I would like to say right from the start that this guide has not been put together for those that are looking to raise corner entry speed to knock a few tenths off their lap times, but rather for those that are struggling to raise corner entry speed through fear of leaning the bike for various others reasons, maybe a lack of trust in the tyres or just general inexperience.
I will also say that due to the complex nature of the subject (much like all riding techniques) there are a whole host of reasons as to why you might be struggling to improve your corner speed; there could be something mental, physical or even mechanical holding you back, so use the following as an aid on your quest to improve your corner entry speed and a means to open your eyes to certain elements, rather than definitive instructions.
With that, let’s take a look at some aspects of riding that could be holding you back as well as some things you can do to help yourself improve corner entry speed.
Are you charging into the turns and leaving all your hard braking as late as possible? If you are, then this can be totally counterproductive. In an attempt to carry more speed into a turn, a lot of people brake as late as possible and try to charge into a turn thinking they are carrying more speed in. The reality of this late hard braking approach is that you will often over brake for the turn and go in slower, as well as potentially trigger other panic related issues in the process.
For a more accurate and controlled way of carrying more speed into a corner you want to get all your hard braking done much earlier so you can be letting the brakes off slowly way before the turn point; this will allow you to more precisely control the speed you carry into the turn.
You can even go completely the other way, much like they teach you at the California Superbike School. Why not set your braking marker much further away from the turn so you don’t have to do any significant braking (at the CSS they actually say no brakes at all!) to not only make you pay closer attention to your corner entry speed, but to also allow yourself more time to set your speed for the turn.
For more information about proper braking technique, I recommend you read the Basic Braking Tips article.
Rather than charging into the turn as described above, why not set a modest braking marker and then note the point at which you let off the brakes before you turn in. Can you find a marker where you let them off? After this, using the same initial braking point, why not try to get off the brakes a little earlier this time to carry a little more speed in; this can be a great way to confidently gauge that you are carrying more speed into the turn.
Make it easy for yourself and pick just one corner to try and raise your entry speed on. Pick a corner you enjoy that isn’t too fast or too slow that allows you to comfortably gauge the lean angles you are carrying through the corner. Just work on increasing the corner entry speed for this one corner and when you feel you have reached a level you are happy with move on to the next.
One of the best ways to build confidence in your bikes abilities is to watch and follow other riders go through a corner a little faster than you with no problems or dramas. This should have you thinking “well if he can go through there just fine, why can’t I?”
Find a rider in your group that is slightly faster than you and use them to gauge your speed into the turn, though I wouldn’t recommend doing this with a rider that is much faster than you as you don’t want to step too far out your comfort zone and panic.
Also as you get to the fastest riders on the day, be mindful that their machinery could be better equipped than yours to deal with higher corner speeds. This method is best suited to those that are confidently sure there is more to get out of their machine.
If you try this method, you don’t want to focus too much on the rider in front. Use them to set your entry speed, but make sure you’re still aware of your own reference markers and where you’re heading. Following a rider blindly will only increase the chance of you getting ‘lost’ in the turn and making an unwanted error.
More often than not your vision will be one of the primary things holding you back from improving your corner entry speed. Focusing too much on a given point or area on the approach to a turn will give you a sense of tunnel vision which may cause you to be too cautions with the speed you take into the corner.
Instead, try to widen your vision and become aware of the area around not only where you’re going, but also where you want to be. People will often refer to this as looking through the corner. Becoming more conscious of your intended route will give your mind a kind of map around the corner, which will in turn show your mind just how much time and space it really has to work with.
For a more detailed look at how vision can both help and hinder us, read my Vision on Track guide.
Rather than giving yourself 101 things to do near the turn point, get yourself and the bike prepared for the turn well in advance so you can concentrate on the one thing you are trying to improve. That means getting yourself into position on track, making sure you’re in the right gear and setting your body position ready for the turn.
Building trust in your tyres comes with the experience of knowing what grip and lack of grip feels like, which I know doesn’t really help solve your lack of tyre trust, but you should know that modern sports tyres will grip all day long at your bikes maximum lean angle (to the point where something on the bike will ground out before the tyre lets go) assuming the tyres, bike and surface are in good condition and your riding technique is sound.
Also know that tyres don’t just suddenly go from full traction to zero traction. The loss of traction potential from modern tyres will always be gradual and the tyre will be giving you signals (that even an inexperienced rider will feel) long before it suddenly gives up on you and sends you into a massive slide.
This is again assuming you don’t overload the tyre with your own inputs brought on from poor technique.
In the end though it’s the rider that determines how much traction the tyres have, so by practising good riding techniques you don’t need to ‘trust the tyres’ because you know you’re doing the right things to allow the tyres to give you all the grip you need.
As said at the start of this article, when it comes to the complexities of various riding techniques, there really is no substitute for good coaching. Having a coach there that you can relay information to about what you’re experiencing and how your’re feeling, as well as having them watch what you’re doing is THE best way to work towards improving on the weaker areas of your riding.
This is because the coach will be able to give you tailor made drills and techniques to help you progress. Proper instruction should not be undervalued.
Raising corner entry speed is definitely one of the more difficult things to improve when talking about track riding because getting it wrong can trigger a whole host of panic buttons, and there is always a fear of the consequences of getting it wrong.
It’s safe to say that it will take time to build your confidence to carry more speed and lean angle into a corner, probably because you feel you are travelling into the unknown somewhat, but by taking the above advice into account as well as putting in the effort to practice it, I feel sure that you will be able to improve your confidence and corner entry speed in good time.
Photo by Chris