To listen to some people, you would think that the rider no longer has to do anything to go fast on a MotoGP bike. According to the prohibits of doom, MotoGP has already gone the way of Formula 1 and anyone could climb on a 800cc GP bike and crack the throttle open without fear of the consequences. The culprit is, of course, traction control, otherwise know as Spawn of Satan.
It was not always like this, back in the time of the 500cc two-strokes, Grand Prix bikes where wondrously light, frighteningly powerful, MotoGP bikes back then were rare-groove motorcycles in extremes. They were truly evil works of art and a breed apart – nothing like the motorcycles you or I used on the road, which only made them more alluring. And they were unspeakable difficult to ride – beasts that'd high-side you to hell for the slightest indiscretion.
This is why riders like Schwantz and Doohan became closer friends with GP surgeon Dr. Costa than they'd have liked.
The 500cc two-stroke Grand Prix bikes where so bad and nasty that they took 500s to the brink of extinction. Grids dwindled to the point where Honda suggested switching to 375cc two-strokes while the FIM proposed street-based 600s.
But it all changed in 1992 when HRC built the first big-bang 500. Inspired by what they'd learned from US dirt track, HRC revised the firing configuration to bunch the power pulses together and give the rear tire a chance to hook up. “It is said that for the big-bang the riders could feel the bike much more.”
Rival factory engineers sat trackside recording the Honda NSR's exhaust note, then ran the tape through an oscilloscope to determine the firing intervals. Within a few races Cagiva, Suzuki and Yamaha had their own big-bangs.
No one knew it at the time, but this was the beginning of the end of dire-devil riders in the MotoGP, almost anybody could ride a big-bang 500cc. Okay, it was maybe not as easy as riding a today 800cc GP bike, back then it was helpful if you had some dirt-track training.