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Racer Archetypes


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In my short time riding I have run into a lot of people that like to attach yellow plates to their bikes and ride the wheels off of them. I have noticed a couple of interesting personality Archetypes of the racers that I have met in the flesh. I was wondering if others have perhaps spotted these patterns and if there's an interesting trend of personality type. I have spotted two. I'm sure there are others.

 

1. Quiet and Unassuming. Very polite and reserved people who you would never think were speed freaks. Ask them a question and they are fountains of knowledge and eventually reveal why they know what they know. Sometimes middle of the road but often shockingly fast.

 

2. Aggressive. Predators on two wheels stalking their prey. Forceful and often slightly rude. Sometimes talented and fast.

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This is slightly off-topic from your question, but it reminds me of a story... on my FIRST race day I was chatting with a guy that was in my race. I said something about I how like to ride within my limits, I don't want to be scared when I ride. He seemed totally taken aback. He said, "If you aren't scared, what's the point?" His viewpoint was so totally different from mine, I was shocked. I couldn't imagine enjoying riding if I was scared all the time.... and he couldn't imaging enjoying it if he WASN'T.

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This is slightly off-topic from your question, but it reminds me of a story... on my FIRST race day I was chatting with a guy that was in my race. I said something about I how like to ride within my limits, I don't want to be scared when I ride. He seemed totally taken aback. He said, "If you aren't scared, what's the point?" His viewpoint was so totally different from mine, I was shocked. I couldn't imagine enjoying riding if I was scared all the time.... and he couldn't imaging enjoying it if he WASN'T.

 

Hey. Thanks for the contribution to the thread! While it's not themed the same it's not off topic at all. I posted the thread to get a better understanding of what makes a racer tick. I think this is an overlooked part of fascinating human behavior.

 

I'm with you on riding within my limits. While I have yet to develop the skill to survive in a competition environment I always reserve an "oh #!&@^" factor in case something unexpected pops up on track days. I have met many track day riders that don't and think I'm missing out by sacrificing the speed for an extra margin of flexibility when something unexpected happens. Certainly a different viewpoint and probably a bit more expensive when putting your bike back together after a few crashes.

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When I first started, 30+ years ago. I went with a few friends and my only goal when I went out for the first race was to beat both of them no matter what. I ended up winning the race by a pretty large margin.

After that I thought I should win all the races all the time and when I didn't, I would push harder and started crashing, probably crashed a dozen times that first year to go with about a dozen wins.

 

After having a winter to think about racing and actually gain some knowledge and set more realistic expectations and goals, plus better set up of a new bike and my body physically in better shape. Well the next year I won far more often and when I did not I wasn't so upset or so surprised. Mentally I thought more about enjoying the chase, the hunt, the pass, the stategy, the psychology of getting in others heads both on the track and in the pits. I enjoyed year 2 far more than year one even with having a few rivals who, well lets just say we didn't get along on or off the track.

Sometime around year 5/6 I changed my goals and expectations and did it more wanting to improve on what I did, personally. Not necessarily in the standings but in terms of riding abilities and lap times and going to other venues to see how I compared to riders who were familar with a different track that I was not. It was then that I attended CSS for the first time and was amazed at how little I knew and how much faster I could go relatively easily. I found myself far more relaxed while running 5-6 seconds a lap faster. I never saw that kind of lap time improvement after any school again, but I did see a second or two after Schwantz and Spencer schools, so over 10 years of riding improvements and bike improvements in the same class (600SS) I went from running just about 2:02 a lap on a GPZ550 to under !:50 a lap on a CBR600f, and I sat right at 2:00 on a 250 ninja on that same track.

My mental game and my physical game had both meshed and I managed almost 20 years racing without a crash while still winning and placing near the front in many races after I changed the "I have to win or why bother" to something more inline with "I want to do better than I did last time, ie...less mistakes, better more consistent lap times, better starts and cleaner more assertive passes" and while I didn't win any championships or get some big race team contract, I did enjoy those years of racing especially the not crashing anymore and not getting hurt part- not too mention the cost reduction by not having to replace so many broken parts and bikes.

Mind you I am very competetive in everything I do and winning is always a goal for me, so it wasn't like I sat back sluffing, I pushed and I pushed hard and some of the no crashing was luck/circumstances and some of it was skill and maybe knowing when not to push as hard or stuff the bike into that tiny opening. Alot of it was recognizing when I was "on" and when I wasn't, and when attending new to me tracks- not trying to go out and follow some fast local right off the bat. I tried to go out and only worry about me and pick my lines, my speed, my braking points and throughout the practice sessions/races work up to or above some others racers speeds and then see what they were doing and where then try what appeared to work for them in some areas.

Of course today you have youtube and you can view from the saftey of your computer chair many views of many tracks at varying speeds of different riders to get a little accustomed to what to expect and one should certainly take advantage of that resource.

 

Mental attitude plays a huge role and there have always been some with less skill than fear that will routinely push too hard trying to show how good they are or they want to be, sometimes they get lucky sometimes they do not. There have been numerous times when some rider on a bike I prepared needed some mental push to make them more certain or more confident so they would ride better/faster. I remember taking a national champion to Daytona season finale in the early 90's and he was very much off the pace and complained endlessly about the bike being slow. It was almost futile to talk to him. I ended up putting on the leathers and taking the bike out to see what the problem was since he couldn't or wouldn't be of any help in the matter, I found the bike to be a rocket ship, faster than almost anything out there on the track with me. When I came in, he nearly pushed me off the bike, jumped on the bike and raced off running nearly 5 seconds quicker than he did just 15 minutes prior. When he came in and we got a chance to talk again he said he wasn't going to let some old washed mechanic go faster than him. I found out later I ran almost 4 seconds a lap faster than he had previously and when he saw that I was running faster than he was and was able to pull away from a drafting group of 3 bikes, mentally he must have decided the bike was really that fast. I am sure his ego had some to do with his new found speed.

He ended up sitting on the pole and leading much of the race all by himself several seconds ahead before the gang of 7 drafties were able to run him down and pass him with a couple laps to go. He finished 7th or 8th in a race he had never broken the top 20 in and ran the fastest lap time of the race against riders he had never been able to ride/compete with before. So his mental barrier was overcome and allowed him to ride to his physical limitations was really how I felt at the time.

 

So I guess I got very long winded and a little off topic.

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When I first started, 30+ years ago. I went with a few friends and my only goal when I went out for the first race was to beat both of them no matter what. I ended up winning the race by a pretty large margin.

After that I thought I should win all the races all the time and when I didn't, I would push harder and started crashing, probably crashed a dozen times that first year to go with about a dozen wins.

 

After having a winter to think about racing and actually gain some knowledge and set more realistic expectations and goals, plus better set up of a new bike and my body physically in better shape. Well the next year I won far more often and when I did not I wasn't so upset or so surprised. Mentally I thought more about enjoying the chase, the hunt, the pass, the stategy, the psychology of getting in others heads both on the track and in the pits. I enjoyed year 2 far more than year one even with having a few rivals who, well lets just say we didn't get along on or off the track.

Sometime around year 5/6 I changed my goals and expectations and did it more wanting to improve on what I did, personally. Not necessarily in the standings but in terms of riding abilities and lap times and going to other venues to see how I compared to riders who were familar with a different track that I was not. It was then that I attended CSS for the first time and was amazed at how little I knew and how much faster I could go relatively easily. I found myself far more relaxed while running 5-6 seconds a lap faster. I never saw that kind of lap time improvement after any school again, but I did see a second or two after Schwantz and Spencer schools, so over 10 years of riding improvements and bike improvements in the same class (600SS) I went from running just about 2:02 a lap on a GPZ550 to under !:50 a lap on a CBR600f, and I sat right at 2:00 on a 250 ninja on that same track.

My mental game and my physical game had both meshed and I managed almost 20 years racing without a crash while still winning and placing near the front in many races after I changed the "I have to win or why bother" to something more inline with "I want to do better than I did last time, ie...less mistakes, better more consistent lap times, better starts and cleaner more assertive passes" and while I didn't win any championships or get some big race team contract, I did enjoy those years of racing especially the not crashing anymore and not getting hurt part- not too mention the cost reduction by not having to replace so many broken parts and bikes.

Mind you I am very competetive in everything I do and winning is always a goal for me, so it wasn't like I sat back sluffing, I pushed and I pushed hard and some of the no crashing was luck/circumstances and some of it was skill and maybe knowing when not to push as hard or stuff the bike into that tiny opening. Alot of it was recognizing when I was "on" and when I wasn't, and when attending new to me tracks- not trying to go out and follow some fast local right off the bat. I tried to go out and only worry about me and pick my lines, my speed, my braking points and throughout the practice sessions/races work up to or above some others racers speeds and then see what they were doing and where then try what appeared to work for them in some areas.

Of course today you have youtube and you can view from the saftey of your computer chair many views of many tracks at varying speeds of different riders to get a little accustomed to what to expect and one should certainly take advantage of that resource.

 

Mental attitude plays a huge role and there have always been some with less skill than fear that will routinely push too hard trying to show how good they are or they want to be, sometimes they get lucky sometimes they do not. There have been numerous times when some rider on a bike I prepared needed some mental push to make them more certain or more confident so they would ride better/faster. I remember taking a national champion to Daytona season finale in the early 90's and he was very much off the pace and complained endlessly about the bike being slow. It was almost futile to talk to him. I ended up putting on the leathers and taking the bike out to see what the problem was since he couldn't or wouldn't be of any help in the matter, I found the bike to be a rocket ship, faster than almost anything out there on the track with me. When I came in, he nearly pushed me off the bike, jumped on the bike and raced off running nearly 5 seconds quicker than he did just 15 minutes prior. When he came in and we got a chance to talk again he said he wasn't going to let some old washed mechanic go faster than him. I found out later I ran almost 4 seconds a lap faster than he had previously and when he saw that I was running faster than he was and was able to pull away from a drafting group of 3 bikes, mentally he must have decided the bike was really that fast. I am sure his ego had some to do with his new found speed.

He ended up sitting on the pole and leading much of the race all by himself several seconds ahead before the gang of 7 drafties were able to run him down and pass him with a couple laps to go. He finished 7th or 8th in a race he had never broken the top 20 in and ran the fastest lap time of the race against riders he had never been able to ride/compete with before. So his mental barrier was overcome and allowed him to ride to his physical limitations was really how I felt at the time.

 

So I guess I got very long winded and a little off topic.

 

A great read. Thank you so much for sharing. I'm really looking for some of the insights to the thought process of riding and racing so your not really off topic at all.

 

A bit about why I started the topic. One of the barriers I am running into right now is the "me" factor in gaining speed on the track. I started reading "The Soft Science of Road Racing Motorcycles" by our favorite author and there's lots of references to racing. I figured taking a moment to think about the human element might make it easier for me to understand some of my own strengths and weaknesses and how to exploit them to get my speed up.

 

I wish you were my pit mechanic! I have been blaming my FZR for a number of my own riding problems. Watching someone else show me "it's not the bike" is just what I need at the moment. I recently purchased my R6 track bike as a bit of a "no more excuses" solution.

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