Some people will tell you that only the most athletic amongst us can be successful motorcycle racers. But I don’t think that’s necessarily true. For a start, it completely depends how you measure ‘success’. Do you have to be MotoGP Champion to be considered successful? Or is a plastic trophy at your local club meeting enough? Whatever you want from your motorcycle racing career though, a decent level of fitness isn’t going to hurt. So do you need to loose a few pounds, or do you think you’re fit enough to race? Join us as we ask, how fit do you need to be to race a motorbike?
If you can walk unaided, and get to the top of the stairs without being too out of breath, you’re fit enough to race a motorbike. You don’t have to pedal them; the bike does most of the work, doesn’t it? Go to any bike racing paddock in the world (well maybe with the exception of MotoGP and WSBK) and you’ll find 20-stone chain-smokers lining up on the grid, to give it their all. They might not win, but they’ll be giving it a go, and it’s the taking part that counts, isn’t it? Sometimes.
Certain disciplines of motorcycle racing, are more physically demanding than others. Motocross, for example, I think is one of the hardest sports in the world. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it, if you’re not in shape. It just means you might not be as competitive as you might like to be. Or as you once were.
If you want to really enjoy your bike racing, then it’ll definitely help if you knock the ciggies on the head and try an loose a few stone. The better you get, and the more confident you become, the faster you’ll want to go; until you get to a stage that you simply can’t hold on for more than a lap or two, without needing extra oxygen.
The fitter you get, the longer you’ll be able to last. But the faster you get, the fitter you’ll need to be. For your lap-times to tumble, you’ll need to brake later and harder, turn the bike faster, accelerate earlier and probably more aggressively. At the same time as holding onto a bike that’s doing all that stuff underneath you, you’ve got to move your bodyweight around to maximise every bit of grip possible.
If you’re too fat, you may well find that eventually, the thing that’s stopping you progress as a racer, is your weight, and your fitness (or lack of it).
Skills over strength
But it really isn’t all about how fit you are. You’ve got to have a reasonable amount of skill too, if you’re ever going to do any good. In fact you need quite a lot. And with enough skill, it is possible to overcome some deficiencies in the fitness department.
Every bike racer, at every level has got their own slightly different style. Some climb all over the bike and hang off it like chimpanzees, others are a lot more conservative with their movements and try and let the bike do as much of the work as possible. There’s not really a right or wrong way of doing it, it’s whatever works for you, and whatever means you can do the best lap-times. The point I’m making is that putting more effort in, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll do any better. Work smart, not hard, and all that
When we’re talking about MotoGP, WSBK, BSB, or riders at that kind of level, they’re fit lads. And if you want to count yourself amongst them, you best make sure your physical training regime is up to scratch. No matter how conservative your riding style is, you can’t ride a 250bhp motorbike at full pelt for very long at all, unless you’re in tip-top shape. And you’ll have to, if you want to be a professional racer, because superbike and GP races are hefty things, lasting between 30 and 45 minutes.
Have a look at any MotoGP rider when he takes his helmet off after a GP, or even just a qualifying session; they’ll be sweating their conkers off. And those boys are some of the fittest bike racers going.
No, motorcycle racing is just like most other sports, in as much as you don’t have to be mega fit to race motorbike. You don’t even need to be that fit to be half decent. But the fitter you are, the easier you’ll find it to progress. And if you want to be the best, you’re going to need to be one of the fittest.