Where Should You Focus to Improve Your Riding? Uncovering Weak Areas

Photo by Smudge 9000

In the previous article I spoke about how we can put ourselves in the best position to get results when it’s time to focus on rider development.

The key to the whole thing was that we need to work with specifics that cause us to focus on the correct things in the correct way in order to get the result we want.

One of those specifics is finding the weaker parts of your riding that are holding you back so you know which areas to focus your development efforts on, and that’s what I want to help you uncover in this piece.

First… You Have to Learn

Whether it’s from a book, riding school or other trusted source, you need to spend the time to actually learn the correct way to go about this stuff.

It’s impossible to know where you’re doing things wrong if you don’t know what right is.

I believe we have enough opportunities to learn and sources to learn from to develop a solid understanding of the fundamentals of riding through our own study.

Once you start spending the time learning what we should really be doing you’ll start to see where you’ve been going wrong, and you can then get yourself closer to what is correct.

Finding Weaknesses in Fundamentals

If you’re at the stage where you don’t feel you have a correct grasp of the fundamentals then that is where I believe newcomers should focus.

I feel that it’s much safer to be able to display a decent level of technique without any glaring errors before attempting to add significant speed to the equation.

I would consider a good grasp of the fundamentals to be things like the following:

  • Correct braking structure - Using a substantial amount of braking, getting there quickly and tapering off as you reach the turn point/corner.
  • Knowing largely where we should be looking and when.
  • Having confidence in steering the bike with minimal steering corrections throughout a corner.
  • Smooth throttle control from mid corner out to exit without multiple changes in roll-on rate.
  • Being comfortable, lack of tightness on the bars and not excessively crossed-up on the bike.
  • Being able to consistently hit the spots you want to hit.

Basically it’s the things that give the bike what it wants, making for a more stable machine and increasing the safety margins in your riding, as well as laying the proper foundations to search for more speed as you move forward.

If you’re spending time learning about these things and you can see that you’re not achieving something close to ideal, that’s where you need to focus.

These things are fairly easy to develop because they aren’t majorly pushing any barriers, they’re tightening up how you control the bike and move around on it.

Finding Weaknesses in Your Application

If you feel you have a good grasp on the fundamentals but you still feel stuck and unsure where to focus, it’s likely because you’re struggling to improve the degree in which you apply them.

By that I mean things like:

  • Using more braking potential.
  • Getting comfortable with high lean angles.
  • Being able to steer quicker to reach those lean angles in less time (where it applies).
  • Better using the body to offset lean angle.
  • Using more throttle exiting the corners.
  • Making use of more of the available track space.
  • Executing a solid visual routine throughout the lap.

With the riders I deal with this is where I feel people get stuck the most and where improvement is most tricky.

It’s tricky because for a lot of those points it means going to a level or place you’ve never been before, and you know that doing so will take you closer to the limits of grip.

Your best indicators are those around you reaching higher levels on similar machinery and rubber. That said, I think any learning rider that knows anything of sports bikes knows that the performance ceiling sits much higher than where they currently do.

From there it’s a case of trusting your technique and then slowly working to improve in each of these areas with a sensible approach.

Drilling Down to Find the Problem and Solution

It comes down to asking the right questions.

After a ride, ask yourself where you feel you’re losing speed and time. When you can pinpoint a place you’d like to improve, review your current approach and see if you can set a new plan to improve it.

Example of Drilling Down to Find the Weakness

Let’s assume we have a rider that is struggling at corner entry and steering. Here’s the type of internal dialogue you might go through to get specific on a solution…

  • What problem am I having at the exit?
  • I always feel like I can’t get on the throttle as early as I want to.
  • Why do I feel I can’t accelerate after the apex?
  • I always feel like I’m running wide.
  • What options do I have for opening up the exit?
  • I could steer at a later point at corner entry

What you’re able to do is drill down into what you ARE doing, which is a lot easier to change than what you aren’t doing.

Now you have a solid solution to try and fix the problem you’re having - Change the point at which you steer for the corner.

Sometimes the weaker area might not be something that is so easily changed, and like I said that’s when it gets tricky.

If you can see that other riders are simply driving off the turns harder that you, it could be because you’re turning in too early and restricting your exit, but it could also be that they have more confidence to drive harder because they have a greater belief in their available grip.

If the latter is the problem it’s simply a case of incrementally working to use more throttle as you stand the bike back up. Difficult to do, but not impossible, and at least you now know what plan you should put in place to improve.

'This All Seems Really Hard'

Laid out like this I can totally understand how it may all seem too overwhelming. Especially if you’re completely new.

This is one of the reasons why skilled coaching services and schools are regarded as highly as they are (and rightly so). They show where you’re weak and how you should go about improving in that area. Obviously you still need to practice, but they give you one massive shortcut to the problem and solution.

But actually once you really begin to understand what makes a fast rider fast, it isn’t too difficult to reach a point where you can make your own deductions about where you should focus and put your own plans in place to improve.

If you're being receptive to what's happening out on track by leaving yourself enough brain space to notice it, you can most definitely work through problems to good effect.