In the Racing Line Basics article we covered what a racing line is exactly and why we try to adopt it. However, there is another line we can take around a corner that can not only be faster, but also regarded as safer.
This line is known as the squaring off, or late apex line. Along with why turning in later is beneficial, I’ll also briefly cover a very typical trait that a lot of riders adopt; turning in too early.
As the above heading would suggest, the late apex and squaring off line is exactly that. With this line we want to pick a later apex (so apex is further around the corner) and square off the corner. As you can see from the picture below, rather than the long curved nature of the racing line, the late apex line sees you running deeper into the corner and turning quicker to get onto your chosen line.
This is beneficial for a number of reasons:
Smaller lean angles and for less time: By turning the bike quicker and deeper into the corner you not only have the potential to start picking the bike up much earlier in the turn (sometimes before the apex), but you also don’t actually have to lean as far.
This means you are not at high lean angles for as long as you would be if you turned earlier and slower, and you are also leaning less. This reduction in lean angle helps you in a few ways:
Get on the gas harder, earlier: A deeper and quicker turn-in sees the bike pointing much further up the track at the apex than it would be if you took the traditional racing line, and because you are pointing further up the road you can get on the power harder much earlier with less fear of running wide on the exit.
The traditional racing line will often have you on stalled gas way past the apex because you still need to keep turning the bike to get it pointed up the track before you can apply any meaningful power.
It’s often the quickest line: If we’re talking about a rider who is already maximising corner entry, the speed they enter the corner would actually have to be slower than the traditional racing line because the initial turn in is a smaller radius turn, so in order to make the turn they’d need to scrub off a little more speed.
However, this speed loss on entry is regained and surpassed on the exit because they are able to get back on the gas harder, much earlier.
If you took two bikes with identical performance and had one of them take the classic racing line and the other the late apex, squaring off line, the rider taking the late apex line would actually be ahead by the time they had reached the next turn, if the corner they had just left had any meaningful straight after it.
You won’t see racers taking this line very often because it would leave the door open to being overtaken on the brakes, but what you might see in a race is the overtaken rider running a little deeper into the turn and squaring it off to get back ahead before the next turn.
If a corner is followed shortly by a second corner – meaning there isn’t a great deal of acceleration out of the first – scrubbing off more speed to square off the corner won’t necessarily be the best course of action. You must compromise between squaring off the corner and running in faster with the traditional racing line. You should, however, always be thinking about the exit drive out of the second corner so you can ideally position yourself to get the best drive possible from it, which is where it matters most.
As a comfort blanket, many riders turn in earlier as they instinctively feel it is the safest way to approach and enter a corner.
The problems start to occur once you hit your apex and you start to exit the turn. A tight entry line (created by turning in too early) means on the exit your bike is going to be pointing more towards the edge of the track as opposed to pointing up the track to the next bend.
What’s worse is because you feel safer on the entry you take in more speed, meaning your exit speed is more than likely higher, and coupled with an exit line that sees you pointing way off the track, it could trigger some panic buttons and cause you to do something silly. So consciously trying not to turn in too early is always something to be mindful of.
It should be known that the majority of time made up on the track is done on the exit of the turns for learning riders, so knowing how much harder and earlier we can get on the throttle on a lot of corners when using the late apex line means it’s something you should definitely try and add to your track riding arsenal.
Squaring off is not the be all and end all of cornering and it will have different benefits for different sizes and styles of bike, but if it allows you to go quicker in just 50% of the corners at your favourite track then in my opinion it is well worth being aware of this riding technique and trying to incorporate it.