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YellowDuck
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At the ripe old age of 45, I plan to start racing next season. It will be fairly low key - endurance events on a 600 with a team consisting of myself, my brother and a friend, and also running my air-cooled Ducati in the lightweight Battle of the Twins class (mostly racing against SV650s). I may enter another class as well (old boys or lost-era) later in the season if I feel like I need more.

 

Honestly, I am not 100% sure I will like it. I am certain that it will improve my riding, but on the other hand racing kinda seems, fundamentally, like one big game of chicken (brake later, corner harder, until you make the pass or crash...or chicken out and don't attempt the pass).

 

I have pretty good idea of what is required on the technical side - tires, warmers, tech requirements for safety wiring, bellypan, numbers etc. I have access to a good riding coach for Friday training when I can afford it.

 

Interested in comments / advice more on the mindset - making the transition from trackdays to racing. At trackdays I am always looking for clear track to set a time, avoiding other riders however possible. In racing, I will need to pursue and actively engage other riders, trying to make a pass while keeping a margin for safety. It's really very different, and takes a lot more judgement. How does one strike that balance and adopt the right state of mind?

 

FYI, our organization does not do timed qualifying - on Saturday each class does a 6-lap qualifier race to determine grid positions for the Sunday races.

 

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You mean like life / personal injury insurance? I have plenty. Wife made sure of that when I started track riding.

 

The 600 is only for endurance racing (3 h, team of riders rotating through 20-min sessions) - it's pretty relaxed as racing goes.

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Practice your starts and get good at them. The closer to the lead guys you can be in the first couple turns the better.

Endurance races aren't won in the first few corners or even laps, but they can be lost there, so if you have to give up position to stay on the bike that beats the alternative. But it is far easier to stay up front than to have to pass a bunch of people and run down the leaders.

 

Pit stops every 20 minutes?

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A very brief thought that may be of some use to you. I don't think you should approach passing situations as "persuing and engaging" other riders. Passes are made because one competitor makes fewer mistakes than the other, not because one competitor is fighting harder. Then again, I guess you could be thinking of applying pressure to force mistakes out of a competitor. Normally, that approach leads to more mistakes on your end since your focus is split more than it needs to be.

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At the ripe old age of 45, I plan to start racing next season. It will be fairly low key - endurance events on a 600 with a team consisting of myself, my brother and a friend, and also running my air-cooled Ducati in the lightweight Battle of the Twins class (mostly racing against SV650s). I may enter another class as well (old boys or lost-era) later in the season if I feel like I need more.

 

Honestly, I am not 100% sure I will like it. I am certain that it will improve my riding, but on the other hand racing kinda seems, fundamentally, like one big game of chicken (brake later, corner harder, until you make the pass or crash...or chicken out and don't attempt the pass).

 

I have pretty good idea of what is required on the technical side - tires, warmers, tech requirements for safety wiring, bellypan, numbers etc. I have access to a good riding coach for Friday training when I can afford it.

 

Interested in comments / advice more on the mindset - making the transition from trackdays to racing. At trackdays I am always looking for clear track to set a time, avoiding other riders however possible. In racing, I will need to pursue and actively engage other riders, trying to make a pass while keeping a margin for safety. It's really very different, and takes a lot more judgement. How does one strike that balance and adopt the right state of mind?

 

FYI, our organization does not do timed qualifying - on Saturday each class does a 6-lap qualifier race to determine grid positions for the Sunday races.

 

 

I don't think of racing as a game of chicken - if you focus too much on other riders you can end up riding their race and making their errors! For example, trying to "outbrake another rider" generally doesn't work, you end up blowing your entry speed (too fast or too slow) and screwing up your corner. Often as not, if a novice rider tries to outbrake another rider, they end up running off the track or running wide and blowing the corner. You must ride the TRACK and make your own decisions - but you can observe other riders and if they are doing something that works better, you can try it in the next lap.

 

The best learning experience for me in racing is when I have a rider ahead of me that I am trying to catch. I can see where I am catching up and where I am falling back, and it motivates me to drive harder and find places where I can be on the gas earlier or longer.

 

As far as passing goes, opportunities do present themselves, and as long as you are ready to take them (ie, not riding over your head) you can sometimes get passes without having to work hard for them. In the novice classes most everyone is nervous and they make errors that cost time - bad starts, missed shifts, coming in too fast, running wide, overbraking, late on the gas, you name it - so as long as you don't get so focused on them that you make the SAME error, they hand you a passing opportunity on a silver platter.

 

If a rider is competent and similar in pace to you, you may have to plan ahead and set up a pass in a place where you are confident and can see that you are faster, by squaring off the corner and getting a better drive (if you have a fast bike), or by carrying more entry speed at the entrance, or by just getting on the gas earlier than the other rider. Passing on the brakes can work but you will need to have very solid reference points in that turn for start of braking, end of braking, turn point and apex so that you can confidently adjust your line for different turn point, higher entry speed, etc., without falling apart later in the turn.

 

PS - I'm STILL not 100% sure I like it. :) I didn't start young, either, and I definitely do not want to get hurt. But it does make me improve my riding and it is always an interesting experience - for one thing, I've made lots of friends at the races!

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You mean like life / personal injury insurance? I have plenty. Wife made sure of that when I started track riding.

 

The 600 is only for endurance racing (3 h, team of riders rotating through 20-min sessions) - it's pretty relaxed as racing goes.

 

Nice to hear that.

 

learning to read the track and other riders will give you a distinct advantage imho...

 

I do that on the streets as survival practice and i pass an average of 15 riders per my short 2 Km journey for lunch and dinner in the suburbs.

 

90% of the passes are calculated based on geography and the other's mistakes. Im working on the remaining 10%

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You mean like life / personal injury insurance? I have plenty. Wife made sure of that when I started track riding.

 

The 600 is only for endurance racing (3 h, team of riders rotating through 20-min sessions) - it's pretty relaxed as racing goes.

 

Nice to hear that.

 

learning to read the track and other riders will give you a distinct advantage imho...

 

I do that on the streets as survival practice and i pass an average of 15 riders per my short 2 Km journey for lunch and dinner in the suburbs.

 

90% of the passes are calculated based on geography and the other's mistakes. Im working on the remaining 10%

 

 

?? I fail to see the connection between passing riders on the street and passing them on a race track. One is a matter of how fast you want to go; the other is about how fast you are capable of going. If those two things are anywhere near the same on the street, you are doing something wrong.

 

Perhaps I misunderstood. Passing someone on the street shouldn't be challenging - if it is, you shouldn't be doing it. I think I must have missed your point.

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While I lack the experience that Hotfoot has, I can give you some perspective of a new racer who just started with my vast experience of 6 races over 2 weekends.

 

Personally I would describe passing in racing as "Pursuing and Engaging" it seems like a accurate description to me, but its definatly not a game of chicken, unless your ego is the kind that makes everything you do into a game of chicken. When you chase down ( Pursuing ) someone with similar but slightly slower pace you get to study them for a lap or two and see where your stronger and try to translate that into a advantage ( engaging ). Definitely not chicken, more like chess. What Hotfoot says about not focusing on the rider in front of you is very good advice. I found myself doing that and basically just rode around behind a slower rider for 3 laps in qualifying because I was too focused on him.

 

Im pretty sure in racing you're still going to be looking for clear track to set fast times, at least that seems to be what Lorenzo has doing of late, the difference is there are going to be other riders who are trying to do the same thing. For me the biggest difference in mindset from a track day is being comfortable being VERY close to other riders, and being more aggressive passing them, the second there being one of my bigger weaknesses. At a track day if someone makes a close pass and forces you a little off your line it's his bad and you can complain to the organizers. but in a race your only recourse is to chase after and try to re pass him.

 

From my limited experience there is a pretty broad range of pace at the club level and the pack quickly spreads out into groups of various paces. My last race this past Sunday there was a 15 second difference in the best lap time of the first place ( 1:54.873 ) and last place ( 2:10.990 ) finishers. In all four of my races I was battling with the same 4 or 5 riders with similar paces to mine, none of us were close to the leaders, but we all had a good weekend. Odds are you will have someone to race against regardless of your personal pace and how hard you're willing to push the limits of yourself or your machinery. Sure trophies are pretty sweet, but you don't need to be with the front runners to enjoy yourself nor to you need to be willing to risk life and limb. You also don't have to run in the most competitive class, 600 super-sport might require more risk than you're prepared to give but you might find racing 250's or classic lightweight twins to be much more enjoyable.

 

TLDR: Get out there and give it a try

 

 

 

Tyler

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Thanks for the thoughtful and helpful posts - lots to think about.

 

I like the analogy of a pass being like a chess move - there definitely is an element of planning ahead and anticipating the other guy's next move. I already do some of that "setting people up" trying to make passes at track days, but of course in that situation there is so much onus on the person behind not to do anything to endanger (or even inconvenience) the rider in front that I probably bail out of 75% of all pass attempts, just because I have some small amount of doubt that I can get by them cleanly before they would want to turn in. I think it will take me a while to get over that and be a bit more aggressive in taking track space away from other riders.

 

Certainly on track days I see what Hotfoot is talking about, where I follow someone for quite a while and can't find a way by for the life of me, then they miss an apex or brake way too early or run a bit wide, and thank you very much there I go right by them (so long as I am paying attention and can see the situation for what it is immediately).

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You mean like life / personal injury insurance? I have plenty. Wife made sure of that when I started track riding.

 

The 600 is only for endurance racing (3 h, team of riders rotating through 20-min sessions) - it's pretty relaxed as racing goes.

 

Nice to hear that.

 

learning to read the track and other riders will give you a distinct advantage imho...

 

I do that on the streets as survival practice and i pass an average of 15 riders per my short 2 Km journey for lunch and dinner in the suburbs.

 

90% of the passes are calculated based on geography and the other's mistakes. Im working on the remaining 10%

 

 

?? I fail to see the connection between passing riders on the street and passing them on a race track. One is a matter of how fast you want to go; the other is about how fast you are capable of going. If those two things are anywhere near the same on the street, you are doing something wrong.

 

Perhaps I misunderstood. Passing someone on the street shouldn't be challenging - if it is, you shouldn't be doing it. I think I must have missed your point.

 

 

Hmm, looks like you have the luxury of considerate and slow bikers/cars in your area.

 

Nice.

 

I dont, every trip is venturing into the warzone whether you like it or not . My area is messed up so to speak.

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T-McKeen gave some decent insight on the reality of club racing at the entry level. Over the course of the club's series, the same couple of riders win, there is a mid-pack and a trailing pack. But most of the "real" competition is in the paddock with everyone talking smack, laughing and generally have a good time.I have found the ages of the riders to be spread out pretty good as well. To offer you an example; One of the 1000 class racers is 70+. Does he win? No,.. but it's not the point nor does anyone care as long as we all have fun. There will be some close passes and aggressive starts so be ready. Learn about drafting too! It's not as important to track day riders but does play a larger role in racing. And most of all.... Be able to hold your line no matter what. Don't be "that guy".

 

My mindset for my very first race was this. "I am going to run at my best track day pace". Since a track day is a learning and educational experience we ride at 75%-80% of our abilities. While racing, the goal is 100% right? Well, as with any new experience, maybe your first couple of races is not the time to find your 100%. Besides, you may be considered to have a provisional race lic. and if you crash, you FAIL. Do no pass go, do not collection $200 and you start over.

 

And here is your first racing tip that applies to racers NOT in the lead group. Normally if you "show them a wheel" they will give up their spot.

 

If you feel it's not for you, your free to hit pit road at any time. Get out there and give it a go!

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My mindset for my very first race was this. "I am going to run at my best track day pace". Since a track day is a learning and educational experience we ride at 75%-80% of our abilities. While racing, the goal is 100% right? Well, as with any new experience, maybe your first couple of races is not the time to find your 100%.

 

 

I totally agree with this - because in my opinion there are enough new things to contend with in a first race that you NEED that extra 25% or so of your attention available! Riders passing very close, start procedures, rules, where you are in the pack, and lots of other things are on your mind in a first race and if you try to ride at your max, you can end up making unexpected errors that cost you a lot of time.

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One other thing I would HIGHLY recommend if you're kinda on the fence about club racing, or even if you're set on it but want some more background before you jump in the deep end of the pool. Go Pit Crew for someone for a day and get a inside look at how the club operates and what the race day routine feels like. You can gain some valuable insight, pick up a few tips and put a lot of the first time jitters at ease. I personally had the privilege of being Hotfoots pit crew for a WERA round at Autoclub Speedway about a month before my first race weekend and it was very informative, from sitting in on the riders meeting to watching the starting procedures, getting a feel for how quickly the day runs once they start racing and how soon before my race I should be suiting up etc. etc.

 

Tyler

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YD good luck my Yellow quacking friend, EH!

Some thoughts on the endurance racing.

1. Your main race is the track.

2. Your next race is the clock.

3. Then you deal with anybody that gets in the way B) .

 

Set a realistic lap pace for each rider. Try to maintain that pace throughout the race. Use the pit boards for +/- the set pace vs. how far away the next rider is. I think that endurance racing is more about consistency than outright speed.

May the chess game begin :D

Get the pit stuff, rider swaps, adding fuel, wheel changes etc... down to a work of art instead of a happy go lucky cluster.

Remember that the pit entrance and pit exit are legal racing up to and after the white lines but not between them. Know the pit lane speed and don't break it!!!

It is easier to gain or lose a position in the pits vs on the track.

Pit strategy. There may be times where time will be gained by pitting a lap early or late.

 

Don't forget to reseat the brakes after a wheel change :o If not, that could be a might bit embarrassing :P

 

Take care of your bike. Unlike you it does not get 40 minutes an hour to rest. Only ring her neck when needed and be nice and gentle whenever possible.

 

I had never considered racing to be a game of chicken. It is something I will remember for those times when others aren't playing nice.

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Hey YellowDuck, what is the main reason you thought you'd give racing a try? Do you mainly want to use it to increase your skills, add to the repertoire? Or is it just for fun (in case you do like it)? Or a bit from column A and a bit of column B?

 

I'm interested to know more about your reasons and about what others have learnt from racing because I've thought about racing in the past as well. But I always get to wondering if I actually would learn anything that could really benefit in street riding or on track days? I don't doubt that there would be some racing-specific things like starts... passing is one thing I really need to work on. Although maybe that's just down to my mentality on a track day - I'm probably overly-courteous and never want to inconvenience anyone else. -_-

 

But the reason I wonder about how much could be learnt is because of this:

 

My mindset for my very first race was this. "I am going to run at my best track day pace". Since a track day is a learning and educational experience we ride at 75%-80% of our abilities. While racing, the goal is 100% right? Well, as with any new experience, maybe your first couple of races is not the time to find your 100%.

 

Remember what we learn from the Twist books? How much can a person learn if they're pushing to 100%? Riding at ~80% is the best level to try and learn things and improve your skills, right? So it seems that racing is what you do to show your stuff, you've still gotta do some learning at other times, on track days etc. And the other point is that if you just want track time you're much better off doing a regular track day. Endurance events would be different I suppose.

 

I'm interested to know everyone's thoughts on this? What have current and past racers learnt from racing, that they couldn't have learnt through any other type of riding? And have the racing experiences benefited in other areas - street rides, track days etc.?

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Hi Mugget. It's a great question, but I am not sure that I know the answer exactly.

 

I don't ride on the street at all anymore, so I am not interested in improving my street riding. I am only interested in sportbikes and I find riding them on the road to be extremely unchallenging and kind of pointless. To make it fun at all I need to ride in a fashion that could only be described as socially irresponsible.

 

I have been working very hard at improving my track riding and I guess racing just seems like the natural progression. I understand your logic about not being able to learn much while pushing to (my) 100% level, but I think there must be a flaw in that thinking because everyone I talk to says they instantly became faster on their first race weekend. Seriously, everyone to a person claims that to be true. I guess there is something educational about being on track with other riders who are trying to go as fast as possible.

 

On the issue of track time, we get plenty on the Friday practice day (as much as on a track day) if we come for that, more practice and qualifiers Saturday, then Sunday races. It's not as much time as you would get on three track days, but it is more for the dollar because all three days are included in the registration.

 

I guess I hope that the slightly competitive environment and opportunity to share the track with more serious riders will help me improve. But mostly I just want to take part in the sport in the company of others who take it seriously (and have managed to acquire a race license), rather than the random and unpredictable sorts that show up to a track day.

 

Maybe I'll hate it and just go back to being a track day guy. But if I do, it will be in red group next year. I'm fast enough and consistent enough now and have no qualms being passed in close quarters.

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I can agree I have gotten better from racing. And some of it was purposeful, other improvements where made either "in the moment" or subliminally learned from the better riders around me. For example; the competitive aspect of racing makes me push a little bit harder, effectively raising what once was my 80%. Another example would be where while in the moment, I realize that I am ok even though I just went beyond what would have triggered SR's the lap before. Maybe I was focused on a pass setup or the pass itself. I have also let the faster riders lines and markers leak into mine. For me, this happens slowly of the course of a race season. It doesn't hit me until I review the video and realize, I am tailing a rider using his same lines and markers until I see an opening. Be careful with that one though, "catching a tow" as they call it, can hurt you as much as it helps.

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I can't even tell you all how helpful this thread has been. I keep reading it over and over beginning to end and each time I understand a little better what various people are trying to say. I feel like I am getting a much better understanding of how the dynamic between two riders works during a pass attempt in a race situation, at least at the mid-pack club racing level.

 

I think it is probably true that I would be inclined to give up a position without too much of a fight to another midpack rider who showed me a wheel once or twice, especially if they do it with position on the inside of a corner. The mere fact that they are even in a position to do that indicates that they are faster over the course of a lap, so there is not that much benefit to forestalling the inevitable. Besides, if they have out-braked themselves to get there the position is going to be mine again in another second, so long as I let them by initially to avoid having them run both of us off. Does that sound about right?

 

I am also getting a good image of what it means to still "ride the track" while following another rider. Just like at a track day, those spots where I know I am not up to my normal pace while following them will be the places where I attempt the pass next time around. The difference is that, unlike a track day, it really isn't my problem if taking position (line) away from them means they have to alter their line or roll off to compensate (within reason).

 

I guess I am still having a hard time imagining how to take advantage of small mistakes the rider in front may make. If we are both on the same line with me behind, then I would have to react pretty darn quickly to an error on their part to pull out beside them and set up a pass that I wasn't otherwise planning beforehand. I am sure I will get a better feel for this once I get on the track with other riders under racing rules.

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I guess I am still having a hard time imagining how to take advantage of small mistakes the rider in front may make. If we are both on the same line with me behind, then I would have to react pretty darn quickly to an error on their part to pull out beside them and set up a pass that I wasn't otherwise planning beforehand. I am sure I will get a better feel for this once I get on the track with other riders under racing rules.

 

Best case scenario: lead rider blows the corner (maybe even run off) and traling rider rolls on by

Worst case scenario: tailing rider has follow lead rider for an entire lap, draft and late brake into turn X

Most common case scenario: lead rider is slower in a "section" of the track where the trialing rider is better by skill or bike power, a pass is made on one of those corners, preferably this a planned pass

The devils work scenario: FUN TO WATCH!!! 2 equally skilled riders, trailing rider will try to force an error by trying different methods, forcing alternate line choices, late brake, inside/outside passes, drag race/draft on the straights, ect... ect...

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Back when grid sizes were only 30 riders or so it was a liitle easier to pass and less often, but when grid sizes got to be 80+ riders and several waves starting 10+ seconds apart, passing was much more prevelant and far more necessary to get a decent finish.

I always found it easier and likely safer to pass as quickly as possible even if I had to force the issue a little.

 

Whenever I have waited for a turn I knew I was far better at to initiate a pass etc...often someone else who may have been better in some other area would catch us and try passing before we got to that turn, which could slow me down enough or all of us down enough for the one I was going to pass to get further away or for even more people to join the party and slow all of us down fighting amongst ourselves to pass each other while the riders (leaders perhaps) slowly drove away as they were unmolested and able to ride their lines.

 

So I take the position that if I am fast enough to catch them (or be within 5 bike lengths of them anywhere)then I need to get by ASAP since it is likely others are fast enough to catch them and me also. I often had bikes pass me on the straights and I would immediately take them back in the first turn we came to, either entering, going through or exiting even if it meant going around them or stuffing it up the inside and losing some drive out. Many times the lead rider would take a more defensive line right down the middle of the track making that pass around the outside easier-then I could ride away through the infield and perhaps they would catch me again or perhaps not. Most of the time they would catch me further and further down the straight til they couldn't catch me anymore, but they were not holding me up or fighting with me in the infield where it would cost me the most time, so I could work on realing in the next rider.

Thus the reason of my first post, get as good of a start as possible and practice starting, a great start -depending on track, race length etc- can easily get you in the top 5 with only the fastest of the racers passing you with ease (relative) while a hohum or blown start will put you back in the middle of the pack fighting to just stay there/on the track.

I am all for close racing and never even minded a little contact but it sure was alot easier to run unmolested.

 

But go into racing for the purpose of having fun and enjoying it, if something more becomes of it, great if not you had fun and enjoyed it. I see a few people here locally who are talked about as to how great they are and what stars they will be, I have also watched them go to national events and not even qualify to start or start way in the back and finish there many seconds a lap off the winning pace... I know what a let down that can be when expectations are high/unrealistic.

First races or even first weekends are not the place to suddenly go from never running more than 75-80% and having cushy 6' wide designated passing areas to running at 100% and passing within inches anywhere and everywhere, but expecting to go and run at your normal trackday pace may not be realistic either.

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Remember what we learn from the Twist books? How much can a person learn if they're pushing to 100%? Riding at ~80% is the best level to try and learn things and improve your skills, right? So it seems that racing is what you do to show your stuff, you've still gotta do some learning at other times, on track days etc. And the other point is that if you just want track time you're much better off doing a regular track day. Endurance events would be different I suppose.

 

 

 

I think the big thing to be gained in a race versus a track day is that what you thought was your 100% isn't really your 100% at all, your mindset switches from one of personal improvement to must go faster then the guy in front of me, which gives you the added incentive to push your own mental barriers that a normal track day just doesn't have.

 

I would bet that the simple act of getting your race license and putting your own race number on your track bike will knock a second or two off your personal best lap time just from the mental aspect of being a "Real Licensed Motorcycle Racer"

 

 

YellowDuck

 

a small mistake is much easier to capitalize on then you think because if you're right on someone's tail when they make a small mistake it instantly becomes a much bigger mistake as they will have lost their line or given up the inside etc etc and most likely have to yield to you, IE their own mistake caused you to show them a wheel and now you have the ideal line, forcing them to give way. Of course if your focusing too much on the rider in front of you then you may very well make the same mistake he did

 

 

 

Tyler

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I understand your logic about not being able to learn much while pushing to (my) 100% level, but I think there must be a flaw in that thinking because everyone I talk to says they instantly became faster on their first race weekend. Seriously, everyone to a person claims that to be true. I guess there is something educational about being on track with other riders who are trying to go as fast as possible.

 

Interesting that so many people say that...

 

I read an article this week that was written by a former CSS coach, quoting Steve Brouggy (CSS Australia). It was about useful coaching, the interesting point was this:

 

“The purpose of coaching is to transfer the technical ability of what students are doing to what they should be doing by shifting their awareness.”

- Steve Brouggy, California Super Bike School

 

When I read that together with the comments about people who start racing and realise that what they thought was their 100% is not actually their 100%, maybe more like 85-95%, then it seems obvious that quality coaching is what's needed? So they need to receive coaching that will transfer what they are doing - riding at say 85%, to what they should be doing - riding at 100%.

 

I have also let the faster riders lines and markers leak into mine. For me, this happens slowly of the course of a race season. It doesn't hit me until I review the video and realize, I am tailing a rider using his same lines and markers until I see an opening.

 

I can see the benefit of racing with faster riders as well. It reminds me of another quote:

"What a man has done, any man can do."

Which basically means that as soon as one person has done something, that's the hard work out of the way. Other people will realise that it's possible and start to do it themselves. Witness the backflip in freestyle motocross... So it makes sense that if you're riding close with others who are faster than you, unless you're in complete denial you're going to realise that it is actually possible to do things you never even considered before.

 

I think the big thing to be gained in a race versus a track day is that what you thought was your 100% isn't really your 100% at all, your mindset switches from one of personal improvement to must go faster then the guy in front of me, which gives you the added incentive to push your own mental barriers that a normal track day just doesn't have.

 

I would bet that the mindset has a big part to play also. Reminds me of one track session when I was first out on track... I was actually worried about holding up people behind me, so I was doing everything not to. No one passed me the whole session! Admittedly it was the last session of the day so not many people riding, but still... I felt that I was pushing myself, concentration was high and everything was still working, I didn't make any errors.

 

So I guess racing does lend itself to quite a bit of improvement, almost naturally through a changed mindset/outlook. Also by getting up close and seeing how other riders do things, and realising that you can actually do those things yourself.

 

Still... I have to close with another question... but I think that should have another thread: How do you know what your 100% really is??

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