Someone once said “Education is important but lap times are importanter”, and I would totally agree, if you plan to make a career out of racing. For most of us it really doesn’t make a difference.
When we started Motovation Track Days we didn’t ever bother with a stop watch, we didn’t care if we were fast, hell we didn’t even care if people were lapping us as long as we were having fun. Somewhere down the line that changed into a testicle weighing contest of who could lap the circuit the quickest.
When people ask me what my best timed lap was, I usually shrug my shoulders and move on, not because I don’t want to tell them that a fat guy with 40kgs of extra weight just did the same time as them, on a slower bike but mostly because I don’t time myself to begin with. At the back of my head I am still replaying the 4th lap where I tried to stand up the bike but lost my rear and ended up with a manic slide that most probably looked epic from the pits but what most people don’t know is that I had to check twice because I thought I shat my pants.
My lap time doesn’t matter, what matter is if I can correctly analyse where I went wrong and take the necessary action to correct it in the next session.
People who chase lap times usually end up with extremely bad riding habits and a bad habit is usually hard to break. If you want to get faster, there is a tried and tested method and it has doesn’t have anything to do with pushing your limits but rather learning to work within them.
Mind over matter
Having a clear focused mind is vital to helping you achieve your goals. Getting faster is all about learning a new skill and then fine tuning it to perfection. Developing a new skill will require you to ride within your limitations, your focus should be on getting it right rather than building speed. This will help you understand the technique and give your brain the time it needs to process the new information.
Every time you set foot on the track for a session, your goal should be to work on a single area of your riding skills that needs specific improvement. If you’re unable to get a corner right, your singular goal for the session should be to keep at it until you are able to understand the line that suits your riding style best. Once you have that right, you can move on to the next area of improvement.
Memorise the track
The importance of memorising a track cannot be understated. When used to its full potential, the advantages are enormous. Identifying markers for your braking, corner entry, apex and exit will help you with points of reference when you are on the track. Replay the laps of the track in your head, this will help engrain the track layout and the markers you have chosen for your line.
Once you have set markers you can refine and fine tune them to become more efficient and reduce your lap times.
We all love pushing our limits on the track and all our senses are usually overloaded with the adrenaline rush. It is very easy to fall into the habit on focusing on what we are doing rather than what we want to do. Identifying reference points early will help you gauge your speed and will improve your steering and throttle accuracy.
Look where you want to go, imagine an archer staring down his target, that is what you will need on the track, singular focus on where you want to place the motorcycle rather than worrying about where the motorcycle is.
Find a line that works for you
The most common problems that riders face is being unable to understand which line they should be taking on the track. The truth is that there is no correct line. Different riding styles call for different lines. The easiest way to figure out what works for you is to start at the corner exit rather than at the entry. The exit is dependent on your apex and knowing your apex will help you decide your entry depending on varying factors such as your speed, braking point, and other riders on the track.
The consistency of your mid corner positon is what dictates your line on the track. Using your vision to consistently locate the late apex will help you run faster lines.
Smooth as a babies butt
Everyone knows that the smoother you are, the faster you are but very few actually follow it. While using the controls on your motorcycle might seem basic, fine tuning the application can go a long way in making you smoother. Grabbing your brakes too hard or being extremely aggressive with the throttle can rob you of traction and make the motorcycle unstable at the precise moment that we need maximum traction.
Braking at the limit
Braking on a track unlike a road has only one primary function – to set your speed for the corner. The maximum force on the brakes should be applied while the bike is upright, this reduces the risk of losing traction. As you enter the corner and increase your lean angle, braking pressure should be reduced progressively. This technique lets you set your speed much deeper in a corner while ensuring that your suspension and tires are not overwhelmed by the additional forces placed on them during cornering.
The quicker you turn, the faster you can take the corner. Sounds simple enough and the way you can get around doing it even simpler- Counter steering.
Apply pressure to the side of the handle bar you are turning and the bike will move in that direction. Want to move right, push the handle bar right, want to move left push it left. More pressure, quicker turn in. A lot of us do it subconsciously but once you make yourself aware of the effect, it makes your turn in much quicker. A few riders also use their footpegs to push down into a corner, this is however nowhere as effective as counter steering.
Get it up
The longer your throttle is open the faster your lap time and the easiest way to have your throttle open is to reduce the amount of time you have your bike leaned over. Standing your bike up reduces the lean angle, which in turn reduces the cornering forces acting on your suspension and tires, allowing you to exploit them further. Timing is key, too late and you will lose time, too early and you will run wide but get it right and you will be rewarded.
Having your throttle open will without doubt make your bike go faster but there are consequences to being overly enthusiastic with your throttle. Roll the throttle on too early and you will go wide, which will in turn force you to either roll off the throttle of brake in a place where you should be going flat out.
Patience and discipline is key. Wait for the precise moment to open your throttle so that you can get maximum drive out of a corner.
Wait to go faster… Makes sense?