Watching professional racers glide around a track with incredible grace and finesse can leave even the quickest of us in awe. Riding on track is a beautiful thing, but when it comes to our turn, it can be frustrating when there’s no improvement and lap times won’t budge.
Bettering them can be seriously tricky. Adam Griffin of Race Dynamics (www.race-dynamics.co.uk) has been in competition coaching for 20 years and has helped racers at BSB and MotoGP level. These are his rules for shaving off those seconds:
Set your state of mind
Having the correct state of mind is crucial to achieving your riding goals. Whether you’re learning a new skill or pushing for a fast lap, a good mind set will pay dividends.
Developing a new skill requires you to ride within your limitations, placing your attention on what you are doing. This allows you to understand the technique and gives your brain the time to digest new information.
In the first few sessions of a track day only work on an area of your riding that needs specific improvement. Engrain the technique and then you can focus on fast laps.
Study a track map
The importance of a circuit map cannot be underestimated. Used correctly there are many advantages to be gained, none more-so than highlighting clear, easy to identify objects and markers for your braking, turn entry, apex and corner exit.
Replaying laps of the circuit in your mind using these markers will reinforce the track layout and the lines you have chosen. Once you have specific markers set for a given turn you can refine them to become more efficient and reduce your lap times.
Use your vision properly
All of the senses are working overtime when pushing personal limits, but the eyes often have a mind of their own. It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what we are doing rather than what we want to do.
Identifying your reference points early will give you a better sense of speed, improve your steering accuracy and throttle application. Just like sighting a target down the barrel of a gun, move your head to place the target right between your eyes.
Find your lines
One of the most common problems riders face is being able to understand what makes a good line. When constructing a corner start at the exit and work backwards. Your track position on the exit is dictated by your apex. Knowing the exact point of your apex will help you decide on a turn area.
The position and consistency of your mid-corner position is what truly dictates your line through a turn. Make a concerted effort to use good vision and locate a late apex to run faster lines.
Be super smooth
Use of the controls can seem like very basic actions once we have learned how to ride a motorcycle. In actual fact it is possible to explore this area in great depth.
For example, snatching the brakes or winding the throttle too aggressively are two examples of how great forces are placed on the suspension and tyres. This can cause the bike to become unstable precisely at the moment we are seeking optimum traction. The top riders highlight this point with great examples of effortless riding.
Do corner preparation
The old saying goes: “Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail.” Quite often the key to success is in the preparation and when things are left to the very last moment your cornering can quickly become very busy.
When approaching the turn get yourself set early. Moving your body position into place early gives you one less thing to do at turn entry. This will help with the bike’s stability and free your attention, allowing you to focus on other elements of your cornering.
Sort your braking
Use of the brakes on track has one primary function over all others, to set your speed for the turn. A very useful technique which allows you to set your speed deeper into the turn is trail braking.
The initial hard braking should be done early whilst the bike is upright, reducing the risk of losing traction whilst the forks are compressed absorbing any bumps. As the turn begins and the lean angle increases additional cornering forces are placed on the tyre and suspension.
The brake pressure should be released smoothly and in direct proportion to the increase in lean angle.
One of the biggest limiting factors to increasing your cornering speed and reducing your lap times is how quickly you can turn the bike. The faster you enter a corner, the quicker you must turn the bike.
There are a number of ways to do this but the most effective way is to use counter steering. Applying pressure to the right (inside) handle bar will turn the bike to the right and vice versa. The more pressure you apply the quicker the bike will turn. Using the pegs can assist with this and will allow you to run faster corner entry speeds.
Stand it up
A major factor to increasing your speed is how quickly you can get to full gas. Being patient with the throttle will help, and used in conjunction with picking the bike up on the exit will make use of its full potential.
Standing the bike up reduces the lean angle and allows the suspension to work more effectively. This reduces the cornering forces and load on the tyres, enabling you to drive the bike out of the turn. Timing is important, too early and the bike will run wide. Get it right and you will smash your best times.
The one thing that every rider is in agreement with is twisting the throttle makes the bike go faster. Or does it? Rolling the throttle on too hard early in the turn will push the bike wide, forcing you to hesitate or even roll off the throttle.
Be disciplined and wait for the precise moment you can drive out of the turn. This will allow you to be assertive with your throttle and get to full gas sooner, carrying more speed down the straight. Wait and go faster!