Where should newer riders of the track focus to unlock speed?
This is an internal question many riders will face as they consider how they’re going to go faster and reach higher levels out there.
In this article I want to talk about some of the biggest mistakes newer riders make, and what you can do to fix them to get some big early wins and begin climbing the track rider ranks.
This is largely aimed at riders that have done a few track days and are starting to take things a little more seriously as they work to reach a higher level.
These are the mistakes frequently seen by this level of rider, and typically when they’re fixed, or even just improved, substantial gains come for those riders in little time.
Ok, the first mistake is…
Now I’ve heard the word coasting used in different ways, but when I say coasting what I’m referring to are riders that spend a lot of time off the throttle and brakes when they could easily be using them for longer, or to a greater degree.
Where this affects newer riders most is on the longer straights that lead into big braking zone.
What you tend to find is riders roll off very early, spend a considerable length of time with no throttle or brakes applied, and when the time comes that they do apply the brakes, they tend to only use a small portion of their potential all the way up to the corner.
The way to fix this mistake and gain substantial time is to accelerate for longer down the straight, spend minimal time transitioning to the brakes, and then use more braking potential once they’ve made that transition.
That’s the simple answer.
The trouble is riders display the mistake in the first place because they’re not confident in getting the bike slowed down for the corner, even if on previous occasions they notice they’re going too slow when they reach it.
To fix this we need to change two things:
First, the use of reference markers with the eyes.
You need a solid braking marker and a solid turn/corner entry marker in place. As you head down the track you need to be well aware of your braking marker so you know EXACTLY where it’s safe to accelerate to and begin braking from.
Then once you reach that braking marker and begin braking, your eyes will flick down to your turn marker to judge the space you have from here to the corner.
However, this is only one part of the equation. The second is what I alluded to before. HOW you’re braking.
From your solid braking marker you need to work to use MORE of the brakes from this point. The hardest braking is done earlier in the braking zone, and as you start to use more braking potential you’ll see that you have actually got A LOT more space and time than you originally thought.
This will allow you to more confidently accelerate longer down the straight to your braking marker, and possibly even push the braking marker closer to the corner once you realise how much space you really have.
When you steer too early into a corner, a part of the corner suffers that is often the most important. The exit.
Less experienced riders tend to steer early and slowly into a corner, creating a shallow entry line.
This shallow entry line leaves them waiting for the bike to turn, often well past the apex, which restricts how early they can start picking the bike up and accelerating out of the corner.
Good exit drive is a key part of fast lap times, and just by altering their approach to achieve an earlier pick-up and drive out, they’ll be making big gains in no time.
Now, steering in early typically come from a lack of good visual skill and the use of reference markers.
This means once again that you want to have a solid turn marker in place to mark the spot where you want to begin steering for the corner.
Having this marker in place and tracking it on your approach to the corner is a sure-fire way to stop that tendency to drift into the corner early, which is going to open up the exit for you and allow for a better drive out of the corner.
As a side note, learning how we effectively steer a motorcycle and then becoming conscious with your steering actions is another factor to being more in control of the entry lines you create.
A common theme among the previous two mistakes was poor visual skill.
In truth, vision is such an important factor for every area of a corner, with a few key components making up good visual skill.
But oftentimes newer riders aren’t using any of those components.
They won’t be using markers, or at least not effectively, they won’t be looking far enough ahead, and they won’t have a wider sense of awareness.
The scope of visual skill is much larger than I want to cover here, but just by using the common markers and moving your vision further forward to find them is going to have a drastic impact on how you feel and what you’re able to do.
If you can more effectively see the space ahead of you things begin to slow down, so they don’t feel as rushed, and it puts you more in control of your actions throughout every stage of a corner, meaning less time is wasted.
So begin putting the common markers in place through each corner of the track you ride, and get your eyes up and further ahead so you can begin feeling and acting more in control.
In reality, displaying good fundamental skill in EVERY area is going to mean you’re riding safer, but given that crashes caused by too much throttle are very common among less experienced riders, I thought this was worth a mention too.
Newer riders tend to display sloppy throttle control.
Throttle control isn’t just about corner exit. It’s how you use the throttle once it’s first cracked open mid-corner, all the way to when you’re standing the bike up and driving out of the corner.
For less experienced riders, sloppy throttle control tends to mean rolling on and off the throttle multiple times mid-corner as they judge their speed and line in the moment, and then at corner exit the application can sometimes be desperate as they try to make up speed.
In the middle of the corner we want the bike to be balanced. The bike is at high lean and using a substantial portion of the traction that’s available from the tyres.
To balance the bike, once steering has been completed and you’re on the line you want, you need to get back to the throttle and not only crack it open, but also perform a slight and continual opening to stop the bike slowing down and even-out the weight distribution between front a rear tyres.
You won’t feel a bike more stable mid-corner than in this moment.
As for corner exit and the desperate acceleration, this often comes about because of the second mistake I mentioned here.
Turning in early leaves riders waiting longer to begin their exit drive as they wait for the bike to point up the track where they want to go.
This can turn into impatience and have riders rushing their throttle application to get a good exit drive, sometimes before they’ve been able to pick the bike up.
This is dangerous and where a lot of riders come unstuck – quite literally.
Smooth throttle control means cracking the throttle mid-corner to stop the bike slowing down and (in longer corners) performing the slight and continual opening, and then as you transition to corner exit and you’re able to begin picking the bike up, the throttle can be opened more and more as it does stand up.
But the action is smooth and controlled throughout without any huge spikes in how quickly you open it while lean angles are high.
That smooth and controlled throttle control is what’s going to mean a more balanced and stable bike, and one that doesn’t move unnecessarily close to the limits of traction.
Take a look at your riding and see if you can identify any of the mistakes you’ve read here. If you can fix one (or all) of them I have no doubt in saying you’ll be making considerable progress in no time.
How Much Lean Angle Should We Use When Cornering?
How Close Should We Sit to the Tank? Different Approaches & Their Benefits
Throttle Control Timing: When to Open the Throttle Mid-Corner
Why Slower Corners Are Generally Harder, and How to Make them Easier