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How Do You Feel?


faffi
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It's been said repeatedly here that one should relax ones arms and hands during braking and let the legs support the body. There are sound reasons for this. But how do you get a feel for tyre traction when you're relaxed? How can you feel every minute detail and message that comes from the tyre when you are on the verge of locking up? Personally, I'd like to have the handlebars fitted directly to the wheel axle so that I could get as close to the tarmac/tyre interface as possible. The next best thing, for me, is relatively stiff suspension and stiff arms that let as much as possible come through unfiltered, allowing me to understand when the tyre get this floating feel just before lock-up. Am I wrong? Would a "softer" approach work even better?

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It's not only for sensation, but for tire and steering compliance to the street. That not only keeps the bike in line with where you want to go, but it's going to increase traction.

 

Not much will change as far as rider feedback by having a loose grip. You'll be able to feel it all the same. Grab someone's fingers (not your own) and have them wiggle their arm. Do this with your arms relaxed and tense. You can feel it all the same.

 

If you keep your arms stiff, I'd say that would act as your "filter" from getting feedback.

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We are not talking big movements here. Like if you take a sledge hammer and whack a massive steel pipe and then hold a steel rod against the pipe, you will feel the vibrations undilluted. Hold a wooden stick, and much of the tingling will be absorbed. Use a rubber stick, and few of the vibrations will reach you. At least that's how I see it and also feel it to be. Just like soft suspension robs you of inputs from the tyre, so does IMO a soft grip.

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We are not talking big movements here. Like if you take a sledge hammer and whack a massive steel pipe and then hold a steel rod against the pipe, you will feel the vibrations undilluted. Hold a wooden stick, and much of the tingling will be absorbed. Use a rubber stick, and few of the vibrations will reach you. At least that's how I see it and also feel it to be. Just like soft suspension robs you of inputs from the tyre, so does IMO a soft grip.

There are several 'filters' from the tyre/tarmac up to the riders' brain, as far as I can tell:

- First, there is the tire itself. A very soft carcass or tire can indeed mask the feedback from the track - for example a friend of mine changed from Pirelli to another brand (don't recall which) and he was surprised by the amount of feedback he suddenly felt from the front tire.

- Secondly, the suspension and the motorcycle in general. Assuming that the suspension is still compliant enough to maintain contact with the tarmac at all time, a stiff setup should pass on more information that a soft suspension setup.

- Lastly, the riders own sensory system (nervous system). In this case, stiff isn't necessarily better. Being very rigid on the bike means that you're tense (e.g. a tense grip on the handlebars) and the tenseness comes with less sensitivity to small changes. Your tenseness will also dampen (or even exaggerate) the bikes movements in response to the tarmac surface, lean and whatnot (remember Misti's post about how she got herself into a tankslapper because she was tense and letting go of the handlebars made the bike sort itself out).

 

I'm probably missing a couple of things.

 

Kai

 

Edit: It was Misti, not Hotfoot. Added link to the post.

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Just like driving a car, the looser your grip, the more sensation you'll have through your fingertips. Holding on with a death-grip robs you of the fine detail that you'll pick up on, it also makes your arms tired and removes an extra layer of sensation there.

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To be honest, I get your idea but I don't get your idea. In other words, I understand what you are explaining as your desired end state but I cannot imagine it giving you the results you want. Personnally, I see no reason a relaxed body/grip would transmit/receive less information, and my experience - having ridden too stiff for two decades and now having learned to be relaxed - is too stiff/tight in fact gives me less accurate information. Also, we can demonstrate on both road and track that being too tight/stiff can actually cause problems, so then you would have the problem of divining whether you are getting real road feedback or feedback from what you have self-induced.

 

 

Lastly, the riders own sensory system (nervous system). In this case, stiff isn't necessarily better. Being very rigid on the bike means that you're tense (e.g. a tense grip on the handlebars) and the tenseness comes with less sensitivity to small changes. Your tenseness will also dampen (or even exaggerate) the bikes movements in response to the tarmac surface, lean and whatnot (remember Misti's post about how she got herself into a tankslapper because she was tense and letting go of the handlebars made the bike sort itself out).

This sums things up nicely in my opinion.

 

 

That why Mansell demanded steering so stiff and direct that most racers lacked the stamina and strength to race with his set-up? Sure was no way he could have a relaxed grip, because it took a lot of effort to get his F1 cars to change direction.

This sounds like a one-off, extreme example and hardly is well founded justification for such a setup for the majority.

 

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It's been said repeatedly here that one should relax ones arms and hands during braking and let the legs support the body. There are sound reasons for this. But how do you get a feel for tyre traction when you're relaxed? How can you feel every minute detail and message that comes from the tyre when you are on the verge of locking up? Personally, I'd like to have the handlebars fitted directly to the wheel axle so that I could get as close to the tarmac/tyre interface as possible. The next best thing, for me, is relatively stiff suspension and stiff arms that let as much as possible come through unfiltered, allowing me to understand when the tyre get this floating feel just before lock-up. Am I wrong? Would a "softer" approach work even better?

 

I think we need to separate "stiff suspension" from "stiff arms", you mention both above, but they have very different effects. I'll buy that a stiff suspension might increase your feedback (although not necessarily improve your tire grip on the pavement!) but I am not in agreement that stiff arms give you better feedback. I use my hands to get the feedback, not my shoulders, so stiff arms would not improve the feedback - it would simply transmit bumps from the bars to my body. Plus as others have mentioned, stiff arms can very adversely affect the bike's handling. Even a tight grip with your hands would normally be a disadvantage as your hands can go numb and become less sensitive.

 

Another possible conern with stiff arms is that you could get false feedback - if your body is jolted by a bump, and that gets transmitted to the bars through stiff arms, you can get a false sense of bouncing at the bars, AND possibly jolt the bars enough to upset the front end of the bike. OR, as has been discussed many times on this board, if stiff arms keep the bars from being able to move back and forth to compensate for suspension movement, what happens to the front tire, and to your line?

 

As far as stiffness of the tire or the suspension goes, it seems to me that once a bike is properly set up for the rider's weight, adjustments beyond that tend be personal preference plus that special type of black magic that keeps suspension tuners in business. :)

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Thank you for the feedback, people.

 

Some of the points raised makes more sense to me than others.

 

A stiff tyre construction or stiff suspension generally reduce grip over softer items because they cannot conform to road undulations as easily. However, going softer robs one of feel, making it harder to know when the limit is reached. Also, the transition from grip to slip can be more abrupt. To see what lack of feel can do, look no further than Rossi this season - and every Ducati rider save Stoner over the past 3-4 seasons - and the issues they have. Of course, this is at a level way beyond what I'm discussing here, but the concequence is the same.

 

Then there are personal preferences. Stoner and Doohan, for instance, both prefer very direct, almost harsh feedback so that they would understand the texture of the road. Cadalora and Kocinski, on the other hand, demanded softer settings and felt that gave them better feedback about what was going on. Since all of them are world champions, it stands to reason that there are more ways to Rome than one. Just as some drivers want low effort servo assist steering to allow them to use little effort, making it easier for them to understand what the car is doing, while others will refuse to use servo at all because it dillutes the signals they receive and think it's worth living with heavy steering to have this more direct contact with the tyre contact patch.

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Stiff arms are going to put more feedback into the bike. Keith has covered this in detail in T-2. We know/have seen pictures of Stoney with a hand open (after steering), and had further evidence of his ability to ease up on the bars recenltly with the on-board footage at Brno.

 

CF

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Thank you for the feedback, people.

 

Some of the points raised makes more sense to me than others.

 

A stiff tyre construction or stiff suspension generally reduce grip over softer items because they cannot conform to road undulations as easily. However, going softer robs one of feel, making it harder to know when the limit is reached. Also, the transition from grip to slip can be more abrupt. To see what lack of feel can do, look no further than Rossi this season - and every Ducati rider save Stoner over the past 3-4 seasons - and the issues they have. Of course, this is at a level way beyond what I'm discussing here, but the concequence is the same.

 

Then there are personal preferences. Stoner and Doohan, for instance, both prefer very direct, almost harsh feedback so that they would understand the texture of the road. Cadalora and Kocinski, on the other hand, demanded softer settings and felt that gave them better feedback about what was going on. Since all of them are world champions, it stands to reason that there are more ways to Rome than one. Just as some drivers want low effort servo assist steering to allow them to use little effort, making it easier for them to understand what the car is doing, while others will refuse to use servo at all because it dillutes the signals they receive and think it's worth living with heavy steering to have this more direct contact with the tyre contact patch.

 

This simply isn't true.

Stiff tyre construction and or stiff suspension do not improve feedback. Look at the construction of the current crop of race tyres lighter and more compliant than ever before but providing more grip and stability due to their directional and torsional strength. These tyres deform more than ever in contact with the road giving an increase in the footprint of the tyre and all this whilst improving 'feel'. If you have the opportunity to ride a modern, sorted race bike the suspension feels more compliant than a standard road bike. Why? because its all about control : if the tyre has to work less hard keeping in contact with the road then it will provide more grip and last longer in a race.

By braking or even cornering with stiff arms you become part of the problem the bike has to solve not part of the solution - there is no way you are going to get more feedback holding rigidly onto the bars and braking wiht stiff arms - where are you going to get this feeling from - your shoulder blades? Look at all the top MotoGp riders -almost to a man they brake with bent arms because it helps prevent the bike from pivoting over the front axle by pushing their weight forwards not down - and helps them retain feedback because the bike is freeer to move of it own accord ; thus providing feedback.

 

As Cobie says KC has addressed this in TotW2 and there is an excellent section on braking technique in "Performance Riding Techniques" by Andy Ibbott.

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Stiff arms are going to put more feedback into the bike. Keith has covered this in detail in T-2. We know/have seen pictures of Stoney with a hand open (after steering), and had further evidence of his ability to ease up on the bars recenltly with the on-board footage at Brno.

 

CF

 

The key is right there.

 

I'm no expert but I understand these effects well (and yes, do have track riding experience). Stiffening your arms may in fact increase your feedback with what the bike's doing (it doesn't for me, but maybe it does for you), however in doing that you're also creating input, even if ever so slight, or at best, influencing the bike's behavior. The bike itself is a very stable machine without a rider on it. Loose arms also allow the steering head and suspension to move without influencing your body as much, if at all.

 

I understand the theory behind your original question, but in practice you create more complications that will make your stiff grip counter-productive.

 

Alex

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