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Keith Code

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  1. Keith Code

    Speed and Direction

    Speed and Direction When riders say they would like to increase their confidence and control, what do they mean? Aside from pleasing the eye and entertaining discussions about them, all motorcycles have the same six controls–throttle, front brake, rear brake, clutch, gear lever and handle bars. Those six controls are how we change or maintain the speed and the direction of the bike. And, that is all they do and it is all you do while riding. Good control amounts to correctly choosing where and how much you change the speed and direction of the bike. Likewise, any and all decisions you make are based on changing or maintaining speed and direction. The bike is more than likely capable of performing well but in those moments of confidence shattering doubt, the rider isn’t. All dramatic situations on any motorcycle have been and always will be based on the rider's inability to correctly change or maintain its speed or direction. Aside from mechanical failures there are no other "situations". Someone could argue that point: “What about hitting an on or off ramp diesel spill; that doesn’t fit the maxim above?” I’d have to agree. However, the majority of motorcycle accidents these days are single vehicle, loss of control in a corner, crashes–not ones which no one can control. Speed and direction changes can be limited by the individual machine's controllability factors. Its handling of the road's surface and potential for stability are based on its suspension and frame configuration; its throttle response; gearing and braking characteristics and the tires' compatibility with all of the above plus electronic intervention that can alter your direct control over them such as ABS and traction control. Problems in controllability aren't bad. They are the road signs which have lead designers and engineers towards machine improvement from the beginning. For example, it hardly matters whether suspension was first conceived to achieve better traction on bumpy roads or to provide a smoother ride to eliminate the need for kidney belts. Both were situations that caused problems. Suspension did result in a whole new range of potentials for controlling speed and direction and a significantly more hospitable machine for rider comfort. Any rider's true skill level can only be measured by his ability to determine exactly WHERE to change or maintain speed and direction and execute the right AMOUNT of each. There are no other components to skill. While riding, the combinations of speed and direction inputs result in arriving somewhere: for example staying in your lane or using a late apex to handle a decreasing radius corner. Confidence is achieved when the rider is certain that the machine is going in the right direction and will arrive at a predictable location, at the right speed. You might need to be stopped or to swerve before hitting a car which pulled out, or it could be exiting the banking at Daytona wide open at the top of 6th gear doing 175 mph pointed down the straight––not at the wall. It makes no difference, both are determined by where and how much the rider changed or maintained their speed and direction. The ability of a rider to determine speed and direction changes relies solely on the amount of space they have to work with. This is the determining factor for where to change and how much to change them. Judgment could be defined as: fitting the right degree of speed and/or direction change into the amount of available space in order to arrive or not arrive (like missing a pot hole) somewhere. This leads us into the area of the rider’s visual aptitude. On a practical level, always having a destination plotted out in front is wise. The five faults that stand in your way are target fixating on something, compulsive over-scanning, tunneled vision, looking too close or too far ahead. Your visual skill is based on how many of those five are absent– anytime and anywhere you ride. Becoming aware of the five and gaining control over them WILL lead to improvement.
  2. Rider Improvement What There Is to Learn I’d like to point out some things about riders and rider training. Below is a list of six categories of riders and how they regard the idea of training and rider improvement. The next section covers the results; the kinds of things we look for and you should expect from rider training. The Six Categories of Riders 1. Ones that have tried to improve, failed at it and lost interest. They're basically locked-up on the whole subject of rider improvement–they don't want to know about it. 2. Riders that say there is nothing to learn. This category of rider often says that seat time will handle it. They'll change the subject or politely dismiss what you have to say about training. 3. Those that actively speak against training. ‘Hey, you just get on the bike and do it. I don't crash, what is there to learn...don't waste your money on a school buy a nice pipe instead. Schools suck.’ These guys are foolishly antagonistic. 4. Those that have a vague desire to improve but lack information about how to. They have a want but it goes unfulfilled. For one reason or another, this rider just doesn't take the next step. They HOPE it will get better. 5. Those that become interested in learning more. They will talk about improvement. They will listen to advice but still remain passive. This might be the most dangerous of all the categories because this rider will listen to just about anything. They might hear, ‘you don't know how fast you can go until you crash’, and actually try it! 6. Riders who do something to improve. Here you find the rider who reads articles, goes to track days in search of answers or comes to a school. They make a commitment to improve and take definite steps to do it. Most riders are in one of the above categories on the subject of rider improvement. What There is to Learn It's no secret that I am in the business of training riders. I do it because I know it works and over the past 39 years of doing it I've noticed a few things about riders who take the plunge to improve. The following is what we have observed in our students. Once a rider is trained, they begin to handle cornering problems and situations on their own. They understand and make sensible corrections that actually correct. Riders who are trained can read the feedback the bike is giving them easier than those who are not trained. They can identify and communicate to someone what the bike is doing. Trained riders can spot what is wrong in their riding and tend to not make the same mistakes over and over. Also, training brings about control over the "knee jerk" reactions that cause riders to make dangerous errors. Riders who are trained have a solid foundation of skills and the knowledge and certainty that their riding won't get worse. They can still make mistakes but it doesn't defeat them. Additionally, trained riders can actually offer constructive help to others who want to improve. If a rider is turning in too early or too late, has poor throttle control or is rushing the corners and making it worse, the trained rider can spot it. Riders who look uncomfortable are uncomfortable. Trained riders look as though they are more a part of the bike. And as a bonus, racing fans gain an appreciation and an even greater respect for what professional riders can do because they can see what the pro is doing and why. My riding instructors are trained to observe these points and the really amazing thing is we see changes like these in every student. What we Know Confidence comes from knowing that the bike will do what you want it to do when you want it to do it. Once a rider improves, and knows why and what they have improved, it opens the door to virtually unlimited improvement. Knee-jerk reactions only happen to riders when they don't have the right skill or technique for the situation at hand. Training strips away confusions and complexities. When riding feels simple, control is simple. When control is simple any rider has confidence. Effort or Training Truly enthusiastic riders do have the urge to improve. Unfortunately, a great many of them waste their riding time and their money hoping that seat time will handle it. That doesn't mean they aren't going to improve, it means that it will take longer, cost more and the results will be sketchy. Most likely there will be a lot of misguided effort involved. Which is likely to be most effective, rider training or simply trying harder? Will experience alone sweep away those uncertainties? Will more emotional effort get you the level of control you want? Training and expert coaching are what we offer and it works. Keith Code PS: Our 2019 schedule is at <www.superbikeschool.com>, log on, sign up and I'll see you at the track. © CSS, Inc., 2018, all rights reserved
  3. Keith Code

    Roadracing World Interview

    This interview with me appeared in the April issue of Roadracing World magazine. I thought you might like to see it. John Ulrich was kind enough to give me a PDF version of the interview for you to read. http://superbikeschool.com/files/code-rw-interview.pdf The file is 600K and requires Acrobat Reader 5 or newer to view it.
  4. Keith Code

    Traction Science

    Traction Science Traction limits are hard to reckon for most riders but there are some things to know about it. Traction results from a brew of chemicals the rubber is compounded with, how cleverly the carcass is constructed and shaped, proper inflation, enough tread depth, and maintaining the tire within its optimum temperature range, which varies with different rubber compounds. Heat up a mounted tire to its operating temperature, tilt it over to 45 degrees and apply ever increasing pressure on it. At some point the tire will slip; that amount of load is 101% of the tire's static grip limit. In motion, achieving maximum traction is quite different. As the tire grips it wears. What 'wears out' are the various chemicals, oils, waxes and pigments which bind together the rubber. Abrasion and heat 'cook' them off. You've noticed the bluish-purplish color of a tire from hard cornering, it's called 'blooming'. That is the residue from the chemicals which have been leached out of the tire from heat. It takes very little abrasion to wear it off, maybe a lap. The oily parts—in sufficient quantity to maintain the rubber's flexible and compliant character—support its ability to mate with the road's surface. When they 'cook off', the tire becomes dry and slippery, like dead skin peeling off a sunburn. That sun-cooked layer must be cleaned off to expose fresh skin, or, in this case, fresh rubber. Cleaning it off requires abrasion. The amount of abrasion needed is provided by tire slippage. Tire engineers agree that roughly 15% longitudinal slippage maintains friction value peaks which includes maintaining peak operating temperature. You'd be mistaken to think this 'slippage' is a 'slide': in a corner, the bike is holding its line. It is what is needed to achieve peak traction; considerably less slippage is needed for cleaning it. Depleted rubber must be scrubbed from both tires. There being no power to the front it relies on three forces: 1) slip angle, 2) side grip friction, and 3) abrasion from braking, to uncover fresh rubber. In the steady state part of a corner (after braking and before acceleration) both tires clean up from slip angle and side grip abrasion. Slip angle is interesting. If you were able to freeze the lean and the turned-in front wheel angle you have while going through a corner, then got off and pushed it, the line would be much tighter than when you were riding. The bike's tendency is to always go straight—until some outside force influences it to turn. The turned-in front wheel is that influence—it creates abrasion resistance which forces the bike to go into and hold its arc through the corner. The tires are actually slipping sideways toward the outside, hence, slip angle. The side-slip in skiing is similar. But that's not the whole picture. Camber Force is another factor. Although it has substantially less effect on tire wear, it plays a part in traction. It works like this: On both tires, the outside of the patch (the chicken stripe side) is on a tighter radius than the side that's closest to the tire's center line. Think of a playground merry-go-round. The outside is traveling further in the same amount of time as the inside and therefore going faster than the inside. Conversely, the side of the contact-patch closest to the middle of the corner, is turning slower and is dragging. This creates rubber-cleansing abrasion and also helps the bike stay on its line. (To find more data look up the technical definition of camber thrust or camber force.) In any corner and at any speed sufficient to keep the bike moving and balanced, the tires are always slipping, at least slightly. You wouldn't get through corners or have to replace tires if they didn't. © 2014, Keith Code, all rights...
  5. All Riders Have ADDD Attention Disorientation and Distribution Disorder Yes, I just made that up but, really, there has been a lot of buzz for years about so-called ADD and ADHD. You’ll hear, “At school, my son or daughter can’t focus and has a hard time learning lessons. Their attention wanders. They become nervous and impulsive.” Well, I have a school and my students (usually the parents) have the same problems with something they really are interested in, improving their cornering skills. Both have run into a learning barrier. Watching a student hack through a corner with speed, lean angle, steering and throttle errors could easily be described as un-focused hyperactivity”. They don’t want it to be like that or feel like that. As a coach, I have to look for the reason or both I, and my students, fail to improve the riding. What you experience or what I see in these situations is poor communication. The rider knows what he wants to say to his bike but doesn’t have a clear communication to it. This looks like bad cell reception; riders appear to be shouting commands at the bike that it can’t understand. The control inputs, our communications with the bike, step on one another. WHA (turn) AAAT-T- (look up road) T-T-T (back on the gas) D-D-D-DID (going wide) YOU S-S-S- (ah oh, too late) SAY?…If you can hear me, I’ll call you later! If you think of a barrier as something that stops communication it will take you back to a very, very basic point on riding. You only have so much attention to spend on anything at any given moment in time. AD, Attention Disorientation is a far better definition for the kid or the rider. Once we start to multi-task by adding different forces like braking, accelerating and steering and approaching their limits, or what we perceive to be their limits, we start bumping into confidence problems, we become distracted, we see a little hysteria building and it snowballs. When that happens to me, and it can, do I have an ADHD attack? Riders run out of attention to spend on receiving data from the riding environment, something sucks it up. They lose touch and can’t process the information and accurately direct the bike. This is the barrier: being able to maintain communication, which is an exchange of information, which should then result in clear, distinct and well timed control inputs. It isn’t an attention deficit in general it is a very specific attention disorientation. The rider doesn’t understand what the game is—what to focus on. The kid got lost in school and the teacher wasn’t bright enough to catch it and fix him or her. They are sent to the school Psych for drugs. I don’t have stock in the drug companies so I have to fix the rider’s problem. In motorcycling, take hard braking as an example. Worrying about the front contact patch and when it will begin to fail takes an enormous amount of attention and swings it away from your goal: getting the turn entry speed right. That isn’t an overall attention deficit, just misplaced attention and riders tend to generalize that but in the end it results in a lack of confidence while braking. Without the important data like how fast you are decelerating and calculating an accurate solution that respond to it and then coordinating that with the appropriate control inputs, along with good timing and at the correct intensity; it all becomes guess work which leads straight to uncertainty, the opposite of confidence. The result is that we blow our turn entry speed; usually slower in than we should have gone or wish we could go. The action of braking can become a bit dim and vague and riders fear it and want control over it at the same time. Similarly, when kids can’t control the words on the page of their schoolbooks they fear them and reject them and become distracted just like the rest of us. Just as drugs which tranquilize children will never be the correct solution to study problems, this braking scenario won’t resolve until we discover what technical step or piece of experience was missed in his or hers understanding of the braking sequence. Something was missed or misunderstood. This can often be simple. The rider thinks they should downshift before using the brake. Silly idea. Get rid of what you want the least at the entry to a turn (excess speed) with the control that is very craftily designed for that purpose, the brakes, and downshift a little later. OK, it may go another step. The rider doesn’t know how to smoothly change their gears. Fine. We fix that. AD, Attention Disorientation, affects riders at all levels including professionals. We’ve handled more pro riders than anyone else in the world, trust me on this one, they have the same problems. Once I realized we’re peeling an onion in layers and that everyone isn’t suffering from some generalized disability I developed four different approaches, four coaching styles, to help the rider through their precise deficiency. No drugs. Understanding the words that are spoken in a conversation or in a book is vital to interest. Understanding the desired result from your control inputs is vital. This is how you know if the bike is or is not cooperating with you. Both points are communication with something, a book, a bike, cooking, golf; it makes no difference what it is. Good coaching, not drugs, is the answer. I hope we get a chance to get your riding attention oriented and focused this season. Take a look at our schedule and sign up now, I’d love to see your big grin at the end of the day! http://www.superbikeschool.com/schedule/ Keith Code PS: On the ADD and ADHD thing, take a look at this: http://www.alternativementalhealth.com/articles/Drugfree.htm © Keith Code, 2008, all rights reserved,
  6. Keith Code


    CRASHING Riding errors which lead to crashing follow distinct patterns. Once detected they can be used to make huge leaps forward in skill and confidence. Reasons To Improve My experience is that riders come to school for a variety of reasons. They say: to be safer, faster, more in control, learn the skills, have more confidence, get their knee down, improve and so on. Beneath all of these reasons and consistent with each is a very fundamental personal reason: riders don't want to crash. Everyone wants to experience the maximum freedom and exhilaration with the minimum of danger; and I fully agree with this. For the school staff, this principle works out just fine. If a rider crashes on a school day, no one wins: we are deprived of the opportunity to finish up what we started and so is the rider. It puts kinks in the day for everyone involved. Conventional Wisdom On Crashing Unfortunately there is still a lot of really bad advice out there on crashing: "You don't know how fast you can go until you crash," is one of them. "There are riders who have fallen and those that are going to fall," that's another one that makes crashing seem inevitable. These pieces of "conventional wisdom" miss the mark by miles. They are actually harmful. I'm not saying that you can get through all of life without falling down. You may. But riders have and will continue to crash, bin it, fall down, go down, throw it away, pitch it, drop it, put it down and lose it. A significant rider error, when aggravated and compounded by the rider's "corrections", can result in violating the machine's inherent stability leading to a bike and rider going down. That is the negative. Errors Follow Patterns On the positive side, there are key indicators of these basic errors and they follow a pattern. I say positive because if you intend to improve someone's riding, but don't have a clue about these indicators, you may see errors and try to correct them but miss their underlying pattern, which in turn creates a mystery as to why the rider suddenly runs off track, scares him/herself or falls down. These indicators do have patterns and are specific in how they look. They generally break down into two main categories. 1) the riders who look uncertain and choppy as they commit them, a sort of advanced case of new rider syndrome and 2) riders appear to have abandoned their senses like someone with their first unlimited-purchase credit card. They are purposeful, very positive and absolutely committed to their silly riding. You see what can only be described as blind faith in the bike and the tires with absolutely no idea of limits and how these limits may be correctly approached and eventually controlled. Steering Drill Those of you who have already done the school may remember the simple steering drill we did with you in the paddock or skid pad area. There are 6 corrections we can make on how the rider relates to the bike as it's steered into a corner with that drill. Riders feel more in control of the bike from any of the six corrections, once corrected. However, one of the primary reasons we do the steering drill is to prevent them from making mistakes that, under very common circumstances, can lead to running wide, running off the track or even crashing. When the coaches see these errors they know where the rider is going and what he thinks he is trying to do and how bad it can get if not corrected. The Timid and The Brave Some riders can't get comfortable with the no limits idea the track provides and actually ride slower than they do on the street. While at the other extreme, some riders go on vacation from the laws of physics, speed, lean angle and common sense. Whichever mode they tend toward, certain patterns quickly develop in their riding that, to the trained eye, spell TROUBLE. I hope I don't blow any other schools out of the water with this but, all schools, all track days, all racing and of course street riding have crashes. Some people call them accidents but rarely are motorcycle crashes accidental; they are caused, more often than not, by the rider's own hand. Statistics on Crashing I bring this up because of what has happened at our school over the past year and a half. For the previous 25 years we had a pretty consistent attrition rate due to crashing. All in all it wasn't horrible, about one and a half million school miles to what you might call a serious crash: more than a broken collarbone or bruises kind of thing. Because we pay attention to how riders are riding I was convinced it had more to do with the phases of the moon or something than observable riding patterns but we've had a fresh look at this and it began to resolve in the riders' favor. Once we began to really see the errors and what they meant, what seemed like accidents or fate turns out to be lack of technical skills and is very correctable. What happened? Well, when you have a 50% improvement in anything you know that you are on the right path and we have, on average, cut our crash rate in half. Considering that we have more school days and hence more students now than ever before, that floats my boat. Preventative Measures We are becoming pro at spotting these patterns and nipping them before they progress to the run-off-the-track or crashing stage. Looking at it from another perspective, students have told me for years that crashing on the track is most probably many, many times ?safer? than on the street. But one of the great rewards of teaching this sport are the scores of students who have come back and told us of the horrible riding situation that they avoided because they knew what to do. I'm not saying that we can make you a safe rider. I'm not saying that you can't crash at my school, you certainly can. Fortunately, we recognize something about ourselves and our sport: if riding was not dangerous it wouldn't be nearly as much fun. We know the risks, we like the risks and we love the rewards of taking them. It makes perfect sense to me. Taking risks, with understanding, makes a rider as safe as he or she can be. Problems Lead to Improvement The other huge positive that has come out of this evolution is that riders are made more aware of the points that get them into trouble. It may sound crazy but more often than not the "fatal" mistakes (resulting in poor control or catalysts to crashing type errors) mistakes are actually aspects of riding that the student felt were some of their best points. Clearing up these misguided ideas alone can open the door for vast improvement with any rider. If this seems like I'm patting ourselves on the back, you are right. Crashing is a huge area of rider fear and eliminating 50% of the crashes on average is another milestone for us. You have plenty of reasons to learn the skills of riding. We are doing our level (very) best to see that you get what you want with your riding and we are winning at it every school day. You will too. See you at the track. Keith Code Copyright Keith Code, 2006, all rights reserved.
  7. Keith Code

    Body Position

    Body Position The most obvious thing about any rider is their form on the bike. How do they sit and move on it? What’s their posture? Do they look comfortable or awkward, stiff or loose, Moto GP, or nervous-novice? Good body positioning isn’t just about being stylish——you can play dress-up in your older brother's or sister's cool boots but walking will be clumsy——it has a desirable result and we can define 'good body positioning'. Harmony with the bike, freedom of movement on it, precision control over it―with the minimum necessary effort. Survival Reactions Play a Role The bike itself can force poor riding posture. A shift lever positioned a ¼ inch too high or too low manipulates the rider into awkward and uncomfortable poses, limiting his control over it. Even with perfect control positioning, good form on the bike has its difficulties. Achieving it may look and even feel like it’s reserved for the young and flexible. This may be true to a degree but many of its problems are actually brought on by our own Survival Reactions, our SRs. For example, a rider who instinctively levels the horizon by tilting his head in corners, creates unnecessary tension in his body. Basics Apply Good form is difficult for riders who struggle with basics: uncertainty with basics has a physical manifestation. Just as joy or anger are obvious in someone, these uncertainties manifest themselves in awkward and unsuitable body positions. For example: poor throttle control prompts riders to rely on slash and burn hard drives out of the turns. Their 'ready-for-action', rigid body language telegraphs their intention. That tense anticipation of the drive off the turns loses them the handling benefits of being relaxed mid-corner. The Stages of Body Positioning There are three stages to body positioning: Poor form + poor riding = ripple-effect, snowballing errors. Good riding + poor form = good but limited range of control. Good form + good technical riding skills = riding that is both fluid and efficient. Number 3 is the goal of any rider training. The Ingredients Body Positioning has five distinct ingredients. The bike and how it is configured——its controls, seat, pegs and bar positioning. The rider's understanding of body positioning——how to properly position himself on the bike and why. Our Survival Reactions——how they create unwanted and often unconscious tension and positioning problems. Lack of riding basics——has or hasn't mastered the core technical skills needed to ride well. The rider's own physical limitations——height, weight, flexibility, conditioning. With those five points under control, specific techniques can be employed to achieve positive benefits in bike control. Form, Function and Technique GP body position does not address or improve 90% of the most basic and vital components of riding: Our sense of traction, speed, lean angle, braking, and line, to name a few, are not directly dependent upon or necessarily improved by stylish form. Clearly, body positioning isn't the universal panacea some think it is, but it has its place. For example, holding the body upright, counter to the bike’s lean while cornering has several negative effects. Among these, is the fact that it positions the rider so he can’t fully relax. This can be quickly corrected and solves the functional problem of tension from cramped and restrictive joint alignment: a key element in allowing any rider to relax. A bike related example would be too high or too low brake or clutch lever. It puts the rider's wrist into misalignment and restricts fluid movement. The Rules of Technique Here are my guidelines for technique. Any riding technique is only as good as: The validity of the principles it rests on. Example: The benefits of hanging off follow physics and engineering principles. The access it provides to the technology with which the bike is designed and constructed. Are the potentials of chassis, suspension and power able to be utilized as intended? Does the technique embrace them? The consistency with which it can be applied. Does it work in all similar situations? The degree of control it provides for the rider. Can the rider either solve problems or make improvements, or both, by using it? The ease with which it can be understood and coached. Does it take extraordinary experience or skill to apply it, or, can it be broken down into bite sized pieces for any rider to master? Which brings us to my first law of body positioning. Stability Comes in Pairs. Bike and rider stability are always paired―rider instability transfers directly to the bike. Body Positioning has but one overriding guideline: Rider stability. How a rider connects to the bike can bring about harmony and control and fluid movement or turn into an uncoordinated wrestling match. Ideal Stability Having stability AND fluidity of movement sounds conflicting; when something is stable it’s expected to stay put, unmoving, like the foundation of your house or the roots of a tree. But the opposite is true for riding. Comfort And Stability What works well on a paddock-stand doesn't always transfer to real riding. Aftermarket rearsets, which can be adjusted (or which are manufactured) too far up, back, forward or down is an example. In the paddock they feel racy; on the road or track they can fatigue the rider. The fatigue comes from the rider's core not being correctly supported. This causes him to be off balance. Off-balance generates extra effort from muscle tension and poor joint alignment which in turn hampers accurate control manipulations. Awkward looking body position is what you see. Riders often accept or try and work around this, without realizing its negative impact on their riding. Simply Complicated Through research and coaching of tens of thousands of riders of all skill levels, 58 separate elements which influence our body positioning have surfaced. Seemingly simple things such as too tight a pair of gloves or leathers can affect all the other elements. Once the 58 are corrected and integrated, the rider has many more options; opening doors to a wide range of fun, efficient and, you might say, elegant techniques. All of our coaches have been thoroughly drilled on what each of the 58 are and how to correct them. © 2014 Keith Code, all rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form without the author's consent.
  8. Keith Code

    Body Position

    Wes, See if you can find a real Pilates coach who has experience and all the Pilates equipment. I've found it very helpful not only for us old farts but for young, up and coming riders as well. Keith
  9. Here is the process to apply to be a coach: 1. Read the description below the dotted line for an overview of what we are looking for. 2. A very good riding skill level is required from our coaches. Some have met the other requirements, but had to work on their riding skill, and eventually became coaches. While riding skill is important, as or more important is ability to learn, ability to communicate and get along well with a wide variety of people, can endure hard conditions (school days are long!), and can attend enough school days in a year. 3. Please review the description and application carefully. The schedule needs to be filled out with your best estimate, try and answer for every date. 4. If you fit the description, or think you could meet the requirements soon, fill out the application that is attached and send it to me. In truth, I'd rather have you try out and let us decide if you meet the requirements, than not have you try out at all! Cobie@superbikeschool.com ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. Racing experience is preferred. Really we have to see the riding to answer if the riding skill level will be adequate. Most of our students are street riders, but we do need someone that can set an excellent example for a broad range of skills. 2. Friendly, personable, upbeat, high ethical standards, fit in with the rest of our team is a must. 3. Excellent communication and observation skills. Also willing to be trained and do homework. The coach training is vigorous, not for the wimpy. Every aspect of what you do is examined, honed, tested, and improved on a regular basis. 4. The positions are part time for independent contractors but we need a minimum of 10-15 school days per year. 5. Tryout is not paid. That is usually 1 day at a racetrack. 6. After the tryout, there is a short probation period, but we pay all travel and other expenses, you use our bike, gear, etc. Probation period depends on you and how much work you are putting into your training. 7. After probation, coaches are paid according to their coach training level, how many of our training programs they have completed. Starts about $150 per day, goes up from there. Getting all these together in the same package is the hard part. Truthfully we are a very dedicated, serious-about-being-the-best bunch. About 1 in 25 that apply even get accepted for the training, much less make it past the probation stage. If you have it in mind that this is just a prestigious job for you to show others how well you ride, that it will be a cool way to improve your own riding and get lots of track time, then this is not the right thing for you, and your reasons for coming are not the same as ours. We are a school, we train riders and racers and we do that totally. We don't give jobs to our friends because we like them. If you think you have the right stuff, download the application and e-mail it to me! Best, Cobie Fair Chief Riding Coach cobie@superbikeschool.com
  10. Keith Code

    The Paved Planet

    The Paved Planet Whether by instinct, schooling or coaching, once a rider can isolate, understand and focus on specific aspects of riding, achieving confidence is just a matter of drilling those points to gain familiarity and control over them. It's common knowledge that track riding is a less distracting and more accommodating environment to improve riding skill but let's put that in perspective. Imagine yourself riding on a paved planet. A perfectly smooth, limitless expanse of flat asphalt and there is no one else there. Many of our ordinary riding concerns would simply evaporate. Full-on, straight line speed; leaned over speed; running wide; braking distances; correct lines; decreasing radius turns; camber changes; surface; traffic and obstacles, all would become less intimidating or vanish entirely from your concerns. On the paved planet, with the majority of our worries eliminated, a rider's ability to focus would be enormously enhanced. For example, if the amount of attention consumed by monitoring the road's surface for danger was reallocated to feeling tire grip, throttle control, steering pressure and cornering forces, it would shortcut those processes enormously—any uncertainties with them could quickly and easily be addressed and improved. On Earth, our visual skill set monitors where we are and where we are going and is the single most important part of riding. Location dominates everything we do on or with a motorcycle. On the paved planet and with your attention free of that concern, the isolating and focusing process would be simplified in the extreme. You could literally be leaned over at a speed and corner radius of your choosing all day long. Just as too much of a good thing can become boring and ordinary, so it would go with riding on the paved planet. To make it interesting the only thing left, even though a chilling prospect on Earth, would be to ride blindfolded. Imagine how sensitive and accurate a rider could become without the ever-present visual demands we suffer now. Knowing enough about the bike and being able to isolate its needs is a large component of improvement that is often impeded by what we see. Getting a feel for the bike's suspension while blindfolded would become vastly easier—riding would be 100% by feel, exactly what is needed for sensitivity in making handling adjustments. Just as the blind develop extraordinary hearing and touch, riders could determine those adjustments precisely without the distraction of visual influences. Experience with different types of turns adds depth to any rider's confidence profile. On the paved planet, all types of turns would be possible—think limitless, obstacle free, twisties on demand. Even that would eventually bottom out a rider's interest. Time to add some features and create a more interesting space. Placing one traffic cone anywhere on the surface would instantly become a fascinating new toy to accelerate towards, away from, brake to and ride around. That would hold you till lunch time. Two cones, placed in a variety of positions, would seem like Christmas, exponentially increasing the number of games that could be dreamed up. Precision in your speed and direction changes would enter into it. The beauty of it would be that all limits, aside from the bike's, would be self imposed depending on how you placed them. Back on Earth, the next best thing to a paved planet is track riding. Track schools and track days provide the opportunity to learn and advance skills in a less hostile, more focused, environment than any road riding can possibly provide. © 2013, Keith Code.
  11. This article (attached here as a PDF) originally appeared in Fast Bikes Magazine. http://www.fastbikesmag.com/ Enjoy the read! Fast_Bikes_CSS_2005.pdf
  12. Keith Code

    Knuckle To Knee—dragging

    I love to survey riders. What do they want from riding; how would they like it to feel; how would they like it to look? Want is consistently answered with smoother, faster and increased confidence. Feel runs the gamut through smooth, solid, stable and predictable. Look also ranks smooth above all; followed by fast, which translates into hanging off, knee on the floor. That is the dream. Riders of all classes of bikes, once astride a sportcycle and at a racetrack, feel left out and are often crestfallen until that magic moment finally comes; the krchchshh of getting a knee down. If only the photographer had been in that corner…that lap. In the evolution of our species we’ve gone from knuckle dragging to knee dragging. An alluring picture of what they imagine or wish to look like can hamstring anyone. These are most often gleaned from dramatic magazine or TV shots stored in their library of mental images and riders envision themselves in these poses as an end unto itself in their quest to improve personal riding prowess. Going for the look without some understanding of its utilitarian underpinnings is, in a word, wrong. In the evolution of the art of cornering the look of it has had four complete phases--so far. The neat, tidy knees to tank, stretched out on the bike style of the 19-teens through the ‘60s was handed down, eye to muscle memory, as the path of least resistance; you could even say “the natural style” of riding. Phase two: Mike Hailwood let his inside knee come off the tank in the 1960’s and practically created a stock market panic in the riding style etiquette market, it was a huge departure from tradition. Paul Smart, Barry Sheene and others followed. Then, Jarno Saarinen actually moved his butt off the seat a bit which was emulated by many. The fourth phase is credited to and was pioneered by our own Kenny Roberts Sr’s knee down style hangoff in the 1970’s. Initially this earth-shattering look was quite personal to the rider, each having his own iteration of the new form. Cal Raybourn and Kel Carruthers were halfway guys, still clinging a bit to phase two. Some others had lots of bum off, some with lots of leg and knee off, some rotated around the tank a la Mick Doohan. A few went head and body way down and on the inside of the tank, Randy Mamola style, some hung-off but remained sitting more upright like Kevin Schwantz. The torso positions for our other 500cc world champs of the era; Eddie Lawson, Freddie Spencer and Wayne Rainey were half way between, on the tank but not inside it. Most of the originals also tended to ride forward on the tank and finally, everyone was stationary in their hung-off position once in the corner. The neat part of that era, with all these splinter groups, was that a fan could have instant recognition of the individual’s style and look. Not so today, phase five is upon us. Conceptually, hanging off couldn’t be simpler. Lower the combined Center of Gravity (CG) of the bike/rider combination and you go through the same corner at the same speed, on the same line with less lean angle: all in all, a brilliantly utilitarian racer’s tool with huge residual benefits; chief among them being an accurate, on-board gauge for lean angle and true to most evolutionary progressions, function now rules the new look and style of road racers. Take a look; riders are low and inside of their bikes. More and more we see them perfectly in line with the machine, not twisted or rotated in the saddle. The bum off/body twisted back across the top of the bike positioning, which many phase four riders had been doing, was and still is an interesting piece of self-deception. With their torso mass on the higher side of the bike, it not only neutralizes the mass of the hips being off the bike but actually is a negative, raising the combined bike and rider C G--defeating the technique’s main function and purpose. Other notable changes include not being so stretched out as before but not always with the family jewels on the tank either. The one new variable in phase five riders is coming further off the bike mid-corner to exit. You’ll see it on the bum-cam position next time you watch riders like Val Rossi in Moto GP. That and the fore/aft in the saddle differences appear to be the only options available to our phase five evolution racers. We have five choices now in how we can look and relate to our bikes. If you keep your eye on the style’s function and do some limbering exercises all the benefits of phase five will become apparent as you become comfortable with it. Is it easy? My experience says it is not a natural style at all and riders are hard pressed to assume the new form. If it is your desire to do it I suggest taking your time and step by step, experimenting with each of the stages through which it has evolved. Good luck. ˆ Keith Code, 2007.
  13. Keith Code

    The Fine Art Of Braking

    The Fine Art of Braking By Keith Code By survey 100% of over 10,000 riders agree on this point: they know that if they possessed the ability and skill to get their turn entry speeds consistently right, their confidence would soar; they would feel more in control; they would be faster and they would be smoother. Here is some information on why you might want to master that ability. Coasting Races In the mid '70's I was introduced to an amazing form of "racing". Four or five of us would get together at the top of one of our favorite southern California canyon descents; turn off the engines; line up across the road; heckle each other; count to three; pick up our feet without pushing off any more than was necessary to get moving and laugh and yell out insults to one another all the way down to the bottom. Most of the runs were a couple of miles long with lots of turns. That's a coasting race. The rider who coasted the farthest and fastest (they were usually the same rider) "won". There weren't any tricks, equipment mattered little, it was all you. Well, I did have one little trick -- pushing the pads back into my front caliper to eliminate the pad drag. The camaraderie was elevated enormously by the fact that, unlike our usual canyon rides we could, for the most part, communicate throughout the descent. It was such a delight. Even when it went wrong and someone crashed (like me) I still have fond memories and get a warm sensation when recalling it. Strategy of Coasting Races On the technical side of things: I was immediately impressed with several aspects of this form of entertainment and a couple of those points were indelibly printed in my memory and became a part of the California Superbike School over 20 years ago. The simple trick to winning a coasting race is the obvious, the rider who could maintain his momentum by using his brakes the least generally would prevail. Doing an entire run down some of the steeper roads with little or no braking took as much or more mental grip than doing it with them, this becoming immediately apparent in the first semi-tight corner you came to. Unwilling to give up the momentum yet afraid of the speed which had accumulated, your focus and interest became laser sharp. Sure your hand would be poised over the lever and sure it took some supreme acts of willpower to keep from using brakes and sure you would make errors and have to use the brakes but you also paid closer attention to the speeds than you normally would. The reduction of distractions like engine noise and gear changes and throttle and charging the corners with hard braking were all eliminated and it allowed you to make much finer estimates of your corner entry speeds and maintain that precious momentum. Low Noise, High Speeds After my first coasting race I realized I never would have gone through those turns with the power on as fast as I had done with no engine running, no charging and, for the most part, no brakes. It made me realize just how distracting those things really were and just how much of my attention they absorbed. One of the things I have noticed when I watch students is how erratic their turn entry speeds often are. That comes from the idea they have to charge the corners and brake hard but they can tend to over-brake and foul up their entry and corner speed momentum. Low Speeds, Quick Times One day, as I was driving up to the Laguna Seca track in northern California to do a school, I realized that if anyone was going to overcome this self generated confusion from over-braking, the quickest route to that was riding no brakes. Once I got to the track I tried it out and rediscovered what I'd already figured out before from the coasting races. I went faster into the turns, my speed sense and judgement became sharper, I worried less about my entry speed and found that getting back to the throttle earlier was significantly easier. I thought it would be worthwhile to have the students try it out. While it is true that some tracks lend themselves to this form of sharpening your riding skills better than others, I did begin to notice a trend at different tracks. The riders who stuck with the no brakes, even after we officially switched back to using them, made more improvement in their speed and confidence than those who were "testing" our brake pad material by charging the turns. Ignore the Instincts It's almost as if riders feel obligated to charge turns. It's the idea that you will go faster because of it and seems such a simple and direct route to that end but rarely works. The instinct to brake late and hard is like clubbing a female to then take her for a wife. That plan isn't going to work. I have observed many truly diligent riders who ignored the instinct and stayed with the No Brakes format knocking off seconds from their lap times. To top it off they were achieving their quicker times with only one or two gears instead of the usual thrashing through the gear box. They might be going 20 mph slower on the straights but one should pay attention to the results (improved lap times and corner speed) not the impulse to go fast on the straights. As I have said a thousand times, the brakes become more of a crutch than a tool for most riders. Someone always whines about the no-brakes riding format at school. Well, crutches are notoriously hard to put down, aren't they? Riders claim it is difficult (of course it is), that they could go faster with them (faster down the straight away, yes); that they "had" to use them (the crutch again) and on and on. What these riders don't realize is how satisfying it is to persevere at the exercise until you really get it, so you really can judge your entry speeds and really know you can do it. Very, very satisfying. Very, very big contribution to your riding confidence. Very! The Basic Idea The logic is flawless. Using or not using the brakes is irrelevant to the intended result of getting into the corner at the exact right speed. One either knows what that right speed is and can achieve it or they are guessing. If they are guessing they are paying more attention to it than they should have to. Guessing brings about inaccurate braking and inaccurate braking brings about rough and uncertain turn entries. Trail Braking (Definition: Action of trailing off or tapering off brake lever pressure and braking force as the rider enters the corner.) Trail braking is a valid and useful tool for any rider at any level of riding. The warning is this: when used too often, or as a crutch to calm the fear brought on by the inability to sense speeds accurately, it not only doesn't solve the source of the problem it makes it worse. As the pilot you must make the decision on when to let off of the brake(s). It is a complicated little piece of work with all of the other usual distractions you encounter at the turn's entry, e.g., setting the lean, getting the line and feeling the traction. Bottom line - if you are trailing the brakes towards a well known, accurately understood speed it is a tool. Otherwise it tends to become a crutch and invites riders to "charge" the turns, low line them, leave the throttle till late and make tricky and sometimes dangerous mid-corner steering corrections all of which could be avoided with accurate turn entry speed sensing and setting. Panic Crutch In contrast to the aforementioned, I see many riders who feel compelled to stab at their brakes in the last moments before entering a corner. While watching them do it, the only conclusion one would come to is that the speed was a big surprise; all of a sudden they become aware of it and it seemed too fast. This is an obvious error. They aren?t using the brake to adjust anything except their fear. In either of the above cases, an accurate sense of speed opens the door to confidence. Results Then and Now The essence and final result of any brake release for cornering remains what I said in 1980 in my first Superbike School lecture and on page 64 of the first ?A Twist of the Wrist? book in 1982: To set the speed of the bike correctly for that place on the track (or road) so that no further changes are necessary. In other words, you get it right. Not too fast, not too slow. Braking itself is an art within the art of cornering. Your sense-of-speed is the underlying resource you have to get it right. As an exercise, no brakes riding will help improve your sense-of-speed. Do no-brakes whenever you have the opportunity and see what happens to your sense of speed and see what happens to your riding. The best part is that once you have combined a good sense of speed with the other twelve basic skills of cornering it all begins to come together. It is truly one of the skills that allows you to discover the ART OF CORNERING. All the best, Keith ----- ⓒ Copyright Keith Code, 2004, all rights reserved
  14. There are technical points concerning a rider's fear of making either right or left hand turns. Many riders have this fear and it's frustrating. Scores of riders have complained to me about this with a sheepish sort of approach and "admitted" they were perplexed by it. Rightfully so, roughly 50% of their turns were being hampered by an unknown, un-categorized, seemingly unapproachable fear having no apparent source and no apparent reasoning behind it. Out of desperation for an answer riders have blamed their inability on being right or left handed, mysterious brain malfunctions and a host of other equally dead end "nonsense solutions"; nonsense because none of them answered their questions or addressed the hesitance, uncertainty and fear. Having a fear of right turns would be the worst if you lived in Kansas or Nebraska where practically the only turns worth the title are freeway on and off ramps. If you went "ramping" with your friends, "doing the cloverleaf", round and round, you'd be at the back of the pack . Anxiety on lefts would exclude you from the dirt track racing business for sure but mainly we are talking about day to day riding and any such apprehension as this (and there are others) spoils a rider's confidence, making him somewhat gun shy. There are actually three reasons why you could have this unidirectional phobia (fear) and all three contain an inordinate amount of some emotional response that runs from suspicion and distrust to mild panic and a dose of plain old anxiety dropped into the middle for good measure. By the way, if you consider yourself in this category of rider, count your blessings, many riders have bidirectional phobia and it's only by their force of will and love of freedom that they persist in their riding at all! First Reason Reason number one for this fear is that you crashed on the right or left at sometime and the relatively indelible mental scar is still on the mend but remains a more or less hidden and nagging source of irritation. The part of the mind that is concerned with survival does not easily forget and the proof is that our species still exists. There have no doubt been other more pressing problems along the way that have tried and tested Man in his effort to put order into his environment. The fact that the incident of a crash drops down to an obscure sub-level of awareness is not a help in this, or perhaps any other case, as it can affect our riding from there and can add an unpredictable element to our riding. You may gain some control over this with practice but the oddest part of it is that if one hasn't ridden for a while this apprehension of turning right or left can return in force... provided it springs from this particular source. In the technology of the mind and according to the discipline of Dianetics, these incidents are stored in what is called the Reactive Mind, for the obvious reason that one finds himself reacting to, rather than being coactive with, some circumstance. In this case, right or left turns. Second Reason In the discipline of riding technology we have the act and activity of counter-steering to contend with. Here a rider may have become confused, in a panic of some sort, and gone back to another variety of "survival response" that pressed him into turning the bike's bars in the direction he wanted to go rather than doing the correct (and backwards from other vehicle's steering) action of counter-steering. That instant of confusion has stopped many riders cold in their tracks, never to twist their wrist again and pleasure themselves with motorcycle riding. Turn left to go right push the right bar to go right, its the thing that eludes us in that panic situation (statistically) more commonly than anything save only the overuse and locking of the rear brake. When you dissect this confusion regarding the counter-steering process you see that it is possibly more devastating than the rear end lock up, even though both have the same result, the bike goes straight, and often straight into that which we were trying to avoid. Basics prevail--You can only do two things on a motorcycle, change its speed and change its direction. Confusion on counter-steering locks up the individual's senses tighter than a transmission run without oil and reduces those two necessary control factors down to one...A bad deal in anyone's book. Third Reason The third possible reason for being irrational about rights and lefts is the one that has solved it more often than not--practice. Applying the drill sergeant's viewpoint of repeatedly training the rider to practice and eventually master the maneuver is a very practical solution. I suppose this one falls under the heading of the discipline of rider dynamics. And a casual inspection of riders will show you the following: Ninety-five percent of all riders push the bike down and away from their body to initiate a turn or steering action, especially when attempting to do it rapidly. Rapidly meaning something on the order of how fast you would have to turn your bike if someone stopped quickly in front of you and you wanted to simply ride around them; or avoid a pothole or a rock or any obstacle. For example, a muffler falls off the car in front on the freeway at 60 m.p.h., that's eighty-eight feet per second of headway you are making down the road. Despite the fact you've left a generous forty feet between you and the car, that translates into one half second to get the bike's direction diverted, including your reaction time to begin the steering process. We're talking about a couple of tenths of a second here--right now. This procedure riders have of pushing the bike down and away from themselves to steer it seems like an automatic response and is most probably an attempt to keep oneself in the normally correct relationship to the planet and its gravity, namely, vertically oriented or perpendicular to the ground. This is a good idea for walking, sitting and standing--but not for riding. When you stay "on top" of the bike, pushing it under and away, you actually commit a number of riding dynamics sins. The first of which is the bad passenger syndrome." Bad Passenger Bad passengers lean the wrong way on the bike. They position themselves in perfect discord--counter to your intended lean, steering and cornering sensibilities. So do you when you push the bike away from yourself, or hold your body rigidly upright on the bike--very stately looking, very cool but ultimately it's an inefficient rider position. The most usual solution to a bad passenger's efforts to go against the bike's cornering lean angle is brow beating them and threaten "no more rides." But how do you fix this tendency in yourself? A bad passenger makes you correct your steering and eventually become wary of their actions and the bike's response to them. This ultimately leads to becoming tense on the bike while in turns. Pushing the bike away from yourself or sitting rigidly upright while riding solo has the same effect. Hung Off Upright Hang off style riders don't think this applies to them but it does. Many riders are still pushing the bike under themselves while hung off. Look through some race photos especially on the club and national level and you will easily see that some are still trying to be bad passengers on their own bike and countering the benefits of the hung position by trying to remain upright through the corners. A rider's hung-off style may have more to do with his ability to be comfortable with the lean of the bike, and go with it, than anything else. This is not to say there is only one way to sit on a bike, in any style of riding. But it does mean that each rider must find his own way of agreeing with his bike's dynamics and remain in good perspective to the road. And this doesn't mean that you always have to have your head and eyes parallel with the horizon as some riders claim. But it does mean that you may have to push yourself to get out of the "man is an upright beast" mode of thinking and ride with the bike, not against it. It may feel awkward at first but it's the only way to be "in-unit" with the bike. On a professional level most riders do this. John Kocinski is an example of someone in perfect harmony with his machine and Mick Doohan has modified his sit-up push-it-under style of riding over the past couple of years to one that is more in line with the bike. Show and Tell If you have a rider (or yourself) do a quick flick, side to side, steering maneuver in a parking lot you'll clearly observe them jerking and stuffing the bike underneath themselves in an effort to overwhelm it with good intentions and brute force rather than using correct, effective and efficient steering technique. There are other steering quirks you may observe while having someone do this simple show-and-tell parking lot drills. For example, some riders have a sudden hitch that comes at the end of the steering when they have leaned it over as far as they dare. It's a kind of jerking motion initiated from their rigid upper body. You may see an exaggerated movement at the hips; that's another variation of their attempt to keep the back erect. Also, look for no movement of the head or extreme movement of it to keep the head erect. A general tenseness of the whole body is common as is lots of side to side motion of the bike. So what's the right thing to do here? Good Passenger What does a good passenger do? NOTHING. They just sit there and enjoy the ride, practically limp on the saddle. The bike leans over and so does the passenger. Which scenario agrees with motorcycle design: weight on top that is moving or weight that is stable and tracking with it? Motorcycles respond best to a positive and sure hand that does the least amount of changing. You, as a rider, need to do the same thing, basically, NOTHING. Holding your body upright is not doing nothing it is doing something. It is an action you initiate, a tenseness you provide and it is in opposition to the bike's intended design--what it likes. More Lean There is another technical point here. The more you stay erect and try to push the bike down and away (motocross style riding) the more leaned over you must be to get through the turn. That's a fact. Crotch rocket jockeys hang off their bikes for show but the pros do it to lean their bikes over less. You can counter this adverse affect of having to lean more by simply going with the bike while you turn it, in concert with and congruous to its motion, not against it. There is even an outside chance you may find it feels better and improves your control over the bike and reduces the number of mini-actions needed to corner. There is also a good possibility that this will open the door to conquering your directional fear, whichever form it may take. Diagnosis Look for one or more of these indications on your "bad" side: 1. The body is stiff or tense while making turns on the side you don't like, at least more so than on the side you do like. 2. You don't allow your body to go with the bike's lean on side: You are fighting it and it is fighting you. 3. The effort to remain perfectly vertical is greater on your bad side. 4. You will find yourself being less aggressive with the turning process on your bad side. 5. You will find yourself being shortsighted, looking too close to the bike on that shy side. 6. You will find yourself making more steering corrections by trying to "dip" the bike into turns or pressing and releasing the bars several times in each turn. 7. You will notice a tendency to stiff arm the steering. 8. You will notice you are trying to steer the bike with your shoulders rather than you arms. You might find more symptoms but one or more of the above will be present on your bad side. Coaching The very best and simplest way I've found to cure this tendency to push the bike under is to have someone watch you while you do a quick flick, back and forth, steering drill in a parking lot. You have your friend stand at one point and you ride directly away from him or her as though you were weaving cones and then turn around and ride directly back at them weaving as quickly as you feel comfortable and at a speed you like, usually second gear. In that way your coach is able to see you either going with the bike at each steering change or they will see you and the bike crisscrossing back and forth from each other. As the coach, that's what you are looking for, the bike and the rider doing the same action, the rider's body is leaned over the same as the bike at each and every point from beginning of the steering action to the end. There is no trick to seeing this...it is obvious. For example, when they ride away from you, if you see the mirrors moving closer and further away from the rider's body, they are obviously not moving together. That's pushing the bike under rather than good steering. This is also the time to notice which side is the rider's bad side. The back and forth flicks will be hesitant on one side or the other. Remedies The entire purpose of this exercise is to have the rider get in better communication with his machine--going with it not against it--and not treating it as though it were a foreign object that he is wrestling to stay on top of or muscle it down like a rodeo rider. Often, it simply takes a reminder to loosen-up the upper body. Sometimes the rider needs to lean forward and imagine the tank and he are one and the same. On sportbikes, a full crouch over the tank can sometimes be the answer to link the rider with his bike, giving him a ready reference to it's physical attitude in relation to the road. Making sure the rider has some bend in his elbows while leaning forward slightly seems to help. Having them use palm pressure to steer the bike seems to resolve the tendency to muscle the bike over from side to side. Dropping the elbows so the forearm is more level with the tank makes the steering easier and promotes their going with the bike and takes them away from the stiff armed approach to steering. Reminders to relax the shoulders and let the arms do the work of steering also helps. End Result You stop doing the drill when the rider has the feeling he is in better control of the bike, when he has the idea of how easy and how much less effort it takes to steer; or when he feels comfortable with both rights and lefts. There could be other contributing factors like overly worn tires or a bent frame that would bring a genuine and justified anxiety to a right or left turn but I believe the above three reasons cover everything else and if you are anything like the hundreds of riders I've had do the above drill, you could use a little work on this area even if you don't have a bad side. I hope it helps. ? Keith Code 1996-1997
  15. Keith Code


    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.
  16. Keith Code

    Rider Training

    I’ve been asked this question a hundred times: “What could you possibly be coaching on a rider like ________ , who is already a podium guy at world championship level?” I’m pretty sure my face betrays me because I’ve never had what I’d call an intelligent answer. But people always expect something really wise, some new or miraculous aspect of riding they’d never thought of before. Of course it never is. It’s always something that is, in my mind at least, very simple, very basic, very mundane to the ear but very important to the rider who is struggling with it. See if these look familiar to you. How can I: Be more confident, Go faster, Find good lines, Brake harder, Lean over farther, Trust the grip of my tires, Not panic so often, Quit running wide in turns, Handle ‘S’ curves better, Not stiffen up on the bike, Feel more relaxed in corners, Have better entry speed, Stop target fixating, Keep balance and be confident at very low speeds, Be able to downshift smoothly, Get my knee down, Stop the bike wiggling in quick transitions, Make fewer steering corrections in corners, Handle a slide, Get better drives off the turns, Make smooth starts, Make the bike feel planted in all corners, Have good body position, Handle emergencies better, Brake in turns, Avoid obstacles and Improve my lap times? 25 items that are now, or have been in the past, on every rider’s punch list for improvement. Which ones are still on yours? There are answers for each of them; not just tricks you can do in a parking lot that will make a rider feel good―that I also know how to do―but the thing that actually allows them to tick it off of that list. I’ll give you an example. Over a 5 year period I’ve run one thousand street riders through a very controlled program that, amongst other riding skills, has improved their average stopping distance at 60 mph by 60 ft. That’s the width of the six lanes of Sunset Blvd at Sunset and Vine and a bike length more than the longest eighteen-wheel trailer. How long does that training take? About an hour. It consists of assessing and measuring the rider’s base line braking; then coaching him through the feel and fear of using the brakes; and finally, applying what they learned at full speed and re-measuring the stopping distances. Who was tested and trained in my research and development of this program? Riders on everything from choppers to dual sport to sport bikes to touring bikes participated. What was their experience? It ranged from as little as “I rode my friends bike twice,” well under a hundred miles, to several hundred thousand miles; mostly males, about 3% females. For the sticklers for details out there, the range of error for the distance testing was plus or minus 6 feet. Range of error for measured speed was plus or minus 2 mph. Would training that actually reduced your stopping distance by 25% to 50% be valuable to you? How would it make you feel if you could stop your motorcycle in roughly the same distance as the professional rider who tested your bike model for that magazine? How many lives would be saved if everyone had truly effective rider training? What’s the point of me telling you this? The technology exists to coach an average rider through well designed programs that don’t just bring them up to the skill level of passing a cone weave course in the DMV test area at 12 mph to get their bike license but could, in the very real world of riding, save their life. OK, this is cool. That is an example of a solution for one of the twenty-five punch list items, harder braking, and yes, there are solutions for the other twenty-four. For my part, I can’t decide if I derive more satisfaction from seeing a rider get onto the podium in world competition, or, coach someone who is completely inept and really should never ride a motorcycle, through to this level of breakthrough in their stopping distance or in some other area of their riding. I’ve asked myself that question a hundred times. © 2011, Keith Code, reserving my rights as usual.
  17. Sport motorcycle design and the technology upon which they are built has improved with impressive consistency. Starting back in the early 1980s factories embarked on the path of creating bikes ever closer to track-compliant specifications. Compare 2012 600cc Supersport laptimes to a factory 750cc Superbike of 1998 at Phillip Island; one of the great combination horsepower and technical skills tracks. The 600s this year were a full second faster than the quickest Superbike then and equal to the first year of the 1000's in 2003—less than 10 years ago. It seems logical that riding techniques would change as much as the bike technology has. It's an interesting concept until you begin to break it down. Look at what hasn't changed in rider skills whether riding the '98 or the '12 bike around any track: The evolutions in tire technology have been huge. Is traction so good now that riders can ignore its limits? Has the increased limits of traction for braking, corner speed or acceleration eliminated the limits, such as lean angle, that govern them? Are lines substantially different over the past 15 or even thirty years? Does having higher corner entry, middle and exit speed make it easier to find the right lines? Were riders able to run precision lines on the old bike/tire combinations? Can today's rider ignore the bike's lean-angle limits? Do rear wheels stay on the ground longer during hard braking than they did then? Is the rider's knee on the ground giving different information now? Are track surface conditions alone making lap times quicker? Have today's bikes excused riders from finding their own quick-flick steering limits? Have electronics eliminated the need for good riding techniques? Machine tech has not substantially changed or eliminated any of them. You can change the speed and the direction of a motorcycle. The modern motorcycle will do both better than ever before. However, good riding is what gets them done at the right place and the right amount. The simple conclusion is that rider awareness and control hasn't changed one iota. The technology of riding them remains solidly in place. What modern machine technology has accomplished is more integrated transitions between those changes. The beginning, adjustment and completion of each control input can now be done with improved sensitivity. Things don't happen so abruptly now due to substantial increases in usable control range for chassis, suspension, brakes and engine components. Actions flow better now: Quicker, cleaner gear changes; more progressive power with both the engine and the brakes; suspensions now provide precision control of wheel movement through more of the stroke; frame and swing arm rigidity are more complimentary to one another. In addition, being better able to integrate our control inputs, now there is a more connected feel while riding the bikes. We do have better traction and line holding potential but that potential doesn't eliminate the skills necessary to use it. In the not so old days, aggressive riding was difficult to do smoothly. It took real finesse; our control timing and transitions had to be better planned and very careful. The rider was more responsible for integrating all control transitions. Consequently, new bike tech allows more latitude when pushing it. The point is, the essentials of what we are pushing; lines, traction, lean and speed, remain the same. In less experienced riders, the forgiving nature of new equipment covers up quite a few errors. For the already good rider, it broadens what used to be a much finer line between control and out-of-shape. Going quick and in-control is still a precarious balancing act. But the one thing that stands above all other benefits we derive from new technology is the huge savings in attention all those advancements have provided us. Before, it required extraordinary focus and timing to ride the bikes. Today's bike allows us to re-focus our attention; applying more of it to take advantage of the new tech bike's potentials. © 2012, Keith Code, all rights reserved.
  18. Keith Code

    The 1G Club

    There are distinct phases riders must punch through on their route to improvement. All of them are based on personal battles waged against fear. For a newer rider even the simple sensations of leaning the bike over are strange. Humans rely on the force of gravity as a constant. More than any other factor, things move and feel the way they do because of gravity. Every action of your body and your bike is measured and adjusted because of it. We ourselves gain intimate knowledge of gravity to maintain balance in our upright, stand, walk and run positions. This relies on a sensitive and detailed data acquisition system that we involuntarily obey to avoid the consequences--falling down. Our most familiar orientation is perpendicular to the planet and all of our internal balance and visual machinery likes to keep it that way. Cornering motorcycles is diametrically opposed to those sensibilities. The world begins to distort as we lean over. Once our visual orientation gets out of sync with the internal balance machinery it causes both the most rewarding and most terrifying sensations in riding. This is directly observable in new riders when they resist leaning by holding their bodies erect and press the bike down and away from themselves as they turn. As riders become more accustomed to some lean angle they can go one of two ways (1) Continue as above to resist it or (2) Get sucked into the tantalizing sensations of cornering, often beyond their skill level. This too is easy to identify and generally is accompanied by scary turn-entry speed. The barrier then is both physical sensation and visual orientation and I believe there is a make/break point in it. That point is 45 degrees of lean. At 45, the forces are a bit out of the ordinary. Along with the normal 1g down we now have a 1g lateral load as well. As a result the bike and our bodies experience an increase in weight. That’s not native to us and acts as a distraction and as a barrier. Once we finally become comfortable with 45 and attempt to go beyond, the process begins to reverse. Immediately we have more lateral load than vertical load and things begin to heat up. Riders apparently have difficulty organizing this. Suddenly we are thrust into a sideways world where the forces escalate rapidly. While it takes 45 degrees to achieve 1g lateral, it takes only 15 degrees more to experience nearly double that, depending on rider position and tire size. Paying your dues and joining the 1g club is the good stuff of riding. It opens up worlds of control, worlds of problems and worlds of rewards: putting your knee down at 45 is now very doable. Up to 45 degrees riders can be pretty rough with the bike. Current suspension and tires will forgive. But once past that point it’s a brand new game. Just as we have to rewire our senses to deal with the new 45+ forces we must also adjust to using less force and more finesse. Problems arise when we instinctually resist leaning with the bike. Speeds seem higher and, as the rider is out of alignment with the bike and the lateral g load, he must struggle to stay on the bike. Now the arms and body come into play, stiffening up. This tires us out from the physical tension which ultimately upsets the bike’s handling. Much like a counter-leaning passenger, it tends to stand the bike up and run it wide. Awkward and uncomfortable body, neck and head positions result from this. Shoulders and hips twist away from, instead of into, the turn putting peculiar S curves in the rider’s back. This alone can upset the body’s orientation machinery. About 15 years ago I developed an exercise called The Steering Drill. It looks very simple and can be done in a parking lot. The student simply rides away from the coach at about 25 mph and weaves the bike back and forth. That simple drill has 25 correction points. In other words, with low speeds and no panic, riders can make 25 different errors while weaving their bike back and forth. Each of those errors, while not deadly in a parking lot, can snowball into real problems out on the road. All I want to do here is point out that there is something to every rider action, no matter how simple it may seem. Getting training is the only practical means riders have of breaking through their barriers. © Keith Code 2013, all rights reserved.
  19. Keith Code

    Race Face

    Harmony Roadracing has often been described as more of a mental than a physical exercise. Each racer goes through his or her own mind-driven personal rituals of preparation in order to make the best of a race day. Some riders are pointedly outgoing, friendly, gregarious, purposefully keeping their minds off the start or the race. Some are introspective, savoring the race day environment of tension and expectation using it to elevate their spirit to their desired pitch. Still others choose a disposition of defiance or bravado. They're all tuning an instrument, a complex instrument, searching for the desired note or harmony they'll ride for the day. The Forces To Beat Street riding is both more and less dramatic than racing. More because the barriers you may confront are often more likely to be random: like unconscious car drivers, road hazards and so on. However, the forces are similar: braking, quick steering, life saving acceleration, traction, cornering, weight transfer affect the external world; and the emotion of fear on the internal side of things. Street riding is less dramatic because the factors of maximum speed and competition are rarely the main concern. But, I'd be willing to bet, for most any rider the mere thought of taking a ride was (and hopefully still is) elevating enough to create definite and palpable sensations of anticipation. On race day you have to look closely to spot the indications; but everyone is doing something to prep himself for the alluring, enticing and dangerous delights of racing--it's part of that game. The game is embracing forces, barriers and sensations. Forces that you see or don't see; barriers that are real or not real; near overwhelming sensations which can suddenly vaporize; then transform into the sharpest possible focus of oneness with bike and track--the instant the flag drops. Force In-Image Out Each rider has his own way of waiting; tapping toes, cleaning faceshields, chatting, thinking. Every possible device can be and is used to either capture or in some cases to hide from his own view, the ripe and blistering reality of the forces he'll soon confront. Those forces and barriers are either all directed towards him, dangerously testing his ability to perform, or he is pressing himself out to meet them. Reaching into the riding environment with the idea of leaving his mark. A street rider's version of leaving his mark may be to express his individuality by the bike he chooses to ride, the modifications he makes to it or his riding style. Sport machines, with their rakish angles for both man and machine, make one statement; a cruiser's kicked-back comfort another; certainly, touring bike riders have yet another intention and create an altogether different impression. Kocinski's Way John Kocinski had one of my favorite track day demeanors; what a sublime example of perfect enthusiasm. There simply was not anywhere else he wanted to be. John treated race day more like a surfer, he caught his wave on the first lap of practice and never dropped out of it until the checkered flag. From the very first time he said, "Hey, did you watch me out there," I knew. Of course I watched him out there, everything he did on Bud Aksland's TZ when he was competing in AMA 250 races was larger than life and he knew it. Cleaning every bug speck from his leathers in the pits, for an hour at a time, was simply his way of taking in and holding the track, its changes, his changes. You could sense the sheer joy, the elation he derived from crisply carving the track and the other riders. He was on a wave--don't get in my way--this is my wave--you can't catch it. "Ya," I said "I watched you in the esses. Every time you turned it in there you got it flicked so hard the front pushed six inches before it hooked up--every lap." He grinned, his eyes turned to paper thin slits, freckles lit up on high color rushing into his normally pale, freckled face, a chortle issuing from his lips. Then he shaped his mouth into a perfect O, eyes widening with an intense inner stare, as he created a duplicate sensation of the exact moment I was describing; then back to the slits and grin. He was in the tube of a ten footer he intended to ride into the winners circle. One life threatening encounter per year is enough to wake up most riders, here was a guy who challenged every turn, every moment, inviting and taunting the gods of force to throw everything they have at him, no problem, he was here to smoke them and anyone else that threw their hat in the ring. This is an attitude that goes beyond simple survival and into the realm of conquering your environment; but when you consider the possible benefits, it is probably the most practical approach to street riding as well. Observation There's an annoying quirk some race announcers have of second guessing what the rider is thinking. "He's thinking...", "He wants to win this race because...", "He's thinking, If I could just..." I don't think so. Racing's most obvious aspect, when you are ON, is its full dependence on and utilization of accurate observations. That is a very refined and far higher level of awareness than mere thinking. Compared to that level of operation thinking is coarse and abrasive, you could even say it was stiff and notched in character. You have already gotten the thinking done in practice, now it's time to race, not fill out your tax forms. Some riders have had their thinking processes so invalidated by public school systems and other sources of "authority" that they do not feel qualified or comfortable even skirting around the idea of being capable of having two thoughts to rub against one another. Wrong. Before someone could be considered truly able to think they must first be able to observe--and riders can observe--they prove it consistently with good performances--and they would probably win any observation test given but I don't recall any course called Observation 101. You're kind of left on your own to sort it out for yourself. Faster Than Thought Indeed, they can think. Taking in and retaining the enormous quantities of information, at what would be a horrifying rate for most people, and the constant high speed sorting process that stems from the rider's ability to juggle them in real time makes even the best computer technology look shoddy and mechanical by comparison. Are good riders observant? I would say so. Are they able to think with time and space? Got my vote. Do they have the ability to locate and focus energy with deadly precision? Kinda looks that way. Can they fully communicate with and understand their environment? In the finest sense of those words. And do they possess certainty of and confidence in their own observations? Of course, a racer or street rider would be a frazzled wreck if he didn't. What would it be like trying to enter a turn at pro race speeds without them? Pretty bad. Street situations can parallel this. It only takes one or two panic circumstances to realize that thinking something through is not an option out in the war zone of traffic. If you somehow did not notice a situation unfolding around you, like a quick lane changer, chances are you went to the adrenaline pump for inspiration. The situations that don't happen because your powers of observation were intact and correct are numerous. Panic button situations all start where precise observation was dropped out. You have to appreciate the difference between a racer who looks at a track not from the viewpoint of how he can adapt to it but how it will conform to his own demands, his goals. When a good rider imposes his will on the track it conforms, it is conquered. This is thought plus action at the very highest level. The point? There are no unobservant, stupid, fast guys or competent street riders. Master The Forces You can see where the excitement comes from and how the carefully woven and intricate patterning of a rider's race face could evolve. Keeping each and every delicately constructed nuance of a course neatly wrapped and stacked like mysterious presents. These packages, later to be thrashed open and used like a ten-year old at Christmas, contain all the rider's hopes and plans for success; and accurate impressions of each sensation; each erg of cornering, acceleration and traction forces, each visual cue, each instant of time and timing and every control action it takes to reproduce them. A good rider's sense of space encompasses even the quality of the form of his or her cornering arcs. A sense of space so keen it can transform turn-entry environments into intimately familiar places with sweet spots that practically glow with invitation to him. They're his, he owns them. Anyone with a high degree of certainty of his skills feels this way about even the most mundane traffic riding. Knowing where you want to be and exactly how you want to be there, and what it should look like, is ultimately the most efficient way of riding--anywhere and anytime. And if you weren't willing to keep your arsenal of skills laid out and ready for action, with a solid understanding of how they would apply if you needed them NOW, NOW and NOW; every moment of every ride, you'd feel imminent peril was stalking you. So maybe you'd just call this attitude your ride face. Words Of Speed For a racer, the challenge of communicating his collage of impressions about the forces is daunting; who would understand them but another racer and even his sense of them could be quite different. From a practical standpoint, the language to describe them hasn't been developed: we don't have words yet that describe action, sensation, observation, control and intention--simultaneously. They just don't exist. Slang and carefully chosen words that evoke these dynamic processes are as close as we come. I asked Eddie Lawson one day in 1981 at Riverside Raceway what he did to bring his lap times down a half second on his Superbike. He said, "I just ran-it-in there [to turn #9] harder." Eddie was spare with words in those days so I thought about what he said. The word "there" kept coming up in my mind. What did he mean by "there". The entrance to turn 9 was a place for him, it was cleanly defined space, a definite area with a particular character. Not just a four lane, banked stock car turn with a vague feel-my-way-in approach. That turn and ones like it took on a whole new meaning for me and brought back all the times I had felt that way about a turn. It was clear that if you didn't have a sense for the turns you were riding and their character, you would never conquer them. Here again, the road, any road, has a character with a potential for sweet spots, even the freeway. I suppose if you rode with the attitude that you were always seeking the sweet spot in your lane, and you found it, you would also achieve the most tactically advantageous position for maneuvering as well as making you feel good. This is not an alien concept to riders, we already do this to a great extent. It's one of the joys of riding. Predators of Space Racers cause things to happen. An inspired ride is inspiring to behold, race fans know that. Riders achieve that level of performance with their adeptness at embracing a track, challenging its seemingly unyielding nature with a precise but predatory enthusiasm that communicates like a lion on the back of a running roebuck with its teeth sunk in to the gums. Still, there are riders who consider themselves to be more of a spectator, waiting for things to happen to them. It is not a subtle difference between these two. One is probing outward, conquering space, the other is suffering the challenge of it. Observation does require communication with the environment and communication is an outward bound force of presence. Presence It's something to note that when street riders feel ON they generally don't have trouble with cars and other potential distractions. That attitude of command is, or should be, part of any riders portfolio of tricks. Having a presence is an ability everyone has to a certain extent. Actors are people who have a special talent for it, riders, both street and race, express it differently in their craft but it is presence nevertheless. Establishing your presence on any ride is a moment to moment activity. New riders can't do this. They are still battling the challenge of just riding. You can see that their command of space goes out about as far as the clutch lever and then out about three feet in front of the bike and then hopefully improves with experience. So, space is one of the forces to be dealt with and a rider commands it or it commands him. One commands space with presence. Masked Force You may say a race face is a protective mask to prevent outside influences from entering into a racers world, or, you may say the mask serves to bridle a rider's own force, keeping it ready to be unleashed and do his bidding at the appointed time. But why not wear one when the cost of error is so high? The price of protecting that delicately self-constructed universe of perceptions and intricate maneuvers may be high but failing to spend your last nickel on it would mean your aim as a racer was less than great or your sense of survival as a street rider was low. The mark of a champion is total commitment to his observations and his unshakable belief in them and an unwavering responsibility for them. These are the tools used to achieve that perfectly pitched note or to ride that wave. Riders seem to need a race face to maintain this. It's part of that game of embracing and commanding the forces they'll contend with. Try one on. ? 1999 Keith Code
  20. Keith Code

    Choices And Decision

    Dear riders, Here is another fun and enlightening way of looking at your riding. Keith ----------- Choices And Decision Some parts of riding are simple. Where the choices of action are limited or easy to grasp riders feel in control. When choices are more complex or not understood, errors occur. If riding sometimes feels like a coin toss, heads I brake, tails I gas it, realize you have some work to do. A rider’s skills are improving when their choices yield consistent results and when the rider knows and can identify and understands that the bike is performing “as good as it gets”. Realizing our choices really do produce good results, we begin to trust ourselves and our own judgement. In a word, this is CONFIDENCE. Choices come in all shapes and sizes. Common ones like choosing which part of the lane to ride in--stay out of the greasy stuff in the middle--are both simple and powerful. Understanding the situation, the middle is greasy, combined with a small shift in road position demonstrates a depth of understanding and predictable (confident) results. In this case, your position in the lane determines whether you do something, like reposition the bike or do nothing, stay where you are. Complex situations, like aggressively flicking the bike through a set of esses, have many more available choices. In this case, due to the limited time to correct any error, each wrong action has an ever worsening, ever widening ripple effect. The Choice Almost every moment in the saddle, riders are confronted with the choice to do something or do nothing. Provided you have some riding savvy and at least a mediocre command of the controls, good judgement amounts to little more than knowing when to do something and when to do nothing. How many cycles of do-something/do-nothing happen when you let out the clutch? If you count the stops and changes in clutch lever pressure and throttle, that would be the number. Every change, no matter how minute, is a point of choice, do something/do nothing. This is the micro side of riding and some may say it is looking too closely but our mini decisions rule our riding in more ways than one. Less skilled riders seem bent on doing something all the time and they appear busy because of it. You can almost see the logic: if I’m always busy, perhaps I’ll hit the right control combination?by luck. That or they freeze up and do nothing?deer in the headlights syndrome. Seasoned riders have more understanding of when to do something or nothing. Less experienced riders look busy and stiff. Skilled and seasoned ones look almost lazy and relaxed even when performing complex tasks. It's like that in every sport and activity. Advice And Understanding Sometimes action is required and sometimes it is not. This is why telling someone to relax is poor coaching. They must know when to act/not act in order to relax in confidence. In this respect, "relax" is wrong advice--unless it is backed up by when and where to do something so you can later do nothing. In the final analysis, it is more a question of what you DO than what you don't do which results in looking and feeling “relaxed” on the bike. If the rider had made the right decision and done something rather than just sit there, they wouldn’t be busy later on making up for it. Your Goal Practically everyone has the goal to "be smooth" and it falls into this same category. It too is a result of the choice to do something/do nothing, action/inaction, control/no control. And it really is the micro look at riding: each twitch of the throttle hand, each stab at the brakes, each false steering input, each jerky eye movement. This concept has something to do with every control action you ever have or ever will make. there is a time to do and a time to not do. Experience is a great resource but, if you do not ride for a living, understanding is the foundation and the shortcut to the level of skill you envision for yourself and your riding. I hope we get the opportunity to help you. Learn the Skills, Discover the Art. Keith Code
  21. Keith Code

    Holding Your Line

    Holding Your Line Predicting a Line If you always knew precisely where the bike was going to be, as far up ahead as you could see in corners, what sort of impact would that have on your everyday riding, touring, track riding or racing? Think of how easy it would be to have good throttle control if you always knew where you were going to be! Isn?t throttle control easy when you know your line is ?good?? This could easily lead you to believe that having a good line was the key to good throttle control but it?s not. In fact, it is the opposite: Good throttle control is the answer and opens the door to ?good? lines. It is true, one of the great results of good, standard throttle control is the bike holding a predictable line in the corner; and all riders realize that having the ability to accurately predict the result of their line would result in a far more positive riding experience in any cornering situation. Would that be true for you? The Purpose I?d like you to take a look here at some data on this subject and at the end I?ve prepared an exercise you can do to gain better control of your line and more confidence in predicting it. Throttle Control Virtues At the Superbike School we spend a lot of time and put heavy emphasis on Throttle Control. From a technical perspective, all that goes right and most all of what can go wrong in a turn starts and ends with how well you conduct that precision control device on the right hand bar known as the throttle. A predictable line is one of the many positive results of controlling the throttle accurately. It?s easy to communicate how easily good Throttle Control solves common problems and puts the rider in ?full? (the best it can be) control of the bike. We sing its praises and tout its many virtues--when we get it right. Riders generally deplore their own shortcomings in being able to maintain it when fear and panic seize them. They understand its simplicity; they grasp its importance immediately and see areas where they could improve throttle control just from a classroom briefing on it. Running Wide Running wide is a major concern for all riders. Name a situation (other than in multiple radii turns) where running wide is a benefit. If you are at a loss to find one, I understand, no one ever has. How do you handle running wide? This is a huge concern and it brings up such questions as: Should I just trust the tires? Should I just lean it over more thinking ?the bike can do it?? Should I stand it up and go for the brakes? What do you do? Contrary Feelings Let?s start out with our Survival Instincts and see how they may cause problems. When the bike is running wide the last thing your instinct tells you is: ?You need more gas here?. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It tells you that rolling on the gas will make it worse and you will crash. This is a Survival Reaction, we call them SRs for short. This particular Survival Reaction (SR) may be based on the very first day you rode a bike at slow speed in a parking lot. Perhaps the bike felt like it was falling over and you gave it some gas and that stabilized it: that stopped the feeling that it was going to fall over. It may have even felt like it brought the bike up. This second one is a false perception. The bike did not ?come up? but it did stabilize. If stopping the bike from falling inwards mistakenly becomes confused with ?coming up? your right hand on the throttle would have a very strong opinion about this in the future, i.e., gas on = bike comes up; as opposed to the truth of the matter which is: gas on = bike stabilizes its lean angle. A related misconception that many riders have follows along this same line. Most riders say the bike comes up as they begin to roll the throttle on more aggressively towards the end of the turn. Contrary to that feeling, the bike does not ?come up? from throttle application when you are exiting a turn. You Choke, You Lose In running wide, even a momentary hesitation is enough to cause anxiety. Perhaps you find yourself in a turn running a bit wide (or at least you think you are) and that very brief hesitation, which is composed of you thinking it through and mind wrestling with the instinct to roll off, is enough to make it all go wrong?the throttle roll-on stops or even backslides towards OFF a bit and the bike does try to run wider. By the way, this is another area of false perception that many riders have. They say the bike goes into the turn on a tighter line when they roll off the gas but, guess what, they are actually steering it inwards. Left to its own, the bike comes up and runs wide. Back to the point. Even with terrific reflexes it takes time for you to subdue the Survival Reaction (SR) that created that hesitation and finally make the decision to roll it on. A half a second is short for this type of thing. In reality it takes more like a second or even two to regain your control. That is a lot of space, that is a lot of running wide, that is a lot of anxiety and that is most of any short turn. Precision Control Superlative Throttle Control is a precision activity. Easy for those who can do it and very confusing (probably based on the contrary evidence from false perception as above) for those who cannot. Finding the right amount of gas to stabilize the bike and hold its line isn?t even vaguely easy, it is hard. Initially, you have to break through some pretty tough barriers just to maintain good throttle control to get the bike to hold a predictable line, especially as the speed increases. Unfortunately, even after you have done it successfully in one corner there is no guarantee it will be solved in other turns! Throttle control must be looked at from the angle of a fluid and continuous maintenance of the bikes attitude in the turn, i.e., enough weight transferred off the front and onto the rear of the bike to maintain its best and most neutral handling attitude, not too much or too little. And more importantly, maintaining the suspension in its optimum stroke-range with the throttle. This requires a continuous roll-on. The point is this: your ability to maintain good throttle control is an absolutely necessary and integral part of conquering the SRs connected to running wide. Being able to judge your line has everything to do with your sense of confidence in any cornering situation. Note: Throttle control is well covered in ?A Twist of the Wrist?, Volume II, as those of you who have read the book already know. Any Solutions? Not yet. Without first hand knowledge of how it feels and looks my words are not likely to make running wide disappear as a problem for you. Another thing I should mention, there is no iron clad, fits all situations type answer to it. But there are answers. Here is a drill to improve your ability to predict your line. 1. Find yourself a curvy road. A familiar one is best. A calm track day would also be perfect. 2. Back off your speed enough so you are certain you won?t run wide. Set your speed that way for each turn you enter. 3. Get the bike fully turned into the corner so you are happy with where it is pointed. 4. Begin your roll-on as soon as possible after #3 is settled. 5. Estimate where exactly you think the bike is going to be at its widest point on the turn?s exit. Don?t choose blind turns to do it. You are trying to predict at what point ahead you will come the. closest to the center line (in right hand corners on the road) or the road?s edge (in left hand corners on the road). Your final and widest exit point. 6. Maintain a fluid, seamless and continuous roll-on throughout the corner. 7. Do not adjust the steering or lean angle of the bike (unless you really have to). 8. Evaluate your estimate from #5. How did you do? How close were you to the point you thought was going to be your exit? 9. Experiment with slower and/or more aggressive roll-ons until you get the feel for what it takes for that bike to hold a predictable line. Run Wide Adjustments Here are some classic errors and problems that counter your efforts to maintain a predictable line: Throttle errors: 1. You roll on the gas too soon. Before it is fully leaned into the turn. 2. You roll on the gas too aggressively. This over-extends the forks and increases speed too much, both make it run wide. 3. You roll on a little bit and stop. That alters your line. This counter-steers the bike up (wide again) when weight transfers forward. 4. You go on and off the gas in the turn. That makes the line unpredictable and it widens it. Line Errors 5. You start into the turn too early, forcing a wider line through it . 6. You start into the turn too far to the inside, again this forces a wider line through the middle and exit of the turn. 7. The turn is too much of a decreasing radius turn. Do it in constant or increasing radius turns until you get the hang of it. The Usual Bike Setup Errors 8. You have an overly stiff a spring in the front of the bike. That holds the front up too high and makes it want to run wide. 9. You have too much compression damping in the front end of the bike holding the front up too high. This makes the bike want to run wide. 10. The rear ride height of the bike is too low. This rakes the front out and tends to make it run wide. 11. The tires are worn and you have to fight the bike a bit to hold it in the turn. This also makes it run wide. 12. Too much rebound in the rear and too little in the front. This holds the back down and the front up. Wide again. As Good As It Gets How many turns it will take to build confidence in yourself and, eventually, the bike I can?t tell you. I do know that it will all come down to achieving a high degree of good, solid control of the throttle. It goes like this: you can?t trust the bike or the tires until you can trust yourself and your right hand to do the right thing. That?s as good as it gets. It is a tried and true route to confidence and accuracy in your lines. Very best, Keith ? Keith Code, 2006, all rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form, in any way without permission from the author.
  22. Keith Code

    The Barriers To Improvement

    The Barriers to Improvement While riding, the more we resist things happening to us the more likely we are to make an error with that exact thing. The areas we fear, the ones we do not understand the basics or the limits of, the ones that stick our attention, will bite us in the end. Squirmy Barriers It's really simple, if you put too much attention on how the tires are gripping, each little squirm of the tire can make you nervous. Later braking, better drives, higher entry speeds and everything else there is to riding, especially quick riding, follows suit. They all have scary parts that can stick our attention. Look over most of the riding forums and see what the majority of questions are about. The questions all relate to the barriers these riders experience. Good Starts Take starts for example. You try to get a good launch and the right hand is too nervous on the throttle; your attention is fixed on it and the start is bogged. Putting all of ones attention onto the throttle and resisting the impact it "might" have leaves no attention free to look after the clutch. Done properly, we bring the clutch out to just before engagement and pin the throttle, leaving all of our attention free to use the clutch and correctly meter the power to get the launch; no bog, no wheelie. Attention Barriers Attention nailed in place, on what is being resisted, becomes the real barrier. The moment attention goes to what we don't want to happen (the scary bits) we miss the positive aspects that would allow us to improve. Chopped up riding is the expected, but unwanted, result of our attention being spent on and becoming fixated on that which we resist. It creates "no-flow" and hesitant riding is the result. If you wanted to get some immediate improvement in your riding you'd write out what it would be like if the commonplace things you resist were overcome. In fact, take a look at any time you've had a riding uncertainty and you'll come up with an item that was being resisted. The control inputs that govern your traction, line, lean angle, surface situations and speed are the most likely suspects to investigate for that list. Bridging the Gap In order to maintain contact with what IS happening the important must be separated from the unimportant. Easy to say but how do you bridge the gap between the fear of things and achieving the desired flow? Here we are back to the basic idea of "A Twist of the Wrist, Volume I", how our limited amount of available attention is being spent. What's Important? In the tire squirm example: tire squirm is important to you but your control over the throttle is far more important. In the end it will be mastery of it that allows you to move through the tire squirming barrier and get to the point where proper tire spinning is comfy. As you bring the bike up out of the turn and apply more and more throttle the rear end tends to stiffen, as a result, the squirmy little mini-slides are more easily achieved. Because of that, the drive area off corners would be the important place to begin to experiment with squirm and spin. Why? It's safer. Tire slip is tire slip and the rules say that slip at big lean angles is going to get worse a whole lot quicker than if the bike were more upright. This is important for you to know. It gives a precise area (turn exit) and action (bringing up the bike) to coordinate with your idea of tire spinning and throttle application. Squirm Barriers If the rider freezes as he feels the squirm two things can happen that make things worse: 1) she stops bringing the bike up and 2) the throttle roll on stops. That is exactly the point at which it would begin to work if she had kept going with both. In this case, the timing of the two actions is what is important just as the clutch engagement timing is the key that unlocks a great launch. The Time to Improve Riding and life work like this: put your attention on fears and we produce fear and errors; put it on our hopes, we see hope. The only hope you have of mastery in these areas of riding is to sort out the underlying technical points, procedures and priorities which, when mastered, will pave the way to success. It doesn't mean that there aren't riders who are quick, smooth and consistent naturally, I've known many; but the questions you have to ask yourself are, "Am I quick, smooth and consistent?" "Can I make it in the time I have allotted for this sport"? "Will 10 more track days pull it all together for me?" Un-resist On a purely physical level a great example of overcoming fear and resistance is the technique for going down a steep, slippery dirt hill on foot. If you resist, for fear of your feet slipping out from underneath you, they tend to slip. The moment you lean forward and begin to run or walk quickly enough, there is no possibility of falling from slipping. Skiing is very similar. Resist and you lose control. There is simple physics that accompany this technique but the point is-it's foolproof, you can't fall from loosing your traction if you run or walk quickly enough down the slippery stuff. The flow you impose on it overcomes the barrier. The potential for a bad result evaporates completely and you are in knowing control of it. Un-resisted Riding Actually, riding off-road is the same principal, the more you resist going down the hill by over-using the brakes, especially the rear, the less control you have; pushing through that barrier and allowing the rear wheel to turn ain't easy for some people but it is a whole other world of control on the other side. That world opens up when you correctly place your attention onto what gains you control rather than resisting it. Similarly, your chances of wheelying or bogging goes way down when the throttle is pinned for starts; it just doesn't seem that way until you do it. Every barrier you blow through results in a satisfying and in-control flow of actions. If you think what I am saying is: you have to push through the fear barriers to get to clean riding, you are right; but the push comes after the understanding of where your attention should or should not be focused. Simple Route There are basic principals to riding. What you ride doesn't change them. Where you ride doesn't change them. How fast you ride doesn't change them. They are what they are: they are not based on my opinions about them, they are based on well defined and easily understood basic principals you will understand. You may discover these principals all on your own, you may also win the lottery. Considering the limited amount of time most riders have to devote to riding your chances are about the same. It has been our great good fortune to research, discover and assemble these technical points of cornering. It has taken 30 years of devoted time and attention to separate the important from the unimportant and to figure out ways we can trick ourselves into giving up the resist-error-resist-terror way of doing things in favor of the focus-flow-focus-go mode. We now know how to achieve this with ANY rider. Indeed, the huge amount of improvement riders can achieve in just one day of training still boggles me, even after 30 years of doing it. The Superbike School's program is not based on tricks and I can't say it is easy to overcome the barriers. I will say that our route is simple to understand, direct, to the point and it works. You will improve; past that I can't promise anything. Learn the skills, discover the art of cornering. Best, Keith Code\School Director ⓒ Keith Code, 2006, all rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form without express written permission from the author.
  23. Keith Code

    The Spirit Of A Track

    Making Friends Racetracks have character, they have a fascinating spirit and are a passionate subject with riders. In private, tracks are discussed in terms of living things; often with reverence and always laced with pride, even fond familiarity - like a trusted pet or perhaps a special girl - definitely something or someone with whom riders have shared intimate moments - "I get into that third gear sweeper hotter than anyone". Of course, conquest and performance have something to do with that but even bizarre crashes contain hints of exclusive intimacy, most often without the rider even being aware of his succinct understanding of the turn: "It started drifting right where the kink tightens by that patch, I went to the paint to save it but she flicked me off" - You can't touch this. Good Tracks/Bad Tracks Comments on the character of racetracks are modified, and do differ dramatically, according to a rider's performance: that's the conquest and win / lose - aspect of it. Take Willow Springs, Southern California's own piece of history in the roadrace world, as an example. Opinions on this track's character could not be more varied and the legacy of rider's experiences is vast but often confusing and changeable, even fickle in nature. Some love it some hate it and some just ride it because it's mainly the only one we race in So Cal. It's somewhat ironic when you consider how many people's opinions about how many different motorcycles have been formed at this track. More consumer road tests, tire tests and races, for that matter, have been run there than any other track, possibly in the world. Except for the street and canyon portion of American magazine tests, your bike has most likely been judged as to its handling characteristics on these hallowed nine curves and 2.5 miles of asphalt. Sister Willow It is true, the little-sister 1.1 mile track, constructed by track owner Bill Huth, called "The Streets of Willow Springs", and located behind "Big Willow", has been the sight of many tests and It has great qualities for low speed comparison and steering and is infinitely more technical as far as lines are concerned, it's probably one of the best training tracks in the world for those points but is no measure of high speed stability and stress and despite the frequent use of brakes on the small track and the high speed of the big one, neither facility is much of a test for the heat and fade of binders. From the point of view of training riders, "The Streets" is far easier to master the character of than that of the big track and riders make significantly more progress in skill level and technique because of it. In that wise, the big track is simply too vast for most riders to gain that intimate knowledge and communion, they find themselves lost much of the time, whereas "The Streets" gives most riders an immediate sense of accomplishment which transfers directly to road and canyon riding. It's a rare and special ability to fully adopt the characteristics of a turn or a track, to become it in order to master it--know and love your enemy before conquering him--a few strokes to discover its spirit. Any track that refuses you that unique fellowship is not being friendly and Big Willow Springs can refuse you. Despite the fact that it has recently been beautifully resurfaced and widened, Big Willow's character remains intact, its problems still daunting. Famous Likes/Dislikes I've been curious about the comments on Willow Springs' nine turns for years. Why would riders like Doug Polen, Freddie Spencer, Doug Chandler and Scott Russell have a poor opinion of certainly one of the safest tracks in America, when one considers the decided lack of walls, barriers, curbs and etc. Then too, no comments are on record from previous or current track record holders like, Kenny Roberts, Randy Mamola and Scott Grey, Chuck Graves and Rich Oliver. Mike Hailwood rode there in the 60's but just won, grinned and went home. Then too, my school experience at Willow for the past 19 years tells an interesting story. Why for example did student lap times only improve a few seconds when bikes, tires, frames, aerodynamics and brakes have made meteoric leaps as have race times? In the early 80's teams proclaimed that the track didn't prepare you or the bike for other courses; a broadcast statement for the Kawasaki and Honda teams back when Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey and Freddie Spencer were riding here and that opinion was contagious. Having run my own Superbike around there in the 70's had me agreeing with them - turn eight simply bullied any bike with a frail chassis and lots of horsepower, it still can to some degree. But nearly any 6th gear, almost full lean angle, very lightly banked sweeper could - except there isn't another one in this country! What's The Problem I agreed then but now realize it wasn't only the track and my bike's structural integrity that were at fault; understanding and knowing the turns' characters was the main deficiency. Any decent handling 90's street bike will respectably handle Willow's most glaringly obvious difficulties, when they are understood. Chuck Graves proved that by breaking Eddie Lawson's 500 cc GP absolute bike track record (on the old track) with a sub race standard, barely modified, Suzuki GSX-R. So why the complaints, is it just a vague piece of poorly designed asphalt, or does it require extraordinary skill and intimate knowledge to ride well? Project: Lap Record This isn't a chapter and verse expose on how to ride Willow, that information was the result of a project in June of 1994 when I asked Graves if he'd like to break that 2 1/2 year old track record, it is a broad thumbnail sketch of its idiosyncrasies. And just for the record, it's not that I have an enormous amount of experience at Willow, any club racer who has two bikes has started more events there in one season than I have since first riding the track in 1974 and I'm not particularly fast there either; but I do know something of the character of tracks and what riders are likely to adopt as techniques in response to them. The lap record project required about 2 hours of thinking time on my part and another 3 or 4 hours with Chuck in preparation for that June Sunday when he went low 1:25 to snag the record on his Team Valvoline Suzuki, hastily prepped at his own shop and later found to be lacking 20 rear wheel hp from its normal output on the dyno! We're talking about conjuring up the spirit of a track and making friends with it not overwhelming it with horsepower. Note: Since Graves' record was set on the "old track", before it was widened, he will keep that record for all time. The character and spirit of Willow Springs starts off with an interesting twist - each turn is vastly different than the next. While practically every other track has some design integrity with which a rider can create an intimate flow, Willow has none; not even a set of esses that aren't substantially varied in character. Street riders have enormous difficulty with the variety of changes and drawing on road experience to gain savvy doesn't work at Willow. A Sketch Of Willow Turn one for example is a third gear, 90 degree bowl with enough banking to make it 10 MPH faster than it looks to the untrained eye and contains a nagging uncertainty: you can't see the pavement edge at the exit from a mid-turn, down-in-the- bowl position. The fact that it's at the end of a 1/2 mile straight doesn't help. On a big bike or a 250 GP machine the 150+ down to 75 mph speed change is dramatic and attaining a consistent turn entry speed is difficult. Once you've flicked it in is just about the time you realize the bike is stable, has 7 or 8 more degrees of lean angle available, and your speed is -5 or even -10 mph, but now you're down-in-the-bowl and that exit uncertainty hits and the critical 3/10ths second lag on the throttle costs you the drive - and the error lingers - all the way down the short shoot. The turn's character is deceitful; you feel foolish for being so careful coming into it, then, as it cradles you into a false security it smacks you in the face at the exit for being led like a sheep. The potential for emotional responses from apathy or anger all the way to interest and enthusiasm, is limitless. For a multi-track experienced rider Willow has a kind of bump and stumble character to it that both attacks and balks every rider's basic desire to map out a conquering flow-plan for the asphalt. Six of its nine turns have a rise, fall, lip, shelf or drop in them or at their exit. As turn #7 is a flat out kink on any bike that means 75% of them are dedicated to crushing the rider's spirit, especially his enthusiasm for the exit drive. Why? Because they spin too much from becoming light over these sections and no amount of suspension adjustment can handle that. At each point where you rightfully should be able to have the throttle going to the stop, she's going to spin or slide and spin. It's not a problem on every bike just the ones with a healthy power to weight ratio and if you use the power everywhere you can it will toast your tires in five laps! This is true for the exits of one, two, three, four, six and nine, they must be coolly calculated: you almost have to think of them in a backwards fashion from "normal" turns when you have power. When you want to go it wants to stop and it simply begs you to spin the tire because it's so easy to - and you've had fun - and you've smoked your tire. But even on a light bike with lower HP but good corner speed you still have the problem of being light on the exit and the outward bound forces are there to contend with to some degree in each of those turns. Knowing them makes the job of going fast just that much easier and more predictable. Split Decisions You can look at Willow from a number of other perspectives but its essence is the spectrum of changes demanded from and imposed on the rider. In a perfect universe any rider would prefer to have his attention on one thing at a time: WSIR splits you into pieces. Take the downhill section of turn #4 where you are setting up for #5, a section that has bitten some of the world's best riders and then, ultimately, #6, a very crested, banked and blind turn critical to your back straight speed. #5 is basically a double apex turn that has you leaned over, braking, turning and downshifting plus a body position shift from right to left, while you set it up, on top of keeping your speed, looking up track and getting off the brake to turn. Pretty much the only thing left to do is adjust the clutch lever! Now, contrast that with turns #2 and #8 which are both over 1/4 mile long, both decrease in radius, neither allows you any visual understanding upon entry--can you get lost? Another rider faculty pressed into extreme service is his Sense of Speed. The entrance to turn #2 is over 100 mph and into #8 is over 125 on most bikes. While plus or minus 5 mph is a small percentage of the total it is never the less another critical area for good lap times and eliminating potential mistakes in two of the fastest turn areas of the track. So, good throttle control pays premium rewards, as does a light touch on the bike for stability because; while one is not required to shut it all the way off for these turns, even on a fast bike, some roll off is required and any noticeable instability from a heavily weighted front end at these points slows the roll-on so necessary for maintaining entry speed. Know - Love - Win A goodly number of current top riders have been known to make excuses for not conquering Willow; that's part of the racing game and will always be. Whether or not it is a challenge which simply will not yield to impatience is historically clear. That a rider feels as though he needs either a million laps or else the special, secret techniques to conquer it is probably not that far from the truth for 99% of them. But then every turn and track has its own special character to discover. Riders who actually understand the changes and how to deal with them at the 2.5 mile Willow have the tools to succeed at many tracks. For, no matter how baffling the others look at first, they will invariably show him a kinder character than will WSIR. You've gotta get the spirit... ⓒ Keith Code 1997
  24. Keith Code


    Brake/Down Changing Gears Like a Pro Barriers Open Doors To make real improvement there must first exist a real barrier to overcome or a real result to achieve. These are always based on the rider's own desires: to go faster; be more in control; have fewer panic situations; put it all together into a smooth flow or simply remove doubts and questions they have relating to those goals: when do the tires slide, how hard can I brake, how far can I lean the bike and so on. When you look at it you'll see that there is very little difference, if any, between a riding barrier and a riding goal; they both have the same stumbling blocks. They both have an end result to achieve. They both have some fear or uncertainty or distraction attached to them. There is always a barrier. The Braking & Downshifting Barrier An example of a common barrier would be the complications that arise from the hurried and slightly frantic control operations that stem from not learning to smoothly and simultaneously brake and downshift for traffic lights, obstructions and, of course, corners. Doesn't sound like a life or death threatening situation but when inspected closely you see what impact it really has on a rider's attention and how they are spending it. Check it out, if the rider can't do braking and downshifting, simultaneously and smoothly, they are forced into one or more of the following attention draining scenarios: 1. Slowly letting out the clutch to make the downshift smoothly. This requires attention to be spent and is the most common way uneducated riders handle it. 2. Having to change gears once the bike is stopped. When the bike is stopped even the best transmissions can be sticky. Gears change more easily and more positively when the bike is moving. It causes less wear on the gearbox to change the gears while you are moving. 3. Having to change the gears after the braking is completed for a turn. That means doing it in the curve. This is distracting and can upset the bike, to say nothing of the rider. 4. Alternately going from the brake to the gas to match revs for the downshifts. This has the bike pogoing at the front. It does not get the bike slowed down quickly in an efficient manner. This is very busy riding. 5. Downshift before braking. This is fine for very relaxed riding situations at slow speeds but is hazardous to the engine if the rider is in "spirited cornering" mode as it provides the opportunity to over-rev the motor and bypass the rev limiter that protects it. Could be very expensive. In an emergency situation you don't have time to do this because you should be on the brakes right away. Not only that but some emergencies require you to brake and then get on the gas right away for accelerating hard to avoid things like cars running a light on you. In this case the rider would not have the time to get it done. 6. Forget it entirely and just go through the corner. This forces downshift(s) to be done at the corner's exit thus losing the drive out and complicating the whole thing by having to make a gear change when they should be rolling on the throttle. This is distracting and not smooth at all. Coordination And Concentration It is true that if a rider was uncoordinated and attempts simultaneous braking and downshifting it could be dangerous. For example having the front brake on along with the power can make your front wheel lock up. On our panic-stop training bike I have seen it many times: the rider aggressively squeezes the brake and unconsciously rolls the throttle on at the same time. It's spooky to watch. So yes, practice and coordination are necessary, you will have to practice. More importantly, you have to make a decision. Are the 6 potential distractions above likely to get you into trouble? They do break the rider's concentration even if only slightly. In other words: if you aren't a super hero at multitasking each of the 6 is a negative in comparison with braking and downshifting simultaneously. In Control = In Communication Continuous perception of your speed is how you control it. Accurate turn entry speed is critical to good, confident cornering. If you are worried about your speed, you are distracted by it. Finding the right turn entry speed (for you) is far easier when the braking and downshifting are happening in one continuous flow of change. When compared to one that is chopped up, incomplete or creates anxiety like having to shift in the turn, it's obvious which scenario is better. Your Sense of Speed is a precious resource and is far more accurate when monitored as a steady stream with your awareness. Maintaining a continuous state of awareness of what the bike itself is doing is another of the true benefits of this technique. You always know where the engine speed is in relation to the road speed and that improves your feel for the bike. Your communication with the machine improves; no false signals or guess work; no waiting to know how the bike will respond in any of the above scenarios. You ability to maintain communication with the bike is important input. Naming It Simultaneous braking and downshifting. I'd like to shorten it to something like brake-down. Car guys call it heel and toe, which is a nice, short and simple way of saying they are simultaneously using the brake pedal with their toe and revving the motor with their heel. In some cars you just put the ball of your foot between the brake and gas pedals and rock your foot side to side to do it, it depends on the pedal arrangement. On a bike, provided the brake lever is comfortably adjusted to fit your hand, they are always in the same position for our maneuver. Alright, for now it is brake-down. It would be interesting to have a non rider hear about you executing a "breakdown" coming into a curve; sounds pretty dangerous. How about fist and fingers or palm and fingers or B&Ding? Whatever we call it, it works to simplify corner entries and puts the rider in command of and in communication with his machine to the highest possible degree. The Sequence 1. Gas goes off. 2. Brake goes on. 3. Bike slows some. 4. Clutch comes in. Maintain brake lever pressure. 5. Blip the gas rapidly on and off. (Usually no more than a quarter turn). Maintain brake lever pressure. 6. During the blip make the gear change positively and quickly. Maintain brake lever pressure. 7. Clutch comes out. Maintain brake lever pressure until desired turn entry speed is achieved. 8. Release brake smoothly. Bear this in mind: the quicker you do steps #1 through #7 the better. Brake Lever Control Expert use of the brake during this entire cycle means that you can maintain, increase or decrease the pressure as desired, without abruptly stabbing or releasing the brake lever. Number of Fingers Some riders let their finger(s) slide over the brake lever as they blip the gas. Others grab the brake lever with the tips of their finger(s) and still get a continuous lever pressure without the bike pogoing up and down. Whichever way you do it is fine. How many fingers you use for the brake is up to you: one, two, three or four, this is your choice although I recommend you try just two fingers, your index and middle ones. What's Important? Braking is important, it is life and death on the street and vital on the track. Changing gears is not. You can still make it through the corner or get the bike stopped without ever touching the gears. But, riders do have the six above scenarios to contend with if they can't do the fist/finger, down-brake, palm/finger, B&Ding technique. Learning How The fact that riders have a problem doing this technique led me to a solution. I've built a bike that trains it. We call it the Control Trainer. It takes you through the technique, step by step. The trainer's computer program talks you through the whole sequence and it points out your problems and how to correct them. The computer is hooked up on a static ZX9, you can't ride it but you do get the coordination/muscle memory necessary to do it for real. Each of the controls is monitored for: correct sequence; correct timing of the clutch and gear changes; correctly sized throttle blips and consistent brake pressure, throughout the whole process. With or without my Control Trainer, anyone can learn to do it. Start now. - Keith Code Upcoming articles: clutch-less up shifting and clutch-less downshifting. ⓒ2004, Keith Code, all rights reserved.
  25. Keith Code

    The Bands Of Traction

    The Bands of Traction If you saw the last GP in Portugal this past weekend you couldn’t help but be impressed with the traction capabilities of the tires. The corner speeds, lean angles and how quickly the riders could flick the bikes is astounding. Clearly, that level of riding can only be achieved by those who are able to trust the tires. How do you arrive at the point of being able to use current tire technology? The Edge Anyone would like to be able to read and sense traction at a pro level. That would mean something like: to always know when you were at the edge of traction and feel comfortable enough to bring it there when and if you wished to. For a professional rider that “edge” has to be pretty wide. Think of it this way: you must be able to ride in that band of traction or you don’t get paid. That is a different perspective than most sportbike enthusiasts have on the subject of traction. Bands of Traction Feeling in control of tire grip would mean reading the signs of losing grip and knowing what those signs meant. If there was a nice long, tapering curve to losing traction, where the signs of it ramped up very gradually from a squirm to a little slip and then to a slip & grip and then on to a nice, clean, power-on slide we’d all be traction masters. The fact is, tires do have signs and signals just like that but talking about it doesn’t make it any more real or comfortable without some personal experience to back it up. Reading the Signs By questioning a track day or club race rider you could pretty well figure out what lap times they’d be able to turn by what traction signals they had experienced and were comfortable with. You would find most riders stuck right at the “squirm” band of traction. Not too bad really, providing that the rider’s basic riding techniques were firm, he could go quite quick at the squirm band of riding. This would typically give lap times that were within 8 to 12 seconds of AMA Pro 600 Supersport times. The squirm band starts right when the rider has enough pressure on the tires to get a decent sized footprint on the pavement, which is the technological magic of radial tire design. Many riders think there is less rubber on the ground when the bike is leaned over but it is the opposite, there is more. They think that because they can’t add gobs of throttle when it is leaned over. In actual fact, as we bring the bike up we can add more throttle because the tires do not have to deal with the leaned over side-loading from the cornering. When the bike is straight up it has the least rubber on the ground but no side loading to take away from the available traction. Technical Skills Having good technical skills is the only sane route to mastering the bands of traction and reading their signs. In other words, without a firm grounding in basics, it’s easy for riders to misidentify what they think is a loss of traction when it isn’t or because of poor technique they may skip a band or two and get themselves into trouble. Sloppy throttle control gives a false sense of tire grip. Using lean angle in the wrong part of the turn for the wrong reasons gives a distorted feel for it. How the rider sits on the bike can have a huge effect on it. Confusing inputs into the handlebars is another classic way of misreading the signs your tires can give you. All of them will set you up to miss the signals completely. These, and others, are all technical aspects of riding that can be adjusted by the rider without having to touch the bike’s suspension. Being coached through these points is the way to go and leads to control of the mysterious traction questions riders have. Tire Technology Riders know that 21st century motorcycles and tires are better than they are. Fine. What security does anyone have that this is true beside the thin hope that if they do get into trouble the bike and tires will save their bacon? One aspect is tire warmers and the security they seem to give riders. Tire warmers are a fact of life these days even at track day events. What many riders fail to realize is that by the time they get around a lap or two the tires can actually cool down. Tire temperature is based on tire usage. The higher loads the hotter they get. If you aren’t in the band of traction that will take you over the tire warmer temp you really are looking at a security blanket that isn’t totally real. For sure it can save a rider from the embarrassment of a first lap, cold tire crash and that is the good news. New Skins Aside from crashing, tires are the single most expensive, consumable cost riders have for track days and racing. Tires do wear out and that wear is part of the key to their ability to grip. Take the tire’s viewpoint for a moment. They are willing to stick provided there is rubber covering the cords; the temperature is up to the loads being demanded by the rider’s speed; lean angle; braking and drive off the corners. Tires wear out just like skin. As the outer layer becomes dry it is swept away by friction. On your clothes when it comes to skin. On the pavement when it comes to tires. Tires, like skin, dry out from age or from heat. Exposing the next layer of fresh, pliable rubber underneath to the road is critical to performance. If the dry rubber remains on top, traction isn’t as good. To expose the new, fresh rubber, enough load must be put on the tires to “clean” them. It has been theorized that 10% tire slippage is the ideal situation for tires because it keeps the temperature up and at the same time “cleans” them. Heat Cycles How many heat cycles a tire has gone through, theoretically, has a huge effect on how well they work. The heating and cooling is supposed to reduce their grip by changing the chemistry that holds the rubber together and riders sometimes worry about it. The Dunlops on our school coach’s bikes are usually take-offs; they’ve already been raced on and often raced on by pro riders who can get them up to full temperature. We then use them for days of track riding and all the coaches can go quick enough to run club race lap times and most of them could qualify for an AMA Supersport race. While our coaches don’t ride hot laps every moment of every day the tires do get a minimum of 30 heat cycles a day. Here’s the point: The record for a front tire is 38 school days. The record for a rear is 18 days. The average laps per day would be around 90. I think Dunlop knows something about tires and taking up the devils advocate, these are the stickiest, most expensive ones so perhaps, at least for the quicker riders, there is economy in buying the good stuff after all. NOTE: We change the Dunlops on our ’07 ZX6 student bikes every three or four days. The Sticky Stuff Everyone wants to have the stickiest rubber they can afford but it isn’t sticky until they can put the big load on the tires. Most riders would do better and learn heaps more about traction with something lesser than full race, factory rider developed tires. Why? They don’t have to put the big loads on the tires to start to experience the bands of traction as listed above. Look at it this way. If you are using the tire at the bottom end of where it was developed by pro riders would it actually save you if you got brave for a moment? The answer is no. Pushing the loads on the tires up for a moment when the rest of the lap was at your normal pace will not give the tire enough time to warm up to the level you momentarily demand from it to handle the situation. In other words, your potential and that of the tires have to come up together for you to take advantage of what the tire has to offer. To a large degree, the security of the stickiest rubber is false. Until you arrive at some consistency in your levels of speed and lean angle and throttle control and the other technical parts of riding it is no more then blind faith. Trusting the Tires In the end it isn’t about the tires it is about the rider. It’s about using good technique and having good technical skills. It’s about gaining some consistency with them and knowing you can do it. After that, it’s not so difficult to trust your tires because you trust yourself. Keith Code ⓒ 2007, all rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced by any means without express written permission of the author.