Different riders prefer very different kinds of footrest. The rider who requested this design wanted something very spiky to give better grip.
These are the footrest holders used by (from the top) Pedrosa, Stoner and Simoncelli.
The handlebar on the right was for Dovizioso. The grip is positioned closer toward his body, rather than centered on the front fork.
As any motorcycle owner knows, you don't steer a bike with your arms like you do a car. Instead, with your feet planted on the footrests, you move your body to shift the center of gravity and make the bike turn. Footrests really are the cornerstone of all bike handling, and every rider has his own preferences for this vital part.
This is most obvious in the differences in shape and size between the footrest holders, which are designed to best match each rider's body type and individual riding style.
The shape of Casey Stoner's footrest holders was altered after he complained that his feet were catching on the holders during breaking and shifting, and pressing them instead of the pedals. Dani Pedrosa found that his feet slipped off the footrest, so the surface was made more spiky to give him better grip. Marco Simoncelli's boots were always scraping the ground when he banked fully, no matter where he placed his feet, so the footrest holder was changed to prevent this. Curving the rest created extra space for him to tuck his feet in closer.
Handlebars are also made in many different shapes, but the design created for Andrea Dovizioso stands out. You can see how the grip is set closer toward his body and not centered on the front fork like the other riders'. This is because of his riding style, which relies on controlling the bike sitting back toward the rear. And with Dani Pedrosa, the shape was changed after his mid-season accident, loosening the grip of the accelerator to reduce the stress on his injured collarbone.
A normally setup RC212V is an exceptionally easy bike to ride. Indeed, anyone used to riding big bikes could take one straight out round the circuit, providing they kept to a normal street pace. This caused astonishment among the riders when the RC211V made its debut in 2002. It's certainly the defining characteristic of the RC-V series, but to provide race winning performance these bikes do require complete customization of all the parts in contact with the rider's body. Although you could rephrase that and say that its ease of riding with a normal setup allows these bikes to be altered to achieve the optimal specifications for each rider.
Over the five-year history of this bike, the shape of the swing arm has been changed countless times, and I don't think even the most dedicated fan could keep track of all the variations. Things finally settled down in 2011, when a single design was used all season. There was nothing random about these changes though – there was logic behind the process.
"The riders were asking if there was any way we could lower the seat position. We decided that reversing the swing arm design we'd been using so far would give us room to lower the seat. This also affected the handling, but I'm afraid I'm not allowed to give you details on that...."
Test manager Hiroto Yoshiki came from a background of testing superbikes and 2-stroke GP machines. He played a key role, actually riding the RC-V himself in order to better understand the changes requested by the riders.
"My job is to find out clearly what they think is lacking, and once we find a solution, to check that it does actually satisfy them. Of course I can't put the bike through its paces at the level of a GP rider, but by getting out there on the track I can certainly better understand the conditions behind their requests and use my imagination to hopefully fine tune our response."
But the more I listened to the developers talk, the more I felt that deep down they saw race riders as a breed prone to thinking only of themselves and making unreasonable requests.
"Can't you give us more stability when braking?" "My boots hit the track when I bank fully." "If I lose it, it's too hard to regain control from this position."
It's very hard on the development engineers, always having to strain their abilities to the utmost building bikes to meet the individual specs required by each rider. However, a change of just a few millimeters can be enough to let a rider more fully maximize his skill and pull off a victory for the team. And no one knows this better than Honda, having seen how it works over decades of racing.
"Since there are numerous possible ways to respond to riders' requests, we can't really say that any particular one is the right solution. Compared to the engine builders for example, we have incredible freedom in design. We try to use our imaginations to fully grasp what it is a rider needs, and then we need to turn on the creativity to come up with a fresh solution – you can't keep relying on ideas that succeeded in the past. You need both those talents to be a good body designer."
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