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How Do You Know What Your 100% *really* Is?


mugget
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Following on from the Starting Racing thread, there were a number of comments talking about how people who used to ride track days and believed they were riding at 100% of their ability, then went racing and quickly saw that what they believed was 100%, actually wasn't. Their subjective observations did not match the objective reality. They managed to push to a higher level, to their true 100%...

 

Or was it?

 

If you thought you were riding at 100% when trying to do fast laps on a track day and then find that you can go faster during a race, what's to say that your 100% race pace is actually 100%?

 

For the sake of discussion, let's keep things absolute - 100% is everything that you have, the maximum of your current abilities. 101% means that you crash. The idea that you can ride at 110% is nonsense, but I guess 110% would mean you just made one heck of a nasty crash...

 

How do you define or recognise 100% of your ability?

The second part of the question is how can you keep reevaluating your ability? You can't just take one day per year and evaluate your abilities, hopefully there's constant improvement, so your maximum is always increasing.
This would also be important for people who have no interesting in cutting fast laps, people who are only interested in improving their skills and ride around that 80% level. They could phrase the question as "how do I know what my 80% really is?"
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I think "your 100%" is a nebulous concept, because it keeps changing as you improve - not just over a riding career or a season, but even over a single day at the track . There are at least two aspects of it that I can identify:

 

1. Knowledge of best line, braking and turning points, etc. For example, at my home track that I have been riding at least five times per year for three years, about mid season this year I got a tip about a different line through a long double apex corner. I applied that tip and found I was able to carry *way* more speed, taking at least a second (maybe 2?) off my lap time. Once you have the basic operation of the machine down reasonably well, have good body position and are knee down in most corners, just finding the most efficient line around the track is where the big gains can come from. My 100% on a mediocre line is a lot slower than my 100% on the ideal line. Sometimes it is not obvious what the best line is, and even if you crib off a faster rider in front, you still may not really understand how much entry speed you can take.

 

2. Confidence. Taking way more speed into a corner than you ever have before - maybe because you have seen faster riders do it in front of you, or maybe because your riding coach has told you to - takes a pile of courage. This is ripe territory for SRs to trigger, and once your SRs have you believing that you can't do it....then by definition you can't. A corner that can easily be handled at a certain speed at near full lean with correct throttle control might suddenly become impossible the minute you roll off. So, my 100% is defined as much by my faith in what I am doing as it is by my actual abilities.

 

I think that in addition to these two, there is some kind of upper limit for each of us defined just by raw ability - vision, dexterity, motor coordination, etc. When I see onboard video of lap records at my home track, my reaction is, basically, "forget about the riding skill...how can anyone even think that fast?". It just looks like it is being played in fast forward. Completely otherworldly. Sometimes you just know that you are never going there. The other guy's 100% is never going to be mine. I might as well try out for the National Ballet as try to set a 1:15 at Cayuga.

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1)

 

when I bankrupt my $10 dollar worth of attention AND dont crash. (more like near total reliance on reflex and muscle memory)

 

Happened last year thou; was cornering at 60KM/H (speed limit wasn't set as its a private road)

 

incoming BMW X5 illegally overtook a bike and cut into my cornering line (hi speed right turn for me)

 

e-braked the rear brake while easing the throttle to 1/2 position and let the rear tire skid out while hanging off to the right with ONE buttcheek.

 

when i saw a line , I let go of the brake, let momentum set in briefly and knowing the rear has regained rotation,

 

positioned the throttle for 40 KM/H acceleration and zipped off the small space the BMW has created trying to avoid me.

 

I was sweating when i reached home, very close call... if any SR sets in then, Im toast , either with the other bike or head on with the SUV...

 

 

 

2) slightly outside my comfort level (81-85%) and I dont crash as above.

 

I run a set mountain road once a month to evaluate my bike and my abilities with a timer.

 

 

This isnt trackday/track riding as i dont have access to a track within 100KM of where I live.

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Most racers seem to have a heart rate of about 180 BPM during racing. Some of it from physical reasons, a result of the effort required to operate a bike of car at the limit, but most from pure fear. If you want to win you need to push so hard that your body is certain it will die. When tested, racers don't breathe during braking and cornering, only on the straights. Hakkinen said that at Monza, where they braked from 352 kph to 80 kph before the first chicane at the 130 metre mark, he had to fight his survival instinct every single lap throughout the race weekend because the brain simply wouldn't accept that it was possible to brake that late, even if he had done so a hundred times with success.

 

So when do you know you have reached your limit? When you can both be scared silly from fear while at the same time be relaxed enough to ride the bike properly and do what you must do to stay upright. Not for me.

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I think 100% is subjective, AND changes all the time. My definition of "riding at 100%" is going absolutely as fast as I think I can safely go while chasing someone down in a race. However, every time I overcome a barrier or make a change that improves a corner, the actual laptime for my 100% effort level changes. Just like at the school, we tell riders to go at about 75-80% but they typically get much faster each session as they overcome barriers and improve technique - because that frees up more attention and their 80% riding level changes!

 

The laptime (an actual objective measurement of speed) for my 100% effort may change from day to day depending on track conditions, temperature, my physical condition, bike setup, tires, etc.

 

I think a good definition of riding at 100% is having ALL of your attention focused on getting the maximum traction and drive and overall speed from your bike (based on the information flowing to you through your senses), with no free attention left over for "thinking".

 

Of course, triggering SRs by "riding over your head" can absorb so much attention that you can be riding at what feels like 100% but still be going a lot slower than your best laptime - that is exactly what happens to me when I try the 'trail-braking to the apex' riding technique! :)

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Most racers seem to have a heart rate of about 180 BPM during racing. Some of it from physical reasons, a result of the effort required to operate a bike of car at the limit, but most from pure fear. If you want to win you need to push so hard that your body is certain it will die. When tested, racers don't breathe during braking and cornering, only on the straights. Hakkinen said that at Monza, where they braked from 352 kph to 80 kph before the first chicane at the 130 metre mark, he had to fight his survival instinct every single lap throughout the race weekend because the brain simply wouldn't accept that it was possible to brake that late, even if he had done so a hundred times with success.

 

So when do you know you have reached your limit? When you can both be scared silly from fear while at the same time be relaxed enough to ride the bike properly and do what you must do to stay upright. Not for me.

 

And here I thought I was the only one that was bloody terrified when approaching a corner at high speed. :)

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I agree with the 100% thing being completely subjective. You can't really measure it and sometimes your perception is just wrong.

 

I was never interested in lap times until an envelope arrived one day from the Superbike School. They sent me my lap times as part of the 2 day camp. The second day I was getting really tired and was "taking it easy" loafing around in 3rd gear with no brakes. When I looked at the lap times from both days my fastest times were still on the second day even though I "thought" I was taking it easy. Probably the coolest part of the lap times was that almost every single lap I made improvements.

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At a few tracks I have run thousands of laps at, I have a good idea when running 3-8 seconds a lap slower than normal that I am running at something less than giving it my all at 100%. How much less is too subjective to quantify as somedays I am faster than others even when racing and riding at "100%", but do know when I am not running as fast so if it is 75% or 90% perhaps I couldn't even guess close as my 100% one day is clearly different than my 100% some other days, maybe that is why I am just a mear mortal and never got any race contract...lol

 

But i totally agree with some comments about when it is for competition (racing) your lap times will be quicker than when you are out there trying to push yourself but doing it for a trackday or track school.

Recently I was doing some track riding with friends and after clicking off 1:10's for most of the day one of my friends and I went back out when he said "lets go do some hot laps", it was only the two of us on the track, well I went out there and ran about the same times for several laps seeing him still close in my mirrors I wicked it up some for about 5 laps and gapping him by several seconds before slowing on the straight and having him pass, he instantly turned into another gear and had about a 2 second lead by the end of the lap and then 4 seconds by the end of the next, I was now running 1:07's then so he had to be around 1:05 (no transponder on his bike) which is far faster than his normal trackday pace of around 1:15 and when we were done he said that was the fastest he had ever ridden on that track. He has atleast ten times as many laps on that track as I do but yet he is typically a 1:15-1:18 rider feeling like he was only a few seconds off the fastest he could run.

Competition (speculation) drove him to ride faster and he looked really smooth and in control doing it, clearly what he thought was his 100% when pushing to around 1:10 wasn't his 100% at all.

 

One way when I was racing I decided this is as fast as I can go (my percieved 100%) was when I didn't feel comfortable any longer with how much the bike was moving around through the turns. This typically meant having the front slightly tuck atleast a few times per lap and the rear stepping out more than a wiggle and geting off the planned line more than a few times per lap.

I learned though that sometimes my riding made the bike more unstable and an easy change in that netted a better handling/feeling bike and thus quicker lap times. Of course I had to recognize what I did wrong to upset the bike and figure out how to correct that, which many times meant someone else saying something, CSS was excellent at that !

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If your friend could cut 10 seconds off his typical lap times, he's usually just circulating. You can look at GP racers if they back off ten seconds they are just cruising, popping wheelies, waving to the crowds and looking around.

 

BTW, do you prefer to lead or to follow? I typically find that when I follow, I think #&¤%, this is really fast! but when I lead I leave the ones I ride with behind very quickly while feeling like I ride slower.

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I agree. 10 s on a 1:15 lap is another universe. Larger than the difference between the winner of the pro superbike class, and the back of the pack in the novice 600 class.

 

For me on my local track the difference between a 1:23 and a 1:28 is doing everything as properly as I can and being quite aggressive, vs cruising around without trying at all.

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More than anything I think it drives home the point of not really pushing yourself to anywhere near your abilities or limits when doing it for fun. Yet when being more competetive, depending on your own competetive drive of course, one can easily hit another gear and go much faster. So is this riders 100% running 1:05's that day? or was he still sub 100% and could have gone faster yet? When he rides his typical 1:15 plus where does that fall in?

 

I have seen numerous riders who ride that tiny 1.1 mile 20+ turn track who can run sub 1:10 lap times who routinely only run 1:15-1:20's. Some of that has to do with passing (track is narrow and technically the rule for passing is only allowed on the back straight, although there are places and times to drive by in other areas-just don't get black flagged doing so, which has more to do with politics and who likes you than safety) but mostly I think riders fall into a comfort zone and pick a pace more conservative than they really need to, even less than say 80%.

 

This track, it is very typical for the leaders of the "fast" group ride somewhere around 1:15 and riding very very close with the leaders of the intermediate group running about 2 seconds slower and giving each other more room making things seem even slower yet. So anyone knocking off anything sub 1:10 is really moving and at 1:05 you are definately riding very very hard. I don't know anyone who has run faster than 1:02's.

 

He attended one other event at the track since we were there together and I spectated for awhile and he was again in the 1:16-1:18 range for the two sessions I observed, which was near the front of the fastest people on the track in those sessions.

 

So he may well be in a comfort zone of riding at the groups pace on a typical day?

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Different people have different priorities, but I personally completely fail to see why one would ride on a track without constantly pushing to the max, whether it is working on a specific technique or a specific corner - but without going slow anywhere else. For me, track riding in itself seems about as interesting as watching grass grow, so for me the only way to make it worth my time would be to constantly push to improve my pace. On the road, I can watch the scenery instead of going fast, but on a track there is not much else than asphalt to focus on.

 

Mich Doohan said put it in a way that I can relate to: Make every lap count.

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The effect if competition can be seen in a number of other circumstances, take running for instance, if you run alone you may struggle to complete a 3 mile run in 25 min, but given a partner of similar ability you can easily beat your solo pace. Mental roadblocks are much much easier to overcome in a competitive situation

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I use to run the mile when in Middle & High School. I regularly was a 5:30ish runner for years. Well one race some guy from another school was mouthing off this and that and I ran a 5:10 to stay with him.

 

I certainly was not sluffing while running 5:30 and stepping up to run a 5:10 for that race that day was all driven by the competition.

 

I do have to admit I coughed for 2 days straight after that race, my lungs had never worked so hard, usually it only took me a few hours to feel fine again.

 

So saying someone is just going through the paces of strolling around the track at 1:15 when they could knock off a 1:05 I find ridiculous.

I have ridden plenty of tracks where I will coast sort of on the straights only reaching say 135=140 instead of running to 160+ yet still riding very fast through the infield, I would easily be 5-10 seconds off my race pace while doing that yet I was still riding quite fast, just not on the straights...Way too many variables for one to say 10 seconds off the pace is coasting around a track. Even short shifting the straights by 1500 rpm to save some engine wear will cost several seconds on many tracks.

There is plenty to be learned and practiced at a comfortable pace. Track days and track schools are for fun and education not competition, or maybe I am all wrong and misinformed and lap times are the only important thing.

 

I find that mentality to be on the same plain as the street riders who think because they have a sportbike that is capable of 160+ mph they need to ride that fast or why bother. I here from riders of all styles of bikes - as it relates to sportbikes-"why buy a bike capable of 160+, can turn on a dime and stop in 110 feet if you aren't going to use that?"

Of course we are mostly talking about track riding on this forum, but the skills do translate to both track and street riding, don't they?

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Interesting responses here. Good to get some different viewpoints on this subject.

 

So, my 100% is defined as much by my faith in what I am doing as it is by my actual abilities.

 

when I bankrupt my $10 dollar worth of attention AND dont crash. (more like near total reliance on reflex and muscle memory)

 

When you can both be scared silly from fear while at the same time be relaxed enough to ride the bike properly and do what you must do to stay upright.

 

I think a good definition of riding at 100% is having ALL of your attention focused on getting the maximum traction and drive and overall speed from your bike (based on the information flowing to you through your senses), with no free attention left over for "thinking".

 

I'm not sure how I would describe my own 100%... probably because I'm pretty sure that I've never reached it! Or if I have, it's been very brief because I quickly realise that I didn't crash or nothing bad happened and so the bar is immediately raised again. It seems like every time I ride a track day (just because that is the main place where I can work on my skills with minimal distractions) that I just get faster and faster. Since doing CSS I leave each track day more comfortable and confident and knowing that I can go faster. Eventually I will reach some kind of a plateau... whether it's imaginary or actual is another question... but that's the reason why I'm interested in this - hopefully I will be able to recognise the real limits and overcome or disregard the imaginary ones!

 

ktk_ace made a comment about total reliance on muscle memory and reflex actions - that sounds like when you're riding in "the zone", when you just do things and it all works without having to specifically think about anything. I wonder if that would actually be something other than 100%... maybe less?? It's probably a difficult thing to say for sure, but my first thought would be that riding at your actual maximum would require quite a lot of thought. Or look at it this way - if you're riding with nearly complete reliance on reflex and muscle memory, imagine how much faster you could go if you actually thought about what you were doing?!

 

I believe when you no longer understand what is happening, or when the bike is disobeying you , or when you are not confident - That is your limit.

 

% figures are a myth.Traction for instance may affect your limit, as does poor bike set up, general state of mind etc.

 

A myth? I dunno, I'd say percentage is a fairly sound mathematical concept. ;):P

What I'm really talking about is the riders ability. Yes the tyres will wear and affect your grip, and so lap times will change, but the rider may still be putting in maximum effort on the worn tyres just the same as they were on the fresh tyres. That's what makes it tricky - lap times are really the closest thing to an actual measurement of skill or ability, yet lap times are dependant on so so many other factors that it's not a reliable gauge of skill, or whether a rider was actually riding at their maximum. At least that is how I see it.

 

It's an irrelevant question mugget. 100% is an abstract number unless applied to a prerequisite set approval. Nothing more nothing less. My or your 100% today is 50% tomorrow.

 

I think people use "100%" more as a way to define an abstract concept like skill & effort, I know that's how I look at it. I don't expect there is an actual measurable level of performance. And it can change so much so quickly that measuring would be almost pointless? I would rather know for my own information, so I can recognise the difference between fooling myself that I'm riding at maximum, and knowing what level I'm actually riding at.

 

He has at least ten times as many laps on that track as I do but yet he is typically a 1:15-1:18 rider feeling like he was only a few seconds off the fastest he could run.

Competition (speculation) drove him to ride faster and he looked really smooth and in control doing it, clearly what he thought was his 100% when pushing to around 1:10 wasn't his 100% at all.

 

I adopted the method of evaluating my riding by ensuring that my subjective observations match the objective reality of the situation. It's not always an easy thing either... but it looks like the rider who ran 1:05 when he perviously thought 1:15 was his best had well and truly tricked himself! It doesn't seem so harmful to "trick" yourself into riding a slower lap time, but I find the possibility of "tricking" myself into a false reality while riding a bit scary!

 

Mental roadblocks are much much easier to overcome in a competitive situation

 

That seems to be a fairly common observation, can't argue with that. But that's still the thing that I find interesting because like you say, it's all mental. So there's no physical benefit from actually racing... it's not like weightlifting where a person just might not be strong enough to lift 400lb. A person could ride a track day, then race the very next day and smash their personal best lap time.

 

I guess if there was some technique that people could use to break mental roadblocks on their own, that everyone would be doing it. Maybe that is a question for a psychologist. :P But I think it sums it up when you say it's "easier" in a competitive situation. So we could say that someone who doesn't race will still be able to make the same progress (so in that sense there are no benefits that can be found only by racing?), but that person will have to put in much more effort and will take longer to make the progress compared to someone who races. Does that seem like a fair statement?

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I agree with all that Mugget, but I would say there are defiantly some passing technique's / skills you will only ever get to practice in a race situation. I find when I'm track riding at CSS and I have to be extra cautious to not disturb students with a close pass I think in my head all day , "I could just slip up here or by there", but I wont cause its not a courteous clean 6-8 foot pass. That's totally not the case at a race weekend, though I still find myself erring on the overly cautious side.

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I use to run the mile when in Middle & High School. I regularly was a 5:30ish runner for years. Well one race some guy from another school was mouthing off this and that and I ran a 5:10 to stay with him.

 

I certainly was not sluffing while running 5:30 and stepping up to run a 5:10 for that race that day was all driven by the competition.

 

I do have to admit I coughed for 2 days straight after that race, my lungs had never worked so hard, usually it only took me a few hours to feel fine again.

 

So saying someone is just going through the paces of strolling around the track at 1:15 when they could knock off a 1:05 I find ridiculous.

 

 

Going from 65 to 75 seconds = 15% more time. Adding 15% to 5 min 10 seconds gives us a time of about 6 minutes. Yes, you'd still get a workout, but you would not be strained at that pace.

 

However, I guess the situation from my point of view is that I simply cannot see myself enjoying circulating a track at anything but full attack. And even doing that I'd be bored pretty soon. I've never enjoyed repeating things over and over in order to find minute gains. I know that's what's needed to become number one, and some can find pleasure discovering their own limits. Personally, though, I find that 20% effort brings 80% result, which I'm good with :)

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I use to run the mile when in Middle & High School. I regularly was a 5:30ish runner for years. Well one race some guy from another school was mouthing off this and that and I ran a 5:10 to stay with him.

 

I certainly was not sluffing while running 5:30 and stepping up to run a 5:10 for that race that day was all driven by the competition.

 

I do have to admit I coughed for 2 days straight after that race, my lungs had never worked so hard, usually it only took me a few hours to feel fine again.

 

So saying someone is just going through the paces of strolling around the track at 1:15 when they could knock off a 1:05 I find ridiculous.

 

 

Going from 65 to 75 seconds = 15% more time. Adding 15% to 5 min 10 seconds gives us a time of about 6 minutes. Yes, you'd still get a workout, but you would not be strained at that pace.

 

However, I guess the situation from my point of view is that I simply cannot see myself enjoying circulating a track at anything but full attack. And even doing that I'd be bored pretty soon. I've never enjoyed repeating things over and over in order to find minute gains. I know that's what's needed to become number one, and some can find pleasure discovering their own limits. Personally, though, I find that 20% effort brings 80% result, which I'm good with :)

 

We'll have to agree to disagree on this.

 

But just for clarity- he typically runs 1:15ish but always thought 1:10ish was his limit then ran ~1:05 and found 1:10 was not his limit at all, so really we are talking a 5 second difference not 10 seconds as far as his percieved 100%, but yes his trackday pace is ~10 seconds off what he can ride even though he thought it was only 5 seconds off what he could ride.

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Different people have different priorities, but I personally completely fail to see why one would ride on a track without constantly pushing to the max, whether it is working on a specific technique or a specific corner - but without going slow anywhere else.

 

Question for you.

 

Let's say you're working on a specific set of turns. You change your line slightly and attack the set. Now you're out of the turns you were interested in and on to the next set. How do you review your line change—in order to determine if it needs to be adjusted on the next lap—while simultaneously "pushing to the max" on the rest of the track? If you're dedicating any mental capacity to thinking about the turns you wanted to work on, can you really go 100% on the track ahead of you?

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Not about to skim through the books, but from my perspective you need to keep the rest of the lap as constant as possible and not too slow if you want to find the effect of the particular section. You need to keep a race pace in and out of the section also to know if your new lines work for the full lap, not just isolated if it means you mess up the entrance and/or exit in order to improve on the limited part of the track.

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Let's say you're working on a specific set of turns. You change your line slightly and attack the set. Now you're out of the turns you were interested in and on to the next set. How do you review your line changein order to determine if it needs to be adjusted on the next lapwhile simultaneously "pushing to the max" on the rest of the track? If you're dedicating any mental capacity to thinking about the turns you wanted to work on, can you really go 100% on the track ahead of you?

Without deference to Hottie's challenge and only speaking for myself, When I approach a particular corner my concentration is focused exclusively on my library of experience OF THAT CORNER. What happened in the corner immediately preceding a particular corner is filed in that corner's mental folder and not revisited until exiting the corner that preceded it so I try and keep each corner's strategy separated on evey lap...if that makes any sense.

Rainman

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