One of the biggest roadblocks to making improvements and going faster on the track is knowing just where you need to focus your efforts to make progress. Basically, finding out where your weaknesses lie.
When you’re riding around on your personal limit, you can often be left with a feeling of helplessness upon returning to the paddock because you just can’t see where you’re going to raise your speed and gain time.
In this article I want to talk about an avenue that can highlight your weaknesses to good effect, and how looking at the other riders around you could just be what you need to make that next step.
That’s a phrase I use a fair bit in my private training and coaching group – “collecting data”.
And no, I don’t just mean it in a sense of using data logging equipment. I mean it in a broader sense of looking at various sources to uncover areas in your riding that could be improved.
Just riding around all day without thinking about anything having spent zero time or effort studying riding or having put together a plan for improvement isn’t likely to get you the result you want.
However, having “data” in the form of a clear area you could improve and then planning to tackle that weakness is much more likely to result in progress.
For a new rider this could simply be learning about the sport itself and comparing what you’re doing to what you now know to be correct. When a rider knows how they should be braking, for instance, and they can see they’re doing something totally different, they have solid evidence that an improvement can be made, and where it should be made.
For more experienced riders who perhaps know, understand and can perform the fundamental skills to a good standard but still feel stuck, the other riders out there can be a perfect source of data for where you’re losing speed and time.
This point was highlighted in a big way in a recent article from Crash.net, where a few journalists spent time with Bradley Smith trackside during a MotoGP test early in the year. He said…
You guys wouldn’t believe the massive value you get from closely following someone quick for several laps… It really shows you where you need to work.
That’s also why you can see Yamaha filming through the final corner…. Later they can overlay the footage of their own riders with the others through that corner and see exactly where they gain or lose.
So here we have riders using other riders and teams as a gauge for where they could improve. Even the very best riders in the world don’t always know where they’re losing time just from riding laps on their own. They need hard data to give direction.
So what does this look like in practise, then?
Well if you’re pretty new to this track riding thing I would actually tell you not to focus too much on other riders for now.
Your priority should be to learn and apply the fundamentals of riding so that you can first reach a point of knowing what you should and shouldn’t be doing with the bike so that you’re riding in a safe and consistent way.
Pushing limits is something you’ll do naturally, but doing it while at the same time having a much better idea on what you should be doing out there is going to be an awful lot safer.
Once you have that solid fundamental base, however, you can start to spend a little more attention on those around you to uncover some places where you might be losing time.
This might mean looking at things like where the other rider is braking, how much time they gain on you from the braking point to your entry point, what their mid corner speed is and how much they’re pulling away from you at corner exit.
Once you have a solid place where you can see you’re losing out, bring it back into the context of your own riding to gauge if you could make the difference and reduce deficit.
If you can see they’re pulling away considerably at most corner exits for instance, ask what could you do differently to close the gap.
Could you alter your entry line to give yourself a better line at corner exit? Are you charging the corners which sends you wide, or maybe you’re a little too eager getting back to the throttle in the middle of the corner which has a similar effect?
Or maybe you just need to work to get to wide open throttle a little sooner, if all the other pieces are in place.
Obviously these are all hypotheticals, and you won’t always know right away what you need to change, but by looking at other riders and seeing where you’re losing time, at the very least you have a solid starting point to go deeper into to see if you can find a solution.
Don’t think you need to have all the answers yourself. Sometimes weaknesses can be highlighted by what the other riders around you are doing, so use them to good effect when you can and add it to you pool of data to help you keep progressing and moving forward.