Rid­ing Skills Se­ries

With­out good fun­da­men­tals, every other skill is just win­dow dress­ing

Sport Rider - - Front Page - PHOTO BY BRIAN J. NEL­SON BY MICHAEL GIL­BERT

There’s no re­place­ment for good fun­da­men­tals. It sounds sim­ple, but we’ve seen more and more rid­ers get­ting caught up in us­ing so many dif­fer­ent rider aids that they are be­com­ing dis­con­nected from ap­ply­ing their own tech­nique to get around the race­track. Sure, when used cor­rectly rider aids like trac­tion con­trol can be ad­van­ta­geous to achiev­ing a quicker and safer lap time (“Rid­ing With Trac­tion Con­trol,” Aug./ Sept. ’16), but they are in no way sup­posed to take the place of your core rid­ing skills.

Take a step back 15 or 20 years to when sport­bikes weren’t sold with any elec­tron­ics pack­ages at all, and think about rid­ing then. To go faster or be safer be­fore the age of elec­tron­ics, rid­ers (and rac­ers) had to de­pend on their rid­ing to do so, rather than the elec­tron­ics’ safety net. There were no such rider aids to make it “eas­ier”— it was all in the fun­da­men­tals. And it still is. To­day’s best rid­ers rely on their own skill— and spend count­less hours per­fect­ing it— rather than rider aids to help them around a race­track. The bet­ter the fun­da­men­tals you have, the fewer aids you’ll need.

What are those fun­da­men­tals? The sim­ple things like throt­tle con­trol, body po­si­tion, us­ing the en­gine rpm prop­erly (read: up­shift­ing and down­shift­ing), brak­ing, find­ing ref­er­ence points, and look­ing ahead to where you want to go. This short list has some of the very ba­sic skills you need to get around the race­track (slow or fast), so why not make them the best they can be?

As the sum­mer track­day sea­son ap­proaches, con­sider work­ing on those ba­sic fun­da­men­tal skills one at a time. At your next track­day, choose one or two skills you want to im­prove through­out the day— for ex­am­ple, keep­ing your eyes look­ing ahead— and stick to them. Throw any­thing like sus­pen­sion click­ers and TC set­tings out the win­dow and de­vote 100 per­cent of your fo­cus to the ar­eas of your rid­ing that you want to im­prove. Now, for­get about speed too; that will come later. Start each ses­sion with a goal, and prac­tice your tech­niques at a mod­er­ate pace— about 75 per­cent of your own abil­ity— be­cause that’s where your brain will have com­plete fo­cus on only ad­just­ing your tech­niques.

Spend at least a half day work­ing on one skill be­fore jump­ing to an­other; it takes a large num­ber of laps of do­ing some­thing new be­fore it be­comes nat­u­ral. For ex­am­ple, if you’re work­ing on keep­ing your eyes up, start the first ses­sion of the day with a goal of only look­ing as far ahead as pos­si­ble. Then each ses­sion fol­low­ing can be ded­i­cated to spe­cific ex­er­cises like us­ing your pe­riph­eral vi­sion to scan for ref­er­ence points rather than fix­at­ing on them or start­ing at the back of the pack and look­ing “through” rid­ers rather than di­rectly at them. If you stick to the plan, by the end of the day, those tech­niques and the core fun­da­men­tals will be more nat­u­ral than be­fore and you will be able to use your fo­cus else­where.

Stick­ing to the plan, though, is the hard part. You have to stay fo­cused, be dis­ci­plined, and only worry about you. As your buddy comes by urg­ing you to chase him, don’t fall for it! Keep your fo­cus on qual­ity track time rather than spin­ning laps with no pur­pose, and work on var­i­ous as­pects of the fun­da­men­tal tech­nique. Grad­u­ally bring speed into the equa­tion if you can, but keep to a pace that lets you con­cen­trate on the task at hand while still hit­ting your marks; head into the pits when you get tired rather than lose fo­cus or get dis­tracted. Re­mem­ber, it’s all about qual­ity laps.

Sooner or later what you are work­ing on will be­come sec­ond na­ture, and you will no longer have to fo­cus on it while rid­ing. Your fun­da­men­tals should be the most im­por­tant tools in your rid­ing tool­box no mat­ter where or when you ride. Spend enough time de­vel­op­ing them and the speed (read: quicker lap times) and con­sis­tency will fol­low. SR

RID­ING SKILLS SE­RIES

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