New school: Four-time AMA...
New school: Four-time AMA National Champion, Eric Bostrom, 5 feet 10 inches and 29 years old, is a veteran of the new-school ranks. His success began in dirt-track, and along with older brother and former AMA Superbike Champion Ben Bostrom, he successfully transitioned to roadracing. Eric's forward, head-low position keeps his upper body well off to the inside of the bike in an effort to keep it as upright as possible and maximize traction. When they're comfortable with their bike setup the Bostroms are all but unbeatable.
When Eric Bostrom splashed onto the AMA Pro Racing scene, first dominating the Harley-Davidson Twin Sports class in 1997 and then Formula Xtreme in 1998 on an Erion Honda (winning all but one event in each season), his radically hung-off style was a bit of a curiosity, as if he were more of a lanky 125cc GP refugee than the dirt-track kid he actually was. When filling in for an injured Miguel Duhamel on a few factory Honda RC45 guest appearances, however, he won two of his first three superbike races. After that everyone took him seriously as a force to be reckoned with.
As puzzling as the development of his style was to the rest of us, it made perfect sense to Bostrom. "Obviously I came from dirt-track," he explains, "and in dirt-track you always wanted to keep your bike on top of the tire, and you use a lot of body English in dirt-track to try to find the grip. If I have that one thing that's my forte, it's finding grip. So that's how I developed, always thinking like a dirt-tracker."
Bostrom keeps his head so low, nearly always behind or physically beneath the bike's windscreen, that Schwantz once described it as if he had a six-inch string connecting his helmet chin bar to the top triple clamp. Former Bostrom crew chief, the late Merlyn Plumlee, noted the challenge of needing to trim back the trailing edge of the windscreen and upper fairing to keep them from interfering with Bostrom's helmet.
No one with even a fundamental understanding of physics doubts the advantages of keeping the rider's weight as low and to the inside as possible, but Bostrom also sees a compromise to his style when it comes to tires overcoming available traction. "I've gotta believe that their riding style is better for saving crashes, you know," he admits, "because you have more leverage to pick the bike up when you lose the front end." The Achilles heel in Bostrom's riding does seem to be his lack of ability to adapt to and overcome setup challenges.
With regard to where he positions himself on the seat, Bostrom details, "I'm mostly pretty forward on the seat [while cornering] but definitely back on the brakes. I change my position constantly. It depends on the corner-if you're into a corner that's not that heavy on braking then you can enter it straight from the front, but sometimes your front tires are so good that, like turn five here [at Miller Motorsports Park in 2006], I'll be on the back of the seat at the apex, still trying to get the bike stopped and still trailing because the front tires will take it. So you're not really in the right position (for steering the bike), but you need that weight back there because the rear is trying to come around."
The Way Of The Future
In terms of pure physics, the advantages of the new-school style of riding cannot be denied. The lower and farther off to the inside the rider gets his body, the more upright the bike is around a given radius at a given speed. Pure and simple, more is better, so long as your body position doesn't compromise your ability to stay connected to the bike so you can feel what's happening at both contact patches and maintain light and precise inputs on the controls. Since the days of rigid frames and spoked wheels, riding styles are constantly changing. Bike and tire technology, like time, marches forward and waits for no man-not even Schwantz or Doohan.