200MPH BALANCING ACT
The fastest bike with the most skilled rider wins, right? Not any more: MotoGP’s move to control tyres and ECU has forced the best riders in the world to adapt their riding and even bike setting lap-by-lap to make it to the flag the fastest
How control tyres and ECUs have forced MotoGP stars to change their style.
IT’S INEVITABLE: as MotoGP becomes more and more complex, riding techniques become more and more complicated.
For most riders, developing their technique to get the most out of their bike and their tyres is now a full-time job. They don’t just go out and ride; when they’re on track they study their rivals, trying to learn new tricks. And when they’re back in their motorhomes and back at home between races, they spend hours watching the TV, analysing their own technique and those of their rivals.
The biggest changes in technical regulations – and therefore of riding technique – came in 2016, when MotoGP switched from factory to spec electronics and from Bridgestone tyres to Michelin. This transformed machine set-up and riding skill requirements. It forced engineers to radically change chassis geometry to shift bike balance from the rear to the front, which increases load on the front tyre to help Michelin’s front slick. And it required riders to move their focus away from corner entry, which was where they made time with Bridgestone’s amazing front slick, to corner exit, where they now make time with Michelin’s impressive rear.
Discussing riding technique with the world’s greatest is fascinating. When they describe what they do, as you’ll read over the coming pages, you realise that riding a MotoGP bike at lap record pace has pretty much nothing to do with how you and I ride a bike.
Tech 3 Yamaha rider Johann Zarco even became quite protective when asked to explain his technique in detail. “It’s difficult,” he said. “You are asking me about things I do naturally, so if I explain how I do it, I won’t be able to do it naturally any more.”