Try track-based training: Improve your cornering skills in a safe environment
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never been confident when it comes to cornering. Whether that’s because of the scrape of my footboards when I try to lean or my complete lack of experience on a track, I don’t know. Yet here I was, en route to my first ever track session – Rapid Training’s Cornering Workshop.
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The night before was sleepless, my stomach had butterflies pelting into every inch of its lining, and I’m sure I had a white-knuckle grip on my handlebars even before I set off. The oddly-too-warm September morning was starting to shimmer as I made my way to the training day.
I weaved carefully through country roads until a sign which looked somewhat out of place directed me into the Blyton Park circuit.
It wasn’t yet 7.30am, but after following a once- tarmacked, now pot-holed trail, the entrance to the track was alive with bikes, vans, and the whistling of camping kettles.
After signing on, I was introduced to my instructor for the day. Clive Shepherd is brimmed with years of experience instructing as well as police motorcycling, but that didn’t stop the whole Rapid team checking in to say hello before we started the morning brief – and first on the agenda was track familiarisation and cornering lines.
My borrowed leathers had already started to stick to me by the time we lined up and waited for the green light to begin our first, tentative investigation of the track. Our group of two followed Clive as he set out the route, his arms outstretched as he pointed to specially placed cones to guide us into the correct position for the upcoming bends.
The first few laps were methodical, well-paced and completely alien as it was a totally flat surface with no buildings or hedges to guide you into the corners, and I could hardly believe that 20 minutes had passed when we saw the first chequered flag.
My hair clung to my forehead even after I’d peeled off the helmet, and we crammed ourselves into the shade cast by the van as Clive took us through the debrief. We spoke about what we’d done, what we could improve and discussed any reservations before we sank another cup of tea and began to practise the art of precision steering.
Counter-steering is something most of us do intuitively, but in an environment where a mistake with your steering doesn’t land you headfirst into oncoming traffic, the trial and error of finding the perfect pinch point was smooth, uneventful and helped me to creep up my speed around the corners.
Clive gestured something akin to pretending to be a chicken to remind me to relax my arms on the bars and let the bike do the work, and as I did so the corners started to flow together.
By the time we got to the third session, I knew where the bends were, my confidence was starting to build, until… I took the double-apex left-hander of ‘Bunga Bunga’ at a pace that I – not the bike – wasn’t comfortable with and suddenly I felt like all the morning’s work had been shattered.
Luckily there were only a few minutes left in the session and I got around without too much of a speed change but had to admit to Clive that the next run would have to be taken a little steadier until my heart descended out of my throat. But if anything, the episode made me more determined.
The last three sessions of the day were putting what we’d learnt into practice. And although I felt trepidation as we lined up and watched as the previous group exited the track, my smile returned each time I sped out onto the tarmac for our session. Dare I say it? On the penultimate session, I can say I had fun – like, really had fun.
Now I had a strategy for tackling corners and a bit more confidence in what my bike can do, the fun on track didn’t stop when I started the two-hour journey home. I played with country-road corners which I’d gingerly ridden through that morning and kept a smile on my face for the entire ride… well, at least until I got to the long, straight motorway.
Now it’s your turn
Rapid Training offer a range of on-track courses. The Cornering Confidence Workshop (£395) has been designed to give you confidence on the road and track. It’s also available as part of Rapid’s Bikemaster Level 2 and 3 courses (from £1195).
The Roadmaster course is geared towards road riding and has three levels. Without the track time, this course gives you the fundamentals for £795. Rapid also offer bespoke training as well as trackdays and adventure tours.