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Keith Code

Lines

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Riders crash on both roads and tracks. More often than not it is a single vehicle accident that is explained as "loss of control". That means the rider concocted his very own set of circumstances that led to the crash. From a technical perspective, citing "loss of control" is about as useful as teats on a bull. There is always an inciting cause for the incident and it isn't always obvious.

 

You can't put yourself in the rider's place to know which of the eight Survival Reactions (fear induced panic responses) were at work in a crash. Only the rider can tell you that. But, looking at one component that can be discovered helps. The most obvious component of riding is the space the rider used to negotiate the bend, in common speak it is his line. Accident reconstruction guys can figure this out.

 

While there are many choices in lines both for safety and for speed but not everyone who rides is adept in the fine art of choosing a line and it is an art. Compared to the street, track riding is more forgiving. A track may be 35 to 45 feet wide whereas your ½ slice of a two lane road could be as little as 8 feet. In that case, an error in line judgment on the road is roughly five times more critical than on a race track.

 

Your turn entry position, mid-corner and exit all have roughly 1/5th the margin for error. In other words, your line must be five times more precise, as a one foot error is equivalent to a five foot error on the track. One more point: if you couldn't get your lines under control on a track, it would be hopeless to think you could do it on the road. From a coaching perspective, 5 to 10 foot errors in lines on a track are interesting. While we know how to sort them out, you do wonder how they have survived thus far on the street.

 

A case can be drawn for either the entry, apex or the exit being the key element in cornering. Get your exit right and all is well. Get your mid corner or apex spot on the money and you are golden. It can also be argued that a right choice on turn entry influences the outcome of both the others. All are true to a greater or lesser degree. But which one of them do riders struggle with the most? Their turn entry position and there are a number of pressing reasons for it.

 

Consider a corner's three main divisions: entry, middle and exit. Which of them seems the busiest to you? In my surveying of thousands of riders "entry" wins hands down as the most critical portion of the turn. Having the corner's entry under control generally gives riders a breath of confidence. Getting entries wrong tends to start one off on high alert, possibly mild or more panic and is a definite distraction, mainly because the moment to correct the line passes too quickly. Choices in line are rapidly eliminated; what apex and exit can be achieved past that point is more luck than skill. Control inputs, too, become haphazard and often misguided like an untimely grab of the brake or throttle chops and steering corrections, possibly all three in a really dire circumstance.

 

Are there solutions to perfecting lines? Many will tell you it's all about visual skills like picking reference points and looking ahead; that it can't be done on unfamiliar roads; that you have to be smooth, or, just slow down. This is good "advice" and when I began training riders 34 years ago that's all there was. Now, experience tells me, you may have other problems that good advice won't cure. Oddly enough, over those 34 years I've come up with 34 technical riding skills, drills and correction points and each of them has some bearing on lines. Which one will solve lines for you?

 

Once again, here is my pitch: get out to the track and make your mistakes; get coached; get trained. Whatever speed you go is irrelevant. Once you are running consistent lines, within 1 to 3 feet, you will be doing way more right than X things wrong and your chances of surviving spirited street riding will soar.

 

©Keith Code, 2011.

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Good read! I definitely agree upon the corner entry being the most critical, both setting the speed and finding the correct line. I like to think I'm reasonably good at this, which may explain why I'm considerably faster than my mates on a totally unfamiliar winding road or that my speed improves very little from my first flying lap to that after 30 minutes of circulation. So I like to think I'm decent reading the road and getting close to my limits, but poor at pushing those same limits, allowing me to improve.

 

When it comes to finding "my" corner entrance, I find that being on the brakes until about the apex makes me more comfortable and relaxed. However, my current street bike doesn't allow this comfortably, forcing me to set my entrance speed early. This again has forced me to slow down somewhat in order to prevent SR from intruding. Being on the brakes has worked as a comforting crutch for me, and I miss it. However, I'm positive my current bike will teach me to manage without a crutch provided I build up speed slowly without causing major SR to disturb my concentration.

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I scared myself on a corner today. I was rushing to the dentist--grabbing a cancelled appointment. When I came to a sweeping turn onto a side street, I was only going about 5 mph faster than normal and nowhere near the bike's lean limits. I turned in, finally looked up and said, "Man am I going fast. I'll never get it turned." From Keith's book, I knew this was a survival reaction, but what did I really do wrong?

 

Honestly, I wasn't really watching where I was going. My vision was low, and my body was out of position for the turn. From reading "Twist 2," I knew enough to look for the exit and turn the darned bike, but almost any visual technique would have worked better than gazing vaguely forward.

 

I thought about this some more as I was driving my car this evening. If you get scared in a car, you can push yourself "away" from the danger and still steer the vehicle. You can turn a steering wheel with you arms straight. If you get scared and push away from a motorcycle's handle bars, you can't steer the bike. To steer a bike, and make it lean, you must bend your arms and actually push and pull on those grips. It works a lot better when you see the turn coming and make sure you're ready.

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As a first responder for the last 15 years, in a prime motorcycle riding area, I unfortunately have LOTS of experience with single-vehicle motorcycle crashes.

 

In my experience, SR's and target fixation are at the top of the list for causation, as the VAST majority of riders who crash entered the turn traveling a speed at which the motorcycle was capable of negotiating the curve. Most riders who crash (single vehicle on the street)attempt to reduce speed or stop, and depart the roadway to the outside of the turn before they go down. A significant number of cruiser riders who go down on the road lock the rear brake before falling. Rear brake stomping is less common with sportbike riders, but front brake crashes are relatively uncommon. It's much more likely that they will target fixate, and run off the road while braking and then fall down when they leave the pavement. Interestingly, crashes due to road condition (gravel, sand, etc.) are not really that common.

 

So what can we learn from this: As Keith notes, getting on the track and getting some coaching pays huge dividends in safety on the road. In my experience most riders crash because they enter a turn at a speed they perceive to be too fast, and SR's, target fixation, and a lack of skill cause them to panic. Track time will teach you that most modern sportbikes are capable of entering a turn at a speed that would cause heart failure for most riders; but knowing this can keep you from panicking.

 

The above is anecdotal, but based on 15 years of picking up the pieces (and sometimes the bodies), 5 years of serious track riding/racing and 3 Superbike schools (plus a couple of Keith's competitors'schools that I won't mention!).

 

Push it on the track, not the street!

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After taking 6 CSS schools I have found a new respect for high speed public road riding. First, I don't trust any unfamiliar curve here in West Virginia.Gravel,deer and truck farmers tend to ruin one's day. Second, after attending the CSS schools at four different tracks in the east, I cannot understand how anyone can anticipate where the entry and apex points are on a strange road! How can you know where that apex is if you've never been there? It is not exciting for me to find an apex hugging a double yellow line. I quickly become humbled. My experience with Keith's schools have been invaluable to me as a 45 year road rider, whether upon my Harley or ZX12R, and I definitely feel the training has made me smarter and wiser.

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I cannot understand how anyone can anticipate where the entry and apex points are on a strange road! How can you know where that apex is if you've never been there?

 

I think this is why I prefer to be on the brakes and also why my apex speed is generally the lowest between entrance and exit. When you trail brake deep, you have the option to ease the brakes early if you see that the corner is more open than first anticipated. Conversely, if the corner is tighter, you can brake a bit harder to get the speed down and safely hit the apex. Sitting on the brakes also means that you can brake a bit harder to tighten the line to avoid a patch of sand or a big bump etc. quickly - or even stop - since you do not have to alter the stance of the bike; if you're already gently accelerating when you learn you must slow/stop it takes a lot of distance to get the front loaded again.

 

There are plenty of very good reasons why you want to set your cornering speed early, but IMHO it invariably makes you slower - for the same level of safety - on an unfamiliar road, particularly one infested with blind corners. Still, my main priority at the moment is to increase my smoothness and enhance my survival rate, which is why riding smoother and within my comfort zone is the route I have chosen. So be it that I'm no longer the first to arrive at the other end - at least I'm pretty confident I will arrive. Eventually :D

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Very nice Article... Thought inducing, to say the least!!

 

My question is, there are 15 main drills taught at the school.

 

How can I practice the other 19 if I don't know what to work on??? (Referring to your 34 points / drills)

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Having done CSS Levels One and Two, the most valuable lesson I brought with me from CSS is " DON"T PANIC!"

At every given speed, line, corner entry, straight line, most of us are never near the limits of what the bike can do. However WE do make mistakes. How we react to the situation at hand determines the outcome. I've make many mistakes on track, going at high speeds, yet my worst outcome was just running off the track. Where as many other riders lowside, highside, wipe out, hit other riders. On the track, having the run off room, I choose to stand up my bike instead of grabbing the brakes, chopping the throttle, or anything else that could upset my bike at full lean. On the street I just slow my pace down. In the canyons, I usually do a slow run to check the conditions for gravel, leaves, etc. Then I turn around and run it again at a faster but not race track pace.

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I use front brakes exclusively on the ZX12 while establishing a line at my turning point into an unknown corner but until I'm quite certain as to the location of the apex I'm real hesitant about ' twisting the wrist' to get decent exit speed. When I'm assured of the PUBLIC road condition after that apex is secured I don't mind getting into the power. There are too many variables to consider on public roads to get carried away with the power available on modern sport bikes. I have a 1978 Triumph cafe bike that is a hoot to drive on the somewhat miserable West Virginia secondary roads. I have enough power to get me around but not enough power to get me in trouble. And besides the power issue has to be taken in comparison to the lack of decent braking and fork response in the Triumph Bonneville cafe bike. Careful!

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Having done CSS Levels One and Two, the most valuable lesson I brought with me from CSS is " DON"T PANIC!"

 

 

The brain works better if you tell it to STAY CALM as it will ignore the "don't" and register "panic!"

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I cannot understand how anyone can anticipate where the entry and apex points are on a strange road! How can you know where that apex is if you've never been there?

 

I think this is why I prefer to be on the brakes and also why my apex speed is generally the lowest between entrance and exit. When you trail brake deep, you have the option to ease the brakes early if you see that the corner is more open than first anticipated. Conversely, if the corner is tighter, you can brake a bit harder to get the speed down and safely hit the apex. Sitting on the brakes also means that you can brake a bit harder to tighten the line to avoid a patch of sand or a big bump etc. quickly - or even stop - since you do not have to alter the stance of the bike; if you're already gently accelerating when you learn you must slow/stop it takes a lot of distance to get the front loaded again.

 

There are plenty of very good reasons why you want to set your cornering speed early, but IMHO it invariably makes you slower - for the same level of safety - on an unfamiliar road, particularly one infested with blind corners. Still, my main priority at the moment is to increase my smoothness and enhance my survival rate, which is why riding smoother and within my comfort zone is the route I have chosen. So be it that I'm no longer the first to arrive at the other end - at least I'm pretty confident I will arrive. Eventually :D

 

I've recently started making up turn points in unfamiliar corners (I've been comfortable apexing on the street for quite some time), and am loving it. It's rarely the ideal line, but it gives me a point to reference to make my turn. I have found that I'm inevitably faster and smoother. Not perfect, but it gets me around the corners better and with work will improve.

 

Some knowledge from TOTW 2 that got me to start doing this.

 

Pg 81 WHERE TO TURN:

 

"Do you choose a turn-point each time you approach a curve? You should. Where do you start to turn if you don't have a turn-point? Usually, where your SR's force you to."

 

"Without a selected turn-point, you are leaving it up to the 'winds of fate' to determine t turn-entry point."

 

"Everyone has a turn-point: whether they consciously selected it or not is the key. A predetermined turn entry point is one of the most important decisions you make."

 

Of course, there are still common errors made by choosing the wrong entry point, but so many things are solved by picking something, anything, as a point. The key is to learn to pick more appropriate lines. That takes work, but we can't improve if we don't start working on it. There are 11 things listed that are affected by the decision to choose a turn-point. The first 5 concerns are taken away when the turn-point alone is selected.

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I should have added that I invariably think about tight corners, usually blind, in this context, and my replies will be written accordingly. The more the road opens up, both regarding to the speed potential and visibility, things alter in favour of picking apex points earlier. It's just that I prefer hairpin corners over any other type and the higher the possible cornering speed, the less interesting I generally find them.

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Absolutely where I'm at right now. Thanks Coach

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