When 200bhp isn’t enough

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Some people will say that a 200bhp motorbike is ludicrously excessive. And they’d be right. That amount of power, on two wheels and roughly 200kg is indeed, nothing short of bonkers. And whilst the majority of the time, 200bhp is more than enough for any occasion, I have, in the past, found myself desperate for some more. This is when 200bhp isn’t enough.

Because it doesn’t matter how shockingly fast a motorbike is, given enough miles in the saddle, you will get used to it. I can remember the first time I ever rode a superbike; it was a 2004 YZF-R1. I was 16 at the time, and probably weighed about 9 stone. The thing had about 175bhp, but it genuinely frightened me.

I remember thinking at the time that it must be impossible to ride anything more powerful than that, with any degree of commitment, whatsoever. But ten years later, I was racing a ZX-10R week in, week out, and with more commitment than I ever thought possible. In all fairness, that old ZX-10R wasn’t quite 200bhp (it was about 190bhp), but it was certainly faster than the R1 I’d made my ‘big bike’ debut on.

Whilst I didn’t have 200bhp to play with in 2016, I would have bloody killed for it. Most of the people I was racing with, in the British Superstock Championship, did have (at least) 200bhp, so I had to give it everything on the old ‘Ten, just to score a point or two. And if you had given me 200bhp, I would of said it still isn’t enough.

And I know that because the first time I raced a bike with 200bhp was also in 2016. It was a BMW S 1000 RR at the Isle of Man TT. I don’t know exactly how much power it had, but I was reliably informed it was just over 200bhp. It certainly felt a hell of a lot faster than my old ZX-10R. In fact riding that BMW made me realise I was pissing into the wind on my old Kawasaki… but that’s another story.

When I rode the 200bhp+ Beemer for the first time, I old memories came flooding back. I was having the same feelings as I did the first time I rode that R1 superbike, as a kid. It was so fast. But this time I knew I could tame it. I soon felt like I got the hang of all the power, and before long, I was desperate for more. When you’re racing on a superstock-spec bike (albeit a good one) in a Superbike or Senior TT, against full on superbikes, you want as much power as you can get. In fact you usually want more than you’ve got. Because when you’re tucked in as tightly as you can, stretching the cables, and someone powers past you, it’s pretty frustrating.

In actual fact, for someone like me, 90% of the TT course is absolutely fine on a superstock bike. In fact, for a lot of it, 200bhp feels like a bit too much. But when you’re flat out down the Mountain Mile or Hailwood’s Rise, trying your best to catch the rider in the distance; that’s when 200bhp isn’t enough.

I suppose bike racing is like any motorsport. You always want better machinery; whether that’s more power, stronger brakes or better suspension. So whilst 200bhp is too much sometimes, and more than enough most of the time, occasionally, it isn’t quite enough.


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