Looking back at my time and progress coming through the track day ranks, I’d categorise my personal rise through them as nothing more than steady.
In my earlier years my feelings were very strong that I was not making progress as quick as I should be.
I would guess this came from comparing myself to those around me, but also a big (and quite ridiculous) yardstick was how long it was taking me to reach my first knee down, something that felt like centuries to finally achieve.
But as I got more experienced and then moved into trying to help others in their efforts, I came to realise that my steady, at times frustrating progress was actually very typical.
There will always be people that venture into track days and go very fast (relatively) very quickly in a short space time – though they’ll tend to have mishaps more often and crash more frequently too.
Outside of these riders that manage to turn the ‘fear of crashing switch’ off and just go for it, typically rider’s progress will be steady and incremental.
The trouble with this is that this type of progress is also met with a good helping of impatience.
By that I mean the feeling that you’re just not coming on as quick as you’d like, or that you’ve stagnated at a certain level altogether to the point where it makes you unhappy.
Here I wanted to go over a few points that I hope will help you see that what you’re possibly experiencing is actually very normal, but also cover some reasons as to why your progress may not be as fast as you want it to be.
It’s Probably Not Outright Skill
There could be a whole host of reasons why someone may be faster than you, and if you’re a rider who is taking the time to learn proper track craft it’s probably not outright skill.
At track day level, even if you know the rights and wrongs of track riding and can perform them with a decent level of competence, someone with fair less competence could still come along and blast past you simply because they have the confidence to brake later, run more speed into the corner and get on the power earlier.
Their technique could be sloppy as hell, but doing those things the way they do will ultimately mean they go quicker.
That doesn’t make them a ‘better’ rider than you, it just means they’ve been able to use more of the bikes potential in the places that translate directly into faster lap times.
Not Enough Track Days
This point isn’t even specific to track days. If you’re not getting regular practice at something progress is going to be slow, if there is any progress at all.
To confess, I am what Jeremy Clarkson might call a recreational golfist. As such I casually play a few times a year, very rarely go to the driving range and as such get around a course in the sort of score you would expect.
Every time I approach the first tee on a new round I’m hopeful that I’m going to see improvements, but apart from a few uncharacteristically good days I get around in the much the same score as I have for the past 5 years or so.
The truth is I just don’t play or practice enough to ever get substantially better.
Performance riding is no different. If you’re only doing 2-3 track days a year it’s unreasonable to expect huge leaps in speed and proficiency.
In fact I experienced this very problem only a couple of years ago when for two years straight I only managed 2 track days a year (houses are expensive and take all your money, kids!)
Sure enough my progress halted.
Knowledge is valuable, but it does very little for your progress if you physically cannot practice it.
Plateaus are Normal
Even if you do manage to get out more frequently, there will still inevitably come a point when you experience a plateau.
This is completely normal, in any sport. Athletes will often experience periods of stagnation and feelings that they’re stuck.
The good news I have for you here is that with continued practice these periods of stagnation will eventually be met by a surprising leap forward in performance.
It’s difficult to explain because it could come from anywhere, but it’s as if something clicks and all of a sudden you can perform that much better.
It could be from understanding an aspect of riding a little deeper, or simply gaining the confidence from somewhere or someone to go past a previous limit.
Eventually, you WILL see significant improvement.
Have a Little Patience
It’s difficult. Trust me, I know.
You want to lean that bit more but your brain stops you. You want to get that knee down for the first time, or more regularly.
You want to not roll off 3 miles away from the corner and coast all the way up to it, and then have that feeling of “I could have gone in so much faster”.
Basically you want to be a much better rider and you want it now. Unfortunately for us safety conscious methodical riders, it doesn’t really happen like that.
The truth is it takes time and continued practice to get where you want to be, and with it, the results that you want will absolutely come.
I appreciate that this doesn’t really help you get to where you want to go any sooner, but recognising these traits and accepting them is a good first step to setting yourself up for progress.
Not only that but hopefully it means you cut yourself a little slack when you see a rider you want to ride with pulling away, or the lap timer not showing you the numbers you want, ultimately meaning less time feeling crap.
Because if none of this is fun, what’s the point?
Photo by DavidHNZ