Learning to Manage Traction to Maxmise Exit Drive


The title of this article may have you feeling like it’s something that sits well outside your own ability.

When you think of ‘maximising exit drive’ you more than likely immediately conjure up the image of a rider squeezing every last drop of grip from the rear tyre, squirming all the way until the bike is fully upright.

The truth is that for many riders this level of ability WILL be a long way from what they’re able to do, and I’d hazard a guess that the majority of riders reading this will follow the usual routine of picking the bike up and rolling the throttle on a little more as they do, with little thought on how they’re managing traction and maximising exit drive.

If you were really honest with yourself, is there any time when you could confidently say you are managing traction?

Again, it’s a term that would have you thinking it’s reserved for much higher levels of rider.

However, to begin putting yourself in a position to be able to manage traction, you first have to give yourself the attention to be able to do that.

Clearing the Clutter

The reason why you won’t be putting any thought into managing traction likely comes from one of two places.

  1. You’ve simply never even considered it.
  2. You do not have the spare brain power to be able to do it.

Number 1 is pretty easier to fix (start considering it, as detailed below), so we’ll tackle number 2 here.

There isn’t an awful lot to do at the exit of a corner compared to other stages, but being that the vast majority of your attention will be on making sure you get to your exit marker, as well as making sure you don’t run off the track, you’ll have little attention left to think about “how much grip have I got?”.

What you want to do is make sure everything else is covered so you don’t have to think about it, so that you can almost entirely focus on your levels of grip as you exit the corner.

But just how do we do this?

Well, the best way is to put yourself in a position where the only thing you NEED to think about is managing traction. Meaning, from the apex, being in a position of knowing that where you’re going and where you’re going to end up is almost guaranteed.

It’s about having the consistency to know that “if I hit this point, then this point, pick up and start rolling on here, I’m going to end up here”

If from the apex you know with a degree of confidence where you’re going to end up at the exit and that you’re not going to run way off the track, there is very little to think about at that point in time other than “how are my tyres doing?”

Everything else you did before the apex is what gets you into this confident position. You’ve handled everything at corner entry and mid corner, now you’re at the apex where you want to be, you know where you want to go and you know you’ll get there on this same line, what else is there to think about at this stage?

It is this freeing up of your mental capacity that allows you to consider…

“Ok, everything else is in place, now I’m going to try and roll on a little bit harder than I did before and see what happens.”

And because you’ve freed up your attention to be able to do that, you can really feel for what the tyre is telling you throughout.

But what is it that allows you to reach the stage of consistency and a clear mind out corner exit?

The Importance of Vision…Again

It is your vision that brings the consistency, and it is the consistency that gives you the confidence of knowing that if you keep hitting the same spots, you’re going to end up in the same places.

But even past the apex, your vision will play a part in your plan.

While it’s true that we want to use all the available track and get right out to the edge, what we don’t want is for the edge of the track to be a major concern for us i.e. “am I going run off track”

Because typically, the point at which those thoughts are completely removed from your head is when the bike is already upright, and at that point it’s too late to work on maximising traction.

The habit that brings about the onset of those attention sapping thoughts is looking to the outside of the track very close to you.

If you’re looking there and thinking “I need to get out there” and then you monitor it until you get there, how much are you thinking about what your tyre is doing?

In reality, if you’ve been round the track a few times before and are using solid reference markers, from around the apex you should already KNOW that you are going to use most of the track.

Your attention won’t be taken up by “I must get out to the edge”, leaving your attention to focus on “let’s maximise my drive”.

To alleviate some of your attention on the edge of the track you need to be looking further up the track. Not fixed to the immediate outside.

If you don’t have a solid reference marker, looking at the distant edge of the track is fine.

Physical Management

So now you have your attention freed up to feel for traction, now comes the physical bit which is, actually, quite simple…

You simply roll on the throttle a bit harder than you did before, then ask yourself…

1) Did I feel any movement in the seat? and…

2) Did that outside bar comes towards me at all?

Remember that when the rear slides, because the back end is ‘stepping out’ but the front is following the direction of travel, the outside bar will feel like it’s coming towards you.

If it doesn’t, you know you didn’t exceed the traction limit and can roll on harder.

If it does, you know you’ve reached the maximum traction allowance the tyre is offering you and that’s your lot.

Also remember pushing on that outside bar is what manages your lean angle, and in turn, the severity of slide.

It can be made to be quite simple. It’s only made more complicated when you have very little attention to be able to deal with it. Setting yourself up right and putting yourself in a position of knowing where you’re going on the exit frees up the necessary attention for you to be able to approach researching traction limits and makes it simple.

Other Technique Caveats

We spoke above about the importance of vision is all of this, but there are a couple of other technique points to cover too.

If you’re riding stiff with a tight grip on the bars, or you have poor throttle control, these can have a big effect on what you believe you are feeling from the tyres. Like I said above, having everything else in place is what puts you in this “managing traction” position, and if you’re putting unwanted inputs into the bars and throttle throughout your exit drive routine it’s going to make your job a whole lot harder, and possibly more dangerous.

It’s also important not to get too impatient with when you are beginning your exit throttle routine. Trying to roll on harder and harder while on the side of the tyre is not a good game plan. Instead, wait until you are on the part of the tyre where you can apply more aggressive power (often called the ‘fat’ part of the tyre).

Again, all this stuff may seem daunting and out of your reach, and in truth the knowledge and confidence in this sort of stuff can only come from experience (sometimes a lot of it), not from an article on some site on the internet.

But while I don’t expect you to immediately get out and start getting sideways out of every exit, you can at least begin to put the pieces together so that you can reach that point of being able to at least focus some attention on what your rear tyre is doing.

Take one corner and ask yourself, where are my thoughts at corner exit?

Then ask, could that attention be better spent?

Typically that answer will be yes and you can then start putting the necessary things in place to really start researching traction limits.

Photo by Smudge 9000