When talking about improvement in track riding, most people will cite just one main indicator to keep an eye on. However, there are a couple of others we can also look for, indicators that you should be equally proud of if you’re able to see improvements in them.
What I wanted to talk about in this article are some of the things we can look at to indicate if we are making progress, and if it’s the right type of progress.
Tracking is important in any endeavour where you’re looking to improve performance. In track riding, these key performance indicators are the important ones to note if becoming a better all-round rider is your track riding goal.
(Side note: Never did I think I’d find myself fusing remnants of an old corporate job with my biggest passion in life. KPI’s in track riding? Who’d have thought…)
Anyway, let’s look at the first and most obvious indicator.
The best and most obvious gauge to progress on the track in terms of outright speed will be lap times. Plain and simple.
For the vast majority of riders looking to improve their performance and make their way up the track day ranks, they are mainly interested in one thing.
They want to go faster.
An accurate timer is pretty much the be all and end all when it comes to measuring that kind of progress.
If it took you less time to get back around to the start/finish line, you averaged a faster speed than you did before.
However, like I stated in my article of slow track riding progress, just because one rider achieves a faster lap time than the other it doesn’t mean to say they are a more accomplished rider.
Not in my view, anyway.
There are a couple of other areas we can look at.
If you were to head to your favourite track and slash a healthy chunk off your lap time, but as a result of that lap time you were left feeling totally on the edge and consistently stepping outside of your comfort zone, would you still be satisfied that you made good progress?
Would you be keen to step back into that place?
As you begin to achieve faster lap times take note of how you are feeling throughout. Did it feel comfortable? Were your techniques up to scratch with minimal mistakes?
There will always be times when you frighten yourself a little as you work to push past previous limits. That’s not what I’m talking about.
I remember back to a coaching day early in my track life. It was shortly after I had stepped up to the intermediate group.
The coach followed me around for a bit before coming passed and indicating that he wanted me to follow. He upped the pace and it was enough to take me out of my comfort zone and leave me feeling stretched and mentally drained.
I had gone faster, yes, but the only lesson I really got was what it felt like to sit outside of my comfort zone for a considerable length of time. I didn’t learn anything that would improve the fundamentals of my riding.
When you can begin to ride faster lap times but also reduce that feeling of being on the edge and improve how comfortable you feel on the bike, that is a massive indicator that you’re in a great place mentally, as well as physically, in the actions you’re performing.
Another gauge of progress is when certain actions fall into your subconscious level.
When this happens it means that the time you spending thinking about that action frees up attention to focus on other things that you might want to work on, at which point progress will be made in that new area of focus.
You only have to think back to the time when you first rode a motorcycle.
I’d bet you spent a lot of your attention on just releasing the clutch lever and finding the bite point to pull away from a standstill, probably to the point where the vast majority of your attention was fixed on it. Now it’s not such an attention sapping action.
More recently in your motorcycling life, how much attention do you pay to your quick steering efforts, for example, and the rate at which you get your bike to the lean angle you want.
If this is something you’ve not tried much before and you’re trying to improve, I’d wager quite a lot.
But the more you practice and get used to this and the many other fundamentals of riding, the more they fall into your subconscious.
They will always take some of your attention when it comes to doing them, but not so much that everything else going on and what you need to do next disappears.
Once you reach that level where you can perform all these actions to a high degree of competence, you can turn to things like consistently finding the traction limits, adjusting the points you hit on track and where you perform each action to make better use of the bike, as well as things like honing your sense of speed.
These are the things that take you from fast, to really fast.
So as you can see, while a lap time itself is a key indicator for progress and one that I feel should be used, it’s just too vague to determine if you are truly improving as a rider overall.
For me, a good rider is fast, but they are also consistent, smooth, technically sound, and therefore working with good safety margins too.
Being fast is definitely a goal to chase, and I fully appreciate that saying “ah yes, but I can hit the same turn point lap after lap” doesn’t hold as much weight down the pub, but I do feel that there are other equally important goals that should be praised just as much, if not more so, when they’re achieved.
Photo by Andrew Napier