun, it's also a great way to get into racing, cheap. You can enter some classes where all that's required is a dirt bike; leave the knobs on if you like and run your neighbor's old pile he had leaning against Old Blue's doghouse. Or you can go the high-dollar route and start with something like a Husqvarna 610WXC, pump up the motor (yes, some people want even more power) and perform all the usual tricks and tweaks to the suspension and chassis. Irregardless® of your chosen mode of entry into this segment of the sport, 'motard is all about sideways. It's all about skill and -- we kept hearing -- all about fun.
After incessant prodding from a few parties, we were treated to the sight of two 'motard-equipped bikes at the Streets of Willow course for our mis-use. One bike was an almost stock, Year 2000 Yamaha YZ250 two-stroke dirt bike that had street tires spooned onto the stock rims. The other bike on hand was the bike thatDamon Bradshaw raced in the Four-Stroke Nationials at Glen Helen earlier this year. The bike was treated to an impressive array of GYT-R (Genuine Yamaha Technology - Racing) parts ad, for our 'motard purpose, some cool 19-inch rims and sticky street tires for full-on 'motard amusement. Come Hell or high water, we were going to find out what the hype was all about. We just hoped and prayed that, when all was said and done, we'd still be upright and Bradshaw's bike could be returned to him in one piece. He lives in Idaho now and has a Confederate flag painted on his helmet, after all. We hear he's a nice enough guy, but, "this is Minime. He's the one who ruined your bike," is never a good way to be introduced to someone known as "the Beast from the East."Yamaha's YZ426F is a common choice for 'motard applications due to availability of aftermarket parts as well as its reliability and ease of use. Granted, there are a few open class two-strokes (like Honda's CR500, for instance) that compete, but they are harder to go fast on unless you are in possession of either an expert license or an extensive health insurance policy and a penchant for violent crashes.
The first question we had was, "do we get down on our knees or put our leg out moto-style?" The reply was, "whatever." Great, we were only 10 minutes into this and were already beginning to wonder just how high somebody can highside a dirtbike on pavement. Unfortunately, there's no right answer to what style works better, or so we're told. But since we were on what is basically a dirt bike and we wanted some cool photos, we thought we'd try to perfect the leg-out style. Besides, it was a long way down to the pavement with our knees; better safe than sorry, right?
We quickly learned to forget everything we know about riding a motorcycle when it came to turning fast laps on one of these 'motard machines. Sure, all the controls are in the right places, but what you do with them is a different story. On a street bike, you point your knee, head and shoulder through the corner as you hang off to the inside of the bike. On these, that type of behavior will get you nowhere fast. You can start by getting back on the bike, now. What on earth were you doing down there, anyway?
Instead of you leaning into the turns, stay on top of the bike and push it down beneath you. Ever seen a motocross race? Do what they do: Outside elbow up in the air, inside arm almost straight, applying downward pressure on the inside grip. The dynamics of the chassis are well-suited to deal with this type of input. Do things correctly (it does take a little acclimation time) and you'll be slippin' and slidin' with the best of 'em pretty quickly. Just be careful when you get back on your street bike; people will look at you funny if you ride around with your elbows up and your leg sticking straight out. It's not such a good idea when lane-splitting, either.Coming from a dirt background as some of us have, the whole foot-dragging, elbows-up thing wasn't so foreign; dragging a boot on the pavement while tapped at redline in top gear was, however. But that's exactly the riding style that made sense to us and, as the speeds came up and we started backing the bike into the corners, that leg -- or outrigger as it came to be called -- was the only thing that repeatedly saved us from disaster.
With our very own slide master, Roland "Sideways" Sands on board the YZF, still wearing his leathers but now capped off with a motocross helmet and motocross boots, we had all the makings for a good show. The beautiful sounds emanating from the GYT-R titanium and carbon fiber muffler were offset by the screeching protest of the tires as they skidded along the hot asphalt, searching for traction in what is referred to as a "hackie." That's 'Motard-speak for letting out the clutch after a downshift (or two) without blipping the throttle. This causes the rear wheel to slide since it spins at less than road speed and, just like Aaron Yates likes to do, this helps to get the bike turned in towards the apex while still scrubbing speed. It's quite a sight to see. No wonder the popularity of this sport is on the rise again.You need to try this Supermotard business -- that's a given. The only question that remains is, "two-stroke or four-stroke?" And the answer to that is, unless you are a "two-stroke guy" as some people claim to be, the thumper will be the hot ticket. Just by looking at the videos it's easy to tell how much more controllable the power of the four-stroke is. Sure, the ring-ding may be lighter, but when it comes time to brake into a tight corner, that engine braking is a huge tool that doesn't come in a two-stroke package. The YZ250 is an awesome moto weapon that makes a good 'motard tool as well. Even the stock bike (except for the street tires, of course) was a lot of fun and proved to be more than able to cut a fast lap time.
In today's roadracing world -- everything from a local 600 supersport race all the way up to the World Superbike ranks -- the fast guys are the riders who don't mind riding "loose" on the bike, letting it move around beneath them. Supermotard is a perfect combination of dirt bike muscle and street bike finesse that will make you a much better, more competent rider on your sport bike. Not to mention, it's a whole lot of fun.
GYT-R Parts and Accessories as found on the YZ426F:
GYT-R Carbon Fiber/Titanium Muffler YZR-5JG93-CF-TT $460.00 GYT-R Titanium Head Pipe YZR-5GR93-10-TT $215.00 Titanium Subframe YZR-5JG94-00-TT $460.00 Titanium Oversized Footpegs GYT-5CU36-00-TT $205.00 Billet Clutch Lever w/Bearing GYT-83912-BL-AL $49.95 Factory Racing Quick Adjuster GYT-WORKS-BK-00 $29.95 Billet Thumb Compression Release YZR-5BE37-BK-AL $79.95 Billet Drain Plug w/Magnet YZR-DRAIN-00-00 $16.95 Carbon Fiber Factory Racing Air Box GYT-5JG05-50-CF $499.99 Carbon Fiber Clutch Cover GYT-5JG35-10-CF $199.99 Carbon Fiber Ignition Cover GYT-5BE12-00-CF $199.99 Carbon Fiber Tall Water Pump Guard YZR-WPAL-10-CF $89.95 Carbon Fiber Head Stays GYT-5BE17-00-CF $59.99 Carbon Fiber Motor Mounts GYT-5BE25-10-CF $59.99 Carbon Fiber Rear Disc Guard Set YZR-5DH16-00-CF $98.50 Carbon Fiber Frame Guards YZR-5BE33-00-CF $118.75 Carbon Fiber Glide Plate GYT-5BE34-00-CF $115.70 Carbon Fiber Chain Guide YZR-5BE87-10-CF $65.82 Carbon Fiber Lower Fork Guards YZR-5DH26-50-CF $103.00 Magnesium Top Clamp YZR-5JG75-10-MG $295.00 Std. Mounts For Magnesium Top Clamp YZR-5BE75-40-MG $125.00 Titanium Front Suspension Bolt Kit YZR-5BE99-61-TT $112.95 Titanium Rear Suspension Bolt Kit YZR-5BE99-51-TT $138.95 Titanium Chassis Bolt Kit YZR-5BE99-41-TT $105.00 Titanium Engine Kit YZR-5BE99-31-TT $199.95 '00 Strobe Decal Kit YZR-5JG25-K2-00 $119.95 Factory Racing Cross Bar Pad YZR-PROTA-PR-99 $12.50