What’s Faster: A Bicycle or Motorcycle?

07/18/2011 @ 4:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

The question seems fairly rhetorical, right? We thought so too when we got a tip that someone had pitted a Yamaha YZF-R1 against a custom carbon fiber road bike, afterall there’s a 179hp power discrepancy, right? Well here’s the catch, the contest for this battle of two-wheeled brawn is took place on the downhill slope of the Alpe d’Huez, a part of the French alps that also happens to be one of the hardest climbs and descents on the Tour de France (that little bicycle race that’s going on right now).

What the bicycle gains in lower rotational mass and overall weight, it loses in contact patches, brakes, and oh…power. Contested between motorcycle journalist Warren Pole and former professional cyclist Howie Sylveste, the race to the bottom of the Alpe d’Huez was surprisingly close over the 8.57 mile drop with its 21 hairpin turns and 8% grade. Taking three goes at the French descent, Pole on his Yamaha R1 was in trouble by the second round, as Sylveste made a gearing change and put the power to the pedals.

Riding a smoother third run though, Pole’s motorcycle took the honors of fastest down the mountain, though only with a 28 gap over the Sylveste’s bicycle on the 10m 44sec descent. For those doing the math, the Yamaha R1 was only 4.3% quicker down the Alpe d’Huez, and would have easily qualified under the typical 110% motorcycle qualifying rule. You can read the full account on The National, the UAE’s daily english-language newspaper. Thanks for the tip John!

Source: The National via Yahoo!

  • Shereef

    Considering that a Tour de France esque bicycle is more expensive than a run of the mill R1, I expected the bicycle to win :p. Even some road bicycles with carbon fiber frames and wheels can cost $10,000 – $15,000.

  • John Magnum

    What a great test for upcoming review of future models and their respective electronic aids.
    Riding at ones limits at a decent would be a great way to see things like Traction Control, ABS and Chassis in comparison.

    dont know about you all, but i find downhill twisties a tad intimidating compared to flat track and uphill. Physics………..

  • DualPistons

    try it again with a light rs125/250 or a 100 kg supermotard.. horsepower is fairly useless on a downhill track, weight is everything..

  • Other Sean

    So true, nothing like having the R1s front suspension all loaded up for a major handicap.

  • Had it been Paolo Salvadeli on the bicycle the R1 would have had a real run for its money.

  • Steve

    I see those those bicycles absoutely hauling ass going down the tight side of Paomar Mountain here in California and are impressive with thier speed. Not to mention if they fall at 40-50 mph wearing bictcle shorts and a lycra shirt…no thanks. My leathers are thicker than a Charlie Sheen Pre-Nup.

  • Singletrack

    I agree – A light supermoto would have fared better.

    This looks similar to the contest between the Downhill Mountain Bike and the KTM enduro bike, on a downhill in Scotland. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqBy1R7IMGE&feature=related This is a very impressive video.

    The bicycle won that one by a few seconds (over a 5 minute course). Give me a lightweight motorcycle anyday.

  • Charlie Sheen is such a loon!

  • While it’s true that there are faster/more appropos motorcycles than an R1 for such a course, it’s still interesting that the R1’s _suspension_ and way sticky tires didn’t confer more of an advantage.

  • Beary

    Maybe mount a better rider on the motorbike than a motorcycle journo :)