What Can We Learn from MotoGP Riders, and Should We Copy them?

09 GP Alemania, circuito de Sachsenring, 9 a 12 de julio de 2015. MotoGP; mgp; motogp

They’re the best riders in the world, so surely we should be doing exactly what they’re doing, right?

Not necessarily.

In this article we’re going to go into what we can take away from the motorcycling elite to benefit us in our own riding, and why you shouldn’t really be looking to carbon copy exactly how they ride.

Copying Their Riding Technique

There is definitely something to be gained from studying their technique on a fundamental level, but there comes a point where going too deep into exactly what they’re doing and trying to mimic that could bring you issues.

For instance, watch any MotoGP rider and you’ll see that, as you would expect, they’re doing everything by the book on a fundamental level.

Things like how they’re initially applying the brakes, tapering them off into the corner, when they get back to the throttle and how they move their bodies from corner entry right through to corner exit.

Aside from a little variation between riders, these actions are textbook from the standpoint of giving the bike what it wants to be smooth and fast over a lap.

When you start to get a little deeper and more detailed with exactly what they’re doing, however, it’s not as easy to say whether that should be an approach you copy.

Technique Dictated by Machinery and Tyres

One massive reason why is because the machines and tyres they’re riding on are worlds away from what you and I will ever ride, and that much of the rider’s approach is dictated by that equipment in a substantial way.

This was highlighted a lot in the fantastic “How I Ride” series released by Motorsport Magazine, where they asked a number of different riders how they ride their machines and how that approach may have changed over the years.

What became immediately apparent is that not only does each rider have their own way in which they like to find speed around a lap, but that equipment changes can have a huge impact on their ability to do that.

One instance where this was evident across all the riders was when they talked about the changes they had to make to their riding style when moving from Bridgestone tyres to Michelin.

On the Bridgestones the front tyre in particular had massive grip, to the point where riders could be well over 55 degrees of lean and still be braking mind bogglingly hard.

With the Michelin’s it’s the opposite. The rear tyre is the strongest and the front was comparatively weak when the brand was first introduced, so riders had to stop trailing so much brake into the corner, and many riders now talk about getting all their braking done upright (they’re not, but I suspect they just mean all their hard braking).

The point is, 10 years ago you could look at riders in MotoGP and quite easily come to the conclusion that you need to trail a massive amount of braking effort into the corner to go fast, because that’s what the very best in the world were doing, when in truth it was merely the tyres that they’d been given that were allowing them to do that and it was the best way to make a fast lap.

Then there’s the differences between bikes. Jorge Lorenzo publicly said he didn’t use the rear brake on his Yamaha, a bike he won 3 championship titles on, but on the Ducati is was necessary to use a lot of rear brake to get the thing to turn in the early and middle part of the corner.

This shows once again that we can’t just point at a rider and say “he’s doing this and he’s fast, so it must be right”.

So What Can We Learn from MotoGP Riders?

Like I said, they’ll be doing the basic fundamentals completely by the book, so in that respect they serve as a good example of many of the things you would learn from any trusted teaching source.

However, one of the biggest lessons I get from watching them ride and listening to their comments is the level of nuance that comes from each rider in terms of their approach.

Here we have a bunch of riders that have the potential of winning races, but there are many visible differences to how they ride in terms of how they look on the bike and the approaches they take to each corner.

This in itself is a good lesson to take away because it should hopefully help you be a little more flexible with how you approach certain things, allowing you to stem confusion and get on with the job of being fast.

I also like to see how what they say stacks up against what I know about riding myself, whether that’s confirming something I feel to be true, or quashing a point I believe to be a myth.

Every now and again you’ll get these little gem comments where they get specific about what they’re doing, and these insights can be invaluable to help you understand if you yourself are thinking in the right way.

Then there’s just the satisfaction of getting the “low down” on how the best in the world go about their business. Something I personally find incredibly interesting.

So in the end there are a good few things we can pick up from what these riders are doing, and the best thing you can do is put that evidence or their comments in the context of your own riding to see if it stacks up how you think it should.

But always be wary that their skills and machinery are on an entirely different planet to yours, so it isn’t always going to be as simple as saying “Marc Marquez does this, so I must do it too”.

Photo by Box Repsol