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Keith Code

Improving Lap Times

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This is really long.

 

Perfect Laps

 

Here is something for you to think about. It?s not heavy technical stuff but it is good advice on how to conduct some light self-coaching when you go to track days.

 

Wish List

 

How would it feel if you had all the cornering skills, bike feel and personal focus needed to ride at pro-level lap times around a track? Highly entertaining wouldn?t you say? What cornering enthusiast wouldn?t want or hasn?t fantasized about experiencing that level of riding? Haven?t you ever?

 

The Barriers

 

The recent proliferation of track days have given us the opportunity to test ourselves. On the way to the track; everyone wants to go fast, everyone wants to get their knee down; no one wants to get passed and all non-superstar-mortals have the same nagging questions (on some plane of awareness) about lean angle, acceleration, tire traction, braking, turning and speed.

 

Feeling completely comfortable with the limits of each would be the fantasy come to life.

 

The problem is: without the library of sensations a talented pro possesses , gleaned from vast experience, these aspects of riding become black holes for our attention. But the question still lingers--How do you ?safely? find these limits and maybe more importantly, do you need to in order to go fast?

 

Quit Dreaming

 

Get off the podium at Laguna for a minute and put yourself in your own leathers and realize that without serious dedication, a history of fast riding or racing plus hitting the lottery and getting support from family and friend?s, the fantasy ain?t going to happen.

 

Riding at the edge means living on the edge. On the positive side that means your skills are so good you literally don?t think about them, you actually can think with them. Make sure you get this point. Thinking about your turn entry speeds, throttle control, braking and steering, traction limits and lines is different than thinking with them. Huge difference here friends.

 

Live With It

 

The current level at which you are riding is what it is. It can improve, yes. Will it improve 10% in one day? It is very possible. Will it improve 10% from one lap to the next? Highly unlikely, at least not safely.

 

Note: Take a track where a good lap is 1:30, a 10% improvement from a 2:00 lap time would be 12 seconds, that has been done before in one day by many. But now that you are running 1:48 how much improvement can you expect? 10% again the next time at the track? Hmmmmm. 5% would be 5.4 seconds and that would be a great day indeed. Simple point?the percentages become much smaller the faster you go. The main thing to remember is that the barriers which hold you back don?t change.

 

Rapid Route to Improvement

 

On the bike, at a track, you can and should work to improve your confidence base. You can do this economically or you can do it the expensive way. The cheap way is to go to school. The expensive way is to use track time to practice your mistakes and hope they will self-correct or that they?ll get to the point where you can ?live with them?.

 

Are riding schools too expensive? Do the math. How many track days would it take to gain the same level of skill you will experience from getting professional training?

 

Get Really Real

 

Look over your track day lap times. How quickly can you lap without making any of your usual errors? At some speed you could do this, right? Let?s call this a perfect lap and the goal is simply no errors. In this riding mode, you don?t even bother to ask yourself about the bike?s limits, you aren?t trying to find the edge of traction or acceleration or braking, etc.

 

Any rider knows he or she could do this. You?d just go around with no frenzied attention on anything in particular. You?d feel secure with the traction, braking, lean angle, turn entry speeds and so on. You?d set yourself an enthusiastic pace that was a no load deal, just quick enough to keep you fully awake and interested.

 

In this mode, making basic throttle control errors for example, would tell you right away you were going too fast, you were out of your skill range in that turn or with that technical point. If you found yourself uncomfortable on the bike in quick flick sections, same thing, you went past your own ability.

 

Attention On The Controls

 

Those errors are examples of thinking ABOUT the controls not WITH the controls. That?s what happens when your basics go out. Your attention goes disproportionately onto the bike and how it is responding. Can you think of a time when this happened to you?

 

A positive indication that you are out of your range is the negative moment when your survival instincts, Survival Reactions (SRs), kick in. The moment you go tense, the moment you target fix, the moment your right wrist backs off the gas unnecessarily, the moment you twist around on the bike or stab at the brakes, the moment you make unneeded steering corrections. The moment you hesitate. You know exactly what I am talking about.

 

Any of these tell you you are out of your skill range. We have SR?s and we know they are real. Use them as a guide. Your basics are the first thing to suffer once the SR?s kick in.

 

In Range/Out of Range

 

Forcing yourself to test your SR limits can also be a learning experience. One of our instructors told me he was able to follow the really fast guys at his club racing events for about two laps by doing exactly what they did at the speed that they were doing it?for about two laps.

 

At that point the mental drain became so intense he had to back off. I?m not telling you to do this, it is very adventurous, it is probably dangerous but his basics are good enough to allow him to get the experience of that next level of riding. For two laps.

 

This brave exercise would only be possible for someone who was able to think WITH the controls and would be impossible for anyone who was having to think ABOUT them. Do you see this? This might be a lot of things but it is not his perfect lap.

 

Keep It Simple

 

Striving to ride the perfect lap is also an interesting exercise because it more or less forces you to go for a defined result. It is the mode that allows you to focus and ride at the very best your true skill level permits. Your actual skill level not the fantasy one.

 

The SR?s you run into, as above, can be handled in several ways on your route to your perfect lap. By the way, I think I know what your ultimate perfect lap might be?no errors and fast, knee down and looking fast as well as being fast. In other words?FAST.

 

Anyhow, the point is this, if you can educate yourself and are one of the rare few who can overcome your errors by reading or watching others ride that is great. If you are like most riders, plagued with the same old problems, my advice is this: Get your basics in and don?t target the ?advanced? skills or off beat ones like sliding the back end going into turns?go for solid ground, go towards a stable foundation for your riding. That will inevitably be the basics, I guarantee it.

 

Basics Rule!

 

Anyone who knows my work also knows I have coached some of the best riders in the world: some at the beginnings of their careers, some in the middle of them and some who had already won world championships. Honest kids, their problems are solved by addressing the basics, the same as you. Don?t let anyone tell you different. It is never the fancy riding techniques, it is always the simple basics?applied at a different, higher level than yours or mine?but still basics.

 

Basics are not slow, basics are not fast, basics aren?t the Keith Code method or anyone else?s, they simply are what they are. The good news is that basics do open the door to thinking WITH the controls; the speed; the lean angle; the traction limits of braking, cornering and acceleration.

 

Valentino Rossi?s advice to Nicky Hayden this year was: knock of the fancy riding and stick to the basics. Simple and look what happened with Nicky?s riding towards the end of the season.

 

Is it easy to get the basics in? Is there one technical point or technique that solves these things? Not a chance friends, it takes some time, some focus, some correct information and some great coaching from someone who knows what they are looking for. We?re here (for you) to coach and help to find your perfect lap.

 

 

I hope some of you got the message here. Of course we want you to come to school, that is our business, but when you go to a track day, find out what your ?perfect lap? really is, that is your base line, then go from there. When you hit that big mushy wall of your skills barrier, don?t just sit and hope it will go away, go to school. You should be picky about a school but, in the end, any school is better than no school at all.

 

Oh ya, remember to keep it fun,

 

Keith Code

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One of our instructors told me he was able to follow the really fast guys at his club racing events for about two laps by doing exactly what they did at the speed that they were doing it?for about two laps.

 

At that point the mental drain became so intense he had to back off

 

That gets to be my problem at the track. I can go alone, but I also like to follow the faster guys because I do believe that if they can do it....so can I. Try to put what I have learned into practice out on the track, but they are only a few during the year. Mostly do street riding. Blue Ridge, Cherohala and Deals Gap are my proving grounds, but gotta be a fool to go WFO out there with all the traffic. I love track days and am getting better on focusing on what the bike is doing and just making it happen. Maybe the ZRX is holding me back because of it's weight and style, but I'm gonna keep it.

http://www.sportbikes.net/forums/attachmen...&postid=1484518

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Guys,

For any of you who have expressed concern about obtaining "value" by attending the School, re-read Keith's post here and then go the new section labeled "Web Related" and watch the Barber video. Nice ride, Will.

 

Kevin Kane

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I've been through 4-5 sessions at Code, plus one at Pridmore and 5-6 regular track days at Streets and at California Speedway. I'm doing 1:39-40's at Streets so I'm catching on but still have a lot of room for improvement. One thing that I would find helpful would be a written log of actions as you go around the track, ideally paired to a "picture" of the track. Not to the nth detail, but showing acceleration areas (are you full throttle until hard application of the brakes?), when do you downshift and move off the seat, areas where one would be faster just coasting, areas where I could go faster by not accelerating so hard (followed by more extreme braking) and such. I'm trying to get smoother but find that in some cases, I may be unnecessarily adding to my workload while trying to go faster. I can't do another Code session until April but have 2-3 other track days first.

Thanks,

Mike

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Weekend Warrior;

At first, that can be a great tool. An example of this would be my first trip to Daytona. We only had a little time before qualifying to learn the track, and I was trying to ride the track like I pictured it on tv. Well, I ran off of turn one twice in a row. That's not normal for me, and the pressure was getting to me. Ricky Orlando was in my pits and has always been helpful to me. He gave me an article that Scott Russell had written about a lap of Daytona. For the most part it helped. I got down to 2:01's in two practice sessions. Problem was... all "Scott's" info was in my head and not my own, so I found myself hesitating more than usual to try new things.

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I've edited this post because in this case I should have kept my opinions to myself.

Edited by EA6BMECH

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EA6BMECH

 

What's up with you mate. All of a sudden you got impatient? If you are trying to find out how to improve your lap times then ask a question someone can answer. lighten up. If I could say something in a few sentences I'd write a book.

 

Keith

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Great post Keith!!! I just got back from a weekend at Barber...wow...talk about SR's kicking in. I took your levels I & II last year at North Florida/JenningsGP (my home track)....Barber kicked my butt! It felt like all good habits I picked up and practiced on my home track went right out the window with a bunch of elevation changes and long right handers. I understand that in part..it was a strange/new track to me, but on the second day....I seemed to have blacked myself out and could not get below the 2 min. mark. Anyway..the handful of questions I have can be asked later......the last week of kicking myself was pretty much summerized in your above post and opened my eyes to getting back on track.

 

Again, great post and thanks!

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Good stuff as usual Keith.

 

It's funny (and I know some can relate). The fastest laps I've EVER run were also the easiest. I never really thought about it, but you hit the nail on the head about thinking WITH the controls versus about them.

 

These fast laps were laps where I felt smooth and not excessively fast, but reviewing the lap timer showed different. They just "flowed" and came together. It's like there was a lit up line around the track, and things moved in slow motion. I consistantly find areas where I can go SO much faster...

 

It's weird. I'll get into this "state" a couple times a year 2-4. If I could do it every time I was on the track I'd be king of the world.....

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In Range/Out of Range

Forcing yourself to test your SR limits can also be a learning experience. One of our instructors told me he was able to follow the really fast guys at his club racing events for about two laps by doing exactly what they did at the speed that they were doing it?for about two laps.

 

At that point the mental drain became so intense he had to back off. I?m not telling you to do this, it is very adventurous, it is probably dangerous but his basics are good enough to allow him to get the experience of that next level of riding. For two laps.

 

This brave exercise would only be possible for someone who was able to think WITH the controls and would be impossible for anyone who was having to think ABOUT them. Do you see this? This might be a lot of things but it is not his perfect lap.

 

I see that a person doing this would have to think with the controls. A person thinking about the controls wouldn't be able to process all the information fast enough - it's something you just have to do.

 

I was going to ask which rider the last sentence referred to but I think I've answered my own question. It refers to the instructor that told you this. Despite the fact that he was able to follow the fast guys for two laps, they were not his perfect laps if only for the fact that he was beyond his own limits.

 

That about right?

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In a word? Yes. Beyond his ability to repeat them. You can get caught up in the "flow" for a couple of

laps but the glue that held it together for that time wasn't your level of ability at that time.

 

kc

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In a word? Yes. Beyond his ability to repeat them. You can get caught up in the "flow" for a couple of

laps but the glue that held it together for that time wasn't your level of ability at that time.

 

kc

If someone can put in those kinds of laps, what is the method, strategy, or condition in which that person can consistently lap at that pace? I guess that might be quite a complex question because even MotoGP riders have their moments of glory in which they put in blazingly fast laps, but are completely unable to keep it consistent (except Valentino Rossi).

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As I have done the exact thing Keith is talking about. This is a very real thing to me.

 

In 2001 I was racing in an endurance race at Virginia International Raceway. About 40 minutes into the first hour, the leader, Mark Junge, passed me on the front straight. The track was wet but had a dry line. I followed him for two complete laps and set my team's fast lap time for the race in the process. To follow him, I dropped 3 seconds off my lap time - 1:41, 1:38, 1:38, 1:40. I backed off when I noticed misting in turn 1 and that I was getting tired pretty fast.

 

When the track dried over the next 4 hours, he improved his lap time to 1:32. Mine stayed at 1:40 (in my defense, the bike was setup for a rider 60lbs lighter than me.) :)

 

To me, that tells me I have a definite sense of speed and it's set at that track. So I would work on increasing by doing the no brakes drill. Then I'd work on turning the bike quicker, still doing no brakes. In between sessions, I'd draw out each turn and make a plan for each turn. I'd work on getting really comfortable with getting the bike right over onto my knee - the way this bike was setup, I was not comfortable doing that. Then I'd add in light braking repeating the above steps.

 

When I added braking, I'd carefully monitor my mid-corner speed to make sure I wasn't slowing down too much. I'd gradually increase my speed on the straights while monitoring for any loss of mid-corner speed.

 

At some point, I'm sure I'd find a speed at which I'd brake too much. So I'd go back to the previous speed and work on that until I was really comfortable at it and then increase the speed again.

 

I might think about going on a diet and exercising more too...

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Basics Rule!

 

Anyone who knows my work also knows I have coached some of the best riders in the world: some at the beginnings of their careers, some in the middle of them and some who had already won world championships. Honest kids, their problems are solved by addressing the basics, the same as you. Don?t let anyone tell you different. It is never the fancy riding techniques, it is always the simple basics?applied at a different, higher level than yours or mine?but still basics.

 

Keith, we met after one of your schools at loudon in the late 80's, i had read your book back then and enjoyed our talk, i was 30 at the time and didnt take your school but did take the expert penguin school with dale quarterly and johnny bettencourt as my instructors...

 

basics is so important, and I would always take the time to show a new rider around the track at a practice session, and that helped me as much as the new rider...the slower pace and the deliberate attempt by me to be on the correct line etc is such a great help for when you pick up the speed again.....

 

have always had a ton of respect for your carreer and your schools...just wanted to drop in and say Hi...

 

Jack expert#327 many many moons ago..

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Many many moosn ago Jack,

 

Thanks and I think you'd be surprised at how much more we focus on what we call basics than we used to. That of course brings up the definition of what basics really are and that ranges from how to let the clutch out to being safe on the street if you ask most people but I don't think that is what they are. Getting the bike to cooperate with you is basics and requires a fairly in depth study and plenty of practice just to get that part of it out of the way.

 

For track riding, learning how to back the bike in isn't going to be the thing that knocks off the next 2 seconds in lap times. Being able to set the bike on a line and learning yourself how to choose a line to me are basics because so many other things will go wrong if you can't do it. That is more of how I see the subject of basics.

 

ciao for now,

Keith

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I can identify with what you are saying about basics exactly. Without going into a long story, let me tell you a couple of the fastest laps I ever turned on my home track were when I jumped on my parts bike, shod with 10 year old tires on it, just to see how it ran. Knowing I was on tires which had about as much grip as a bowling ball I jus cruised around at an easy comfortable pace. I couldn't believe it when two different stopwatches showed lap times 10 seconds faster than my best race laps up to then.

 

The Navy Seals have a saying that "Slow is Smooth.....Smooth is Fast."

 

It's all about the basics.

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