Post 239: Rose Tinted Visor ..... ??
But for a missed shot on the 18th hole at Turnberry, 59 year old Tom Watson would have won the 2009 Open Golf Championship. I don't follow golf, but you've got to respect any senior player who can hold his or her own against the superstars of today.
Cast your mind back to 1978 when Tom Watson was the number one player in the world. Thirty years ago the bikes of the day were the beautiful and sleek Ducati 900SS, the fast furious but often fragile Yamaha RD350 LC and the new class leading Suzuki GS1000. If you were riding at the time then perhaps you were lucky enough to own one of these Superbikes, or if you were a little too young, then posters of them probably sat alongside Farah Fawcett-Majors on your teenage wall of dreams. Barry Sheene and Kenny Roberts were the Prince's of Moto GP and Mick Grant was the undisputed King of the Isle of Man TT. We look back on these bikes with fond memories but as realists, we probably understand that while they were definitely great bikes of their generation, today's Superbikes are in a totally different league .... but just how much better are they?
In 1978, the Suzuki GS1000 was a revelation. It handled like an Italian twin but provided the reliability and power of a Japanese four. It weighed in at a then class leading 242 Kg's and it's 997 cc engine produced a respectable 87 Bhp giving it a top speed somewhere in the region of 140 mph. Today's Superbikes will produce an extra 100 Bhp and weight 50 Kg's less than the GS1000. The Yamaha R1 and Suzuki GSXR 1000 of today drip with carbon fibre, electronic fuel injection, upsidedown forks, radially mounted six-pot brake calipers and tyres that are streets ahead of the Avon Roadrunner's and Dunlop TT100's of 1978. Today's Superbikes are safer and more reliable than their predecessors but are they as far removed from the Superbikes of yesteryear as we're led to believe?
In Motorcycle News, Superbike and Bike Magazine, writers wax lyrical about the latest Yamaha R1. It's so much quicker than it's slightly older brother and the improvements that Yamaha have made in the past twelve months are apparently earth shattering. We're almost made to feel that if we're riding last years models then people will instantly think that we're somehow lacking in the penis department. I can't deny that year on year Superbikes have improved, but sometimes I'll read a test report in a magazine and start to believe that Yamaha, Honda or Suzuki have just discovered a new primary colour. My personal opinion is that such hype is 50% bollocks and 49% marketing spin. Any reported benefit from an updated bike probably owes more to the continued sale of advertising space in the magazine than it does to any distinguishable improvement in the bike itself. Usain Bolt holds the world record for the one hundred meters sprint, but that doesn't mean that Carl Lewis was a snail.
Back in 1978 at the Isle of Man TT, a real-road circuit that has changed very little over the years, Mick Grant lapped the Island at an average speed just short of 115 mph. He was riding a three cylinder Kawasaki based on the aging KH750 and using the best tyre technology of the day, which lets face it wasn't particularly good. There was no carbon fibre, no mono-shock suspension, no upsidedown forks, no titanium trinkets, no tyre warmers and certainly no radially mounted brakes. Mick Grant was a great rider, but certainly no better than the stars of today and he didn't even wear knee-sliders. Thirty years after Mick Grant's 115 mph lap, on the same circuit, John McGuiness set a new record of 127 mph on a Fireblade derived 1000cc Honda. John McGuiness rode a truly amazing lap, but it was still less than 10% faster than Mick Grant's lap of thirty years earlier. Assuming that improvements in tyre technology accounts for at least half of that increased speed, then the benefits from thirty years of technological advances have delivered a real performance improvement of slightly less than 5%.
I'm not suggesting that a Superbike of thirty years ago is as good or as fast as a Superbike of today, but if somebody like John McGuiness can only squeeze a 5% improvement from thirty years of Superbike development, ....... then should we really be in any great rush to trade-in our current Superbikes for next years models?