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What I've Learned About Rider Input.


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I've been working on rider input (getting my weight off the bars) and since I've just started taking my weight completely off the bars, I've learned a lot about the way the bike works. It's all in TOTW 2, but this is how I can explain it (it helps me learn by explaining things in my own words). I've been working on it for a while and have dropped 10 seconds off my lap-time even.

 

I started figuring out a bikes set-up that could potentiate a riders poor input, how to assess the amount of pressure a rider actually has on his bars, and how many steering inputs could be needed when a rider fights the bike, which is caused by holding on to the bars while the front wheel is passively (no input by the rider) trying to turn into the corner. This will make the rider struggle more with cornering. It's a chain reaction. Light or tight, he's wrong for doing it. Of course, having your hands on the bars is partially why they're there, but gripping the bars is what keeps the front end from working at peek effectiveness. I was light on the bars before I started studying its effects.

 

The way it works is that we use counter-steering to position the rear tire where we want it to direct the bike. After that, pressure is relaxed on the bars and the front end will conform (turn) to the direction the rear tire is making the bike go. The example most used to demonstrate that the rear steers the bike until the rider gives a steering input is wheelie-ing out of a corner. The front wheel is off the ground, but the bike is still turning. That's the rear wheel controlling where the bike is going [TOTW 2 Pg 58].

 

My example is on my EX at 80+ miles an hour. I've lost some weights off the front tire and when I get around and over 80 mph (130 kph) and let go of the bars, the front starts to shutter horribly. The front tire wants to direct the bike another way, but the rear wheel is telling it to go straight, so it tries to straighten out and over compensates because of the additional force (pressure from the rear) it's being told to correct itself at, then it goes back to where it wants to go because it's off balance, then back again, and you get the shuttering effect. That's the rear wheel telling the bike to go straight despite contradictory forces from the front. Of course, when I hold onto the bars, it all goes away. Or does it?

 

There are a couple of linked corners on my way to work in the morning that I take at about 80 mph. A nice right/left that can be taken much quicker, but would require too much attention. I'm not doing it for speed, but for feel. It's also approximately the speed that causes the real bad shuttering problem. On the highway I can feel the front moving when I completely relax my grip and lay on the tank. Since I've been taking all my weight off the bars going through these corners, I still have to re-steer the bike occasionally, and think this may be the effects of the unbalanced front tire. This could be another thing causing a rider to grip the bars too tightly, making him feel uncomfortable while cornering. All a result of the bike being improperly maintained. Would anyone else think about the balance issue? I probably would have started working on suspension if this suddenly started happening, or reassessing my body position. Both unsuccessfully. Then I would have gotten new tires (I've done this before) and the problem would have been fixed because the mechanic would have balanced the front tire as well.

 

What I've also been working on during trackdays is tension in shoulders during cornering. Try it. You've probably got your shoulders raised even slightly right now, or when you're typing, holding something to read it, whatever. Just let your shoulders drop. Completely relax. If you think about it, try it on the track next time and see how relaxed you are on the bars. Try it in a corner while you're commuting. Same thing. You can feel it, and it's noticeable at slower speeds.

 

I think tension in the shoulders may be a way to tell a couple of things. The first thing is that the riders shoulders alone may be telling him whether he's gripping onto the bars too tightly. If I just relax my shoulders in a corner after a steering input, I have no tension on the bars. If I back off my normal pace a little, I can also tell whether I'm comfortable going through a corner or not. This, in turn, will tell me whether I have a good line through the corner. The reason I have to back off to tell is that I can't focus on just my shoulders if I'm digging in, and can't try to see what the cause of discomfort can be.

 

Turn 8 on Inde is a hard right hand corner that has a sudden elevation just after the turn point. I hate it because 1) if a rider turns too hard initially, he's going to drag hard-parts, and 2) if he ignores the throttle rule and hits the elevation patch, the front tire will cut loose and let him know he's being lazy on the throttle, giving him a bit of a knock up. I learned, by experimenting with the shoulder tension, just how uncomfortable (very) I was going through this turn. I worked on it most of the day and found a line that would let me give a steering input and cruise through it. I ended up in a late apex and it all worked out. It's a great example of slow in-fast out. Everyone else has a standard turn-point and end up holding off giving it more throttle, or go to "static throttle" in a turn that doesn't require it. It's tied for the most wrecked in corner on Inde. I delay the turn a little, crank the bars and jump on the gas (which also means I'm applying TC rule #1 correctly and have found my ideal line [TOTW 2 Pg 18]). I'm also happy to report that I can now get through there with relaxed shoulders.

 

Another thing I've found is the number of steering inputs a rider will have to give if he's tense on the bars. It can best be felt at slower corner speeds at around 15 mph (24 kph). I noticed it while I was going to work and was driving up the parking garage. I was relaxing on the bars, but would get to the point where I had to give a steering input in less than every 2 seconds. It can be felt very well when a rider is completely relaxed on the bars. What was happening? Once I applied my shoulder tension test, I started noticing that I was STILL tensing up on the bars at some point when the bars turned too much. It was a subconscious response to feeling the bars were turning too far. That's it. Sometimes it's the little things.

 

Occasionally I would notice the bars were going too far making me give another steering input the other way. The solution was another easy explanation and fix. I was focusing so much on the bars I wasn't applying the throttle soon enough. Even just giving it throttle when I was done with my steering input was telling the front end of the bike where to fall in line. I think the problem with the bars oversteering is lessened or negated by more speed and pressure from the rear, but at slow speeds it's an odd sensation.

 

 

I've posted all this because it's what I've noticed and come up with while testing what I'm studying or just feeling. I know it's not new information, but does any of it seem wrong to anyone? What is right? Before I pass it on to some of the riders at Inde, I'd like to make sure it's correct, as we can all feel different things at any given time. Any help/clarification/validation would be great.

 

 

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I can definitely relate to the tension, if nothing else. I used to cramp up in my Trepzius on longish rides on several bikes, and I used a death grip. Trying to relax only worked for the seconds or minutes I managed to focus on it. I was tense under all conditions; cruising the straights or cornering briskly. Personally, I will claim that it didn't cause me much more drama than muscle aches, but feel free to differ :P

 

After reading TWOT2 again and joining this forum, I began to really pay attention to how I gripped the handlebars. And now not just because of tense muscles, but also to see what it could do to my riding. And although I got better at riding relaxed all the time, the real break-through came just before Easter this year when I began shock-wave treatments on my inflamed shoulders. After just one session, my shoulders fell back about 2 inches into a position where they belong, but where it was impossible for me to place them before.

 

Now, when I ride, I am so relaxed that I find my forearms dropping due to lame wrist; the wrist is below the grip. I can also feel that I quickly tense up to initiate a change of direction before relaxing again. I also corner noticeably slower than I used to - staying relaxed doesn't give me the confidence to ride fast. Not yet, at least. But that is actually a good thing since I only ride on public roads. In fact, not only do I now mostly leave some margin for error, I also leave a little more after each ride. And I still enjoy my riding and I do not view every corner ridden without throwing sparks as a lost opportunity for life.

 

I cannot comment on much else you wrote because I lack the experience and also your outlook is different from what else I've read, meaning it's not familiar from articles I've read in biker magazines, either. I still enjoyed reading it, and I will ponder on it and also eagerly await further comments to see what I can learn from it. For now, though, I enjoy riding relaxed at a sensible pace and have no intention of going back to my old follies of stupid risk taking. Although there are no guarantees...

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Very interesting stuff Jason, I too can relate to thinking I'm always perfectly relaxed on the bars, but when I really start analysing what's going on, I'm often putting in more input than is required and remind myself again to relax.

 

There was one particular corner at Stowe for level 1 where I was using the turn-point that had been marked out for everyone, but found it too early myself as I ended up hugging the inside of the corner too early and having to roll off and move back out to avoid running off track, this meant I couldn't go as fast as when I tried turning in later and driving towards a later apex.

 

Definitely the sorts of questioning and analysis that will make you a good coach smile.gif

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I too can relate to thinking I'm always perfectly relaxed on the bars, but when I really start analysing what's going on, I'm often putting in more input than is required and remind myself again to relax.

 

 

Yeah. It was going back through the school that made me realize how bad I really was at holding onto the bars. I thought I was completely relaxed and Fish showed me otherwise. When I got truly relaxed on the bars is when I realized just what Code means by "relax." One word that can't be stressed enough, only experienced.

 

 

There was one particular corner at Stowe for level 1 where I was using the turn-point that had been marked out for everyone, but found it too early myself as I ended up hugging the inside of the corner too early and having to roll off and move back out to avoid running off track, this meant I couldn't go as fast as when I tried turning in later and driving towards a later apex.

 

 

I used to think I was sort of messing up by not liking some of the turn points others used, but when I was at the school the first time, I had a conversation with Stu and we changed the same 2 turn points in the Vegas Infield course that were marked by the school. Then I started talking to people at a trackday and saw that a lot of riders have completely different turn points. We were the first bikes to run on Inde and everyone who started before some things were in place have crazy different lines from what is now considered standard. We usually watch Chris Peris (he set up his school there) and Kane Lasky going through turns to gauge how close we are to them.

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Now, when I ride, I am so relaxed that I find my forearms dropping due to lame wrist; the wrist is below the grip. I can also feel that I quickly tense up to initiate a change of direction before relaxing again. I also corner noticeably slower than I used to - staying relaxed doesn't give me the confidence to ride fast.

 

 

That's the same thing I'm seeing. I've had to learn how to hold my arms on the bike again. I noticed it on the EX last night riding home. Just on the highway, but I was decelerating (something that won't happen at the track) and the wrists were hanging.

 

 

 

I cannot comment on much else you wrote because I lack the experience and also your outlook is different from what else I've read, meaning it's not familiar from articles I've read in biker magazines, either.

 

This thing honestly took me 3 hours to write and edit because I wanted to make sure it was an accurate portrayal of my thoughts. I haven't read a couple of things anywhere else and that's why I posted it here. When I first started comparing my riding to the TOTW 2 books, I would go out and practice, or do a trackday, and come home and things I had learned or felt would match to the book. I have notes up and down the sides of my TOTW 2 book to compare my sensations to what the book is explaining and so I can remember some things in my own ways.

If something is wrong though, I want to know. If someone has a different view than myself, that would be nice to hear also. It's very hard to verbalize (write) a new sensation you're feeling, while it's easy to do something, then read about it and say "yeah, that's it." Most of this falls in line with what I've studied, but some of it I've just never read either. It's either wrong or I haven't found the article yet. References would be nice. You and I are probably similar in wanting to be able to verify things with references. I'm mostly just rewording this stuff in my own way. I have a completely new respect for Keith Code being able to write a book on things that had never been put into writing.

The shoulder thing is a big deal, I think. I was just trying to relax my grip, but as easy as it sounds, it doesn't mean my arms aren't tense. It's difficult to gauge your arms being "relaxed." I found my shoulders are the perfect gauge for any tension I have on the bars or discomfort I have with any point on the track. Thanks for your feedback on that.

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I think one of the things about trying to fix any rider problems you might have is the fact you're doing it on a bike. Out on the road you're spending your $10 on keeping yourself alive, watching for other drivers who may stray into your lane and the simple act of riding the bike, you need then to keep some change back to work out what you're doing wrong and implement a fix for that.

 

I've got a totally different mentality to my riding out on the street to how I ride on the track, I don't seem to get anywhere near the edge of my tyres out on the road for example, but don't have an issue when a track is involved, that's probably my survival instinct not letting me take unnecessary risks and maybe it'll come with time. This is why I found learning so much easier at the school where you've got a set pattern of corners you can repeat over and over again, along with no worries about traffic and a specific goal to work on each time.

 

If the road is relatively clear and I'm familiar with the corners I'm going through, I'm free to think a bit more about exactly what I'm doing, what my arms are up to, where I'm looking, whether I'm picking out reference points etc. I'll still try to work out exactly what I'm doing on most corners each time I ride, but haven't got as much attention spare to dedicate to it as I'd often like.

 

This is where golfers have it easy, as to address any problems with their swing they haven't got to worry about people crashing into them. biggrin.gif

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I'm the exact same way. I can't do anything on the street I do on the track. The few times I go out for rides with others I'll stay behind and help the younger riders who want feedback. I CAN'T do it. My body won't allow it. It used to be frustrating, but Que Sera, Sera (whatever will be, will be), as Doris Day would say. There's a big parking lot by my house that I can practice at slow speeds and a lot of open highway to lay down on the tank and RELAX, so I have plenty of opportunity to practice. Right now I'm studying a lot (The Soft Science Of Road Racing Motorcycles is a good read, by the way) and being a nurse, I only have to work 3 days a week. 5 tracks within 3 hours of me as well.

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Right now I'm studying a lot (The Soft Science Of Road Racing Motorcycles is a good read, by the way)

 

 

I need to get hold of a copy of that before I do level 2 I think.

 

5 tracks within 3 hours of me as well.

 

That's one advantage to the UK, it's that much more compact, so the tracks aren't all that far away, Silverstone is only 20 minutes from my door biggrin.gif Then there are a few other options within an hour. My only problem is being able to pay for it all! sad.gif

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Very interesting topic! I still hope the teachers, or preferably Da Man himself, will join in. If your observations are indeed correct, you are actually breaking new ground. Not is that very satisfying in itself, it also mean that you have extraordinary skills.

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Jason, I have always appreciated your inputs in the forum... I respected what you say in your posts, and this OP was brilliantly written, with the thought, ability to self analyse your riding seeking improvement and understanding... I have also been trying to relax and seeing the improvements in bike control and predictability...

 

Seat time definitely gives the ability to be so comfortable that you can analyse and make good practice into good perfect!!!

 

And riding within your limits to have spare attention, which raises these same limits through understanding and feel... Keith Code is amazing to do what he did to explain his understanding!!!

 

I think you are too.

 

Jason K.

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The shoulder thing is a big deal, I think. I was just trying to relax my grip, but as easy as it sounds, it doesn't mean my arms aren't tense. It's difficult to gauge your arms being "relaxed." I found my shoulders are the perfect gauge for any tension I have on the bars or discomfort I have with any point on the track. Thanks for your feedback on that. [/size][/font]

 

I think you are absolutely correct. The shoulder tension IS a big deal. I just did Level III (for the second time) and Level IV at Thunderbolt last week and finally had "everything come together" during the latter half of day two when I focused on getting the bike turned as quickly as possible with ONE input, and then completely relaxing throughout the turn. It is an odd feeling at first, for sure. Needless to say, my shoulders were sore for the rest of the week because I had so much tension in them for a day and a half. Interestingly, my hands and forearms were always relaxed, but my shoulders were not. My body position was MUCH better as well, once I relaxed.

 

As Keith told us many times last year - the bike would really be much better off WITHOUT the rider :D

 

Great write up, Jason!

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Steve, you said, "This is where golfers have it easy, as to address any problems with their swing they haven't got to worry about people crashing into them." So right! Imagine trying to play mini-golf ON the go-kart track. That would be wild! That's what street riders face every day.

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Good stuff, Jason. Staying relaxed, or trying to get relaxed again, is very important for my riding as well. Because of a muscle problem, anything that gets tight wants to stay tight, then stop working completely. When I first came back to riding, I felt this most clearly in my hands--they would start to go numb in minutes and sometimes just stop working after a 20 or 30 minute ride. So I learned to chase the tension from the hands, up the arms into the shoulders and neck. On my bike, the tension then goes down into my quads. Those can quit working too.

 

Two things have helped me stay relaxed.

 

1) I make relaxing, leaning forward and flexing my elbows into part of my turning sequence. When I brake, of course, I have more tension in my arms. My body is up to catch the wind. I have more tension and movement in my hands to work the controls. But for me, all that tension in both arms can make my two arms fight for control of the steering. Suddenly, I can't turn the bike AT ALL! By making it a habit to relax, lean forward (to break the elbow lock) and turn, everything works much smoother. The lean forward becomes automatic and my mind often just says, "Relax ... and turn." Boom. The bike just goes! It's pretty cool. The bike steers a lot better when my arms aren't fighting for control of the handle bars. (Oh, I did try push right to go right, but push left to go left doesn't work well for me because my left are is not always up for it. That IS another good way to trick your body into working with the design of the bike.)

 

2) The other thing that helps me relax my arms and shoulders is, and I know this might sound weird, looking WAY up the road. If I keep my eyes going back to that vanishing point, especially when I'm about to enter a turn, I am sooooo much more relaxed. I think this is because if I look down, or dwell on my turn point or the apex, I have no flipping idea what's coming up in the turn. If I can see 500 yards ahead and there are no cars, no driveways, no turtles in the road, well, suddenly everything gets easier. Also, by using a wider field of vision, I can literally see that I'm hardly leaned over at all (usually), or I can see just how much I'm leaned over, that this lean angle will work fine for the remainder of the turn, and that there are no sandy or oily patches to steer around. What seems very risking when my vision is low, usually seems very easy, and frankly kind of slow, when I look way down the road. I've also had this vision thing save my bacon, like the other day when a car was stopped in the middle of the freaking road JUST around one of my favorite corners. (The driver was talking to someone on the road side and didn't even pull over so much as an inch. ARGH!)

 

As you noticed, the more I can get out of the way, the better the bike likes it. Also, I think the whole ONE TURN thing may be under utilized as a worthwhile riding goal. It just feels wonderful to lean the bike over and have enough attention to kind of look around, feel the tires, watch the trees go by, shuffle the iPad, make a phone call :rolleyes: , then straighten up and ride on.

 

I'm looking forward to your next post.

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Great article again Jason , I like reading your observations as I can relate to them.

One of the best things I read somewhere, not sure if it was TOTW2 or soft science, but i know I read it somewhere was 'to be a good pillion to your bike'.

It's how you want a pillion to be, relaxed. So when there is just you, you should be the same ' a good pillion to your bike' .

Just thought i'd share that lil nugget, not quite as indepth as your explanantion but its a start :D

 

Colin

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