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Learning A New Track


YellowDuck
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I'm off to a track day next week, on a track I have never ridden before. Based on the two tracks I have ridden so far, the one thing I know is that it is extremely useful to have a more experienced person give me a tow for a few laps, to learn the lines. Other than that, do any of you have any tips for getting up to speed quickly on a new track? How do the racers do it?

 

I have tried watching on-board video from other riders but, until I have seen the track myself from the pilot's seat, I find that pretty useless.

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If you can find a track map (look on the web - if the track has a website sometimes they post a map), that helps a lot. For one thing, it makes watching someone's on-board video a lot more useful since you can watch where they are on the map. The track map can help you get familiar with the turns, learn the turn numbers (very helpful if talking with another rider) and have an idea of which way the turns all go so you don't spend your first session trying to figure THAT out.

 

One thing taht has helped me, is watching on-board video with a track map in front of me, making notes about elevation changes (hard to see those on a map) and noticing where the rider chose to turn in and where they apex. You can also watch for where they can drive hard, where they let off the gas, where they change gears (you have to listen for that), etc.

 

It's nothing like riding it but it can make learning that track a lot quicker, and the first few laps less confusing.

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If you can find a track map (look on the web - if the track has a website sometimes they post a map), that helps a lot. For one thing, it makes watching someone's on-board video a lot more useful since you can watch where they are on the map. The track map can help you get familiar with the turns, learn the turn numbers (very helpful if talking with another rider) and have an idea of which way the turns all go so you don't spend your first session trying to figure THAT out.

 

One thing taht has helped me, is watching on-board video with a track map in front of me, making notes about elevation changes (hard to see those on a map) and noticing where the rider chose to turn in and where they apex. You can also watch for where they can drive hard, where they let off the gas, where they change gears (you have to listen for that), etc.

 

It's nothing like riding it but it can make learning that track a lot quicker, and the first few laps less confusing.

 

If I can add a bit here, it also will matter where you're headed. If your going to Mosport or Shannonville its one thing, if you're going to Calabogie, its altogther another thing. People I know who ride very well say it takes a couple of days to figure out Calabogie. I've been to both the Nelson and Fabi circuits at Shannonville and to Mosport and you can find your way around them fairly easily; Calabogie not so much.

 

Rain

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I use someone else's on-board video to help commit the track pattern to memory (straight, right turn, right turn again, R-L-R chicane, etc) rather than the lines. This way you are not surprised by the direction of / distance to the next turn. Lines are a little trickier to learn beforehand, especially since everyone rides differently.

 

New track = take it easy B) .

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If I can add a bit here, it also will matter where you're headed. If your going to Mosport or Shannonville its one thing, if you're going to Calabogie, its altogther another thing. People I know who ride very well say it takes a couple of days to figure out Calabogie. I've been to both the Nelson and Fabi circuits at Shannonville and to Mosport and you can find your way around them fairly easily; Calabogie not so much.

 

Rain

 

 

Yes, Mosport is the other track I have ridden besides TMP and I agree, it is not that hard to figure out, with the exception of the entry to 2 - I never would have known to stay that far left at the entrance if I had not been following someone - and maybe 5 since it is double apex.

 

The track I will be going to next weekend is Grand Bend. As far as I know it is dead flat. To be honest, I am not even sure what layout we will be running that day, so video would not likely help much regardless. I was more interested in tips on how to sort things out on the day itself. For sure my first few laps will be with a lead rider if at all possible, and then I will take it easy until I get my bearings and start to establish some reference points. Not sure if there will be cones out (I love cones...)

 

But when I think about my regular track (TMP), I realize how incredibly long it has taken me to creep up to my current (still pretty moderate) entry speeds. Just looking for ways to compress that process a bit if possible.

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New track = take it easy B) .

 

Oh for sure. But, I does leave me wondering what the racers in the big series do when they find themselves at a new track where they have never run before, and need to find their way to a reasonable qualifying time after only one or two practice sessions.

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Interesting question... When I trained with CSS at NOLA in May, a good part of that experience was almost no one had seen that track before so even the coaches had to find their way. Essentially the first point made by the coaches was to go easy for a couple sessions to find and establish really solid reference points, then start to pick up the pace and make adjustments as needed. I can only speak for myself, but sticking to that point made a huge difference for the better for me. So, from my novice perspective, I'll suggest finding good reference points...

 

 

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New track = take it easy B) .

 

Oh for sure. But, I does leave me wondering what the racers in the big series do when they find themselves at a new track where they have never run before, and need to find their way to a reasonable qualifying time after only one or two practice sessions.

 

Rossi usually spends the first practice session at a new track going around fairly slowly on all sorts of lines around the track, much like the changing lines drill at the school.

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Based on the two tracks I have ridden so far, the one thing I know is that it is extremely useful to have a more experienced person give me a tow for a few laps, to learn the lines.

 

Just a note on following other people's lines - I would suggest to be very cautious about that. If they're a coach helping you out with a corner you're having trouble with, fair enough. But in my experience, any people that I have followed around a track (just regular riders, not coaches or instructors) tend to demonstrate the lines not to take! Especially after taking CSS and becoming aware of quick turn, late turn point etc., I now see riders who turn in way too early, and way too lazily. Even if you are following an instructor or lead rider (especially on the first few laps of a session), they may be taking it easy, not necessarily taking lines that would be fastest for them. But even if they were taking their fast lines - that's what is fast for them, it won't necessarily (or probably won't) be fast for you.

 

So from that point of view, I think it's better to start off by finding your reference points and get familiar with the track, which for me takes at least a few sessions. The last time I rode a new track it actually took me a few days to get completely comfortable with it to the point where I could remember my reference points all the way around the track. How good is your memory? Anyway, once you have your reference points you can start adjusting your turn points based on your ability and how you want to ride. IMO there is no such thing as "the line" or "the race line". There is only your line. smile.gif

 

Oh for sure. But, I does leave me wondering what the racers in the big series do when they find themselves at a new track where they have never run before, and need to find their way to a reasonable qualifying time after only one or two practice sessions.

 

For racers who go fast at new, unseen tracks - I would say that this is down to having fantastic memories, working hard, and their ability to be very accurate with turn points, braking points etc. I can't remember where I read it, but I recall an interview with a racer, or a commentary that basically summed it up in that way.

 

In order to speed up that process for yourself, maybe it would help to get a track map, and note down your found reference points after each session, along with other relevant notes? Actually that is something that I've done even after learning the track... coming in after each session and looking at the map and making notes can be really helpful in correcting errors and making improvements, whether you know the track or not.

 

The other thing that racers do is a track walk before they get out there on the bike. If possible, see if you can do that at the new track you go to. I did tuition on the same day that I was first riding a new track, and they took us around in a van, stopping at certain points of interest. For instance a double apex corner that had some positive camber, but if you run out to the 1/3 outside of the track it drops off to negative camber. Picking up info like that I think can be really helpful, whether you get it from a track walk or just talking with regulars.

 

And like Steve Rutter said, it can't hurt to ride one lap on each side of the track, just to help get a feel for it and give yourself a better idea of how much space you have to work with.

 

I can't remember if you've attended CSS (your profile says no), but when I did Level 1 it had some great points for teaching riders how to find their own lines.

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I do exactly what Hotfoot does. I do a large number of laps on the newest video I can find, and I also find a favorite. They're not always the same thing. The newer ones will show you if paint has been added, removed, or if anything else new has popped up. Auto Club has paint all over in a certain section and I checked a real new video to see if it was still there. It was bad video though, so I watched one from 2010 (this was 2011). Also, you can learn if they put out cones, if there are any other markers (like on Chuckwalla you can run to the end of the outside rumble strip and turn on almost every turn for a great starting point).

 

I have a couple of maps. One, obviously, for when I'm on the track and one to take with me that I marked up while I was watching video. I watched so much that I felt right at home after the first couple of sessions, and could start working on brake markers and adjusting points after lunch. Before that it took me a long time, like a couple of trackdays, before I was anywhere near as comfortable on a new track as I was after watching the video.

 

There's SO MUCH to can learn by watching video that I've done it on the last 3 new tracks I've ridden and have started working on a system to do it.

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Jasonzilla - you take a track map with you as you're actually riding on the track?? Do you stick it on the tank? How does that work, it's not too dangerous looking down at your tank while riding? blink.gif

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Once you're in second gear you don't need your left hand for anything. I like to hold the map at true north while I'm riding or I get lost. Kind of embarrassing having to stop and ask for directions on a trackday. We've all been there though.

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Report....

 

That went quite well. The morning was a mess - second lap of our first session, a GSXR blows its oil filter off and leaves a 300-ft path of oil right on the entrance to a fast corner. Red flag, cleanup crew, 1.5 h wait. As all Ducati owners know, that's the problem with Japanese bikes - they're so unreliable! :D

 

Anyway, we eventually got up to speed. It is a track with a lot of different configurations and minimal curbing. Many of the turns are a bit hard to see - you really need good vision to find your way around quickly. It's also pretty technical - several very long corners and some decreasing radius stuff.

 

I had studied the track map and watched some video before going. Honestly, I found that useful only for learning the layout (i.e., sequence of corners), and useless for learning lines. The most important thing I did was pay attention at the riders' meeting and also to people with more experience on the track to find out where the deceptive / technical corners were. Because I already knew the layout by heart I knew exactly what corners they were talking about. After my first few sessions I just asked folks about their lines through various corners, and also watched the fast guys through the esses that were visible from the spectators' area.

 

I did the whole day without really having any panic moments, and even though we only had 5 sessions (actually, just 4 decent ones), I got up to reasonable speed and started to knit together some half decent laps. I wasn't quite as confident as I would have been on my home track, but it wasn't a night and day thing. Our group was also really full so there was a lot of traffic to deal with. I was pleased with how I handled that.

 

I experienced a few minor front end slides and even one minor drift (both ends) but it wasn't too spooky. I felt in control, and also felt for the first time that I was actually starting to apporach the limits of the tires. I dropped my front pressue a bit and that gave me a little more to work with.

 

I have a pretty unique bike and am accustomed to lots of folks coming up in the pits to compliment me on it. This is going to sound very immodest, but I need to share it because it was so pleasant - yesterday was the first time I ever had people coming up to me to compliment me on my riding. I guess I looked okay through the esses!

YD

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I have a pretty unique bike and am accustomed to lots of folks coming up in the pits to compliment me on it. This is going to sound very immodest, but I need to share it because it was so pleasant - yesterday was the first time I ever had people coming up to me to compliment me on my riding. I guess I looked okay through the esses!

 

Yup, we don't do the riding to get compliments, but it's sure nice to get them without asking. Ego- and confidence boost for sure :D

I can absolutely relate to the video thing. I had studied a number of videos before going to Most last year, but a video cannot tell you about the elevation changes.

 

I forget what kind of tyres you are running on the Duke? - you may want to consider if it's time to upgrade them for sticker stuff B)

 

Congrats on the good day.

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I forget what kind of tyres you are running on the Duke? - you may want to consider if it's time to upgrade them for sticker stuff B)

 

 

They're the Pirelli Superbike Pro slicks - "Red stripes" - a track day tire. Essentially Diablo Corsas with no tread, I think. Not sure if something like Q2s or S20s would be a step forward or backwards. I don't have warmers yet and probably won't for a while. I'm still at mid-pack intermediate group times so I feel like I should be able to get by with something short of race tires.

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I'm surprised you got the tires to slide. Was it a cold day? Or was it a death grip on the bars? The rear slide was due to aggressive throttle input or? What pressure are you running front and rear? Maybe you have too much pressure in the tires? How much is do you weigh and how much does the bike weigh? Tire pressure is directly related to the weight they have to carry.

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I forget what kind of tyres you are running on the Duke? - you may want to consider if it's time to upgrade them for sticker stuff B)

 

 

They're the Pirelli Superbike Pro slicks - "Red stripes" - a track day tire. Essentially Diablo Corsas with no tread, I think. Not sure if something like Q2s or S20s would be a step forward or backwards. I don't have warmers yet and probably won't for a while. I'm still at mid-pack intermediate group times so I feel like I should be able to get by with something short of race tires.

 

OK, those are pretty good but not quite Pirelli's top-of-the-line. Diablo Supercorsa are their best (or was, in 2010). Any road tyre would be a step back, as far as I know.

I agree with Dane that I'd start looking at what you're doing yourself, if you slide your tyres. My immediate suggestions would be to look at whether you are relaxed on the bars and your lean+throttle application. Have you tried doing the 'chicken wings' drill in the corners?

 

Kai

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The bike is 388 lb wet w/o fuel (weighed it recently). I think I am about 225 - 230 in gear. I started at 30 psi front / 26.5 rear cold. I know that is a bit high for the front but I had had success with that pressure before.

 

Most of the front sliding was under hard braking into one particular corner, before I tipped in. After that session I read the front pressure at 34 hot and so dropped the pressure to 32 hot. I never measured the rear hot pressure. The reduced pressure setting in the front seemed to give me a bit more grip under braking next session. These tires have about 10 track days on them (!) and still have depth. I swear they wear like stones, but up until yesterday I never fet like I was anywhere close to their limits - they just never did anything but stick.

 

When I slid both ends the one time, I honestly don't remember what I was doing with the throttle, probably at that point I was rolling on gently (i.e., standard throttle control). I remember that I had come in kind of hot and was going around the outside of a slower rider, and was definitely off (wide of ) my normal line, and while leaned over both ends felt a bit greasy and just moved sideways a smidge. It wasn't the least bit unnerving and I did precisely nothing in reaction to it. Perhaps the track was a little dirty out there? Several other bikes crashed in that corner over the day.

 

I doubt I had a "death grip" on the bars during that episode. Thanks to advice from you guys I have learned to be very relaxed once leaned over, letting the front end of the bike do its thing - it has been a major change in my riding over the last three outings. Also, it certainly wasn't cold - air temperature was 32 C, and it was mostly sunny.

 

I still hate scraping my knee pucks. Not sure how to get used to that. It actually startles me when it happens, which obviously is not a good thing! I have started riding with my knee tucked in a bit more to avoid it, but I think I need to get over that at some point and learn to use my sliders.

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10 track days on the tires and they don't wear? Sounds like you have old, hard tires! I would guess your tires are at least 2 years old then? Also, your pressures seem kinda low to me, given that you are putting over 600 lbs weight on them. As an example, on the BMW K 1200 the manual calls for 36 front and 42 rear, simply because it is a heavy bike. And I can feel a distinct difference between 36 and 32 psi in the front, at the lower pressure the steering is heavy and sluggish. Your rear tire pressure should not be lower than your front, because you carry more weight on the rear than the front. TWOT says a happy bike has 40/60 weight distribution front/ rear, logic would then dictate higher pressure in rear than front.

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10 track days on the tires and they don't wear? Sounds like you have old, hard tires! I would guess your tires are at least 2 years old then? Also, your pressures seem kinda low to me, given that you are putting over 600 lbs weight on them. As an example, on the BMW K 1200 the manual calls for 36 front and 42 rear, simply because it is a heavy bike. And I can feel a distinct difference between 36 and 32 psi in the front, at the lower pressure the steering is heavy and sluggish. Your rear tire pressure should not be lower than your front, because you carry more weight on the rear than the front. TWOT says a happy bike has 40/60 weight distribution front/ rear, logic would then dictate higher pressure in rear than front.

 

 

Nah, you're talking about street bikes and street tires. The track is a different world. My pressures are right in line with what the Pirelli guy at the track recommends, and what the endurance racers are using on these tires. I know 26 cold seems super low for a rear tire if you are coming from a street background, but some lighter riders run these on the track at 24 (!). And trust me, you can definitely feel the difference if you get the pressures way wrong.

 

As for them being old and hard, maybe....they have been though about 60 heat cycles so maybe they are starting to go bad. Still pretty good though if you ask me!

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Ten track days on one set of tires sounds like a lot. I don't have any experience with Pirellis but I don't usually like to do more than about 4-5 full track days on a set of tires, it just seems like they start to get slippery.

 

It would be interesting to ask the Pirelli rep at your track days to see how many days and/or heat cycles he or she thinks you can get and still be within the top performance of the tire.

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Ten track days on one set of tires sounds like a lot.

I am with Hottie on this. My first low side was on Day 8 of my first set of full on race tires. The sliding I was experiencing on the right side made me falsly think I was finally learning how to control a slide, the slide I experienced on the left side was something I totally missed as the bike was half way across the track before I even knew I was down...YRMV.

 

Rain

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Dane,

 

Street tyre pressure is quite different from track tyre pressures, so you cannot compare this directly over. I often see/use lower pressure in the rear tyre and in the front, for track use.

Also some track tyres - especially the Dunlop Ntec's - use a very low rear tyre pressure, due to their construction.

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As an example, on the BMW K 1200 the manual calls for 36 front and 42 rear, simply because it is a heavy bike.

 

Ah, exactly the same as my GSX-R1000. (Although I'm fairly sure that bike weights a little less than the K 1200!)

 

But those are my street recommended pressures as suggested on the swingarm sticker.

 

I have ridden with as low as 20psi rear on the track. And then I rode home from the track! (About an hour ride of highway and suburban streets.) Yes there's a difference, and depending on the circumstances you can feel that difference to varying degrees. I used to think that really low tyre pressures would lead to something serious like the tyre popping off the rim, but that just won't happen. I am not saying this as a challenge to anyone... tongue.gif Just to make the point that tyre pressures have quite a large workable range, it's not as serious as life and death.

 

YellowDuck - sounds like you continue to make good progress! biggrin.gif

 

On the subject of those slides that you experienced... from what you've said I would suggest that you're closer to the mark when you say that you were riding on a less grippy, dirtier part of the track when the tyres slid. It seems to me like the only things that grippier/higher spec tyres provide is the ability to carry higher corner speed, and generally provide more grip at higher lean angles (such as being able to take more power before sliding when opening the throttle at high/moderate lean angle. Probably better trail braking ability, but I haven't tested that!). Even if you were on a very street biased set of tyres, you would still be able to turn as fast as you possibly could, and if it was enough to overpower the tyres it would be the rear that slides first. So I'm thinking that a slide in any situation other than that is caused by something that can be corrected or adjusted, not that it's a sign of needed to upgrade your tyres. Does that make sense?

 

But that leads onto an interesting question - when do you know that it is time to upgrade your tyres??

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