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Hotfoot

Looking Ahead

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What sorts of things make you look down, or too close to the front of the bike? I think every rider, at some point, experiences a strong urge to look down at the controls, or at the ground in front of the bike - especially when first learning to ride a bike, when just operating the controls (like the clutch!) takes a lot of attention.

 

What does it to you?

 

For me, it happens when the bike does something unexpected - makes a weird noise, for example - I have an immediate powerful urge to look DOWN at the bike. I also have a hard time not looking too long at pavement "snakes" when riding on the street.

 

What about you?

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Fear. Doubt and Uncertainty. Also politely known as FUD when people use it to derail concepts in a conversation.

 

When I'm stressed or uptight my riding suffers immensely. I'm less relaxed and on edge and don't trust the bike when it's 110% capable of what I want it to do. My visual skills are often the first thing to go. Followed by being tense and not moving around as much as I should on the bike. I have to say this is probably my biggest #1 problem and what causes me HUGE issues.

 

For me the things that cause my stress are being rushed or riding around people I don't trust. I recently had a rider go off the track in my line of sight. I was taking it easy and riding well within my skill set. I noticed on my video though that after I saw them go off I slowed down. The accident did not distract me but it "got inside my head".

 

I have had a few tips given to me that I will share that have helped me GREATLY with being stressed out or anxious.

 

1. Go out late. I don't even pull my warmers off until I hear last call and I take my sweet time getting ready to go out. This eliminates a lot of stress. I KNOW i'm going to be late getting out and it no longer is something to worry about.

 

2. Breathe and remind yourself to be calm.

 

3. Eliminate as many things that you have to think about out on track. I found that using tire warmers eliminated the uncertainty I always had about tire temp and tire pressure freeing my mind not to think about "being careful with the bike" until the tires were up to temp.

 

So lets turn this around. Hotfoot. How do you deal with distractions and stress at the track that can negatively affect your riding? I would love to add some extra things to my list that will allow me to relax, observe and ride without the stress.

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That's easy to solve. At the school they tape over the speedometer. I have seen riders who tape over most of the Tach as well except where it's at the highest point in the rev band.

 

The instruments don't bother me much. I occasionally will refer to the tach but other than that my eyes are straight ahead unless i'm stressed. I catch myself making occasional scans to the speed at that point. Perhaps I should follow my own advice. :)

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For me it's maybe 50% of the time I'll get drawn to looking at the road near in front of the bike when I see: manhole covers, larger potholes, sand or gravel across my line. When I'm keeping my mind relaxed on such matters then I can stay in my wide view and barely notice those things.

 

The inopportune time I'll look down at the bike is if/when I miss a shift, which thankfully doesn't happen but rarely. It's a curious reaction; it's not as though looking at the bike will be any help in that situation.

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Brad,

 

You just reminded me of a time that I did exactly the same thing.

 

I missed a shift once at Roebling Road going about 141mph down the straight and found myself looking down at the tach, speedo and blinking shift light as if they would tell me anything more than the engine bouncing off the rev limiter. I still can vividly picture the instruments in my mind. The bigger concern of course was the track flying by at high speed. It's interesting how distractions affect our visual skills. At that very moment I was confused and somewhat paralyzed to act. I should have tried shifting again but just rolled out of the gas early quite happy with the gear I was in. Of course by the time I even thought to throw a hand up to signal people behind a fellow RR sailed past like I was completely stopped.

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Very interesting subject!

I use my ears and skin vibration sensors rather than my eyes for anything related to the bike: rpm's, miss-shifts, mechanical things, deceleration and acceleration rates and shifting (up and down).
That liberates my vision for traffic situation and for road traps.
The farther ahead I can spot those, the more time I have to adjust my trajectory, lane or position.
I also use my hearing as a support for traffic abnormalities, like two-wheeled rockets approaching too fast, cars/trucks with mechanical or tire's issues, 18-wheelers, emergency vehicles, hard braking's and accelerations, etc.

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There are points on the track where I have no issue looking at the gauges and I don't believe it takes away from my concentration. What usually affects my vision is the track surface. With seams, patches and rough spots, I find it difficult to look far ahead knowing that some of those spots upset the bike pretty good. While I try to keep those in my peripheral, it still takes more concentration than I would like to waste on it. More track time improving my line consistency should really help there.

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That reminds me. Tar snakes. Two of my favorite tracks have pretty extensive tar snakes due to their construction. They can be both a reference point and a visual distraction at the same time. They often draw your attention down towards the surface.

 

Once the rear end squirms a tiny bit I realize "oh that was not so bad" they become just reference points again. :)

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So lets turn this around. Hotfoot. How do you deal with distractions and stress at the track that can negatively affect your riding? I would love to add some extra things to my list that will allow me to relax, observe and ride without the stress.

 

Hm, interesting question. If I am just at a trackday and something is distracting me, I would typically either slow down and try to think it through and solve it; for example, if I am worried that my tires are cold I would probably just slow down, pay attention to it better understand the situation, then quit worrying about it (like getting acquainted with the tar snake and then letting it go). Or if it was something like a flapping helmet strap I'd just pull in and fix it rather than let it keep affecting my ride.

 

However, if I am coaching or racing, it may not be acceptable to me to slow down or possible to stop, in which case I would simply acknowledge the discomfort (dammit, I forgot my earplugs!) and then put it away in the back of my mind and force myself to concentrate on the track in front of me instead of the item distracting me.

 

Here's a wonderfully concise and useful bit of wisdom from Keith: "Look, don't think." If I ever find myself distracted while I am riding, that is what I tell myself to do, and it really, really works.

 

One of my biggest challenges in the past (and even now, sometimes) has been worrying about "how I am doing", either for my own sake or because someone (like possibly Keith) is following me and I want to make sure my riding looks good! I used to start making errors as soon as I started worrying about that and now I just tell myself to LOOK at the track and that helps me break out of that introverted thinking-too-much problem.

 

Some other routine things I do to help minimize distractions are: get ready early for races, have all my gear right at hand and know exactly where everything is, check my warmers religiously to make sure they are on so I don't get surprised, and try to always stay in the "I do this for fun" frame of mind instead of putting too much importance on any one race, event, or performance.

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Wow. Some really helpful advice there. Thank you for sharing that!

 

One of the things that I really enjoy about riding at the track is how that when everything works right the only thing in the universe that exists at that very moment is you and the experience. No thinking required. Of course I manage to frequently mess that up with thinking.

 

I'm glad I'm not the only person who's easily distracted by "how am I doing". I managed to work myself into a mild panic the first time I was ever on a track due to noticing the huge speed difference between myself and other riders. You start out with "wow that guy is fast" and over time move to "holy ###### I'm going to get mowed down". Then the riding errors start to stack up. Stiff on the bars, Visually confused and my personal "go to" slower than you are capable of.

 

I'll be adding "I do this for fun" and "Look, don't think" to my list of things to help eliminate distractions. :)

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What usually affects my vision is the track surface. With seams, patches and rough spots, I find it difficult to look far ahead knowing that some of those spots upset the bike pretty good. While I try to keep those in my peripheral, it still takes more concentration than I would like to waste on it. More track time improving my line consistency should really help there.

 

 

That reminds me. Tar snakes. Two of my favorite tracks have pretty extensive tar snakes due to their construction. They can be both a reference point and a visual distraction at the same time. They often draw your attention down towards the surface.

 

Once the rear end squirms a tiny bit I realize "oh that was not so bad" they become just reference points again. :)

 

This is one of the areas where I find some Dirt riding to be VERY beneficial, becoming comfortable on a dirt bike and getting used to just staying loose and letting it do its thing makes riding over seams and the like on the track a complete non issue. On the dirt it seems like no matter how out of shape my back tire is as long as I stay on the gas and don't tense up, it sorts itself out, which translates directly to the track.

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This is one of the areas where I find some Dirt riding to be VERY beneficial, becoming comfortable on a dirt bike and getting used to just staying loose and letting it do its thing makes riding over seams and the like on the track a complete non issue. On the dirt it seems like no matter how out of shape my back tire is as long as I stay on the gas and don't tense up, it sorts itself out, which translates directly to the track.

 

 

I have been seeing references to the dirt a lot and it is something I have thought about, although, I have never made an effort to really seek it out. I also hear that a good Ohlin's setup makes issues disappear. :)

 

For the sake of discussion, this is one of those corners I was referring to. I have to turn in over a newly tarred seam and then thread it inside or outside of the new patches that my bike doesn't handle so well. I find it difficult to look ahead but when I do, it makes a world of difference on how I finish the corner.

 

https://youtu.be/R-sft4faxpQ?t=7m4s

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For the sake of discussion, this is one of those corners I was referring to. I have to turn in over a newly tarred seam and then thread it inside or outside of the new patches that my bike doesn't handle so well. I find it difficult to look ahead but when I do, it makes a world of difference on how I finish the corner.

 

https://youtu.be/R-sft4faxpQ?t=7m4s

 

 

Yeah, that does look unnerving!

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So If I'm seeing this video correctly the pegs are scraping?

 

What's something a rider can do to increase ground clearance on their machine that was not done in that corner?

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The scraping sound is my knee. Klucky Pucks are a pretty hard material. Usually I tap and lift but in this instance, I held it too long and hit a dip which upset the bike and then pivoted a bit on my knee. I went in a bit hotter than usual and of course, started scrubbing speed when I probably could/should have maintained throttle and held the curve.

 

Normally, my body position is really good in this corner (it's one of my favorites even with the conditions) and I am usually hugging the side of the bike coming out. Well, as much as I can on a street Ninja 650.

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