Improving corner entry speed is something that the vast majority of track day riders are striving for, but it’s also one of the most difficult areas to improve.
In this article I want to go over four of the key skills for consideration on your quest to make improvements to this part of your riding, my intention being that you can hopefully come away with at least one realisation and aspect of your riding to work on to start making progress yourself.
With that, let’s jump right into the first key skill.
The brake lever is literally the control you use to set the speed for the upcoming corner. For that reason it’s the first thing we’re going to talk about here.
The scale that defines what riders do with the brakes can be pretty large. On one end of it you have less experienced riders that use very little brakes (or sometimes none at all) because they’re rolling off so early on the straight (through fear) so they find they don’t actually need to use the brakes.
This obviously means a bunch of time lost in the braking zone itself, but also they’ll almost always find themselves going too slow into the corners on top of that.
On the other end you have much more experienced riders that enter ‘Maximum Attack Mode’ and try to brake as late and as hard as they possibly can. The common end result for this type of rider is to over-brake and once again enter the corner too slow.
If you sit on the earlier part of that scale your priority should be to find and use solid braking markers, and then get comfortable using more braking potential in the braking zone. As you begin to do that you’re going to find you can begin to edge the braking point closer to the corner and use a healthy portion of braking potential.
Once you make this change, you’re going to find it much easier to judge entry speed into the corner because you’re now much closer to it as you work set that speed, but also, because you’ve now built up a “surplus of speed” you can more easily work to roll more of that speed into the corner itself.
If you relate more to our Maximum Attack rider and feel you’re still losing out at corner entry, well your plan is pretty simple.
Yes the ultimate goal should be to brake as hard and as late as possible to achieve maximum potential in the braking zone, but if that braking effort comes at the expense of corner entry speed and composure then something needs to change.
Typically this means to brake less aggressively initially, release the brake lever a little quicker, or both. Depending on how much you’re on the limit already you may also have to brake a little earlier too.
Braking plays such a massive part in your corner speed potential and it’s a skill to look at if you aren’t happy with what you’re experiencing at corner entry.
Saying “brake less” is all well and good, but if your brain continues to override what you want to do, then the instruction is pretty useless.
One big factor in how your brain makes decisions for you is how it perceives the space ahead of you based on the information your eyes are feeding it.
If you’re looking at the wrong place at the wrong time, or worse, you have zero references to begin with, you’re going to have a tough time overcoming your automatic reaction of slowing down to a speed you perceive as safe.
This is ESPECIALLY true in heavy braking zones. Rapid deceleration bombards the senses and it’s the point where you want to be most aware of what’s approaching and where you’re headed. If you’re not, don’t be surprised if you fall into more panic situations than most.
As we went over in our article on improving entry speed through vision, you want to have solid points of reference and to be looking at them at the right times to give your brain the best information it can get and to pass that information along well in advance, meaning a much cooler head at corner entry and one that can judge entry speed much better.
While not really a skill in the traditional sense, the way your mind behaves can have a big impact in what you’re able to do out on track.
Similarly to the above, if there are deeper blocks that prevent you from entering corners faster then your effort to roll more speed into corners is going to once again become a problematic and frustrating endeavour.
The most common mental block is the fear of leaning the bike over. This is also something I’ve talked about at length as we looked at the various reasons behind this resistance to lean angle.
It may not be the case for you, but for a lot of riders it’s simply a case of getting as much perspective as you can on what your bike is really capable of, creating a plan to tackle the issue and then practise practise practise.
Another reason could be the fear of running out of space. If you can already see space is limited then you may have to look at what you’re doing and the lines you’re creating (helped by improving your vision) and then tweaking your approach to the corner itself.
Which leads us nicely onto the final skill…
If your steering is lazy and it leaves you running wide at every exit, trying to take more speed into the corner is just going to bring the result you fear. Running out of space.
Speed of steering plays a big part in corner entry speed, and learning and getting comfortable with steering the bike quickly is going to greatly aid your efforts to enter corners faster.
While not true of every situation, a higher speed of steering (meaning, the time is takes you to lean the bike over) is going to directly benefit you in terms of corner entry speed. A perfect example of this is in quick flip-flop chicanes. The faster you can change direction, the more speed you can carry through that section.
This doesn’t mean you need to be flicking the bike over in the blink of an eye in every corner. This is counter-productive in certain corners and situations, but I would still recommend you at least learn to steer quicker because it will likely benefit you in a lot of places initially as a newer rider.
The question of “how do I increase corner entry speed” is probably the most asked question I get from riders looking to progress, but as you can see it can be quite a complex situation to deal with.
Like always, the key lies in what you’re actually doing and what you can feel. It’s you who sets the speed at corner entry, so try your best to pinpoint why you’re setting that speed and use that as your starting point in trying to make improvements moving forward.
You may feel frustrated and lost right now, but keep learning, collecting data and practising and you will make a breakthrough.