Racing at the drag strip is one of the most popular motorsports in America and quarter-mile times are a popular measure of a motorcycle’s performance.
Quarter-mile times are a popular performance benchmark for cars and motorcycles. The popularity of quarter-mile performance numbers comes from drag racing, one of the most popular spectator motorsports in the United States.
Measuring Quarter-Mile Times
The basics of calculating a motorcycle’s quarter-mile performance are simple. The motorcycle begins from a standing start. Upon signal the clock starts and the motorcycle races in a straight line for a quarter-mile sprint (1320 feet). Crossing the finish stops the clock. Top speed is also measured during the quarter-mile run.
A number of factors contribute to the overall quarter-mile time of a motorcycle. Not the least of which are the skills of the rider, who must anticipate the start and effectively run through the gears for optimal performance.
At a drag strip, a device called a Christmas tree controls the rider’s start via a sequence of lights. Starting at the top, a series of three yellow lights illuminate sequentially, followed by the green – the rider timing their launch with the green light. If a rider jumps the green, they red-light, which results in disqualification.
Jump too quick off the start and you’ll trigger the red light (above); Getting some advice from the master, Kawasaki’s Ricky Gadson (middle), Warming up the rear in preparation for another run down the quarter mile (below).
At the drag strip there are multiple times gathered in the quarter-mile. The delay in a rider’s response to the green light is dubbed the reaction time. (There always is a built-in fractionally small delay or else the rider is given a red-light.) A 60-foot time is also registered which lets riders know how good of a launch they got. The time from the motorcycle crossing start to finish is the elapsed time and is a purer measure of true performance. It also is possible to gather quarter-mile times from GPS systems.
Quarter-Mile Times for Popular Motorcycle Models
Motorcycle USA routinely gathers quarter-mile times in comparison reviews of high-performance motorcycles. Here are some of the latest quarter-mile times we have recorded for popular motorcycle models:
2009 Supersport Comparison
Ducati 848 11.09 @ 134.37 mph
Honda CBR600RR 11.10 @ 128.99 mph
Kawasaki ZX-6R 11.11 @ 133.74mph
Suzuki GSX-R600 11.11 @ 132.33 mph
Triumph Daytona 675 11.30 @ 133.25 mph
Yamaha R6 11.25 @ 134.11 mph
Professional Motorcycle Drag Racing.
The format for most professional motorcycle drag racing series is a simple elimination. Riders face off in pairs (determined by qualifying runs), with the winner advancing to the next elimination round – which culminates in a dramatic winner-take-all finale.
There are numerous motorcycle drag racing associations including: AMA Dragbike, AHRMA and the most popular drag racing series – the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association). The NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycles class features modified stock motorcycles like the Inline-Four Suzuki Hayabusa and Kawasaki ZX-14, as well as Twin-powered bikes from Harley-Davidson and Buell. The top Pro Stock racers can register quarter-mile times under 8 seconds and read top speeds approaching 200 mph.
Quarter-Mile Bracket Racing
A popular form of amateur drag racing is bracket racing, which allows vehicles of various performance capabilities to race each other through the quarter-mile with timed handicaps. Each rider chooses a dial-in time, which is a driver’s approximation of their elapsed time. By controlling the launches at the Christmas Tree, two completely different vehicles can race by adjusting the green light to give slower vehicles a head start.
Factoring in two riders dial-in claims, the duo should hit the finish line neck and neck. Therefore, good reaction times and skill at winding out as close as possible to the dial-in determines the winner – not outright performance of the machine itself. Riders can’t sandbag by claiming a high dial-in and then beating it, as crossing your dial-in results in disqualification.