Right from the start I want to be clear that what I talk about here isn’t the different ways you can practise techniques to try and ride faster on the roads.
The safety margins on the road are a lot thinner than the track, so much so that I simply do not see the point in practising certain things on the road when the risk of falling off is just too high to be worth it.
Things like practising aggressive throttle application, very high lean angles, deep and hard trail braking etc.
These things and others will have you dancing closer to the limits of grip than is necessary for the road. Especially if these are things are you proficient in already and you’re looking to improve.
What I want to talk about here are things you can practise on the road or somewhere away from the track that aren’t dependant on speed being the determining factor as to whether you’ve improved.
So, for those looking to try and make improvements away from the track, here are my recommendations for a few things you can practise in your “off” time.
I’m going to start with the biggest and most beneficial right up top.
Your track and road visual skills are one and the same. You will be using them in exactly the same way to benefit you in both environments.
The whole thing behind good visual skills is to keep your brain in a constant state of readiness by showing it where you’re heading, and what’s coming up next.
It’s a way of not just looking at the space that’s coming, but actually seeing it so you can make best use of it and most safely navigate it.
On the track, this means using your reference markers to keep track of where you want to go next, and then playing dot to dot around the whole track and simply connecting them all up.
On the road you can practise these same skills. Using your main focus and wider vision to keep track of where you’re heading and where you want to go.
If it’s a road you know and ride regularly you can pick braking, turn, apex and exit markers just as you would on the track, and every time you ride that road you can have a go connecting them all up with your eyes, practising finding the next marker shortly before you’ve hit the current one.
This doesn’t have to be done at high speed. Even just practising finding and tracking those markers with your main focus – and when you know you’re going to hit it switching to your wider vision – will go a long way to helping you use those same skills on the track.
If you’re riding roads you don’t know you can still do this, it just means you’re going to have to pick your markers on fly. Something that CAN be done with relative ease if you’re not charging into turns like a mad man.
To be honest, these skills don’t even have to be practised on a motorcycle. You can even do it in the car, or on your bicycle for example.
Another big skill to have working for you to reach a high level on the track.
That being said, the biggest benefit that comes out of your ability to steer is improving how quickly you steer.
The trouble there is that it comes dangerously close to the areas I referenced up top, mainly for two reasons:
However, if you practise it sensibly and don’t use it as an excuse to start flying into every corner, I do think it could benefit you to practise this on the road. And like with the vision stuff I mentioned, it doesn’t have to be done at high speeds.
You can practise pushing on that inside bar a little harder than before, and taking note of how the bike reacts to that input.
If you really ARE pushing harder, the bike will lean into the corner quicker. Once you begin to understand and make use of this push to lean relationship, it starts paying dividends out there on the track.
Another steering drill you can try is that of going with the bike, not pushing it away from you.
As a result of sitting on the bike with straight arms on the road, when it comes to steering the bike a lot of riders will have a tendancy to push on the inside bar and push the bike away from themselves at the same time, leaving them a little crossed up.
What we really want is for your head and upper body to remain in same position on the bike (or moving to the inside if you’re going for a proper hang off position) as you steer the bike.
You can practise smoothly pushing on the inside bar, being mindful that you want your body to go with the bike. Not against it.
Personally I feel it’s unnecessary for every day riding, but whether you want to attempt a full-on hang off position on the road and getting your head and upper body way down and to the inside of the bike is entirely up to you.
However, what I would consider to be of bigger benefit is to work on your lower body position and building a nice stable base so you can work on getting those arms relaxed.
With your balls of your feet on the pegs and outside leg (at least) up against the tank, you can practise weighting the pegs and clamping the tank to really get a feel for what it’s like to have relaxed arms and a torso supported by your lower body.
Relaxed arms is absolutely what you want to have mid corner in order to free up the front end to do its job of properly of tracking the road.
Practising and getting a feel for what this is like is another thing that can translate straight back on the track.
Specifically, mid corner throttle control.
Being that we’ll be going a lot slower on the roads and that many of the roads you’ll be riding will have a lot of turns you’ll be in in for a considerable length of time, it’s the perfect place to practise good throttle control.
You can begin to practise getting back to the throttle as soon as you have finished your steering input and your bike is on the line you want.
Once you are on that line, you can crack the throttle and being a smooth, gradual roll on that you’ll carry through the corner until you exit it and can being accelerating harder.
This is another key skill of the track because it has a big bearing on the stability of your bike, and with it, traction.
If you absolutely must work on achieving higher lean angles because you want to try and break those barriers down, I can only recommend you try this off the public road in a car park or private area where you can work with medium radius turns, increasing lean angle bit by bit.
This is actually something that some schools do around the world to help riders break their current lean barriers.
Not in an attempt to make them faster, but to give them the confidence that they can lean the bike that bit farther if they should need to in an emergency.
However, for you as a track rider, if you can break those lean barriers away from the track it will undoubtedly pay dividends on it.
Just make sure you approach it sensibly!
Practise making turns at a high enough speed so you don’t feel like you’re going to tip right over, but slow enough that you don’t scare yourself and total the bike if you do fall off.
While not practical application, particularly in my early days of working to become a better rider I’ve found that steps can be made away from the track simply by learning about the art of riding properly.
While it still comes down to actually being able to put the stuff you’re learning into practise, just knowing what we should be doing, what’s ok to do, and what not to do, you can indeed have some ‘overnight’ progression from learning alone.
There are a lot of other little things you could practise too, but I feel the ones I’ve mentioned above are the ones that will have the biggest effect for you.
Once again, I am not advocating practising outright performance riding on the road. These skill translate to the track, yes, but from a safety standpoint they will also have big benefits on the road too.
Visual, steering and throttle skill, together with a rider that’s comfortable in taking their bike to higher lean angles come together to create a rider who can deal with and keep themselves out of many unwanted situations on the road.
The Brucey Bonus is that the stuff goes straight back onto the track, where it’s much safer to work on riding faster and faster.
But just like on the track, it takes discipline to actually work on this stuff away from it. Which in itself is something to practise getting better at if you want to see better results in your riding.
Photo By Eddy Clio
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