Going Faster, Faster. Part 1

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I’m feeling pretty good about my progress on track - I think it’s time to share what little wisdom I have. In the first of this two parter, I’ll list what I feel is the optimal order for to things to learn. The second part will be a varied list of optional things I’d recommend you buy, learn or do as soon as possible.

Track time is like toilet paper - the more you have, the more you waste

Keith Code

It’s easy to spend a lot of time riding round and round without making any progress whatsoever - have a goal for each and every session.

I’ve written this article in the order of which I wish someone had told me to focus my attention. I haven’t gone into masses of detail for each area for the sake of brevity. I’ll go into more detail in specific areas in future articles.

Twist of the Wrist II

If you haven’t already, watch Twist of the Wrist II (TotW). Look past the hilariously terrible acting and you’ll find more than enough information to build a solid foundation for riding.

The film demonstrates “precision techniques for overcoming barriers to cornering such as rider input, fundamentals on steering, visual skills, braking, body position, throttle control and more.”

I do recommend other resources to learn from, but, this is the one start with.

I'll reference things taught in this film throughout this article. Buy it if you can afford it, but, it is on YouTube.

Ride at 70% & Relax

You won’t learn anything if you’re shitting yourself. Ride well within your limit - you’ll be able to focus, think and improve. Your fastest laps never feel fast.

Additionally - as discussed on TotW - relax! Keep your lower body locked into the bike - grip the tank with your legs. Your upper body should be loose. Don’t grip the bars any more than you would grip during a handshake with an elderly gentleman. Ideally your forearms should be parallel to the ground and you should be able to flap your elbows around like you’re doing the chicken dance.

Predictability & Lines

Be predictable! You’re on a race track with lots of other people traveling at speed. You won’t be able to see behind you - and you shouldn’t care.

Work on a smooth line around the circuit and be predictable with your movements on it: don’t suddenly swerve from the right side of the track to the left down the straight, don’t unnecessarily slam on the brakes.

Throttle control

Work on your throttle control. As you’ve learned from TotW, your roll ons should be slow, smooth and constant.

Counter steering

I kinda hate how the word “countersteering” is thrown around these days. TotW will teach you what it is, but, really focus on making it a conscious input. You’ll be surprised at how quickly and easily your bike will turn.

Markers

Brake, turn in, apex and drive out points are the basic markers to use. There’ll likely be cones out for you for turn in and apex, so use them! If the cone is at the opposite side of the track to you - it’ll not be the cone that’s wrong.

You can use permanent markers like kerbs, paint, armco, walls, martials posts or temporary ones that’ll only be there on the day, like marks on the track or tufts of grass.

Remove as many variables as you can find: Brake as hard as you dare, use full throttle down the straights - wind that sucker on all the way to the stop.

The goal is to “join the dots” and ride between your markers, arriving at each one at the same speed every time. Consistency breeds confidence.

You’ll quickly find that you can brake later, turn in later, etc to go a bit faster. So move the appropriate marker and repeat the process.

Body position

You can easily get to footpeg scraping speeds without hanging off by focusing on the points above, but, you should start to think about body position long before then.

Contrary to popular belief - the purpose of hanging off is to keep the bike as upright as possible. The more upright it is, the more grip it has.

How to hang off

Say you want to turn left:

  • Stand on your pegs with the balls of your feet.
  • Get a the inside (left) ass cheek off to the left of the seat. It’ll probably feel really exaggerated and alien at first.
  • Get your head and upper body low and off to the inside (left) of the bike. Your head should be roughly where your left mirror was.
  • Look where you want to go!

Some more body position tips:

  • Set up early, ideally before you roll off or brake.
  • Never sit in the middle - unless you’re on a long straight.
  • Your lower body is more important than your upper body - only move it when completely necessary and do so in a quick, smooth motion without yanking on the bars.
  • Don’t rush your ass movements. You can duck your head behind the screen while leaving your ass off between corners, while driving out of corners and while braking in a straight line.
  • Get tucked in on the straights - chin on the tank and ass right back to the seat bump.

Turn on a closed throttle

You’ll never feel your bike turn as well as it does on a closed throttle with high rpm engine braking. It’s fucking scary the first time you do it, but, if your suspension is setup right and you trust the rubber - you’re onto a winner

As soon as you get on the gas, you’ve taken away your optimal turn. Be patient and apex late, it’ll open up the corner and you’ll get cracking drive out of it.

For more on this, you should definitely check out Simon Crafar’s fantastic MotoVudu DVD and book.

Even though it contradicts some of the points taught in TotW, I still feel like the right path is TotW first, and MotoVudu second.

Braking

You don’t break to stop on a track - you break to to set your speed for the corner. How hard you brake is directly proportional to your angle of lean.

Upright? Brake as hard as you like - the limiting factor is keeping the rear wheel on the ground. 25˚ of lean? Ease it off, tiger. Fully cranked over? The brake is has become a crash-at-will switch.

You don’t need to trail brake deep into the corner at first. To paraphrase Simon Crafar, there’s not really any need to do it until you’re executing all other aspects of turning well.

That being said, don’t treat the brake as an on-off switch either. Ease it off as you finish your braking to keep the suspension settled and stop the pogo effect.

Gear selection

Get into a gear that lets you enter on a closed throttle at high rpm, but with enough room to drive out of the corner without it revving it’s tits off.

If you have a slipper clutch, congratulations you flash bastard, you just earned lazy points. The rest of will have to get super smooth at braking and blipping to rev match.

Practice, practice and practice some more. It’s really really hard to brake hard and blip the throttle without changing the pressure you have on the front brake.

Move your markers

Consistency is key now. Try to accelerate, brake, turn in, etc the same every time. You’ll plateau - and that’s perfect.

Now it’s just a case of moving your markers around and seeing what happens. Can you brake a little later? What happens if you apex earlier or later? Can you get on the gas earlier? Can you turn later and/or quicker?

Lap timing

A controversial topic in general, which even caused a raucous in our WhatsApp group.

Right off the bat, you should know they're usually banned from track days. Their insurance doesn't cover the use of them, get caught and you're going home.

If you do run the gauntlet, using one correctly can lead to improving quite quickly - providing you're riding consistently.

Check your lap times after each session and look for a plateau. Did you consistently ride within a few hundredths that entire session? Great. Start experimenting.

Choose one thing to change: Your line, a braking marker, an apex, a drive out point. Anything you feel can be improved.

Check your lap times when the session is over. Did you go faster?

No - Scrap the change you made and try something else.

Yes - Great! Was it worth it, though? If you felt like you were going to crash for the benefit of a tenth - probably not. There may be easier and safer time to be had elsewhere.

Notes

You can’t remember everything, so make notes. This is kinda personal, and, do whatever works for you.

I doodle on circuit diagrams - making note of markers, gears, setup, etc.

Doing this throughout the day also gives you something to consult when looking for for more time.