For many riders, their bike number is a big part of their brand – Valentino Rossi and 46, for example.
But there are only so many one and two digit numbers to go round – 98 to be precise, excluding the rarely-seen 0 and champion-reserved 1. So there’s got to be some sharing going on between championships. But which numbers are the most popular? Let’s investigate the heck out of it.
The popular – and unpopular – bike numbers
Even from that tiny thumbnail, you can see that smaller numbers are more popular – no surprise there.
Proving that riders are a superstitious bunch, the most popular bike number overall, and indeed the only one in use in all six of the championships, is lucky number 7. Next up are numbers 4, 5, 9, 11, 19 and 23, all in use in five of the six series.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are a handful of completely untouched bike numbers. Those include 1, because none of the current champions chose to adopt the number 1 plate; and 13, further proof that riders really are a superstitious bunch. The others are: 28, 48, 56, 62, 74, 75, 78, 79, 82, 83, 85, 90, 92 and 98.
There are a lot of untouched bike numbers in the 70s, aren’t there? It’s not popular around there, as this breakdown by intervals of ten shows:
Average bike number by championship there, too. And those tables are related.
The two bike numbers in 100+ are both in British Superbikes – 127 for Robbin Harms, and a frankly ludicrous 303 for Keith Farmer. Fatboy Slim might have said that Everybody Needs a 303, but he wasn’t thinking of bike numbers. Other championships presumably dictate a maximum of two digits. Wisely.
And that’s why the average bike number in British Superbikes, at 52, is noticeably higher than the other championships, which range from 38 to 42.
Phwoar! Look at that branding
As I said at the start, a lot of riders use their bike number as part of their brand, and sensibly championships are getting more relaxed about how the number is displayed on the bike.
One of my favourites from recent years was Jorge Lorenzo’s 2011 number 1 plate, which he adopted after winning the championship in 2010. The construction of the number 1 from his initials, JL, was pleasingly subtle.
A current favourite is Mika Kallio’s number 36 on his Marc VDS Moto2 bike, displayed as -36°, presumably referring to his chilly homeland of Finland. Very neat.
And finally, some maths – sorry
Incidentally, if I was a racer I’d choose one of the completely unused numbers. That’s 28, because it’s a perfect number, meaning that it equals the sum of its proper factors: 28 = 14 + 7 + 4 + 2 + 1.
Implying that, perhaps unsurprisingly, racers aren’t necessarily big fans of number theory, the other perfect number less than 100, 6 = 3 + 2 + 1, is in use in only two championships, which isn’t many compared to other small numbers.
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