Dirt bikes make great street bikes. Better street bikes. Counter-intuitive, no? Let’s have a history lesson...
Meet Kenny. Kenny is from Modesto California and grew up riding dirt bikes. Kenny changed motorcycle racing forever. In the dirt, a motorcycle is always slipping, sliding, moving. Getting the rear tire to hook up and keep the bike upright is a constant challenge compared to a road bike on grippy tires that is self balancing as long as the tires stick. When Kenny took on Grand Prix road racing in a era when motorcycle motors were a lot better than the chassis and tires that carried them, he became dominant by being more comfortable on the bikes at and past their limits of traction than any of the riders that had come up without the dirt ((flat track, to be specific) background. He changed the way road racers position their bodies on the bike, getting off the inside of the bike to improve the tire contact patch and using his knee for stability and lean angle reference like a dirt rider’s boot. He changed the way racers steer their bikes, breaking the rear tire loose and spinning it through the corners (a prospect that was terrifying to road racers but natural to flat track dirt racers) to line up the straightaway and accelerate out of a turn as soon as possible.
All of that because dirt taught him techniques, throttle control, and comfort with a “loose” bike that couldn’t easily be learned on the street. From 1983 to 1999, every 500 cc world championship was won by a rider with a dirt track racing background (1). Eventually, chassis and tires caught up to power, and more importantly electronic traction control enabled the bikes themselves to manage traction instead of the rider. The fine throttle control developed from dirt riding is no longer the advantage it used to be in road racing... but on the street, in a real world of rain, sand, gravel and potholes there’s still a lot to be learned from the dirt.
Just like dirt riding pushed pilots to develop additional skills and comfort, dirt riding pushes our engineers to develop the RedShift for more than a swept road race surface. If our bike can communicate to the rider the changing traction of dirt to mud, if we can manage the way the tire spins up moving from a jump face (high traction) to the air (no traction), if we can tune the chassis for no headshake accelerating out of a loose loamy corner and into a rutted straight, the street bikes will be that much better, that much more controllable, when they encounter pea gravel spilled across a corner, car-swallowing potholes, an icy patch or standing water, and the odd air off of frost heaves and cross streets.