A friend of mine (let's call him Marley) just bought his very first motorcycle ever, a 2005 Kawasaki ZX-6R. It looks something like this:
For all intents and purposes, this is one of the most powerful and capable models in the middleweight class of supersport motorcycles. It's so capable, in fact, that Keith Code's California Superbike School used a fleet of these (or its predecessors) as their instruction bikes from its inception in the late 1970s until 2009. It's the kind of motorcycle that can get away from a rider really quickly if not operated with respect for its ability.
I can't help but feel concern. Here's why.
Consider some numbers for a moment. This bike produces 105 hp at the rear wheel and weighs 430 lbs with a full tank of gas. In the same year, the base model Toyota Corolla (the best selling passenger car name plate in the world) made 130 hp and weighed 2,670 lbs. It turns out that when you do the math, the Corolla has 97 horses for every 2000 lbs of weight it has to move, or 97hp/1 ton. The ZX-6R has 488 ponies for every 2000 lbs, or 488hp/ 1 ton. To give you an idea of how incredibly insane that is, the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport (which is the 3rd fastest production car one can buy) offers up 474 hp/ 1 ton.
It's not my desire to infringe on anyone's freedom to do or buy whatever they like. I'm all about people choosing their own way. However, I can't help but feel an amount of frustration when people like Marley aren't given full disclosure of this type of information before making this kind of decision. I mean, this cat's a smart guy. He's not an idiot. I'm sure if he would have known that he was purchasing a machine with this type of performance capability, he would have probably considered other options. And yes, he took the motorcycle safety course and that's a wonderful first step. NO, HE DOESN'T HAVE A JACKET OR GLOVES YET. And, most likely, no one properly measured him for a correctly fitting helmet.
But someone did sell him what basically amounts to a bicycle that can do 160+ mph. Priorities much?
Odds are, Marley will be fine. The bike is going to scare him at least once in the first week. He's going to be super-pissed when he drops that thing in the driveway after forgetting to put the kickstand down. That fairing is going to cost a grip! But other than that he'll probably not have any major incidents.
Nevertheless, we as motorcyclist have to be better than this. We must create a comfortable and safe learning environment for our beginner riders. We cannot simply throw them to the wolves of speed and horsepower to fend for themselves. There's nothing out there for them but pain (physical and monetary) and eventual disinterest. The experiences they have in the first steps of their two-wheeled journey will have lasting effects on the rest of their motorcycling lives. We have to make sure those experiences are as informed, as aware, and as inspiring as they can be.