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