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Keith Code

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  1. Stability has always been the underlying target for motorcycle improvements: frame design and materials, suspension technology and adjustability, tire construction and compound upgrades; seat shape, tanks, handlebars, footpegs; even engine improvements like better carburation, black box ignitions, etc., result in smoother power delivery and enhance stability. Similarly, every valid riding technique ever dreamed of, including all of what we teach at the Superbike School, once perfected, results in improved stability. A good technique improves stability, a bad one reduces it. For example, an uneducated passenger who counter-leans causes instability. Riders who themselves counter-lean in corners generate the same sort of instability; good throttle control improves stability and of course bad throttle control reduces it. On any type of bike, in any kind of riding, improved stability is the yardstick by which any technique or technological improvement may be measured. RIDER INSTABILITY Our current line of research at the school focuses specifically on a rider's stability on the motorcycle. Where riders lack the necessary stability to easily and comfortably control their bikes we now have a full array of drills to correct it. No matter how good the bike is, a rider's own instability can spoil it. There are two predictable results to any form of rider instability: (1) control is reduced because the rider feels uncomfortably disconnected from the bike and (2) the bike itself tends to become unstable. In order to take advantage of design upgrades riders need some understanding of how they affect the bike's stability. Something as simple as knurled metal footpegs that grips the boot's sole is a huge improvement in maintaining stability compared to rubber covered pegs, if the rider understands its use. That solidly positioned foot can help enormously in critical cornering situations. PERFECT STABILITY If riders were able to maintain stability on the bike 100% of the time, what would be the result? An improvement of course. But motorcycle riders have a tough situation because they have to sit "on" the seat. BY comparison, a Formula I car seat cradles and locks the driver into a stable position. Lap times would be considerably slower and the cars would be very tiring to drive without them. For bike riders--considering how unsettling it can be--rider/machine stability matters even more. Whether it is a low speed, parking lot situation or a wide open 6th gear sweeper, rider stability is desired above all else. Riders know when the bike feels stable and like it. Essentially, to the rider, stability adds up to comfort on the bike. A working definition of comfort is: CONTROL WITH A MINIMUM OF EFFORT. By firmly cradling the driver, that Formula I car seat MINIMIZES the amount of physical EFFORT he would otherwise use to stabilize his body and allows for precise CONTROL of the car. Motorcycles aren't built like that. For us, the common choice for stabilizing ourselves on the bike, the bars, is the wrongest possible. It requires more effort to control and the machine will always become unstable. WHERE IT COUNTS Under mild street riding conditions stability on the bike isn't a problem, it's only when riders begin to push themselves that stability issues arise. Spirited riding is generally accompanied by more speed, a notorious rider-excitation element. Extra speed combined with a series of corners often exaggerates any instability because rapid changes in direction are required. In a series of corners like esses, riders who hang off are usually up, off the saddle at the moment they switch from one side of the bike to the other and are trying to steer the bike. Are they stable on the bike? Not really. The limited amount of contact on the footpegs and the handlebars is relatively unstable and there is a strong tendency to pull their body over using the arms and the handlebars. This invariably creates unsettling head shake especially under acceleration. RIDER INPUT Instability can often be mis-identified as too much speed or bike handling problems. Yes there is a handling problem but it's not the bike. A rider's own stability is the key issue here. As demonstrated by many top riders, staying in a tuck position is very efficient as the rider can use his legs to move around on the bike instead of strangling the bars. Anyone can advise you to relax. But riders can't relax if they are improperly located on the bike. All you really have to do is sort out the moments when you are fighting the bike and this whole thing resolves. In any situation where a rider finds himself out of sync with the machine and its angle and direction you will also find this tendency to be tense and the motorcycle will be unstable. THE LOOK AND FEEL When riders look uncomfortable on the bike they are uncomfortable on the bike. You can see it in others and feel it in your own tense riding situations. Liking right turns better than lefts is one of the classic situations. What does the rider look like on the bad side? Uncomfortable. If they don't like tight turns, what does it look like? Uncomfortable. If they don't like high speed turns, what does it look like? You know the answer, you've probably been there. HOW THE BODY REACTS The muscle structure of the body reacts to danger. These reactions have only one mode of operation--fix the threatening situation NOW. In its effort to fix it now, the body is directed to recruit and tighten any available muscle to prepare for a potential injury. Stiffening the arm while putting out a hand to break a fall is a classic example. Classic because it usually injures if not breaks the extended body part. Any reaction causes tension and the tension has many forms. VERTICALLY CHALLENGED One form it takes is fear of leaning over with the bike. Instinctually, we like to remain upright/vertical or lying down/horizontal. Very little day to day experience has anything to do with leaning over very far--vertical and horizontal are "safe" to the survival instinct and its reaction. Angles between vertical and horizontal are not. Along comes the motorcycle in our lives. Riders readily adjust and not only tolerate the necessary lean to corner their bike but quest for the genuine thrill they get from it. That thrill is the result of challenging the survival instinct. It is exhilarating to challenge these instincts. For everyone, spirited cornering is a tight rope walk, balancing the fear against its pleasurable sensations. SURVIVAL INSTINCTS What everyone has to deal with are their survival instincts which have their own built in reactions to situations. These reactions are deadly as they force a rider to react with non-optimum riding situations. I call them Survival Reactions (SRs). Seven of these SRs were identified in the "A Twist of the Wrist, Volume II" book. This subject of rider stability and body positioning is the eighth. DREAM RIDE Finding your way to comfort at the lean angles you need for the speeds you'd like to run is a satisfying goal. How would your riding be if all of a sudden you could comfortably achieve max. lean on your bike? Comfortably. How would it impact your cornering speeds: your sense of safety; your sense of confidence on the bike? Greatly. As a rider's lean angle approaches their discomfort zone the twist and stiffen reaction increases; the bike's handling capabilities decrease and some form of instability takes place. Defeat the stiffening and twisting reaction of the rider and you have a new motorcycle, capable of far more than you may have ever dreamed. MISTIMED EFFORT In a fast series of corners you have to expend considerable effort to flick the bike side to side and it can result in head shake. There isn't any alternative, in order to turn the bike it does require effort be put into the bars. The effort is appropriate--when and how it is being applied often is not. Look at it from the perspective of timing and you'll greatly improve your understanding of stability. Let's use a three turn esse situation where you would be hard accelerating and quickly turning the bike several times. What would it be like if you were fully in your next comfortable riding position before you had to change the direction of the bike? In other words, you are hung-off left, going left and you get over into your full hung off position on the right (while the bike is still going left), just a moment before you needed to turn it right. Compared to a rider who was up off the seat and tugging on the bars, this would either dramatically improve or completely eliminate any head shake. So what are we saying here? How and when you attach yourself in a stable position to the bike has an enormous effect on its stability whenever you are riding aggressively. LATE AND TIGHT At the Superbike School we have observed that 9 out of 10 riders begin their hangoff at exactly the moment they are turning into a corner. This makes the rider very busy and most often accounts for some turn entry instability as the rider is moving around on the bike while turning it in and is often using the bars as a leverage point. On one level it makes sense to do it this way. Using the whole body to push the bar feels secure. As the butt and body are shifted over you see the inside arm stiffen up. The rider is more or less throwing his whole body at the bars. This creates a partial substitute for actually being stable on the bike. The problem which results from it is these riders must tighten their bodies and that usually counter-leans them to the bike. While it can be done that way you'll notice that most pro riders hangoff and are stable on the bike way before the turn. This allows them to assume their position and be in unity and harmony with the bike as much as possible. LOCKING ON The question is, how do you stabilize yourself? There are many different riding styles. Fans can often recognize favorite riders by their body language. What is that language saying?, "This is how I lock on and remain comfortably stable." Odd circumstances can occur from various forms of instability. While racing I recall one time where my helmet and head would rattle so much I couldn't see clearly. It would happen at the end of a straight, as I was untucking out of the bubble. It disappeared the moment I'd figure out a way to comfortably secure myself onto the bike. As I said before, riders who look and feel uncomfortable are uncomfortable, mine was no exception. STABILITY EXPERIMENTS In the end you have to figure out, or get some help figuring out, how to lock onto the bike. That can be tricky simply because of the survival instincts attached to it. But once you figure out a comfortable and stable position it opens many doors and provides solutions to just about any aggressive riding situation you can think of. Experiment with it and see what you can find, there will be a BEST position for you and it will help. If you get stumped, we can help. Keith Code copyright 2001, Keith Code, all rights reserved. Permission granted for reprint to CSS, Inc. web site, 2001
  2. 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
  3. Just Relax From golf to boxing to sex, just relax has become a well worn, and almost meaningless, icon phrase. Any coach in any sport at any level ought to be issued a T-shirt with that phrase printed on the front. However, while tension may be the most obvious component of any neophyte's mode of operation, the instruction to just relax rarely solves it. Motorcycle riding is certainly no exception, riders at all skill levels exhibit curiously uncomfortable and unproductive body gestures that result in tightness and muscle soreness, especially when they're thrashing at the controls and trying to go "fast". If just relax is truly the cure then tension of some sort must be the malady. Tension is: confused effort. Where does it (tension) come from? How does it affect the machine? How do we control a motorcycle? How can the machine control you? Coordinated Efforts There is some physical force required to ride motorcycles or play action games. During those moments of output, energy produced by contracting our muscles must flow through the body, and for a rider, to the motorcycle and its controls to accelerate, slow or steer it. Coordination in any sport equates to the very specific avenues along which the player's precisely measured energy must be pointed and travel to reach its intended target at its intended time and exact place. For examples, swinging a baseball bat or braking, both require force be applied to a lever, to arrive at their intended destination, at the exact intended time. This requires output, so just relax must actually be defined as economy-of-effort. It cannot mean no-effort. Lever Advantage Once a rider expends some energy to operate one of the bike's control levers he starts a chain reaction of events. Levers are devices used to allow a person to achieve a mechanical advantage over some resistance. To move a 200 lb. rock with a ten foot pole you need only expend about 20 lb. of effort, a mechanical advantage of 1:10. To move a 400 lb. motorcycle with a 150 lb. rider, it requires only a pound or so at the throttle (also a lever), which is then stepped-up by another series of levers, the engine and drivetrain. That slight motion of the wrist probably ends up producing around a 1:4000 mechanical advantage under full acceleration. The hydraulic braking system is a mechanical lever as well, so are your handlebars and the frame's geometry which give you an advantage over the enormous gyroscopic forces created by your wheels spinning around. Even the forks and shock are levers of sorts which control the input and output of external forces like bumps and cornering forces of the bike. Your body is nothing but a simple set of levers animated my muscle power, and is also part of the control package. But maybe it shouldn't be. Power Struggle When we look at what happens when a human interfaces with a motorcycle, we can see that physical tension while riding simply means there is a question about what lever to move and how much to move it. That's where we run into the problem and tension is a perfect description of a problem. The two sides of the problem are: (1) the intention to act, for example, to accelerate and, (2) opposing that is the fear of what might happen if too much pressure is applied to that particular lever. What can happen? Instability, loss of traction, too much speed and a bad line requiring too much lean angle or an undesirable destination could all happen as a result of excess enthusiasm with the throttle lever. Why wouldn't you be tense with those potential results breathing down your neck at every corner? As an amplified lever, the throttle is probably a mile long! The Brake Lever The brakes are no less of a mechanical advantage in fact they're greater. Most bikes will stop quicker than they accelerate. An 1100 XX Honda goes 0-60 in 2.91 and 60-0 in 2.72. While it is a far simpler device, that 8 inch lever on the right bar, after being stepped-up by the master cylinder and the caliper, is more powerful than the entire engine and drive train. Over or under enthusiasm with either of these speed-adjustment controls is no doubt responsible for the lion's share of rider errors. We like to feel their power but often fear them at the same time. Confidence Confidence is the ability to predict the outcome of your actions on the motorcycle, but the trouble is, that terrific mechanical advantage the machine provides for a rider puts him or her at far more than arm's length away from the action and that tends to promote over-control, which is an error in itself, and usually leads to others. Since our sport has the potential of physical damage and pain connected to it, tension does creep into the riding equation. It's the result of trying to stop some unwanted thing from happening. Good and Bad Interestingly enough, that which we wish to happen has the direct result of increasing an unwanted result. For example, desiring to go faster, then running wide in a turn, is common and illustrates the point. Increased speed, increases the bike's tendency to run wider. A quick review of some key motorcycle hardware, like: frame stiffness, geometry like rake and trail, suspension, tires, wheels, ergonomics--and software (riding techniques) advancements-- , e.g., hanging off, quick steering, good throttle control, even the use of reference points and other visual skills, etc., are mainly aimed at combating a motorcycle's tendency to run wider than the rider desires. But riding at enthusiastic levels pretty much demands some good corner speed, doesn't it? Again, tension and effort are the notorious bad results. Effort Begets Effort It's the effort to avoid something from happening, by interjecting your body into the system, that is the culprit. What develops are the problems of trying to operate the control levers of the machine to create the actions of smooth, confident and in-control riding by this new component, the body, that is simultaneously trying to stop an accompanying unwanted action. With these enormous levers at his command, and fear to contend with, it is no wonder a rider can be overwhelmed as a result of a simple control error and once a chain of errors has begun to get out of hand, overuse quickly becomes part of this equation. I'm sure you have experienced this. A riders inability to differentiate between the force produced by the machine and the amount of force required to control it is the basic misunderstanding--especially in an emergency--it's a characteristic present in any new rider's approach to a motorcycle: either too much control or too little of it. We've all done it. Recycled and Amplified Energy When tense, the body becomes a sort of storage unit and an active amplifier for any input it receives. Headshake, wobble, even front and rear suspension movement can and do transfer to the body and then back again to the bike--if the rider reacts to them with a counter effort. We know with a dead certainty that tensing on the bars immediately affects the bike and creates understeer, the tendency to run wide. Essentially, you instantaneously become an active and unwanted part of the machine's dynamics, prolonging or even creating poor handling. Whether the unwanted situation originates at the bike, as in a little headshake; or in the body, from fear, the results are similar. And to add to the confusion, the bike now tends to amplify that input once more. Here we have levers acting on levers acting on levers, it can turn into a real mess and suspensions aren't designed to and can't handle it. The rider has interjected himself into the suspension system and created a "loop". Perfect Suspension The Human body is pretty much an infinitely adjustable suspension unit. It has perfect, passive-damping; for example, when you jump and land on your feet there is no rebound. It also has perfect active-damping; like when you stand on the pegs to go over a bump, dip or depression in the road or off-road. The body is incredibly more efficient than any suspension system that has ever or will ever be designed for a motorcycle, provided you have the key to its programming. Do you understand that when a rider stands on the pegs and uses the correct amount of effort (in active suspension mode) to handle a bump he has defeated that bump: the energy it has produced won't recycle back into the bike's suspension. He's out of the loop. Everything calms down very fast; in fact, it never even begins to unsettle the bike. All of this must of course happen within the range the bike's suspension and its settings: fork and shock travel, damping, rigidity, head angle and so on. Rider's Program A vital part of cornering is to maintain the machine within its suspension's range of effectiveness. Once the settings are adjusted to their optimum capabilities for the conditions, it's all up to the pilot to maintain them there for as long and as often as possible. To keep these two systems separated (the bike and rider) requires the least possible amount of rider involvement. Obviously, to use the superior capabilities of our own suspension system requires an unusual, reverse-posturing for a person engaged in a high activity sport--it requires nothing. If you fully grasp the fact of your body's perfect damping then you must also see that it works best when disengaged or relaxed. Just throw a piece of steak down on your kitchen counter--that's the perfect damping characteristic of these bodies. Just relax is how you engage the body's best suspension qualities, it really does work. The Relaxed Onion There are layers to this idea of being relaxed and removed, out of the suspension loop; but continuing to maintain good control over the bike sometimes makes it seem necessary. Then too, if you get into a tight situation and become afraid, that doubles the difficulty. You may not be able to handle the fear but you can take a close look at your own situation on the bike; for example, how you relate to the controls. Boots can be too thick making it awkward to change gears; levers can be too high or too low, putting a bend in your wrist; gloves too loose to downshift and brake smoothly, leathers too tight, arms too long or too short, seat too tall and so on. Look at how much effort you are using to work the controls, how often you use it and how long you apply it. If you are in the effort loop, get out of it. ⓒ Keith Code, 1998
  4. A major news story drove me to the dictionary to clear up an often used word in our culture, the word was 'cult' and I discovered both you and I are 'cult' members. The word itself stems from a Latin root and means: to cultivate, refine or improve and: to worship, admire or honor. The word's true meaning perfectly describes our sport. While riding itself can be broken down into only two main categories of action (changing SPEED and changing DIRECTION) the immediate and direct result of doing either of them is FORCE. Rider control changes produce forces like braking, acceleration, cornering and steering. Without these forces riding would be a dull activity indeed. In terms of riding skill, you are a good rider if you can handle the various forces generated by speed and direction changes and if you cannot, you aren't, period. Greetings fellow Cult of Force members, you greedy devils and welcome to The California Superbike School's web site, an official cult publication!. We worship FORCE and it is packaged nicely for us by the manufacturers. We've prayed for and were promised direct, hot-wired, carbon/titanium spiritual enlightenment through track proven, saint tested technological advancements and all of our prayers were answered. Each refinement is the manufacturer's way of proving he can put you in control of more force than his competitor: lighter weight, stiffer frames, bigger brakes, adjustable suspension - every single techno-advance puts you in a state of grace with FORCE. In the news story, the group had supposedly ignited themselves in flame. Our cult burns the incense of Hydrocarbons, we ignite the holy vapors up to 28,000 times per minute (14,000 RPM X 2 power pulses per rev.): Plus, we seek communion with both the corporate and credit gods and by the grace of being devoted consumers are only crucified indirectly by the news media when general rape and pillage is at a low level and the masses need a little churning. Make no mistake, you are a cult member by the true definition of the word. Force, like immortality and Nirvana, is fascinating stuff. In racing, the guy who controls it best for the day wins. Top racers carry, each in his own way, personal force and it is visible in their style and conduct. At race time there is an intensity and energy present on the starting line quite different from normal life. Riders are in their own special preparatory frame of mind--to do what?: To control and confront Force. In street riding, a good rider is simply someone who can determine potential Forces or Force generating situations which would be contrary to his survival, for example; a new rider incorrectly sees dozens of cars in an urban traffic situation whereas an experienced one sees only those who are most likely to get him. New racers try for maximum braking Force, the veteran goes for cornering speed Force; the first takes little skill the second requires much. The icons of our cult are simple and easy to read. One sees how his fellows pray by how and where they 'kneel' to the force gods. No longer are we easily impressed by what is ridden, (most modern sportbikes cry-out Tamed Force from every machined and fabricated surface) but how it is ridden. Footpeg, knee-puck and side tire wear tell how deeply the devotee partakes of our cult sacraments: the scuffs, scrapes and feathered side rubber from conquered forces, or the fractured plastic of triumphant ones, are worn proudly up and down our two-lane tabernacles as proof of personal enlightenment. The Forces can be controlled and he who can do it is revered for that ability. There are at least eleven important riding decisions that come into play in each turn and each of those eleven items are directly connected to controlling and directing the forces of cornering: Where you downshift and brake, where and how you release the brake, how much entry speed, where throttle starts, how quick you get it on, how much lean, where the bike is pointed at full lean, where it will wind up at turn's end, how many (if any) in turn steering corrections, how quick you will steer it. Let's do our catechism. The two things that most affect those eleven points are: (1) the mechanical limits of your bike: tires, suspension, weight, power characteristics etc., and (2) your Turn Entry Steering Point. A Turn Point is a magical and mystical thing. I've asked thousands of riders this question, "Where does a turn start"?, I can recall about 5 getting it right. Where does one start? At your Turn Entry Point, at the place you begin to turn, the spot where you begin your steering input; that is the beginning of a turn, nowhere else. Any turn, therefore, has an infinity of possible entrance points or Turn Points and each of the above eleven items directly hinge on it. The accuracy with which a top rider like Foggarty or Corser religiously execute their Turn Points is awesome, often varying only an inch or two, if at all, from lap to lap! Street riders are lazy with Turn Points and generally let the turn control their entries where a pro picks his spot and works from there to solve the problems of riding. To use Force of any kind one must have a definite location to apply it from. The fun and challenge of a turn starts at your Turn Point. Begin finding Turn Points in your every day riding and move out of the ranks of sinners and onto the path of enlightenment. In our cult, being seduced by force is the ultimate salvation and once you see the light on Turn Points the gods of Force will smile on you. Uncontrolled force will blow your focus on riding and the result is fear. In fact, fear could be defined as: Expecting an uncontrollable force will act against you. Fun is: Predicting and successfully controlling force. Turn Points allow you to predict all eleven of the above important decisions. So brothers and sisters, for those of you who've lost their way, find the Path with Turn Points. You are always welcome to write to brother Code with your problems. ? 1997 Keith Code
  5. In an ideal riding world you would always know where you were going and you would be able to determine where everyone else in your immediate vicinity was going. In other words, both yours and others lines would be entirely predictable; and from a brief visual inspection, both you and the other motorists would know, with certainty, what those lines were. If you like this idea then the actual question in traffic is not "what type of situations should you look out for", but, "how do you approach and maintain that ideal scene on a moment to moment basis while dealing with traffic?" Conventional wisdom has approached this from other angles. It tells us to always leave an ample amount of space to maneuver. It also tells us that having a pre-planned "out" for every situation is correct. It tells us to scan the space in front of us but it does not necessarily say exactly for what you are scanning; it dictates looking some number of seconds ahead; but all of these pearls, so heavily touted as correct traffic strategy, don't cover the subject, at least not completely. Space Command Let's look at another idea: establishing and maintaining a true and commanding presence in traffic. If the above ideal riding world is something to strive for then it deserves some close inspection. Any rider's ability to effectively and aggressively impose himself into an environment where he suffers a formidable deficiency; namely, being kind of small, should be looked at and ways found to improve the situation. When we say aggressive we mean having a presence; an eighteen wheeler has presence at any speed. This is a key issue because if you do not have an acknowledged presence with any automobile driver you are challenging the whims of fate and you are, for all practical purposes, invisible. The driver would certainly not be able to determine your direction or your plan to use a particular space or line along an intended route. In many ways, command of your space is the real issue. If you cannot command (direct with authority) the space you are in and the space you intend to ride into, on a moment to moment basis, it has the habit of commanding you. Commanding your space does not mean simply that you have an orange vest an ignited headlight or loud pipes. They may help to establish a presence but would not in the end be the entire answer. Your Line You need a minimum of two things to chart your forward progress in any situation. You must first know where you are and you must next know where you are going. Having these two factors in place has been the success formula for everything from air and sea navigation to ones own career and it has the same influence over your riding. Orderly and efficient progress is determined by, minimally, having a point "A" and a point "B". Racers know this, street riders need to know it even more so. If you know where you are and to where you are going you can also know what you should be doing, in this case, with your bike. Without these two factors, you've lost command over your space and your actions; everyone has experienced the feeling of uncertainty with their controls. When you see a situation unfolding in front of you like a lane change, most often there is an opportunity to accelerate through it or brake or to turn out of it into a different lane position or some combination like brake and turn or accelerate and turn. All of these are simple maneuvers, but there is a choice each time they happen and that choice is always easier if there is a well defined point B. No point B promotes confusion. Usually, you can easily predict the outcome of your actions in simple situations that have an obvious A & B. Splitting lanes is a good example. If the cars are staggered in the two lanes you are splitting, the potential moments for being sandwiched are very, very brief. Diagram: staggered traffic with a motorcycle and its line shown splitting traffic and little lightning lines showing the potential points of being sandwiched , there is also a series of short, slightly zigzag lines that show a point A and B at each zig or zag. . "Your exposure to cars is far less in staggered traffic. Watching for lane changers into the open lane is your main concern. Having point B's gives you definite objectives that can add to your presence in traffic" The main concern becomes centered on any lane changes an auto might make into the gap of the unoccupied lane. If traffic is side by side, your risk of becoming an auto's lunch is greater but the potential of lane changing is much less. These are two major factors of lane splitting and give you exact things to look for. Fortunately, because of their size, cars have fewer potential point B's in any given traffic situation. This makes your job of predicting their lines quite a bit easier. Diagram: Side by side traffic with m'cycle splitting lanes, a line shows points B to be just in front of each car the bike is passing. "Your exposure to cars in side by side traffic looks worse but you can be fairly sure no one will make a quick lane change to grab an empty spot." In any situation, if the dangers are exactly known, you have some degree of command over it. That does not mean you can change what the cars will do but it means you can and do most always know what to do and that in itself is the essence of command. Your Address Presence is determined by a location in space. You have an address, you have a telephone number, you have a name, you have a size and a shape. These things, among others, determine your presence in the world around you. When it comes to riding, some riders have more presence than do others and you can see it. Call it telegraphing, call it anything you like, it is force-of-presence and is observable and it goes past the point of just occupying ones skin. There is an outward bound force of some sort and it establishes the person who has it as something to be reckoned with, on a moment to moment basis. It is perhaps an attitude that results from being in good communication with your environment and that would make sense because those of us who are in good communication with their environment have more of a presence than those who do not. I'm not trying to establish a black art here. Everyone knows this thing called presence exists but we don't necessarily need to understand it completely in order to use it to our advantage. Most riders don't fully understand their bike's technological improvements but still can use them. Plot Your Presence Establishing a commanding presence in traffic must then start off with that one important factor, you must be there. As before, the minimum in any situation would be a point A, your location, and point B, the location you intend to occupy in the next few moments. That establishes your line or path of travel. What happens if you do not have a line or a destination? That's a simple answer, the situation becomes confusing with too many possibilities, too many options, too many choices. Having a planned line clears the way to knowing what can and cannot happen. When you know where you are going in traffic, you can easily calculate who or what can or will intersect your path of travel. Without a line, everyone is a potential threat and uncertainty results, both for yourself and for other motorists who are trying to calculate your path. But even that has a positive side to it because you can establish a presence by erratic, unpredictable lines. It boils down to the fact that gaining a presence in traffic has two basic approaches: - Establish a predictable line or path of travel. - Establish an unpredictable line or path of travel. Center Of The Universe In a very real sense you are and must assume that you are the center of the universe to create a presence, that has practical value on a motorcycle. If you intend to emanate (telegraph) a presence in traffic then you better start practicing. To start with, there are two ways to view it: you can assume that no one sees you or you can assume an actors viewpoint of totally communicating your intentions to the audience, which is traffic in this case. Personally, I start out with the idea that everyone can see me and then identify the ones I'm not reaching with my riding "performance". The obvious truth is, more people do see you than don't. And in order to telegraph a presence you would actually have to start out with that idea of being seen or you would not be telegraphing anything. You can't telegraph "they don't see me". You can telegraph "I am here" and in a moment I will be over there. So, we are back to using points A and B as the basics and having them appear sufficiently obvious so that another could read your intentions clearly. That would take care of you, what about the other guy? Here again, you can predict what the other driver is going to do more often than not. This is one of the aspects of riding that is a pure and simple miracle of the mind and its efficiency to pose and resolve problems. Looking at a car/driver and determining what he has or might have in mind gives you another piece of stable information. The information is that if he varies from that path of travel you've plotted for him and his vehicle he then becomes subject to scrutiny. You postulate (assume) his point B and if it changes from what you thought, you have a reason to become concerned. You have a point B and he has a point B, any changes that you notice require inspection. You could operate from the idea that you don't know where he is going but that would not solve anything; that only makes busy work for you and creates unfounded and attention draining concerns. Appearing Act Everyone already does this recognition-of-an-intended or assumed destination to some extent, otherwise, parlor trick magicians wouldn't be around. You predict a destination from your observation of the direction something appears to be traveling. While a magician may fool you with a quarter or a handkerchief, it is not so easy to do slight of hand with a three thousand pound, fifteen foot car. There is no question you can be fooled in some cases, but not often. We've really got two subjects here: gaining a presence and observing to predict. They tie together pretty closely and as long as you continue to put out that position B for yourself and the other traffic you can begin to predict your future position and those of your fellow motorist's. The interesting part of riding like this is that instead of having to constantly second guess yourself to find an "out" for any riding situation, the "outs" become obvious, mainly because you aren't harassing yourself with too many what-ifs. In traffic, you could what-if yourself into a headache whereas observing the other vehicles' lines and their variations is far simpler and to the point, both for evasive and smooth sailing maneuvers. You might call this a fine distinction but it is also a survival one. When you observe what is happening with lines you are postulating a result from what can be seen rather than from what might be. The doom and gloom sayers will argue that you can't always do this but I think you can. Assume The Position If that is what to do then how do you do it? I think we can talk around the subject and maybe come to a few of the important points on how. First off, riders who have a presence appear to be stable on the bike without being rigidly fixed on it. There is a kind of fluidity to their riding where the body language points out their intention but does not over-exaggerate it. There is also an economy of motion, much like an accomplished horse back rider. We can take some cues from horseback riders on this wherein the rider has enough control over the beast but is not keeping it tense with too tight a rein or extraneous motion that would keep the horse in a state of readiness to act and probably eventually confuse it or make it tired. Each action is precise and definite and again with an economy of motion. Even though motorcycles don't second guess their riders, these are signs that a car driver may well see. But you only want them to see enough to tell the story of where you intend to go. A very definite but economical steering change tells that story as well as making your presence known by the fact of your superior mobility. Offensive Riding I'm always afraid of using the words "defensive riding" because it has a wait- around-and-see connotation to it and that isn't what a good rider does. A good rider acts and most definitely does not try and become invisible by rolling along in the flow of traffic to such an extent that he disappears and you would disappear if you just held your position in traffic; you'd disappear to the eye of the motorists because of that too-small-to-worry- about thing that happens with unconscious car drivers. In the end, you can't blame a car driver for not seeing you, you might sue him and win but that doesn't solve anything. It might be better to look at it from the car driver's viewpoint. If you create too much of a distraction for him, he may just give up looking at you because he is spending too much attention on you. His sense of survival tells him that he had better pay attention to what he is doing and not what you are. You can confuse car drivers: they can't think with your additional mobility. Because of their reduced mobility, they live in a two dimensional world and you live in a three D maneuvering environment. Your progress is hard to plot for a car driver because he does not have experience that tells him what you can do. Too Close Today, you don't have much choice when it comes to the distance between yourself and the other drivers. You will be crowded by them on a regular basis. Here is another area where the reverse of conventional wisdom makes a good case for itself. You don't have many options in real freeway and traffic situations to exercise an active command over those other motorists; in other words, you can't bully them in any other way than to slow down and create a space cushion between yourself and the one in front of you. That doesn't work anyhow because someone will move into that space cushion you try to create, for sure. So, the whole game of real traffic riding is becoming more and more up close and personal, it's in your face most of the time. Why try and buck it with an outmoded strategy; the space cushion is a story you can tell your kids about; you heard it existed from your grandfather. If it isn't there then a new strategy needs to be devised and that is to get in there and ride with them using your superior maneuverability as the weapon of choice. Riding up close actually solves some problems rather than creating them. In a tight situation you can see that the space between you and the others out there is closing on you. Riding two feet off the side of a car makes a six inch move on his part a worthwhile thing to investigate and it is obvious. This is just another variety of the point A and point B idea. You've plotted yourself a path and it is now being invaded on the other axis, the lateral or side to side one; he's moving over on you in his, or, into your lane. Riding up close and personal reduces the space on one hand but on the other you have gained a little in perceivablility; because reducing your space by twenty-five percent, in the above example, is noticeable. None of this is to say that in lighter traffic you don't use your mobility and power to create some space for yourself but even then putting out your points B has some value, if for nothing else, to make the ride more interesting. Influence There is another factor that a pro rider takes into account. Under normal conditions you mainly only have to predict the drivers in front and to both sides of you to remain in command of your space. However, in multilane and uncontrolled roadways (sidestreet access and parked cars) there is the influence that another driver may have on one of those you are closely monitoring, those to the front and both sides of you. This complicates the traffic game to a degree but simplifies it as well. Diagram of side influences that could change the traffic picture. Shows someone coming out of a sidestreet and moving the driver in lane two over into lane one where there is a motorcyclist. "You have one more dimension to consider in traffic. Who can move one of my three stable protectors into my lane?" Those three drivers you have targeted as your main potential adversaries are also your protection from outside influences. So in a way you have to take responsibility for them in a protective sort of fashion. You assume the viewpoint that whatever happens to them could happen to you and it solves this problem. You are responsible for the actions of everyone around you that can directly influence your successful transitions from your points A and B on that moment to moment basis. This broadens the sphere of your responsibility as a rider but still is included in the original definition of the ideal scene for traffic handling: of knowing where you and all the other drivers are going; of knowing what are their lines, what are their points B. Recruit Help Another way of looking at it is to recruit the drivers who are your immediate "protection" in traffic. You surely have noticed that some drivers take on a protective attitude towards motorcyclists. They move over and make room for you and so on. Other drivers pointedly ignore you but they may be your best friends in the end because that is one of the sure indicators that they know you are there. Even the ones who antagonistically move over on you just a bit are your friends for the same reason. You have absolutely established a presence with this type of driver and that is really your main job in traffic no matter how it occurs. In their own strange way they have recognized you have a point B. You could try and boil this whole subject down to one grand generality and say confidence is what you need and that would not be wrong but presence is closer to the actual operating language of traffic and it is the one understood by everyone. I'm still questioning whether or not you can just pull this off by assuming you have a presence and going for it. In the end it really is the decision to be there, to have a line--and to announce that fact. Is presence real? Can you do it? ⓒKeith Code 1996-1997
  6. 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
  7. The front end got light when you chaged gears and you were tugging on the bars. Unless you hit something on the road that is the only reason it would shake. Keith
  8. 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
  9. The double throw down, jump back, five speed, positronic quick turn and why you need it. Can you steer your bike as quickly as you can a car? What does quick turning your bike have to do with your safety? How quick can it be done? Where can you practice it? Let's take up question number one first. Can you steer your bike as fast as your car? If your answer is "no", my next questions are: What business do you have riding in traffic with cars that can out-maneuver you?, and, Ain't that dangerous? The answers, not pleasant ones to swallow, are: none and yes. You lose. There are several ways to view this. One is that bikes are much narrower than a car and that gives you an advantage right off, because a little steering input goes a long way in changing your position in space, e.g., to avoid a lawn chair that just fell off a pickup truck , you can move your entire machine one bike width, or about three feet, to the right or left to be out of harms way; a car would have to move much further due to its greater width to avoid hitting it?great, that's one for the bikes. Because of its greater width, a car driver must be able to swerve up to 4 times quicker to avoid you on a motorcycle; many drivers can but often don't because they panic and freeze. Your task is even more daunting when confronted with a car's greater dimensions. Your ability to change position in space must be even quicker to avoid the beast which just pulled out on you; especially if you look at the broadside dimension of a car, the one usually offered at an intersection confrontation, which is 5 to 8 times greater than your frontal silhouette. That looks like one for the cars. Logically, your steering should be at least three times as effective (the ability to reposition your bike quicker and farther to the right or left) as an automobile driver's. Now that's the rub: you've got a basically more maneuverable machine with thread-the-needle dimensions and (according to statistics) you aren't willing or able to use it in a pinch. That's one for the statistics book. What's wrong with this picture? The truth is: if you can't quick turn your motorcycle, you won't even try. There are no instances on record where a motorcycle rider suddenly acquired the skill and guts to overcome their reluctance to execute a quick turning maneuver if they didn't already possess it: flashes of inspiration in this area appear to be in short supply, especially when most needed. Even the thought of making quick steering changes on a motorcycle is enough to raise goosebumps the size of eggs on most riders and the commonly cited reason for them is the seemingly very real sense that the front or rear or both wheels will wash out. In some cases that could be true, e.g., turning on wet or otherwise slippery surfaces. Riders are keenly aware of this and generally avoid it when possible. Another and very real concern is: an aggressive direction change with the front or rear or both brakes applied, something that often accompanies a panic situation. You can ask the front tire to take a substantial cornering load or a fistful of front brake but you may not ask it to do them both at the same time; them's the rules of rubber. That's one for Physics. Survival Potential Take a moment to evaluate how quickly you are willing to turn your bike. If there were a scale from 1 to 10, where would you be. After twenty years of intense observation, I place the average motorcycle rider at around 4 on that scale. Is fear of falling a reason? Yes. Not practiced at the art of quick turns? Yes. Very few ever take the time to hone their skill up to the standard of effectiveness needed for the street. At the Superbike Schools, we treat the quick-turn idea as a must have, fundamental skill; and provide riders with plenty of incentive to bring their own level of mastery of it up to the point it can be practiced on a day to day basis. This can even out the score. Practice The Act It does seem a bit outlandish to ride along and "flick" your bike from side to side and it would be easy to become self conscious about doing it on a routine basis: you might even get a ticket for reckless driving, it's possible. But that doesn't alter the facts of auto vs. motorcycle maneuverability stated above, they are real. Let me state this again: "If you can't turn your bike quickly you won't even try". That is not my opinion, that is an overwhelmingly obvious statistic from motorcycle accident research. So what are we talking about here, weaving some cones in the parking lot at 7 MPH? No, we are talking about the average speed of an auto / motorcycle accident, our worst enemy, and that is 28 MPH. We're talking about a disembodied car muffler turning lazy circles in your lane or a truck tire tread flipped into the air or the refrigerator that just fell off a pickup truck, a car, a kid, a ball, a dog, a traffic cone... , anything where a faint hearted attempt simply won't cut it. And the usual result? ? Cream the brakes, and that's nothing more than panic reactions winning. That's one for the obstacle, zero for you. The ability to quick turn your bike is valuable and must be practiced and kept in fine tune. Even that is no guarantee you'll perform when the moment of truth arrives but it's the best you can, or should strive to, achieve. Watching a professional racer perform a quick-turn maneuver through an S bend is valuable. A pro, accomplishing three or four times the steering action of a lazy rider, should be viewed as a potential goal for anyone who rides. Having this ability is just about right for adding two or three more points onto a rider's score card. Quick-Turn Equipment The point is, it can be done, in fact it is becoming easier and easier with companies like Dunlop applying their racing tire technology to street rubber; making the street executed quick-turn even more possible by compounding stickier rubber along with increased load capacity and longer wear. There is a basic steering drill I do to observe and correct riders' ability to get their bikes turned quick. The drill works so well that I have seen (on a stock ZX 6R fitted with Dunlop 207 ZR Sport Max Radials, with four hard track days on them, cold, on dusty asphalt, at 30 MPH and a 68 degree day) serious quick flicks (the bike actually sanpped over to respectable lean angles) done by riders who have taken the time to perfect this drill. Perhaps even more amazing is that I've also seen it done on a Softail Springer Harley! Buying a tire the consistency of a bowling ball for touring and long life is no longer necessary. In combination with more compliant suspensions, a key part of quick-turns, everyday technology has placed riders on a far more level playing field with cars. The technology is there, but so are the panic reactions which prevent riders from using it. Refining your quck turn abilities isn't simply another good idea, it is somehting that should and can be practiced each time you ride. Even up the score?learn to turn. Keith Code copyright 2002, Keith Code, all rights reserved. Permission granted for reprint to CSS, Inc. web site, 2002
  10. Commitment What You Do and How Often The actions of riding one lap of a complex circuit with say 13 corners, like our favorite training track, the Streets of Willow Springs, breaks down something like this: Throttle position changes (including throttle blips) 50 Steering inputs 22 Gear changes 20 Clutch actions (downshifts only) 10 Front brake pulls and releases 14 --- Total 116 The 116 number doesn?t include any error or terror corrections you might make with the throttle, steering or brakes so the number could be well in excess of these 116 control inputs. Note: A lap at Laguna is only about 10% fewer actions. More Laps More Actions How much physical conditioning does it take to roll the throttle on and off 50 times every minute and a half to two minutes; shift the gear lever 20 times; push on the bars 22 times? Not a lot for one lap but over the course of 25 laps it tends to add up. At 25 laps there are approximately 3,000 actions that you would have to perform to complete a national or world level event or mini-endurance race or, perhaps in your case, a track day. Hmmmmmm. Even on a club level 8 lap event or track day session you begin pushing 1,000 actions performed for the 12 to 20 minutes of riding. What creates a great ride? It?s the precision, it?s the exact degree you roll on the throttle or pull the brakes and it is the WHERE and WHEN of each of the 2,900 actions that adds up to a good event or a good day at the track. As above, if you are making mistakes, add a few dozen to that number. Novice Lag I would like to cite an interesting and revealing point here. Despite the fact that a rider may be going twenty seconds a lap slower than a pro, the number of actions performed doesn?t decrease, most likely it increases. Due to errors and corrections a less skillful rider is making, that number may be significantly higher. This has a direct impact on the amount of time the novice rider has to identify and initiate a correct and accurate control response--he is still busy fixing the last one. I?m sure you can recall some examples of this. For any riding situation, the important inputs into the bike often take a back seat to the ones generated by the rider?s own errors. The important ones get stepped on, they are late, the rider feels frenzied; now the bike isn?t responding the way he wants it to, when he wants it to. Comparing Skills Comparing a lap record time on any given track to that of a typical street rider?s lap time, and dividing the number of actions per lap, there is, on average, an action performed every .7 seconds for the pro and about every 1 second for the novice track rider. That is calculated without the errors. With the errors figured in, the novice rider is actually ?busy? with the bike on a non stop basis. He?s getting tired and tense and mentally blows himself away with no time to observe what he is doing between actions. That?s because there is no ?between?, it has been consumed correcting his errors! Looking at a no error novice lap: you see the rider is spending almost 30 seconds each lap looking things over where the pro is responding to his impressions and perceptions and committing himself without the lag time. The pro is using 30% less time to observe and respond. From this perspective, a rider who has shortened the lag between identifying the situation and responding with the correct control in the correct amount, is, by definition, more skillful, more confident and can and will go faster and is in better control. This could be called a rider?s recognition /response level. No Time If you put telemetry on the bike and counted the number of throttle and steering corrections the novice was making that the pro wasn?t, you?d see that the novice rider?s time is chock full of things to do: too full to be accurate too full to have the time to observe; too full to make good decisions. This comparison brings up a bunch of questions about what causes the differences in the pro?s time and the novice rider?s time. 1. Is it physical response time? 2. Familiarity with the road or track? 3. Understanding of the riding procedures like throttle control, corner entry speeds, etc.? 4. Feel for the bike and tires and what they are doing? 5. The rider?s sense of time and timing? 6. Good visual skills? 7. The riders?s ability to perceive speed and speed changes from lap to lap? 8. Some unique combination of the above that defines the ?fast? or in-control rider? While these may all qualify as reasons, each one of them is practically an entire technical subject in itself. This is why I started breaking down the actions of riding into drills in 1976 and began creating a system for improvement. There is a lot going on. The Next Now, The Future If you were trying to dissect and remedy your own recognition/response ?lag time? it would be easy to generalize that lag as uncertainty, lack of confidence or unfamiliarity. Does labeling it like this solve it though? Decidedly not. The lag-time differential from the pro to the novice is based on where each have their attention focused. The novice?s attention is focused on handling the right now moment, or quite often, the even worse scenario, of lingering on the action he just performed. As an example, barely cracking the throttle open and freezing, as opposed to committing to rolling on the gas, are quite a bit different aren?t they? When you get just past mid corner and you?ve lagged on your roll-on and you realize you could have just kept going instead of sitting there like a mushroom with a twistgrip in your hand. That is your recognition/response lag time working against you. This should send a message to you. You must find out what caused the lag. Was it your bike telling you something or your survival instincts that caused the hesitation? Was it a real reason not to roll on? It could be real, like getting on a bad line. In either case, you need to know so you can master it. Living in the Past Lingering on these past actions is what creates hesitation: this is the root cause of lack of commitment, it also adds that 3/10ths second on average to each of your actions. Would you call this lack of commitment? It looks that way but it could also be caused by a lack of understanding. Quick Flick Time Riders learning how to quick flick the bike have one variety of this problem. They are wary of the follow up corrections they might have to make to their entry line. The idea of committing to the turn quickly gives them a queasy feeling. They aren?t confident they?ll have the time to observe and correct their line. But this is wrong thinking, they?re actually burning up their observation time with hesitation. In this quick flick example, we see this fact--- turning the bike quickly, where it is appropriate, gives the rider more time to observe results than the lazy, non-flick steering method. The time he spends lazily bringing it over never does have a definite end result, not until it is completed. The bike isn?t pointed until it is pointed. Do you see this? Quick flicking with confidence is a barrier riders push through. Training, and a little nagging from your instructor, helps push you through it. You can do this. Throttle control is much the same. A short lag of only 3/10ths of a second to get back on the throttle goes by rapidly. It?s not much time. Just get yourself a stopwatch and click it twice to see how long 3/10ths is--but at 60 MPH it is 4 bike lengths! Can you imagine yourself lagging that long getting the gas back on? Probably longer, right? Rules of Commitment Completing actions is what buys you the time to observe and predict the results. Being half hearted and non committal on control actions only holds you back. You can?t easily predict the outcome of an action on the bike until it is at least started. When you are hesitant, you are giving yourself less time to respond. It seems (on the Survival Response level) you are making more of it but that?s not true. Confidence can be defined as: control inputs, started and completed; which lead to a known and desired result. Being decisive, with the smallest possible lag time, is safer in the end. Smooth Is Quick. Quick Is Smooth. When you think of smooth do you normally consider how quickly you do things with the bike?. If you are thinking that slowing down your actions is going to make it smoother, think again. The fact of the matter is that the pro is getting the same number of actions completed as you but using 1/3 less time to do them...and looking smooth. Take simultaneous braking and downshifting as another example. The quicker you can make your throttle blip and get the clutch in and out the smoother it becomes. Gear-changes up are the same way, the quicker the smoother. Quick shift mechanisms are a great example of quicker is smoother. Thinking Compared to Doing Thinking about riding does not always bring us into a state of grace with the bike and road. Riders say, ?I want to have higher corner speed?, ?I want quicker lap times?,?I want to brake harder, deeper, slicker, quicker?. They want to go fast and find it isn?t easy. It?s a rare and special ability to ?think yourself faster?, failing at this, they ask for the tricks to achieving it. But there aren?t any ?advanced? techniques for someone who is still fumbling with their basics. Well crafted lessons and good observant one-on-one instruction can prepare you to get what you want. You do have to push through these barriers. Sometimes it doesn?t feel fast when you are thinking it through and grinding on yourself to perfect a technique. Well, that?s the way it is. Live it, reach for it, embrace the butterflies, immerse yourself in the stress. All the cornering demons have one thing in common, they can?t stand the heat of commitment. Learn the skills, shorten the lag and beat the demons! Keith Code
  11. Mashuri, Here is the guarantee as printed in our 2003 brochure. We Guarantee Improvement In celebration of our 100,000th student, for 2003 we will offer any student a free school session if they don?t make noticeable improvement. Here are the requirements: 1. Decide to improve your cornering skills and enjoyment. This should be easy. 2. Sign-up and arrive at the track on time for your scheduled date. No stress there. 3. Be on time for all the tech briefings. Not difficult. 4. Pay attention while in them. They are informative so that?s easy. 5. Do the on-track drills discussed in the briefings. The fun part. 6. Follow our simple track etiquette, rules and flags. They?re all about safety, learning and school track manners. Not hard to do. 7. Interact with your instructor. Work with him (or her) and talk to them. In other words simply follow the school?s format as thousands before have done. Keith
  12. fastfreddie said (paraphrased simplification) when i had asked keith, 'what can i do to elevate my game?', he said, 'trust your tires'. for me, currently, easier said than done. I have never told anyone to "trust their tires" in my entire existence as a teacher. I make a point of saying the opposite in fact. Riders learn to turst their tires when they have conquered basics like having a sharp perception of turn entry speeds and good throttle control. I have a little joke about that "trust you tires" thing. Do you know the fellow who made them? Are you sure he didn't drop his sandwich into the mold while he was making them? Riders trust themselves not the tires. Keith PS: The main thing about braking is what can you get away with. If a little front end push is OK then you probably can use the brakes close to maximum, straight up or leaned over. If you sense of traction is good enough so that you can feel what the tires are doing that is a huge help. If you are willing to commit yourself a little bit at a time to harder braking and faster entry speeds that is good. If you have the kind of spirit that will allow you to run fast on the first lap after a warm up or with tire warmers that is good to. If you are willing to stick it into a turn just to see what happens, that is the spirit of the game also.
  13. What I love about forums is their thought provoking aspect. Rider?s comments, and personal experiences make me think. Behind every answer is a question and behind every question there is an answer. This trail-braking issue brings up a load of both. Ever since I first investigated trail-braking and graphed it and set up some guidelines for it in the first ?A Twist of the Wrist? book in 1981 I?ve mainly focused on its more basic aspect, that of a rider?s Sense of Speed. Sense of Speed is a rider?s ability to accurately judge differences and similarities in speed from one pass through a corner to the next time they encounter it. No matter how or when a rider is braking his Sense of Speed directs the whole activity. This is the irreducible part of the rider/bike/road combination which must be in good working order. Following right on the heels of this sense is the rider?s Sense of Traction and I?ll talk about that a little later in this. One of the other main issues that revolve around braking is the suspension action. The compression and extension that can occur with either 1) straight up braking or 2) trailing brakes into the corner. Cornering enthusiasts both feel it and understand that making the transition from on to off the brake(s) and entering the turn should be as seamless as possible in order not to upset the suspension (read traction). On a telemetry graph it would look like a continuous line as the rider released the brake and the cornering forces took over--that goes for either method of braking. Now if you look at this aspect closely you will see that there is actually another sense which we develop to comply with this demand to make that transition a smooth one. In order to make this work out we first of all must be aware of the bike?s dive attitude (how far down is the nose of the bike). In order now to make it successful the rider must also be aware of the compression the cornering forces will provide for the speed he has entered the corner. How much will it compress from that force? A straight line braker?s ability to reckon where the suspension compression will be once he is into the turn plus his timing of letting off the brakes and turning to maintain the compression at that level have to be very good. The trail-braking rider feels his way into the turn more on his sense of traction and has both forces (braking compression on the suspension as well as the cornering forces on it) acting on the bike at the same time so his job is simplified to a great degree. It more or less eliminates the precision timing and sense of the bike?s pitched-forward attitude that it takes to do it the other way. He approaches the lean, speed, traction more gradually and gets continuous feedback from them. With the straight line method the rider has to also determine by his feel and prediction just how quick his flick into the corner needs to be to maintain the suspension compression smoothly. A lot of multi-tasking is going on here. When you realize that this all has to be figured out just BEFORE he does it you see why the two methods are so different. Here is another way of saying it. The trail braking method privides the rider with feedback as he transitions and the straight line method doesn?t allow you feedback until after you already committed and completed it and there ain?t no fixing it, at least not on that lap. There is a high degree of confidence in yourself and your prediction of the forces and your other senses of speed and traction and your ability to quick turn the bike that are essential before you?d be willing to make this level of commitment. Beside all that, there is another huge benefit to learning the straight up/quick flick style. It provides a rider with valuable feedback about tire traction and cornering loads. When you quick flick the bike with poor timing you get a sudden load on the suspension and the tires. This is the thing that riders get into their heads will make them crash?usually they think they are going to loose the front and go down. They get spooked from that sudden load. The feeling of the sudden load came from releasing the brakes too soon before they flicked it. The front end comes up from the release and then dives again from the flick in. If you break that down you?ll see that the load, while it may have a little higher peak force, wasn?t anymore than they would have experienced if they had made that transition into the turn with perfect control timing. The sudden load came from their error not because it is part of the style of riding. This is another one of those things that can become confusing to any rider. They have simply misidentified the real cause of the sudden loading. It could and often is enough to make riders think that they are going to crash by quick flicking the bike. I think that the facts and the physics of the matter are this: If you had the front tire right at 110% traction and you flicked it in and maintained that load that you would be OK and have a killer turn entry speed. You would not have violated the traction limit of the tire (they like to slide a bit for max traction in any case) and would have learned an enormous amount about traction limits. It?s that commitment thing that makes this difficult. I have heard schools of thought that say that trailing the brakes is an ?advanced? skill. I have heard schools of thought that say you will get passed if you don?t learn to trail. That may very well be true, I don?t know everything. What I do know is this: Once a rider can successfully and confidently do the straight line method; once he can do it with flawless timing and clean seamless transitions and he trusts himself and is willing to make these commitments, learning the trail-in style is a piece of cake. Doing it in the other order is not so easy. Keith
  14. One of the things that Tony Foale brought up during his clinic/lecture at Doc Wongs was that as you brake you actually increase the trail up to (I think) 20mm. This could be another reason that they feel a bit heavy at the bars under braking and turning. The thing on the bike comng up if you brake in turns was something that I asked him about as well. Basically the contact patch's position is trying to steer the tire inwards which countersteers the bike upwards. The contact patch is on the inside of the center line of the bike is why. Keith
  15. You guys should take this over onto the trailbraking thread in the Racing Section, that is where we are looking at braking techniques. Keith
  16. Earlier I mentioned starting a list of things that are pluses and minuses on trailbraking. I guess yo guys are going to make me work this all out on my own aren't you. Let's see some data and be a little more scientific about it and then decide if and when the technique applies. I gotta go up and do the DOc Wong events this weekend but I'm hoping to get a list from you guys and next week start to pan it out for the nuggets of wisdom we can find. Keith
  17. History repeats itself over and over. When Honda coame into GP racing in the early 60's they cleaned up with their awesome bikes and top riders. SLowly the other factories started to catch up and win. The technology gap isn't as big as it used to be in those days. Data on small displacement high output engines has had over 4o years to brew and leak out into the hands of anyone. Rossi will smoke them enough to win the championship no matter what he rides. He is worth a second a lap all on his own, on anyhting he can throw a leg over. I love that guy he never really complains about the bike, tires, setup he just grins and flies. Keith
  18. JeF4y, I'd love to say that my team of guys are going to give you exactly what you want but I can't say it with complete honesty. Obviously we have four levels to our schools and they do follow a definite curriculum from Level I through III. Here is what I can say. If your throttle control is less than perfect, if you still have any problem with lines, don't always get the bike turned as well as you think you could, get rushed at turn entries, find the bike's handling isn't as consistant as it should be, if feeling more in control of your turn entry speeds would be a benefit, we can probably help. If you come looking for tricks we won't be able to help. If you feel as though your basic skills are 100% we won't be able to help you. If you never feel rushed or late or behind with your controls or moving around on the bike you probably don't need what we have to offer in cornering skills. If you are finishing races without even breaking a sweat and are winning them and your riding is as smooth as you think it should be, same thing, we won't be of much use to you. Here is what I know. You will be assigned to an instructor who can help you and can ride as well or better than you do. They will work with you every session on the track and after the track session. I or they will answer your quesions and set targets for you every time you go out. We will stick to the lessons and we will hound you to get them right. Look at it this way. I guarantee you will improve or you get to come back for free. If you come as a student and just follow the format as 1/8th of a million riders have done before you will improve. No one on four continents has ever gotten through more than one level of the school without noticeably improving. Keith
  19. Jim, You caught me on this one. There was a part of Pivot Steering that I had not understood when I wrote Twist II. Yes, you do go light in the saddle when you pivot off your outside foot/leg. The intentiion isn't to get off the seat it just happens to be a natural result of using the quads in your outside leg as you pivot from that outside peg. Yes, the weight that was in the seat does transfer: some onto your inside foot/leg some on the outside. No, you do not have to try to lessen or change the weight that is transfered onto one or the other of those feet/legs. This area of weight transfer and body position is a whole subject of riding technique and technology all by itself and it is very well explained in the Level III exercises we do at the school. I'll be covering it in Twist III as well but that isn't done yet. Hope that helps, Keith
  20. JeF4Y, We first began doing that exercise in 1985 and we call it the "Change Your Lines" drill. Left side, right side, center. Your are precisely right on all your observations about what it does to your perception of the track. I first did this drill with some flat trackers who were learning to roadrace. Flat track guys sometimes ride the pole (inside) as a habit. It works well for that purpose if there is a good traction groove but isn't always the right place to run. I noticed that the guys I was working with were running that line in many of the corners because on asphalt the traction is good "everywhere" and they were simply thinking the shortest distance around the track where traction was good. This doesn't work out on asphalt because you often lose lots of drive when you get yourself stuck on the inside. Anyhow, once they got the idea that there were lots of ways through the turns the lap times started to come down immediately. Two of these flat track riders went on to win 4 US Superbike championships. Sometimes riders take theri visual skills lightly but I have identified an entire liist of errors that rider of all skill levels make that are directly related to how well they can use their eyes and that is what our Level II is all about. Keith
  21. That's the same as asking someone if they counter steer. Everyone trail brakes to some degree almost everytime they use the brake(s). The question on using it as a technique is different. If you ask: What can be gained and what can be lost you would come up with two columns of information, the potential pluses and minuses. Make a list of the positives and the negatives of trail braking then we can look it over Keith
  22. 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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