Some high-end sportbikes have enough speed, power, and tech to transcend their segment for ‘superbike’ territory. But that word means something different in the world of motorcycle racing. There’s an entire ‘Superbike’ class, that, in the US, is organized by the same organization that runs King of the Baggers: MotoAmerica. And recently, MotorBiscuit sat down over Zoom to talk with the Superbike racer that’s leading the 2021 season, Jake Gagne.
What makes MotoAmerica Superbike different from World Superbike and MotoGP?
While MotoAmerica Superbike isn’t King of the Baggers, superficially, it arguably resembles MotoGP. Also, it’s not the only ‘Superbike’ racing series. Outside of the US, there’s also the World Superbike series, often shortened to ‘WSBK.’ Given that all three series involve leather-clad competitors scything around racetracks on what appear to be sportbikes, some confusion is understandable.
However, while MotoAmerica Superbike and World Superbike are fairly similar, they’re different from MotoGP. MotoGP bikes “are essentially prototypes,” CarThrottle says. Jake Gagne concurred with that sentiment in our recent call, saying, “The whole bike is basically a prototype.” True, a handful of manufacturers have made road-legal versions of their MotoGP motorcycles. But they’re essentially the F1 cars of the motorcycle racing world.
In contrast, MotoAmerica and World Superbike motorcycles “are based on production bikes,” Jake Gagne explained. They use stock frames and “a lot of the stock motor parts,” he says. That doesn’t mean Superbike teams can’t use some one-off racing parts. But it means the average MotoAmerica Superbike is more like the Triumph Daytona 765 Moto2 than a Ducati Desmosedici RR. In other words, Superbikes are closer to what the average rider can buy at a dealer than MotoGP bikes.
That being said, World Superbike isn’t identical to MotoAmerica Superbike, though the two series have similar regulations. For one, not every manufacturer that competes in WSBK competes in MotoAmerica, and vice versa. And the ones that do often have different electronics for their bikes, RevZilla says. Plus, the two series use completely different tires, Cycle World explains.
Jake Gagne has raced on dirt, track, and the road—on both sides of the pond
If you’re looking for someone to directly compare World and MotoAmerica Superbikes, Jake Gagne is an excellent choice. That’s because he’s competed in both. Plus, he briefly appeared in Moto2.
Naturally, though, Jake Gagne didn’t start out as a Superbike racer. But he did start riding early, right around the age of 5. He started out on dirt bikes and quickly started competing in motocross events. Then, when he was 14, Gagne joined the Red Bull Rookies, an introductory road racing program for MX and flat-track riders.
He did “a year in the US, a couple [sic] years in Europe” with the program, winning the Rookies Cup in 2010 and racing in Moto2 as a wild card. After that, he competed in the AMA Sportbike and MotoAmerica SuperStock 1000 series. And after a brief stint in WSBK in 2018, Jake Gagne rejoined MotoAmerica Superbike.
The 2021 season sees Gagne competing on a Yamaha R1 with the Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance team. And as of July 11th, 2021, he’s won nine straight races. However, he’s “always open to anything.” And that includes seeing more WSBK racers coming to the States, and MotoAmerica Superbike riders getting a chance to compete in Europe.
What does a racer like Jake Gagne ride?
As noted earlier, MotoAmerica Superbikes are relatively close to their showroom counterparts. For the R1, that’s the Yamaha YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M, the latter of which offers multiple carbon parts and semi-active Ohlins suspension, Cycle World notes. And the sportbikes are indeed comparable to the race bike.
Jake Gagne has ridden “a couple of stock [YZF-R1s] on different tracks.” And “every time,” he says, he’s amazed by “what those bikes can do completely stock.” He’s especially impressed with their electronic features, such as traction control, wheelie control, “and all that type of stuff to tame the bike a little, ‘cause they do have so much power.” To be sure, the stock suspension “is a lot softer,” for added on-road comfort. Overall, though, he’s “really surprised at how well stock bikes can really roll.”
But while he rides race and street-stock R1s on various tracks, Jake Gagne doesn’t ride them on the street. He also doesn’t own a stock YZF-R1, nor does he ride his Yamaha race bike as often as you’d think. However, he says that this isn’t unusual. Apart from some testing, training, and race weekends, the racers don’t ride their race bikes. That being said, they don’t lose the necessary skills in the interim period.
In the meantime, Jake Gagne, like other MotoAmerica Superbike, WSBK, and MotoGP riders, regularly trains to have enough energy to stay on the bike. His regimen includes weight training and mountain biking. And while he doesn’t ride on the street, he does ride dirt bikes from time to time.
Where can you watch the races?
Besides earning a ninth win, the July 11th race also had Jake Gagne compete on one of his favorite tracks, Laguna Seca. The next MotoAmerica Superbike race takes place over the July 30th-August 1st weekend at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota.
If you want to cheer Gagne or another racer on, but can’t get to the track, there are online alternatives. One is MotoAmerica’s streaming service, Live+. Weekend races also go live on Fox Sports, FS1, and FS2. Who knows, maybe seeing showroom-style bikes racing around corners could inspire someone else to pick up a track bike.
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