Though the title of this article reads a bit like a simple Ikea assembly guide, it goes without saying that getting to a high level of track riding is by no means as easy as putting together a piece of flat pack furniture.
However, for riders with a methodical approach to learning and improvement, I personally see four main overarching steps that take riders from complete newcomer, to fast racer.
And while there will always be exceptions to how people move through the track riding ranks and reach higher levels, I’d wager that you could probably slot yourself into one of these steps of the performance riding ladder.
With that, let’s jump straight into step number 1…
Step 1: Reaching Understanding
The first step is to actually spend time learning what is expected of you on the track and gain a good level of understanding of the actual riding.
This understanding can come from anywhere. A coach, a training course, a friend, or even this site.
Knowing the difference between good and bad technique, knowing exactly what your motorcycle wants from you as a rider as well as what techniques will best serve you in making improvements on the track is always going to be a great foundation to work from moving forward.
Learning, then, is step one.
Step 2: Beginning to Put What You’ve Learned into practise
Now it’s time to put the stuff you’re learning into practise.
This is by no means a simple task, and it’s a step where a lot of riders begin to trip up because they don’t really have a plan on how they’re going to do it.
The most important things are to have clearly defined things you want to work on, but also not giving yourself too many things to tackle in one session or over the course of a day.
Being a newer rider to the track but with a fairly good understanding of the fundamentals I would expect the rider to be in the upper end of novice, perhaps even pushing themselves into the intermediate group.
As you get more track days under your belt and time spent actually working on the right things, you’ll find yourself making big strides as the penny drops on some of the key areas of riding and you remove the typical blocks that hold learning riders back.
There’s so much to be gained in the early stages, and it isn’t uncommon to slash tens of seconds of lap times as you hone your fundamentals.
Step 3: Continued practise of the Fundamentals
Step three is about continuing to practise what you know to be the correct course of action.
With that continued practise you will begin to get more and more proficient at the actions that are going to directly translate into speed.
In time you will start to see the following:
- Comfortable with very hard braking and getting there quickly
- The ability to reach max lean quickly (quick steering)
- Comfort at higher lean angles
- Smooth and tidy mid turn throttle control
- Comfortable driving hard out of corners
- Great track awareness and consistency from good visual skills
- Good body position, leading to comfort and looseness on the bars during riding
Continued practise to then reach a good level of competence in these areas would take the rider from the lower groups right up into comfortable fast group pace, possibly even making you one of the fastest in the group.
You would have a very solid riding standard, and one that would mean you’re comfortably welcome onto any club race grid.
Like in any track day group though, there’s quite a difference between the slowest rider on the grid to the fastest, with some riders in more popular club race championships fast enough to make it onto a national level grid.
The difference between the two riders comes in at step four and is rather similar to step three as it comes from continued practise (unsurprisingly)
Step 4: Improving the Timing of Your Actions
So what’s the difference between the rider at the front of the race and the rider at the back?
The rider at the front leans just as far (if not a little farther) but they get there quicker and steer at a more ideal time for a better line.
They may get on the gas at the same time, but they get to full gas earlier. They brake just as hard, but they do it later and use the brakes deeper into the corner.
What this essentially means is the rider at the front of the pack is able to dance closer along the limits of traction for longer periods of time, which 9 times out of 10 means they’re going to go quicker.
To continue improving your outright speed once the fundamentals are performed to a good degree of competence, it’s about getting comfortable performing the same actions you’ve always been performing, but in such a way that takes you closer to the limits of grip than before, as well beginning to use the available grip more efficiently to translate it directly into more speed.
If you’re now sitting there thinking “well how the hell do I do that?”, don’t worry, you’re in the same boat as most learning track riders and it’s something that comes from a lot of time spent in the saddle.
Like I said up top I fully appreciate that getting to the sort of level we’re talking about here is by no means as simple as a four step process. Some people may never get there for instance, simply because it’s not their goal and they don’t want to put the time in to do it.
For most of you reading this I’d hazard a guess that you’re probably sitting at around step two or three.
If it’s your goal to continue your rise then it’s a simple case (using the term ‘simple’ loosely there) of honing your understanding of track techniques and then getting out there and practicing them.
In time as your understanding and proficiency of the techniques improves and you get more comfortable using more of your bike’s performance potential you will slowly move through the track day ranks.
Maybe even the racing world too, if that’s your goal.
Photo by David Rosen