For most of us working to improve as track riders, we don’t have endless financial resources (let alone the time) to be riding as much as we want in the quest to go faster and become better riders.
This means that the time we DO get on the track is precious for a lot of us, so it’s a good idea to try and make the most of it if you are in fact trying to make steps to a higher level.
In this article I want to go over a few of the ways in which you can get more from the time you have on track, so that it can be as productive as possible and yield the greatest results.
A short time before heading to the track I like to spend some time getting a few things in place that’ll help me get up to speed quicker when I eventually roll out for that first session. They are:
It’s rare that I go to a completely new circuit now, so typically I’ll pull out my existing track map which has all my notes on where I want to be and what I want to do on those points, and I’ll remind myself of how I should be tackling each corner and section.
If I haven’t been to the circuit before, then I’ll spend some time putting together a map as best I can based on any information I can find from other guides or riders.
Visualisation is a powerful tool when it comes to putting together a tidy and consistent way of riding. Closing my eyes and talking myself through a lap is a great way to really cement what it is I’m supposed to be doing, and to uncover any holes in my track knowledge that I might not realise are there.
There’s more to circuit knowledge than just knowing which way the next corner goes. Knowing exactly where you want to be and what you want to do in great detail will most definitely shortcut the time is takes to get up to speed from a track knowledge point of view.
Lastly, based on my previous experience and notes, I spend some time picking out a small number of key things I want to work on that day, sometimes picking out just one or two places I want to work on them.
If I feel I can, I’ll also break it down into a session by session plan so I know what I’m doing and when as the day goes on. The plan can change throughout the day, but having that starting point keeps me focused as I get going.
I don’t put too much pressure on myself in the morning, but a quick review of what you’re working on that day will help refocus the mind as to what you want to achieve.
As for what I do in the first session, it really depends on how long I’ve been off the bike. If I’ve been off the bike a while I’ll simply take the first session (maybe even the first two) as a period to get used be being on a bike again at speed. Alternatively, if I feel a bit more ‘riding sharp’ I’ll start off with some simple things I want to work on.
As the day goes on I keep track of my plan and either stick to it if I feel it’s going well, or begin to adjust it if I can see that other parts of my riding need to take priority, or maybe the things I worked on last session still need to be worked on moving forward.
As you roll out for each session, the approach you take to your riding can have a big impact on just what you get out of it from a riding point of view. Just heading out there and riding hard is unlikely to help you improve the specifics that need improving, so here’s what you can do…
This doesn’t mean riding super slow. It means taking small steps to free up mental time and attention by being less aggressive with your efforts, typically by changing how you brake and enter corners. With more mental time and attention you’re going to be able to better do the things you’ve laid out and note the results you’re getting.
With your plan in mind and with attention spare to see it through, now you must simply try the thing you want to try. If you are riding within your mental limit this shouldn’t be too difficult.
As you take the action, be receptive to the action itself and how you’re performing it, but also to the result it’s getting you. Having this information is what’s going to help you improve moving forward, or help you realise that what you did made an improvement to part of your riding.
The keys here are to know what you felt, and what you did. You can also use other riders on track to gauge your results.
You can gather a lot of data while riding, but the next thing to take your attention on track comes so fast that you cannot really consider it. After a session, question yourself about how the session went.
What worked? What didn’t work? Write some quick notes about how the session went relative to what you set out to achieve, and try to pinpoint what you did to get the result you got. From that, assess your plan and decide whether to continue with what you have or change it up a little.
The more complicated you try to make this, the more resistance you’re likely to feel. If you want to get really deep then that’s absolutely fine, but don’t think you HAVE to in order for this to be effective. We’re just looking to do the following:
Resistance to this kind of thing is normal. Simply ‘riding hard’ is the simplest and easiest approach to getting a result (a better lap time), but it isn’t always the best approach, especially if you’re trying to improve a fundamental aspect of your technique or application.
As you do more of this kind of thing it will get easier and feel less like work. Just try your best to get more specific and intentional with your efforts and you’ll likely see better progress as a result.
Something I stress with the riders I work with is that it’s OK to spend some time just riding and having fun. If you want to have a session or day where you don’t think about anything, that’s fine in my book.
Even if you don’t EVER want to do any of the above, that’s also fine! However, if it’s your goal to become a better rider all around, taking the above and putting it into practice will very likely help you achieve that goal faster with less wasted time.
Find the balance that works right for you.