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faffi

Anybody do gravel to hone skills?

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It seems like the majority of the best road racers in the world ride quite a bit on gravel, be that flat track and/or MX. So I wonder if some of you also practice sliding bikes under low grip situations in order to improve their asphalt track riding?

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Hi Faffi,

Sort of a yes here.  I am very comfortable sliding around on earth surfaces of all types. Probably my single biggest question about sportbikes on asphalt has to do with sliding.  I am under the impression from pit racing bull sessions that sliding leads to disaster.  slip, grip, and flip seems to be a favorite expression.  I read sections in TOTW II that speak directly to sliding as a thing racers do to find the limits of traction to dial in the max speed/force for any given track or corner.

So now I am back to being baffled.

As a general question:  If your suspension is correct, tire pressures are correct, temperature is correct for your tires, and your tires are scuffed in, heated up and pretty fresh, can you slide an S1000RR in a controlled fashion? Do Q3s slide?  If they do, do they regain grip smoothly, or is it a sudden lockup that flips you off into the gravel?

Great topic and I would really like to hear what the experts have to say.

 

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I can not speak from much personal experience, although I have slid both tires - separately or in tandem - on public asphalt roads involuntarily quite often so there is no doubt you can slide also when grip is good, I have read interviews with several world class riders describing road racing as riding on marbles. In other words, if you are not sliding, you are not going fast enough. Not to win, at least. Sliding is used to steer, but also grip is at its highest with some partial sliding/spinning, even if it probably do not feel like it.

This has been going on for ages. Back in the mid-70s one of the faster road racers in USA (forgot who) asked DuHamel (IIRC) how he could so fast around a particular corner. DuHamel said that he would slide the front for about 150 feet, then open the throttle to save the front from tucking and to complete the corner, before asking "Is there another way?".

Freddie Spencer would also slide the front all the time and saving the imminent crash in the same manner when he came onto the scene. Roberts Sr preferred to steer with the rear and let the front end stay planted, but after Spencer it became almost mandatory to slide also the front to be competitive. These days, as I understand it, every rider going fast slide both ends virtually every corner.

Some bikes and/or tires are easier to slide than others. Bikes that load up heavily, be that chassis or suspension, can recoil violently if grip is lost and regained. Tires with a very narrow band between grip and slide are also very difficult to control because you go rapidly from full grip to uncontrollable slide. Generally speaking, the more grip you have, the narrower band a tire will offer. This is also why most can slide at least a little on gravel with control, but far fewer can do so on tarmac.

Now I'll let someone who actually know what they are talking about chime in, and either elaborate on or debunk my points 😉

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On 2/29/2020 at 1:48 PM, faffi said:

It seems like the majority of the best road racers in the world ride quite a bit on gravel, be that flat track and/or MX. So I wonder if some of you also practice sliding bikes under low grip situations in order to improve their asphalt track riding?

I try. That's about all I can answer with.

I think riding in the dirt is extremely useful for learning to feel how the bike moves around. It has showed me what the rear stepping out feels like and to feel how the rear comes around when you're on the gas. To an extent, it has helped with my front end feel, as you will feel front end slides. The biggest benefit is that you can crash without a hefty repair bill. Basically, you can push past the limit, pick up the bike, dust yourself off, and continue learning. 

If you're in the US, you have a number of instruction options including Rich Oliver's Mystery School, Cornerspin, and SoCal Supermoto.

In all honesty, as a not-fast rider, riding in the dirt has helped me quite a bit but it isn't a total panacea. I definitely have not gotten past the ride "wheels-in-line" phase on the track bike. And I still need a lot of work on learning to feel feedback from the front end in terms of how far I can push in non-optimal conditions. Almost all of my track crashes have been tucking the front end in cold/wet conditions. And as Cobie and Tim can attest to, it took me a while on the slide bike to even get it barely moving. I attribute this more to a mental block in my head--about the heavier and more expensive to repair track bike--than anything else though.

But in summation, yes, I highly recommend riding in the dirt.

 

 

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On ‎2‎/‎29‎/‎2020 at 1:48 PM, faffi said:

It seems like the majority of the best road racers in the world ride quite a bit on gravel, be that flat track and/or MX. So I wonder if some of you also practice sliding bikes under low grip situations in order to improve their asphalt track riding?

Yes for me, I have done a few of the schools that are done on small dirt bikes that aim to increase comfort level with sliding around. Those schools did a lot of improve my dirt riding skills, and probably would help me a lot of I ever had to do an "off-track excursion" on a sportbike. It did help me a little in getting comfortable with rear tire sliding on a sportbike but I am still not very brave in that area, I much prefer for the bike to feel planted under me. I'd like to do more dirt bike riding and sliding, I am sure it helps to gain more understanding of how to handle a bike overall. For SURE it would help with condition, it is quite a workout!!

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On ‎2‎/‎29‎/‎2020 at 9:57 PM, Roberts said:

Hi Faffi,

Sort of a yes here.  I am very comfortable sliding around on earth surfaces of all types. Probably my single biggest question about sportbikes on asphalt has to do with sliding.  I am under the impression from pit racing bull sessions that sliding leads to disaster.  slip, grip, and flip seems to be a favorite expression.  I read sections in TOTW II that speak directly to sliding as a thing racers do to find the limits of traction to dial in the max speed/force for any given track or corner.

So now I am back to being baffled.

As a general question:  If your suspension is correct, tire pressures are correct, temperature is correct for your tires, and your tires are scuffed in, heated up and pretty fresh, can you slide an S1000RR in a controlled fashion? Do Q3s slide?  If they do, do they regain grip smoothly, or is it a sudden lockup that flips you off into the gravel?

 

It definitely can be done (sliding an S1000rr in a controlled fashion) and you can watch high level racing and see it happen. The school also has an off-track tool called the Slide Bike that can be used by more advanced riders to find our what it feels like to slide the rear tire. (And, for that matter, there is the Brake Bike that can be used to find out how it feels to slide and recover the front, in a straight line on the brakes.)

One thing to consider is that the tires are ALWAYS sliding, to some degree, it is a built in part of how they work. In any corner the tires are always scrubbing off some rubber.

Yes Q3s will slide and it can be controlled,  but technique must be good. What is tough to recover is a very sudden, abrupt slide, where the tires move sideways fast and then when they regain grip the slide is halted abruptly - such as a situation where there is a patch of oil on the road (in a corner) and the tires slide fast and then catch abruptly on good pavement on the other side. Another example would be a rider that leans the bike way over into a corner, then whacks the throttle on abruptly, delivering way too much power to the rear tire and initiating a slide at a steep lean angle, THEN gets scared and shuts the throttle off abruptly. The rear tire suddenly regains traction which stops the slide and the sideways momentum can make the bike rotate over into a highside. (Traction control on newer bikes helps prevent some of those too-much-throttle situations, delivering less power to the rear wheel at steep lean angles.) Those types of highsides are probably what the "slip, grip, and flip" comments are referring to, but those can be prevented with good throttle control and knowledge of how to manage rear tire grip, and we have a variety of classroom sessions and drills at the school that cover those topics.

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Another example would be a rider that leans the bike way over into a corner, then whacks the throttle on abruptly, delivering way too much power to the rear tire and initiating a slide at a steep lean angle, THEN gets scared and shuts the throttle off abruptly. The rear tire suddenly regains traction which stops the slide and the sideways momentum can make the bike rotate over into a highside. 

Been there, done that. In 1990, I had a CB1100F, the most stable and predictable bike I have ridden. Which was an anomaly for these bikes, as they typically loved to wobble and weave dangerously. Anyway, I soon grew over-confident well above my personal ability, and going around a bend doing about 55 mph, peg and stands scraping, I gave it full throttle in 2nd gear. Unsurprisingly, the rear stepped out to more and less full lock. I shut the throttle, tire bit, suspension compressed and released, catapulting me into the air as the bike began to come back in line. I managed to hang onto the bars, fully upside-down, bike  going over the center and back a few times. By shear luck, the seat was right underneath my bum when I came down, allowing me to continue unhurt. That made me do what I had been thinking about for quite some time already; sell it before I hurt somebody. Most likely me.

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