Have you ever wondered how to break into MotoGP? Start with a motorcycle...
Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM is well known for its extremely capable dirt bikes and, more recently, adventure bikes, dual sports, and naked muscle bikes, but did you know KTM has produced and fielded a team for a MotoGP bike? You can be forgiven if this is the first you’ve heard of it, because the 2019 season will be just their third year competing.
If you’ve ever wondered how to scrape together a MotoGP bike from scratch, here’s a fantastic video with interviews that tells you just that. So often you hear about MotoGP from the racer’s side, or the race fan’s side, but here’s a fantastic and pretty-deep look into the development of the technology from the designers themselves. This is a look into MotoGP from a gearhead’s point of view. And the good news is, it’s just the first in a series.
The Head of Motorsports for KTM, Pit Beirer, said “it had always been a dream for us to tackle the top class of motorsports, MotoGP.” Imagine bringing that dream to reality, and in only three years.
The KTM race bike’s frame is made from steel, apparently so that it can be swapped out to the rider’s preference. Steel frames weigh more, but are quite a lot more easily modified than frames made from aluminum. KTM has so much experience working with steel, they can “tailor-make the [frame] stiffness for the rider” and come up with a completely new steel frame inside of four days.
The first ride on the KTM MotoGP prototype bike happened on the Speilberg track in Styria, Austria. One very important component of motorcycle development, especially race bike development, is rider feedback. As stated in the video, getting the bike dialed in that last 10% is very difficult: adjusting a million tiny things but not so far that you create an opposing problem. A rider that is able to give concrete and useful feedback is invaluable at this stage.
The video then delves into the electronics mounted in a MotoGP bike, and how the bike’s Engine Control Unit (ECU) manages the power to the rear wheel for optimum power without loss of control. It is presented in a way that we who are not engineers can understand, and it is fascinating.
In 2018, the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team managed a 3rd place MotoGP win with rider Pol Espargaró at the bars. They definitely did something right.