I miss the halcyon days of listening to Neil Spalding interject Toby and Jules’ excitable commentary with brain-bending tech chat. One of the reasons I stopped watching MotoGP with other people in the room was because someone would invariably talk-over or cheer just when Neil’s dulcet tone was creating a connection between the screen and the pit garage.
If I can’t get on a MotoGP bike and ride it then I’d like to know everything humanly possible about the engineering excellence that goes into building these incredible machines. Spalders has been poking his camera into garages and interrogating mechanics for decades – his wealth of knowledge is probably insurmountable. He’s written a number of books including this one, MotoGP Technology, now in it’s third edition. Neil popped in the other day to drop-off a copy and I’ve been late for work since.
The 304 page hardback is broken down into bite-size chapters and features detailed insight into the transition from 500GP Era to the current MotoGP 1000cc evolution, covering the 990cc and 800cc periods along the way, including all the manufacturers and major components. The book is packed with full-colour photography showing the bikes without fairings, bare frames, engines in pieces and various stages of build during test days and race weekends. Descriptions of changes and modifications are the perfect length and depth for a normal person with an engineering mind and a modicum of understanding. Granted it’s geek-level stuff but you don’t need to be Tim Peake to grasp the basics. If there’s a particular thing of importance Neil points it out “note the extra weld on the frame spar on Dani’s bike compared to Nikky’s….” By the end of the first chapter I was bristling with wisdom and convinced I could fill Livio Supo’s shoes at HRC.
It’s not only fascinating to read about each of the bikes but to understand in detail just how many drastic alterations are made throughout a season, it’s simply staggering. As a Sunday sofa pundit, we hear so little about what differences there might be from free practice to lights out, or from one race to another. Partly because the teams are so secretive but also because there’s a one hour window for BT Sport or Sky TV to make as much ad revenue as possible and therefore appealing to the masses is the priority, nerds like me are never sated.
In my limited race career (tenuous use of the word) I’d like to think that I’ve been able to transfer some of my technical know-how into bike or car set-up but it turns out that I’m not even aiming at the heels of the densest luddite compared to the astronaut pilots discussed in this book. OK, so it’s stupid to compare one’s self to a MotoGP rider, full stop. Their capacity to convert messages from arse cheeks, feet and palms to another person who then bonds pieces of carbon to an aluminium structure or twiddles the tiniest screw to achieve a smaller number on a stopwatch beggars belief. I knew they were special beasts, but not this special – it’s a wonder they actually need eyes.
I’m only a couple of chapters deep and have yet to find out whether a change from ball to needle roller headstock bearings cured Ducati’s front end feel problems but I’m glad it’s winter as there are now plenty of excuses to gen-up and prepare for next season.
Soon to be available in-store – Bike Shed Shoreditch EC1V 9LT