Track Time

Six pro tips to im­prove your rid­ing on the street and track

Motorcyclist - - Contents - By matthew miles

when i was a kid, I played a lot of bas­ket­ball. My coaches stressed fun­da­men­tals. Long af­ter my last game, those cen­tral prin­ci­ples—“if you don’t have a good stance, you won’t have a good de­fen­sive slide” and many others—re­main etched in my brain. Ken Hill wants mo­tor­cy­clists to take a sim­i­lar ap­proach on two wheels. Hill is an in­struc­tor at the Yamaha Cham­pi­ons Rid­ing School. He is also a for­mer AMA Su­per­bike racer and cur­rently coun­sels Mo­toamer­ica race win­ners JD Beach, Valentin De­bise, and Jake Lewis, among others. Last sea­son, his rid­ers filled 31 of a pos­si­ble 45 podium po­si­tions. “If you Google ‘fun­da­men­tals of base­ball or foot­ball,’ you will find page af­ter page of peo­ple de­scrib­ing those fun­da­men­tals,” Hill told a re­cent Cham­p­day class, a less costly al­ter­na­tive to the two-day Champ­school. “Can any­one tell me the fun­da­men­tals of our sport, the things we do to get bet­ter?” Here are six tenets that Hill calls “the order of the sport.” 1. Bike Place­ment The fastest way around a race­track is wide-open throt­tle. We need to take ad­van­tage of ev­ery­thing the track has to of­fer so we can ac­cel­er­ate with­out giv­ing up throt­tle. The key is know­ing when we can ini­ti­ate that drive, when we can be at full throt­tle. Bike place­ment—when you have exit di­rec­tion—gets us to that point. Now, we have to start work­ing back­ward and look­ing at all the things (ad­just­ing brake pres­sure, cor­ner ra­dius, foot­peg pres­sure, etc.) that get us to that spot. That’s the rest of bike place­ment. 2. Vi­sion And Fo­cus Your eyes tell your brain the in­for­ma­tion that you need to make de­ci­sions. To feed your brain, your eyes have to move. The ear­lier you can see things, the more time and op­tions you have to de­ter­mine what is the best de­ci­sion to make for a spe­cific sit­u­a­tion. Be­ing more proac­tive gives you time to think about how you use the con­trols of the mo­tor­cy­cle. When your eyes are in play, your fo­cus comes into play. When your eyes are work­ing and you are es­tab­lish­ing and con­nect­ing those ref­er­ence points, your fo­cus be­comes much sharper.

3. Mo­tor Con­trols

We need to tell the mo­tor­cy­cle what to do, and we need to have a con­sis­tent, pre­dictable way of do­ing it. What we’re re­ally look­ing at are the first and last 5 per­cent of our in­puts—brakes, clutch, shift­ing, throt­tle. The first 5 per­cent sets you up for the up­com­ing sit­u­a­tion. The last 5 per­cent is the pre­cise, fine ad­just­ment for that sit­u­a­tion. Those are pretty much go­ing to stay the same. The 90 per­cent in be­tween is what al­lows us to ad­just for dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions.

4. Brakes

Brak­ing straight up and down is done for speed con­trol. As you turn in to the cor­ner, the brakes are used for di­rec­tion con­trol. It’s not where we go to the brakes that’s im­por­tant; it’s where we re­lease the brakes. The first 5 per­cent of your brak­ing al­lows you to ad­just for cor­ner ra­dius. The last 5 per­cent guar­an­tees that po­si­tion. The mid­dle 90 per­cent changes based on cor­ner ra­dius. Short ra­dius cor­ner? More brake pres­sure sooner in a shorter pe­riod of time. Longer ra­dius cor­ner? Less brake pres­sure for a longer pe­riod of time.

5. Turn-in Rate And Turn-in Point

If you’re cov­er­ing the same dis­tance in less time, your ac­tions have to start ear­lier. The bike has to be turned in—the place on the track where you take the bike off cen­ter—ear­lier, as well. As you go quicker, your turn-in rate—the speed at which the bike turns enough to match the ra­dius of the cor­ner—has to be quicker so you can get to that same exit di­rec­tion. In­stead of think­ing speed, think time: The faster you go, the ear­lier ev­ery­thing has to hap­pen.

6. Body Po­si­tion And Body Tim­ing

Why do the best rid­ers in the world hang off their mo­tor­cy­cles? Be­cause they can run less lean an­gle at a given speed or, if they hang off more, then can run even more speed at the same lean an­gle. If you’re sit­ting in the mid­dle of the seat, you’re telling the bike to go straight. When you move, you’re telling the bike where to go. Body tim­ing is putting your body in the right po­si­tion at the right time to get the bike to do what you want it to do.

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