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Supermoto Cornering - Why All The Sliding? Does It Help Or Hinder?


mugget
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This is something that I've been thinking about on and off for a while.... is the supermoto "leg out/backing in" style really the fastest way for those guys to get around a track? I haven't yet tried to get into this discussion on a supermoto forum or with SM riders in real life, but I am guessing it would be quite an... interesting discussion.

 

Some things I've noticed that seem to be a recurring theme:

  • Supermotos "turn faster than sportbikes". This one I can understand as being confused for "easier to turn". IMO if a SM (supermoto) rider can't turn a sportbike equally as fast as their motard, they either aren't putting in enough effort, or just need to develop their quick turn ability to a higher level.
  • Supermoto requires some kind of special rider training. On a couple of SM forums I visit there have been threads asking about SM training. Most have a section dedicated to supermoto riding technique as well - as if the physics of a two wheeled single-track vehicle and other basics don't apply to supermoto? It's almost as if new SM riders try to skip the basics of cornering and go straight to corner entry, specifically backing it in as the key SM skill. Which leads to the main point...
  • "Backing it in" is required for fast lap times on a supermoto.

So what is the story behind this? Why don't SM racers just use the good 'ole quick turn technique and a later corner entry? From what I have seen it always looks like they're sliding for quite a long distance - is this because a SM is a tall bike and regular vertical braking isn't as effective because it would lift the back wheel off the ground too easily? If they weren't backing in I would straight up label it lazy cornering... Or would a quick turn upset the bike too much because of soft & long travel suspension (don't forget they take some sizeable jumps as well). The other thing is that maybe backing in allows for safer trail braking? (AFAIK "proper" backing in relies on using the front brake and engine compression, not locking the wheel with the rear brake.)

 

I also read an interesting bit of info that said putting your inside foot forwards can add an extra 20lbs of weight/traction/grip to the front wheel when cornering. Does anyone have thoughts on that? Initially I put it down to a habit being carried over by dirt bike riders, but maybe the light weight of the bikes could make extra weight transfer towards the front more of a necessity? Or maybe it also makes it easier to control the rear slide that way? There seems to be a general idea among SM riders that it doesn't matter where your rear wheel goes, as long as your front tyre has enough grip. Part of me thinks that they slide the rear whenever they can, just for the fun of it.

 

The other thing I notice is that the way a corner is ridden depends on whether it's a hairpin (usually foot down, backin in) or a fast corner (knee down or foot out depending on preference), or esses (usually feet up on the 'pegs from what I've seen). Supermoto tracks are also much smaller than road race circuits, maybe backing it in is more effective at slower speeds than higher speeds? They don't move around on the bike much either, maybe because of the short distances between corners? Or maybe they figure that there's no point since the bikes have so much lean angle available?

 

I have an XR400 motard that I've only ridden on the streets, but definitely no problems with front wheel traction there. But a quick turn does feel kind of awkward because of the tall seating position. For example there's much more movement (measured from the seat & handlebars) going from 90 to 45º than doing the same thing on a sportbike. Not sure how much the situation would change when ridden faster on a track though... I am currently building a KTM supermoto and I'm going to be doing supermoto track days (a quarter the price of a regular track day!) so I plan to experiment with some different techniques and see what answers I can find to all these questions. But I'm interested to hear any other thoughts. Has anyone here ever raced supermoto? Or have any of the Coaches had students on supermotos?

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The more upright riding position together with the taller and wider bars give you far more leverage. This makes it easier to shift direction, control a big slide and so on. It also makes it easier to transfer unwanted forces into the chassis, of course.

 

Whether you slide the rear or not doesn't seem to affect lap times much, even in pure road racing events. One benefit, other than it probably being fun, is that by making your bike wider you also make yourself harder to pass. Whether that's a reason for the sliding or not I cannot say.

 

Hayden shows here that you can indeed slide a motard with a more road racing type of riding style.

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This is something that I've been thinking about on and off for a while.... is the supermoto "leg out/backing in" style really the fastest way for those guys to get around a track? I haven't yet tried to get into this discussion on a supermoto forum or with SM riders in real life, but I am guessing it would be quite an... interesting discussion.

Interesting discussion, indeed.

 

In my opinion, that technique is just an extension of the proper technique on mud.

Steering or countersteering on a loose surface is not as effective as on pavement.

Too much of any and the front tire will dig deeper into the mud, creating a pivot point rather than the desired rolling and steering effect.

 

Note that what they just point the bike close to into the desired direction by dragging the rear tire and not putting steering load on the front tire.

 

There is a point at which the rear tire simultaneously regains traction and is in line with the front tire.

 

If the turn is much more than 90 around degrees, the second part is completed with regular steering at lower speed and with acceleration.

 

The fastest way for those guys to get around a track?

Maybe yes for mud tires on a slippery pavement track, but certainly not for sport tires on a regular track.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermoto

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Hmmm... Interesting... This one shows the hard braking sections a little better.

 

 

It does look like they're trying to do the majority of hard braking with the bike upright, but the rear wheel leaves the ground and does tend to go sideways a little bit (pretty much the same as you'd expect on sportbikes etc.) Not as dramatic backing in as can be seen elsewhere though. It sure does make me think that others are just backing in for show...

 

But then I also have to think that there's something else to it. Because there are plenty of other supermoto races on YouTube where everyone is backing it in at certain parts of the track. I've got to think that if it was quicker just to ride more "traditionally", that at least some people would do that. The investigations continue.

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Hmmm... Interesting... This one shows the hard braking sections a little better.

 

 

It does look like they're trying to do the majority of hard braking with the bike upright, but the rear wheel leaves the ground and does tend to go sideways a little bit (pretty much the same as you'd expect on sportbikes etc.) Not as dramatic backing in as can be seen elsewhere though. It sure does make me think that others are just backing in for show...

 

But then I also have to think that there's something else to it. Because there are plenty of other supermoto races on YouTube where everyone is backing it in at certain parts of the track. I've got to think that if it was quicker just to ride more "traditionally", that at least some people would do that. The investigations continue.

 

BLOCKING!! ah dang, i forgot about that when the tail steps out , it effectively blocks a much bigger part of the lane used to overtake...

 

I guess all the Initial D sessons do pay off LOL.

 

Drifting on tarmac is pretty stressful for the tires thou , both 2/4 wheels.(durablility goes to hell) No experience on the dirt, anyone wanna chime in on this?

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I am the WERA races this week and I know someone here running a supermoto, so I asked. He said sliding the rear tire is FUN, and it scares the hell out of anyone that is trying to pass him (and I can personally attest to that!), but he gets around faster if he doesn't slide the back tire like that. He also said that it feels dramatically different from riding a regular sport bike, in a variety of ways. Light weight, high center of gravity, relatively low top speed, etc etc.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Jeff Ward (godfather of Supermoto in the USA) told me that riders are backing it in less and trying to keep their wheels in line. The older 250cc GP style had much less backing in and when these riders graduated to the premier MotoGP class, they took that "wheels in-line" style with them and did quite well. Riders such as Dani, Casey and Lorenzo. We see some riders backing it in and others not. From this we can presume that it may suit certain bike setups, rider styles, and corner types. The supermoto footage tells quite a bit on its own.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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