MotoGP Bikes vs. Normal Bikes; What’s The Difference?

Some normal bikes or production bikes do look like MotoGP bikes. That is precisely where the similarity ends. normal bikes simply do not have the speed, acceleration or retardation of MotoGP bikes. The design, manufacture, assembling and tuning of MotoGP bikes are far more intense and precise than of normal bikes. None of the materials used in the manufacturing of MotoGP bikes is used in normal bikes. The difference in costs of the two bikes accentuates the difference. A normal racing sports bike will be available for a cost of $25,000 to $125,000. A MotoGP bike, on the other hand, will cost more than $4 million.

The performance of the engines, tyres, brakes, frames etc. of normal bikes come nowhere near that of MotoGP bikes in strength and flexibility of MotoGP bikes. Neither are the materials used in the manufacture of the two the same. The materials used in MotoGP bikes are special compounds that are light and durable. Production bikes are built by the hundreds or thousands on an assembly line. The manufacturer gets the benefits of the economies of scale keeping the price of each bike down. But a production bike manufacturer cannot lavish the kind of attention that is lavished upon MotoGP bikes

Every part of MotoGP bikes is made to a high degree of precision and attention to detail. Many of the parts are hand made with very little tolerances. Each bike is then hand-assembled to suit a specific rider. The bikes are checked for performance before each race. and precise tuning of the engine, brakes etc to get the maximum optimum performance from the bikes for a specific track. This article will take a look at the differences between MotoGP bikes and normal bikes.

Are MotoGP bikes available for showroom purchase?

MotoGP bikes are built rider-specific from scratch. They are designed, built and assembled with most of the parts hand made. MotoGP bikes are hand assembled to suit the rider’s height weight and riding style. Only eight or a maximum of ten bikes are assembled per season. Each MotoGP rider is allowed to use seven engines per season. The Electronic Control Unit (ECU) mounted on the bike is programmed according to the track layout, weather conditions and the individual rider.
A MotoGP bike is loaded with classified technology that no manufacturer would like to share. The ECU is certainly not available in normal bikes. The bike parts are mostly made from compounds of titanium, magnesium and carbon. These compounds are very expensive and are not used in common bikes. The technology used in building MotoGP bikes is closely guarded for fear of espionage by competitors. No team would like to give an inkling of a newly introduced technology to its competitors. MotoGP bikes are not available for purchase to the general public. They also cannot be used on the streets and roads in any country.

How are the engines of MotoGP and normal bikes different?

Engines are the heart of any bike. Both, MotoGP bikes and normal bikes make use of very powerful engines. But a MotoGP bike uses a much lighter engine than does a street bike. These engines also produce more power output than the ones mounted on normal bikes. While 1000cc road bike engines are known to produce up to 200bhp, MotoGP engines produce a much higher output. Speeds in excess of 360 km per hour suggest that MotoGP engines produce a power output of 300bhp or more.
MotoGP designers concentrate on reducing the weight of the bike as much as possible. As a result, a MotoGP bike uses V-engines contrasting with the inline multicylinder engines used in normal bikes. The engines of a MotoGP bike are constructed from a special lightweight material. A V-four engine reduces the weight of the engine further while increasing the power output by 20-30%. The engines are also fine-tuned to suit the track and weather conditions. This, and the enhanced capacity of the engine. after tuning gives a MotoGP bike tremendous power.
Special materials are used in the manufacture of every part of the MotoGP bike engine. These materials are mostly alloys of titanium, carbon and magnesium which are much lighter than steel. Carbon fibre is also used in producing some engine parts. The use of special alloys of titanium, magnesium and carbon increases the cost of the MotoGP engine as compared to that of a normal bike engine. As very few engines and parts are produced, they are not available in the open market. This alone renders owning a MotoGP bike impractical.

How does a MotoGP engine get air supply?

Air ducting in both types of bikes gives the much-needed air supply to the bikes’ engines. Air to a vehicle engine is like oxygen to a human body. The better the air supply, the better is the utilisation of the fuel in the combustion chamber. A MotoGP bike has a straight and simple ducting that supplies fresh air to the engine. This greatly increases the efficiency of the engine. Street bikes concentrate much more on the aesthetics of a bike, as a result, the ducting of a normal bike has several bends which affect the supply of air to the engine.
A MotoGP bike has a very sensitive throttle butterfly. A throttle butterfly controls the amount of ventilation to the engine. The efficient use of fuel in the bike depends on the amount of air supplied to the engine. A slight twist of the throttle of a MotoGP bike can open the butterfly wide. This is the reason MotoGP bikes have greater acceleration than normal bikes. The throttle response in normal bikes is far less than in MotoGP bikes. The sensitive response of the butterfly to the throttle also puts less strain on a MotoGP rider’s wrists.

What has a bike exhaust got to do with engine efficiency?

A MotoGP bike uses a free-flow exhaust system. The exhaust is manufactured to precision with great attention to detail. Very little allowance is made for tolerances. Sensors are mounted within the exhaust system to monitor the exhaust gasses. These sense the temperature of the exhausted gasses and measure the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide emitted. Team engineers use this information to fine-tune the engine and increase its efficiency. The fine-tuning of the engine is done by using the electronics and programming the ECU of the bike.
Normal bikes do not come with sensors mounted on the exhaust. These bike engines cannot be tuned to increase their efficiency. A tuned exhaust can be mounted on a street bike to increase engine efficiency. But street bikes also have to meet the emission norms of the local authority. MotoGP bikes have no such obligations although team engineers strive to keep harmful gas emissions to the minimum.

What types of clutch and gearbox does a MotoGP bike use?

MotoGP as well as superbikes use a slipper type clutch which street bikes do not. A slipper type clutch is like a multi-plate clutch that enables the rider to change gears without using the clutch lever. Clutches in MotoGP bikes are lighter than in a superbike by 15%. This type of clutch enables the rider to change gears within a fraction of a second when cornering. Faster gear changes improve retardation and acceleration. Besides reducing lap times a slipper type clutch also transmits 20-25% more power from the engine to the bike.
MotoGP bikes use sequential gearboxes. The gearbox itself is a seamless casting of a lightweight compound. Good acceleration and an efficient braking system are essential in MotoGP where a rider’s fortune can be decided by a fraction of a second. The transmission plays an important part in the retardation and acceleration of a bike. Each MotoGP team tries to use a matching gear system to increase the acceleration of the bike to the optimum. The gear system and engine are then tuned to optimise performance.
MotoGP bikes use an optimised mesh gearbox in their transmission system. These gearboxes enable the rider to shift gears without any loss of time and power. Normal bikes on the other hand use sequential gearboxes. The power to the rear wheels, in such a system of transmission, is cut off when shifting gears. Cutting off power to a wheel reduces the acceleration of a bike. Because of the material used in constructing it and the system used. MotoGP gearboxes and transmission systems are too costly to be used in normal bikes. 

What frames are used in MotoGP bikes?

Keeping the weight of a MotoGP bike to a minimum is the main concern of the designers. The team will later adjust the weight of the bike to meet the minimum required by MotoGP regulations. Many metals and their alloys have been used in MotoGP frames through the years. Extruded, cast and forged frames as well as pipe frames have also been tried along with engine based frames. Aluminium frames are mostly not used in MotoGP.
Today, most MotoGP bike frames are made from lighter carbon fibre. This material reduces the weight of a MotoGP bike frame by 35% as compared to a superbike frame. Road bikes mostly use cast aluminium frames. While all the bike frames have sufficient strength and resilience. Carbon fibre frames are sturdier than aluminium frames. The cost of carbon fibre will make a normal bike too costly.

What material are the brakes of a MotoGP bike made from?

Carbon is the material used in a MotoGP bike braking system. This material was used for making cones of missiles by the US military. Carbon-carbon does not expand or contract much when subject to thermal stress. The compound is also highly wear-proof while being much lighter than the materials used in normal bikes. This braking system makes sure that the braking of the bike is precise and does not change when it is subject to changes in temperature. These brakes ensure that the bike can be brought to a stop from speeds in excess of 300 km/hr.
Normal bikes use ordinary braking systems while superbikes use the anti-skid braking system. In MotoGP, braking is not as frequent as in ordinary or superbikes. The traction of a MotoGP bike is controlled by the ECU. Brake pads in both types of bikes are constructed from a heavy-duty compound. The use of carbon-carbon in a MotoGP bike make the system prohibitively costly to be used in normal bikes.

What type of suspension does a MotoGP bike use?

MotoGP racing tracks are relatively smoother than public roads without dips and bumps. But the weight of a MotoGP bike is shifted very often from the front wheel to the rear and vice versa when accelerating and braking. The suspension system has to absorb these shocks. The suspension of the MotoGP bike also has to withstand multiple forces brought into play when cornering. The suspension of a MotoGP bike is a little stiffer than that of a normal bike. This enables the rider to maintain control over the bike.
A MotoGP bike has two forks in front. While one fork takes care of elongation, the other handles dampen the compression. The spring and damping valves are much better than those used in a normal bike. Damping is also used in normal bikes. These suspensions also have to be sturdy to meet the requirement of uneven public roads. It is the lightweight materials that make the difference in the costs of the suspension systems of the two bikes.

What wheels and tyres do MotoGP bikes use?

The wheels of a normal bike are made from steel alloys as weight is not of much consideration. The wheels of a MotoGP bike are much lighter than normal bike wheels and are supplied exclusively by Michelin. These wheels are made by combining carbon fibre, magnesium alloy and other composite materials. 
Tyres are the only part of the bike that are in constant contact with the track surface. As a result. Tyres are subject to many stresses and wear out quickly. Tyres are made from a complex combination of polymers. Different compounds are used for different tracks. The supplier, in consultation with MotoGP and teams’ officials, decides which polymers to use in the tyres well before a scheduled race. The tyres are manufactured accordingly. The tyres are supplied at the venue mounted on the wheels.
Normal bike tyres are designed to last 2000 km or more. MotoGP bikes use slick tyres for a better grip on the surface of the track. The tyres grip the surface well at a higher temperature but do not last as long. The soft rubber on the tyres wears down quickly causing the bike to wobble. These tyres do not last much more than the distance of one race. MotoGP riders are not allowed a change of tyres during the race. Hence, riders ard hard pushed to manage the wear of the tyres till the end of the race. Tyres of a MotoGP bike are changed after every race.
Michelin supplies two types of tyres, dry and wet tyres, depending on the track and weather conditions. As most MotoGP races are held when the track is dry, dry tyres are mostly used. The bald tyres without any grooves on their surface, expose a greater area to the track and provide better grip. Wet tyres are grooved which helps in displacing any water that might be on the track. Wet tyres provide a lesser grip and wear out quicker than dry tyres. They are made from a slightly harder compound than used in dry tyres so that they last the race.
The outer surface of the tyre is slightly softer than the inner material. This helps in gripping the surface better. MotoGP tyres have to be hot to get a grip on the surface. The tyres are wrapped in a heating blanket before the Grand Prix begins. Riders use the lap prior to the race to get the tyre temperature to the optimum before the start of the race. Normal bike tyres are heated to a temperature of 60°C to 70°C. A MotoGP bike’s front tyres reach temperatures of 100°C. The rear tyres operate at a higher temperature of 120°C.
In normal bikes, the life expectancy of tyres is specified in the number of kilometres a tyre has been used. A rider is expected to check the condition of the tyres and change them accordingly. The compound used to manufacture normal bike tyres is also polymer-based. This polymer is much harder than that used in the manufacture of MotoGP bike tyres. Neither do normal bikes achieve the speeds that MotoGP bikes do nor do they corner at the speeds of MotoGP bikes. Costs of maintaining a bike are also constraints. The cost of materials used in the manufacturing of MotoGP bike tyres makes it prohibitive to use them in normal bikes.

What kind of fairings do MotoGP bikes use?

Fairings used in MotoGP bikes are only used to serve the purpose of streamlining the flow of air around and in the aftermath of the bike. MotoGP teams and riders are interested in the speed of the bike and reducing drag and not in aesthetics. A MotoGP fairing is a smooth and simple structure constructed from lightweight carbon fibre. It is optimised by engineers to minimise drag and increase the downforce on the bike. A MotoGP bike’s fairings reduce the formation of V notches and eddy currents.
Normal bikes have flashy fairings that concentrate more on aesthetics than on the performance of the bike. A normal bike fairing has a lot of curves and is flashy to make the bike look pleasing to the eye. The fairings of a normal bike are constructed from high-density FRP. A MotoGP bike’s fairing is pasted only with sponsors’ logos. The materials used and aerodynamic testing used in MotoGP bikes are very costly. This makes it impractical to use MotoGP type fairings in normal bikes.

What electronics does a MotoGP bike use?

A MotoGP bike uses complex electronic technology to control and optimise the performance of the bike. Besides the Electronic Control Unit (ECU), many parts contain their own electronics. The use of electronics has enabled engineers to ensure that the bike performs efficiently without any chances of errors. The use of electronics also helps in eliminating the use of many mechanical parts. Although Normal bikes also have a certain amount of electronics installed, it is not as sophisticated as that of MotoGP bikes.
The ECU controls the traction of the bike and the performance of the engine. Sensors mounted at various critical points if the bike monitor the performances of the respective parts. This information is made available to the team crew in the pits by using radio waves. Some parameters like tyre temperature and fuel consumption are also displayed on the front panel of the bike. The team engineers programme the ECU for optimal performance of the bike. The ECU along with other electronics are very important factors in the success of the rider.

MotoGP bikes vs. Normal bikes; what’s the difference?

MotoGP bikes are much more sophisticated and efficient than normal bikes. They are also made using materials that are prohibitively costly. The research and engineering that goes into a MotoGP bike are not possible in production bikes. MotoGP designers and engineers concentrate on acceleration, speed, retardation and weight of the bike. So MotoGP bikes are much lighter than normal bikes. The power generated by the engine has to be utilised to the fullest. Each bike’s performance is tested before each race. That sort of supervision is not possible in production bikes.

Normal bikes also have engines with the same capacity as that of a MotoGP bike. But there is a vast difference in their performance and efficiency by virtue of design, construction and testing. All MotoGP bike parts are hand made with great precision. The bike itself is hand-assembled to suit a particular rider. Production bike companies cannot pay that much attention to individual bikes. The costs of the materials and the precision with which MotoGP parts are manufactured take it beyond the reach of the common man. To top it all, MotoGP bikes are not available for sale.

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