I can still recall a few occasions of sheer terror on a few of my earlier days on track when another rider would position themselves on the inside of me right before entering a corner.
The idea that I now couldn’t take the line I wanted to take left me rushing to panic stations internally, with the idea that I would now completely blow the corner and possibly head right off the track.
In this article I want to touch on this fear of being taken off line, as well as offer a little perspective and guidance to hopefully reduce the impact this situation has on you moving forward.
If I had to guess I’d say it’s because we’re being forced into a situation we haven’t been in before, coupled with the fact that we have very little time to adjust and react to what’s just happened.
As a newer track rider, you won’t have a tonne of experience of taking the “normal” racing line, let alone a totally different one, so as soon as another rider forces you off your carefully laid out plan at corner entry it can send all sorts of panic lights flashing as you try to deal with the situation.
Like I said you won’t have a lot of experience of using the space differently, and your vision will most likely not be in the best place to help the situation and keep you calm.
Running out of space is a very real concern for riders, particularly newer ones, and all of the above comes together to create the sensation that you’re now much more likely to do just that.
While it may not feel like it at the time, this situation is actually a positive one (in the vast majority of cases when the pass is clean) because it starts to show you that there are multiple ways in which we can use the space we have, and that there’s more than enough space for these variations to be viable and safe.
It’s a lesson that most learning riders will experience at some point or another – that there’s more than just one single line around a corner, and that straying off the typical line doesn’t mean instant doom.
As I alluded to above, vision will be one of the reasons this panic starts to form, especially if your visual skill leaves a lot to be desired.
As the other rider comes past, they can take your attention away from what you were looking at, or possibly block your view altogether, making it difficult to get perspective on the space you have and where you are in relation to it.
But like most situations where running out of space becomes a concern, it’s having your vision working for you that will help you keep that panic in check and help you make it round the corner just fine.
The passing rider will naturally take some of your attention as they come into view, but you have to work to keep track of where you are and where you’re headed relative to your own visual markers to ensure you stay as visually located as possible.
The more you deal with this situation, the more you’ll realise that there’s actually more than enough space for you to use different parts of the circuit and to take a different line.
In this situation it typically means just steering and entering the corner a few bike lengths later than you normally would, using a slightly wider entry for the corner.
This will give the other rider plenty of space, and if you time things right, you may still be able to cut back and clip the inside of the corner to take a later apex.
All that’s happened is that you’ve had to take a slightly different line and lose a little more speed than usual, which I’m sure you would agree is a result that most definitely doesn’t match up with the panic that you experienced heading into that situation.
I’m sure some more experience riders reading this will wonder why this piece even has to exist because it’s such a non-issue to them now, but it is a very real panic situation for a lot of new riders.
The keys really are to do your best to stay visually located using the correct markers and visual skill so that you have better perspective on the space you have, and then to simply realise that being taken off line isn’t the end of the world.
That second one isn’t really something you can change until you’ve been through the situation a number of times though, so just be patient and the feelings of panic will undoubtedly reduce with each occurrence of it happening.
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