I believe that for every rider there is always something new to learn, which was precisely my motivation for scheduling a day with Notso-Fast Rider Coaching.
I’m always trying to challenge my own beliefs on riding and whether there’s something new to learn that will justify an existing belief, or help it grow into something stronger.
There was a secondary reason for taking this on too. Given that I am now very much in the teaching and coaching space myself through Life at Lean, I was interested to see a very experienced coach in action so that I could learn how I can do a better job for the riders I’m working to help myself, because like I said, there’s always improvements that can be made.
I’d actually contacted Gary a few months before our day together to see if he would consider taking on something a little different, given that I was looking to learn on the riding side of things, as well as the coaching side too.
Having fully disclosed my intentions after a lengthy chat it was clear he had no desire to keep all his “secrets” to himself, as it were, and he was just as willing to help me as any other client.
With that, we booked a day together and I was very excited at the thought of being able to pick the brains of someone very experienced in this space and who coaches at a very high level.
Fast forward to July (2018 for those reading later) and I arrived at Snetterton circuit for our day together.
Right from the off it was clear that Notso-Fast run a very professional service complete with full debrief station, as well as a space waiting for me and my bike with a factory-team-worthy bike mat to slot into.
As I got set up and prepared in the usual way, we chatted about what I was expecting from the day and what I hoped to get out of it, and knowing my second reason for being there, we spoke at length about coaching in general too.
Then once the usual particulars were complete, it was on to the riding.
I’m not going to give you the full play by play because, to be honest, I don’t think it would be that interesting.
This is largely in part because of the excessive amount of stoppages we had that day, and even though it was open pit lane we ended up having a fair few riding sessions cut short and many more times waiting around for the track to open again.
It was just one of those days.
Nevertheless, that didn’t stop me from taking a fair bit away from the experience from a riding perspective, because as Gary rightly says so himself, the best work and biggest realisations come from the chair during the rider debriefs.
Early in the day we spoke about where I thought I was strong as a rider, and where my biggest weaknesses lie. My biggest strength being exit drive, with the weakness being not leveraging the front tyre enough at corner entry.
Having gone out for our first session and getting warmed up, we came back into the garage to sit down and look at what was going on.
Gary agreed with my initial assessment, so we set about putting the pieces together (in his way) to be able to improve in this area.
From a very different perspective on vision, to knowing when and how to use the track space and the lines we should be using at corner entry, I found myself consciously thinking far more about what I was doing in this phase of the corner, something that had been fairly automatic for many years.
As such my pace naturally suffered as these new thoughts and ideas occupied a lot of my conscious thought out on the track.
Throughout much of the day we focused on putting those corner entry and bike placement pieces in place to create the platform to use more potential at corner entry than I currently was.
To be perfectly honest I wasn’t really doing anything drastically different, but what I was doing is looking at it in a new way and focusing on things I wasn’t focusing on before, and it was through that focus that I had my biggest breakthrough of the day.
Not in terms of speed, but in terms of feel.
Having confidence in the front tyre is vitally important to going fast on track. Having trust in that little tyre leading the way is something that a substantial amount of riders struggle with, and it’s a hurdle that they will eventually have to jump over if they want to reach higher lean angles and corner speeds.
The approach that we were working toward at corner entry was a little different that I was used to, and that was taking a shallower line of attack into many corners and reaching maximum lean angle later in those corners as a result.
I’m used to having my steering and line setting (for corner exit) finished a little quicker and earlier, at which point my attention focuses on the apex and getting good drive, not so much on what the front tyre is doing.
Given that our angle of attack was a little shallower, steering needed to be slower, and it was through a fast left-hand corner (T5 – Hamilton) that I had my best moment of the day.
Coming into Hamilton on one lap on this new line I was very focused on creating that line and feeling what the front tyre was doing.
It’s hard to explain, but as I added more and more lean angle to turn tighter and create the line I wanted, I could really feel that front tyre digging into the ground and doing the job it was intended to do – turn the bike!
And when I eventually reached maximum lean, the bike was turning tight and I could feel that the front tyre was well and truly planted. This is a feeling that many riders are striving for – to know that the front tyre is working.
Like I said I wasn’t necessarily going faster at this stage, because reaching high lean angles isn’t a struggle of mine anymore, but experiencing that new feeling (or at least, becoming more conscious of it) was very cool indeed.
Something that Gary does very well is continuing to highlight the good things in your riding.
Between the stoppages and working to learn new things I wasn’t riding to the standard I set for myself, and being the perfectionist that I am, I was letting it get to me.
Gary could see it happening and he kept bringing me back to all the good things happening, and at the end of the day when he started reeling off all the work we had done, it showed that as riders we don’t always give ourselves enough credit.
Being a coach is so much more than just saying “put your bike here and do this”. There’s so much more to helping someone reach a higher level in something than simply giving instructions, and it’s clear to me that Gary has those qualities to not only help you reach that higher standard on a technical level, but to deal with the internal struggles that riders face when working toward that goal too.
Early in the day I picked up one of the leaflets on Gary’s desk that he gives out to prospective clients that come asking questions.
On it there was a tag line “less drama, more speed”.
Everything that Gary does with you as a rider is rooted in this philosophy, the intention being to get you to reach a point in your riding where you have more control, more perceived time and less risk, while at the same time reaching a higher level of outright speed too.
Now, those may sound like vague things to be aiming for, but what Gary has a knack of doing is demonstrating the difference of what I was doing compared to other riders around me, and how we were achieving similar results in terms of speed, but in much different ways in terms of control and safety.
I think you know the answer to that one already.
Outside of my front tyre experience there was a plethora of things I took away from our day together from a riding perspective. Not necessarily to change the way I do things or what I’ve been working towards myself, but more to add another level of understanding or way of looking at what I already have in place in certain areas.
Outside of that I took a lot from a teaching/coaching perspective too. Being the relative nobody I am in the riding world, it’s natural that a little self-doubt can creep in from time to time about my ability to help riders.
Seeing Gary work as well as talking at great lengths about riding and coaching in general, I came away with a new level of confidence in myself. That alone was worth the cost of the day for me.
I’ve said on many previous occasions that on-track coaching is always going to get you the best results in the shortest time. The point I also stress is that it needs to be a highly skilled coach too.
I would put Notso-Fast rider coaching in that highly skilled category and go as far to say that of the options we have for on-track coaching, Gary and Notso-Fast are one of the very best out there.
To learn more about Notso-Fast Rider Coaching and get in touch with them, you can do so here – https://www.notso-fast.com