Motorcycle Speed and a Commuter Query | Answers

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Speed Reading
I enjoy reading about the amazing quarter-mile times posted by many of today's superbikes, but I have never quite understood one part of the equation. For instance, when you post in the March 2012 issue that the new Kawasaki ZX-14R goes the distance in 9.31 seconds at 151 miles per hour, what is the real significance of that mph number? Is it listed for bragging rights, or is there something else there that I'm just not seeing? Isn't just posting the elapsed time enough, as we can tell from that which machine is the quickest?
Curtis Trackwell
Post Falls, ID

The quickest bike wins any quarter-mile contest, so elapsed time is more significant, and there are many variables involved, most of them involving the start. But to a professional drag racer/instructor like nine-time World Champion Rickey Gadson, how fast that bike is moving at the finish means one thing. “Miles per hour is a clear indication of horsepower,” he says. “You can take two motorcycles—a 600 and a 750, for instance. Run them down the quarter-mile under the same professional rider, and that rider may post quicker times on the 600 by virtue of being able to apply more power on the track for the first 300 feet than he could on the more powerful, more wheelie-prone 750, which took more time to get the throttle wide-open. The 600 ends up with the better elapsed time, but the 750’s horsepower advantage is revealed in its higher terminal speed.” More power only matters if you can put it on the pavement.

Commuter Query
My wife wants me to teach her how to ride, and my bike is too big for her to safely learn on. I am considering buying a used 250 like a Suzuki GZ250 or Honda Rebel for her to cut her teeth on. She stands 5-foot-4 and weighs about 140 lbs.

My only concern is the Suzuki's speed- ometer tops out at 85 mph. I assume a Rebel does about the same, and she would commute to work on it every day—about 35 minutes on the Interstate each way. Will those little bikes handle 65-mph freeway speeds? I'm not too sure it would be safe with semi-trucks, etc. Would that be too much for the engine each day if she kept it under 70 mph, or should we be looking at a 500?
Dan Miner
Spanish Fork, UT

Odds are Mrs. Miner will be more comfortable starting out on one of the lighter, more maneuverable 250s you’re considering. Those smaller bikes accelerate less convincingly from 65 mph, but given regular maintenance, neither would be overtaxed by 35 minutes on the freeway to and from work. Assuming she hones her skills enough beforehand to commute on two wheels instead of four—the Motorcycle Safety Foundation ( is an invaluable resource there—everything should be fine.