The biggest fears in track riding that prevent riders from going faster almost always centre around the rider in question not having faith in the round sticky hoops fitted to their motorcycle.
“How far can I lean the bike? How much brakes can I use? How much power is safe when exiting a corner?”
These are the kinds of questions I see over and over again as riders battle their mental blocks to reaching faster speeds on the track.
These blocks are incredibly common, and they’re blocks that every single rider faces to some degree, but I know just telling you that won’t make you feel too much better about your inability to get past them.
So in this article I want to try and offer a little perspective on how the fastest riders out there tap into the potential of the amazing tyres we have on offer today, and how you might be in a better position than you realise to start tapping into more of it yourself too.
And for everything I’m about to cover from here forward, let’s assume we’re talking about a rider on a well maintained bike fit for purpose, riding on tyres that were designed with track riding in mind. Not necessarily a race tyre, just a tyre that’s designed to handle high speed and forces on the track.
At track day level, the braking zone isn’t really an area where riders are too concerned with tyre traction. Certainly not for their main braking effort, anyway.
With the bike near vertical it’ll be the geometry of the bike that lets you down before front-end grip does, where you eventually reach a point of the rear wheel beginning to lift and you cannot brake harder or you’ll end up taking a trip over the handlebars.
That is of course assuming that your technique is in a good place.
To allow the front tyre to best do its job in this phase, it’s about how you initially apply the lever so that you have the weight transferring to the front in a controlled way.
This means a quick but smooth application of the front brake from no brakes to initial brakes, which transfers some of the weight to the front more smoothly, loading the tyre correctly before reaching full braking potential.
Do this and if your braking system is good enough the front tyre will cope with as much braking force as you can apply, until the rear wheel begins to lift.
This is probably the area where riders come up against the biggest and toughest mental blocks to break, because it’s at this point that your fears around lean angle come into play.
You’re required to trust the front tyre and lean the bike, hoping that it keeps doing its job of turning the bike rather than giving up and sending you into the kitty litter.
This is a tough mental block to overcome, because most riders know that losing the front end pretty much means game over with the little/zero opportunity you have to save it (sorry, you’re not Marc Marquez).
But that’s the thing, as I just alluded to one of the primary jobs of the front tyre is to turn the bike and keep it travelling in an arc, and it’s perfectly capable of doing that job at high lean angles while remaining firmly stuck to the ground.
Like I spoke about in my piece on breaking lean angle barriers, lean angle itself isn’t really the enemy to traction. It’s what the rider is doing with the other controls at the time which creates issues.
As long as you’re not pushing the front too much on the brakes going in, remaining as relaxed as possible on the bars and being smooth when you begin feeding the power in when the bike is correctly pointed in the middle of the corner, your tyres will be perfectly happy and they’ll do their job.
For most riders, corner exits will be the first place they start to find the limits of traction as they get more and more experience, particularly on today’s high powered, electronically loaded machines.
Even on smaller bikes, however, corner exit just always seems to be the place where riders are more willing to test the limits. Most likely because the notion of losing rear traction isn’t quite a scary as the front, especially if riders are correctly getting the bike up off the side of the tyre before testing those limits.
And that’s where problems often come for less experienced riders. Trying to do too much with the throttle too soon.
This could be getting back to the throttle too soon before the bike is pointed, sending them wide, leaving themselves in a situation when they’re at high lean angle when you want to be driving out the corner, or their throttle timing could be good and it’s a simple over eagerness to drive out before getting the bike off the side of the tyre.
However, if your exit line is good (born from your corner entry approach and throttle timing) and you’re picking the bike up as you smoothly increase your power application, you’re not likely to come into too much trouble.
And if you do mange to break traction in that moment, with the bike standing up your slide isn’t likely to get out of control because you’re picking it up into the slide.
I hope you can see a common trend forming around the above areas. The tyres can be trusted so long as your technique is there.
You know that the ceiling on performance rubber is likely much higher than you’re currently using, but knowing that can only do so much for your confidence. For some it does nothing at all.
Really it comes down to having trust in what you’re doing, because if you’re doing the right things out there then you’re giving the tyres the best platform to work as intended.
This is why I don’t particularly like the advice that you just need to “grow a pair” to go faster. Now, there is some truth to that after a point, because good technique alone isn’t enough to make you brake later, lean farther or drive harder. Eventually you have to step into the unknown.
But giving that advice on it’s own without considering what the rider is actually doing out there is what’s going to create problems.
Once that fundamental base is there and you’re giving the bike what it wants, from that point forward it’s just more experience of incrementally moving past your previous limits that’s going to build true confidence to tap into more the tyre’s potential.