MotoGP Technology and Motorcycle Dynamics

Neil Spalding‘s MotoGP Technology is a dense read.  I got it in September and I’m still only two thirds of the way through.  I read a bit, then chase down details so I make sure I’ve got the concepts understood.  This approach isn’t very efficient, but it is thorough, and I’ve got fuck all else to do motorcycle wise over this long, cold, Canadian winter.

I’ve been an avid watcher of MotoGP for seven years now, including riding down to the last Indianapolis MotoGP race in 2015, but this book has made me literate in the mechanics of grand prix bike racing in a way that I never was before.

I’ve also spent a fair amount of time coming to terms with motorcycle dynamics and especially how these bizarre machines move around corners.  From watching Keith Code and reading Twist of the Wrist 2, I’ve tried to understand the inputs I need to make to control a bike effectively.

After all the team histories that kick off MotoGP Technology, Spalding goes after the various technical tricks that make a grand prix bike move like a jet plane, at least in the hands of the maestros.  The last chapter was on reverse rotating crankshafts, which led to a look at the complex gyroscopic effects happening on race bikes.  Spalding suggested looking up Eric Laithwaite and gyroscopic procession, which led me to this!

As Professor Laithwaite describes it, the spinning weight already has a path it wants to follow, he simple lets it follow it.  In doing so what was suddenly a difficult to lift weight becomes effortless.  There are a lot of gyroscopic forces happening on a motorcycle in motion, and Spalding addresses this in the later chapters of the book.

Curiously, considering it’s 2020 and we have computer technology that can accurately model complex physics, it arises in the book that what’s happening on a motorcycle in extreme cornering is more a matter of educated conjecture than known fact.  Our best guesses are still what drives our understanding of the complexities of motorcycle dynamics, which is an incredible thing to realize.

As has often happened when reading MotoGP Technology, the suggestions for finding online resources to better understand a problem lead to other online resources that weren’t necessarily part of the original search (which might be part of the reason why it’s taking me so long to read the book!).  In talking about gyroscopic forces acting on the bike I ended up stumbling across this information packed piece by CanyonChasers.net on how to ride more quickly safely:


Recently I’ve become increasingly frustrated by the sheer amount of shitty media there is online, but this is a good example of a well edited, erudite video that doesn’t waste my time with other people’s inanity.  Just because the majority of people online are a waste of time (read any comments anywhere), doesn’t mean there aren’t gems out there.


Speaking of which, Neil Spalding’s MotoGP Technology is super current (just got updated in the summer), written by an expert with decades of experience and insider knowledge, and delves deep not only into recent MotoGP technical history, but also into the physics that this technology is up against.  If you’re interested in taking your understanding of one of the most extreme sports on earth to the next level, MotoGP Technology will help you get there.

With mysterious physics happening underneath them, what do MotoGP riders do?  They drift 250+ horsepower prototype racing machines… with their elbows AND knees on the deck!  MotoGP Technology will take you a step closer to wrapping your head around this genius.






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