GETTING TO GRIPS WITH CORNERS...
To help you get the most out of your cornering and feel more confident in the process, there’s no better or safer classroom than a track.
If you are like me, every bend in the road is reason enough for a joyful celebration. Cornering on a motorcycle has yet to be acknowledged as an art form, but those of us who are enamoured with it unashamedly know where our hearts lie: increasing, decreasing, and constant-radius turns. Throw in a camber change or two then add some elevation, a few esses, just enough straight bits between them, and you have the makings of pure, unadulterated ecstasy of motion.
Those who know realize I’ve just described any one of dozens of road-course racing facilities that are commonly available to riders across America through a wide variety of trackday providers and riding schools. Back in the 70s there was no such thing as a trackday, and that became a problem for me when I began putting together the original curriculum for the Superbike School.
As I shopped around the idea of track time for non-racers it became apparent that not one person in the industry knew what I was talking about. My proposals were met with blank looks and, ‘Why would you put a bike underneath any old street rider and send them out to ride on a racetrack? Son, don’t you know that racetracks are for racing?’
Steeped in the cherished mantra of manufacturers – ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ – it was the prevailing mind-set of the time. That is what tracks were all about. Even then, the economic reality of that wisdom was losing ground and has become less and less of an industry strategy over the years.
Riders today know the value of what track riding offers. Back then however, I lost count of the number of times I had to drive home the advantages or point out the merits of no cars, no cops, no speed limit, no intersections, and no distractions. Finally, it began to sink in and we were on our way – opening up tracks across America to road riders.
Considering that was 37 years ago, it was still a big surprise to note that we had put on track school events at 56 different facilities in the US.
For those who have yet to be baptised in track-based riding, the only advice I’d have is: Do it. There are many trackday providers nationwide in the UK. Find out your local providers. Look into their safety records
THINK OF ANY TRACK AS IF IT WERE A FUN SECTION OF YOUR FAVOURITE ROAD.
and procedures by going to online forums and asking questions. Most often there is a three-group format, dividing riders into categories of experience based on lap times.
A key point to find out is how many riders will be out on track with you. Obviously, the fewer other people around when you’re riding the better. My own standard is a maximum of 21 students on track, fewer at shorter tracks, but there is no set number that’s best. Trackdays typically have a higher number than schools.
One more piece of knowledge might help you to make that leap: You can do trackdays on any style of bike. A sportbike is not required to reap all the benefits of track riding or rider training. Cruisers (some, not all – check with your local provider), touring bikes, dual-sports, sport-touring machines, and of course sportbikes are all acceptable for the track.
Think of any track as if it were a fun and challenging two to three mile section of your favourite road. Imagine doubling its width and taking away the centrelines so you can ride it shoulder to shoulder. Add one or two straight sections between its eight to 15 corners and loop it so you can ride the same section over and over again. This is cornering bliss.
Even without professional instruction, the ability to focus exclusively on your own riding, rather than the mental juggling we must do with the usual distractions and dangers present on any public road, will bring about a renewed appreciation for all of your riding.