What would be faster?A spitting, sputtering 2-stroke beast or 400kg of muscle, sinew, and raw power?
This is the age-old question that riders have been asking themselves since the invention of the motorcycle.
On paper, most would say that the motorcycle is faster. Besides being able to produce more power (I mean how can 1 horsepower beat 40?) motorcycles are also significantly lighter than their living counterparts.
Also, don’t forget that a motorcycle doesn’t need to sleep or eat. As long as you keep its tank topped up with fuel, you can keep on going.
But when you take into account factors like terrain and maneuverability, you’ll be surprised to see that horses may in fact come out dominant in that area.
So, with all of that in mind, let’s take a look at which steed performs best in what area.
- A drag race
When it comes to a good old-fashioned sprint race, bikes are clearly superior to horses – thanks to their superior torque and overall higher power.
But how much faster is a motorcycle in a straight line?
Let’s start off with the bikes – maybe a 250cc Yamaha dirt bike that averages around 14 seconds to complete a 400m run.
Meanwhile, you have Winning Brew – the legendary racehorse who managed to complete a 400m run (two furlongs) in just under 21 seconds. And averaging a top speed of about 70.35 km/h.
When you realize that dirt bikes usually come in at about 55 horsepower, you’ll realize that it’s quite impressive that a horse managed to run a quarter mile in 20 seconds.
If you want to even out the odds, then maybe pit a horse against a dirt bike on sandy terrain. While a dirt bike is specially built for riding on rough terrain, trying to channel 55 horsepower through a single tyre can be difficult.
Whereas the horse will have a much easier time launching itself on sandy terrain thanks to its 4 legs.
Who’s faster: On tarmac, the bike will definitely be much faster off the line. But if you’re on the beach and find yourself up against a dirt bike, who’s to say.
- A trail
Okay, so while a motorcycle is faster than a horse (in a straight line), does the same count for when you’re on a trail?
Remember: dirt trails are unpredictable and sudden elevation changes can make it difficult to get your bike through.
But a well-trained horse may be able to perform better in such conditions. Unlike a bike which is balanced on 2 wheels, a horse has all-wheel drive (4 legs) and this will help it better navigate rough terrain.
Also, horses are more adept at fording streams and crossing water while a bike may not so easily pass such obstacles.
Don’t forget that horses are intelligent creatures and will often choose the easier route where possible. And this can make all the difference in the world when you’re on the trail.
But, rough terrain can be hell on a horse’s body and it may not have the endurance to keep up the pace. While there are specially bred endurance horses, these majestic creatures still have their limitations and will need to rest.
Who’s faster: On shorter trails, horses may be able to outperform their mechanical counterparts. But if you’re riding for longer periods of time, bikes will probably take you further and faster.
While bikes are awesome machines that thrill, there is something to be said about the majestic power and grace that horses have. Both of these steeds have their own fair share of benefits, and it would be unfair to rate one above the other.
So to answer the question – are motorcycles faster than horses? We say, both are as fast in their own rights.
Still, in TwinSpires, you can bet on both: motorcycle racing and horse racing. So, register for a TwinSpires horse racing account here and place your guesses on the fastest horse in multiple events around the world.