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Keith Code

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The actions of riding one lap of a complex circuit, like our favorite training track, the Streets of Willow Springs, breaks down something like this:


Throttle position changes (including throttle blips) 50

Steering inputs 22

Gear changes 20

Clutch actions (downshifts only) 10

Front brake pulls and releases 14


Total 116


The 116 actions don't include any error or terror corrections you might make with the throttle, steering or brakes so the number could be well in excess of 116.


Note: A lap at Laguna Seca is only about 10% fewer actions.

Note: Count them up for your own favorite track.


More Laps More Actions


How much physical conditioning does it require to roll the throttle on and off 50 times every minute and a half to two minutes; shift the gear lever 20 times; push on the bars 22 times? Not a lot for one lap but over the course of 25 laps it adds up.


At 25 laps there are approximately 3,000 actions that you would have to perform to complete a national or world level event or mini-endurance race or, perhaps in your case, a track day.


Hmmmmmm. Even on a club-race 8 lap event or track day session you begin pushing 900 actions performed for the 12 to 20 minutes of riding.


What creates a great ride? It's the precision, the exact degree you roll on the throttle or pull the brakes and the WHERE and WHEN of each of the 900 to 3,000 actions that add up to a good event or a good day at the track.


Novice Lag


I would like to cite an interesting and revealing point here. Despite the fact that a rider may be going twenty seconds a lap slower than a pro, the number of actions performed doesn't decrease, most likely it increases. Due to errors and corrections a less skilled rider creates for himself, that number may be significantly higher.


This has a direct impact on the amount of time the novice rider has to identify and initiate correct and accurate control responses: he's often still busy fixing the last one.


For any riding situation, the important inputs into the bike often take a back seat to the ones generated by the rider's own errors and error corrections.


Chopped up braking and downshifting is a classic example. The important part of the whole series of actions, getting the turn entry speed exactly right, becomes lost in all of the background noise created by sloppy braking/downshifting. That leads to inaccurate braking. As a result, the rider feels frenzied and misses the feedback he needs to get the corner entry speed just right.


Comparing Skills


If you compare the pro rider's lap times to an average street rider's times you will see that, for the less skilled rider, there is an enormous amount of time being spent "looking things over".


The pro has already begun the next action while the novice is "thinking" about it. It's not really thought out like when you are figuring out your tax bill, it is a lag between the idea of doing something and transforming that into an action. What is happening?


There are three frames of reference available to look at it: what happened in the past could still be holding the rider's attention; what is happening in the present may be overwhelming his senses; he could have his attention on what will happen in the future.


Ignoring the past is not good. Being careless about the present is likewise an error. Being able to predict the future is where every rider would like to be. Mick Doohan's comments on this are interesting, "I already knew what was going to happen in the corner, so when the front end started to push, I was ready for it".


The worst of the three is having your attention stuck on the last corner or the last action performed. If the rider is pondering that last action, you can be assured he isn't starting the next one on time. That is the source of his lag.


Living With The Lag


A novice track rider lives with his lag, he is spending something like 30 seconds, or more, each lap, looking things over where the pro is responding and committing it to action, without the lag time.


In short, the pro is using 30% less time to observe, commit and respond. From this perspective, a rider who has shortened his lag between identifying the situation, committing to a solution and responding with the correct control in the correct amount is, more skillful, more confident, can and will go faster and is in better control. This could be called a rider's Recognition/Response Factor. Sometimes it becomes confused with reaction time.


No Time


If you put telemetry on the bike and counted the number of throttle and steering corrections the novice was making that the pro wasn't, you'd see that the novice rider's time is chock full of things to do; too full to be accurate; too full to have the time to observe; too full to make good decisions; too full to make a solid commitment. He's still stuck on that last action.


This comparison brings up a bunch of questions about what causes the differences in the pro's time and the novice rider's time and what they are doing with it.


1. Is it physical response time?

2. Familiarity with the road or track?

3. Understanding of the riding procedures like throttle control, corner entry speeds, etc.?

4. Feel for the bike and tires and what they are doing?

5. The rider's sense of time and timing?

6. Good visual skills?

7. The rider's ability to perceive speed and speed changes from lap to lap?

8. Some unique combination of the above that defines the "fast" or "in-control" rider?


While these may all qualify as reasons, each one of them is practically an entire technical subject in itself. To understand and be able to teach riders, I began to break down the actions of riding into individual skills and drills back in 1976. The goal I set was to create a system for improvement. What a trip that has been for 30 years?


The Next Now


If you were trying to dissect and remedy your own recognition/response "lag time" it would be easy to generalize that lag as uncertainty, lack of confidence or unfamiliarity. Does labeling it like this solve it? Like most labeling it is too general and it solves nothing.


The lag-time differential from the pro to the novice is based on where each have their attention focused. The novice's attention is focused on handling the right now moment or, quite often, the even worse scenario of lingering on the action just performed. As an example, barely cracking the throttle open and freezing, as opposed to committing to rolling on the gas, are quite a bit different aren't they?


When you get just past mid corner and you've lagged on your roll-on and you realize you could have just kept going instead of sitting there like a mushroom with a twistgrip in your hand: that is your recognition/response lag time working.


This should send a message to you. Seek out and identify what caused the lag. Was it your bike telling you something, like a twitch over bumps on the corner's entry; or your survival instincts telling your right hand not to roll on: what caused the hesitation? Was it a real or imagined reason not to roll on? It could be real, like getting in too fast on too wide a line. In either case, you need to know so you can master it.


Riding in the Past


Lingering on these past actions definitely creates hesitation and adds that 3/10ths second, on average, to each of your actions compared to a pro's. Would you call this lack of commitment? It's easy to throw a label on something but does that handle the situation? No.


One sure fire way of getting unstuck is gaining more knowledge about something. It also helps to defeat the survival instincts associated with riding and as a side benefit reduces a person's Recognition/Response time. Sometimes we experience this as improved reflexes, even for us older guys.


Look at it this way: if you always understood what was expected from the bike, and from yourself in working the controls and all of the options and results of operating them, would your riding be better? Is it better to linger on the past control action or be anticipating and executing your next action?


Quick Flick Time


Riders learning how to quick-flick the bike have one variety of this problem. They are wary of the follow up corrections they might have to make to their entry line. The idea of committing to the turn quickly gives them a queasy feeling. They aren't confident they'll have the time to observe and correct their line so they wind up lazily extending the steering. This is wrong thinking, they're actually burning up their observation time with hesitation.


In the quick flick example, we see this fact--- turning the bike quickly, where it is appropriate, gives the rider more time to observe results than the lazy, non-flick steering method. The time he spends lazily bringing it over never does have a definite end result, not until it is completed. The bike isn't pointed until it is pointed. Do you see this as lack of commitment?


Quick flicking with confidence is a barrier riders have to push through. Training, and a little precision nagging from your coach, helps get you through it. You can do this.


Throttle Lag


Throttle control is much the same. A short lag of only 3/10ths of a second to get back on the throttle goes by rapidly. It's not much time. Just get yourself a stopwatch and click it twice to see how long 3/10ths is--but at 60 MPH it is 4 bike lengths! Can you imagine yourself lagging that long getting the gas back on? Probably longer, right? This is real to anyone who is even half aware of their riding.


Rules of Commitment


-Completing actions is what buys you the time to observe and predict the results and commitment begins that process.

-Being half hearted and non-committal on control actions only holds you back.

-You can't easily predict the outcome of any control action on the bike until it is at least begun.

-When you are hesitant, you are giving yourself less time to respond. It seems (on the Survival Response (SR) level) you are making more time but that isn't true.

-Being decisive with control inputs, with the smallest possible lag time, is safer in the end.


Smooth Is Quick. Quick Is Smooth.


When you think of smooth do you normally consider how quickly you do things with the bike? If you are thinking that slowing down your actions is going to make it smoother, think again.


The fact of the matter is that the pro is getting the same number of actions started and completed as other riders but using roughly 1/3 less time to do them...and looking smooth.


Take the simultaneous braking and downshifting example. The quicker you can make your throttle blip and get the clutch in and out the smoother it becomes. Gear-changes up are the same way, the quicker the smoother. Quick shift mechanisms are a great example of quicker is smoother.


Getting back to the throttle a little sooner (quicker), brings about a more stable machine (smoother) through more of the corner.


Thinking Compared to Doing


Thinking about riding does not always bring us into a state of grace with the bike and road.


Riders say, "I want to have higher corner speed", "I want quicker lap times", "I want to brake harder, deeper, slicker, quicker". They want to go fast and find it isn't easy. Things start happening too fast. Their ability to observe and respond isn't there yet.


It's a rare and special ability to "think yourself faster" and failing at this riders ask for the tricks to achieving it. But there aren't any "advanced" techniques for someone who is still fumbling with their basics: still lagging in their commitment to respond.


Well crafted, step by step lessons and good observant one-on-one coaching will prepare you to get what you want. I can guarantee you that.


Your contribution is the commitment to push through these barriers and sometimes it doesn't feel fast or smooth or confident when you are thinking it through and grinding on yourself to perfect a technique. Well, that's the way it is. Anyone who has improved at anything in life has experienced this.


The good news is that all the cornering demons there are have one thing in common, they can't stand the heat of commitment.


Understand and learn the skills; this shortens your lag time and paves the way to improvement. Commitment has its own rewards.






ⓒ Keith Code, 2006, all rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced in any way without express written permission from the author.

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Guest TerrorFirma

I think this is really a global concept about many things.

To use an anology... in music... it has been said the players in an orchestra are reading over 10 bars ahead of what they are actually playing. The best players in sports always seem to be able to predict where the ball will be far before it ever reaches them.

I really think this is true of racing as well. Your ability to accurately predict the future via the quality of your visual inputs and then being able to translate this into the correct body language once the moment arrives is paramount in becoming and being the best.

I race mountain bikes and if I want to go faster it usually is just a matter of looking farther ahead. My brain is processing things way before I need to react to them and when I do finally have to react, my brain has already been thinking into the future already... things like approach speed for a jump, best line through a rock garden etc... if I haven't decided until I'm into the "stunt" i'm toast.


I can't tell you how to teach this... but I do bet your faster riders are looking farther ahead, and are also thinking farther ahead as well. I would think this gives them more time for their brain to figure out what body inputs are required to handle the task at hand, which potentially would give them quite a competitive advantage.


Having great technique is great but with great timing you will own!


Anyway that just my opinion... and great article, I really love how your mind works - your definitely a scientist and I'm glad you've decided to apply it to motorcycles.



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Guest Rabbiit

Fantastic critical analysis by Keith. There are concepts that I keep getting bogged down in. Commitment I do not lack but I find myself getting held back, with throttle roll on for instance; that so important "Twist of the Wrist". A day that is progressively hot, and tires being called upon for optimal adhesion, and what do I do.....lose the rear and challenge the gods of "high side"!? How? By asking more and more from those tires with throttle roll on. I mean.....hell...I have a day job!! :unsure::D Keith is very illuminating, and his books and his school prompt a lot of thinking. I would disagree with Keith on one point though.....I believe that "thinking about one's riding", before the actual ride is a constructive visualization as it can foster and strenghten commitment. Visualization with a mantra of "Quick is smooth, and smooth is quick" is a good thing.

Thanks for all you have done Keith......I am still working at it. B)

Dr. Kenneth Fulp

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There is a difference between science and artistry. To watch a master on the track will give life to that concept. The person that can put those observations to paper has a special gift indeed.


While reading all of the above, several things come to mind:


Visualization (mental)

Visual lead (looking ahead)

Muscle memory

Flow of motion

Mastery of mind and machine :ph34r:


All too often, I see sensory overload. It usually comes with the novice rider trying to "do it all now" instead of in stages with practice and experience.

While teaching people to ride, we tell them that the process is 90% mental, 10% physical. If it wasn't, Chimpanzees would be out riding the roads. :D


Keep it coming, Keith!

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This is a great thread....and would like to add my 2bits. Reference has been made to to thinking "I believe that "thinking about one's riding", before the actual ride is a constructive visualization as it can foster and strenghten commitment." I agree that prior to a ride or getting on the track constructive visualization can be useful since trying to make sense of things while they are happening usually doesn't work.


Here is an example of what I mean.

Most people know what counter steering is and we all know how to do it or we wouldn't make it around the track. But get in a panic situation and try to think your way out of it and it will be too late. Think about pushing and pulling and you blow the turn. That visualization and practice even if practiced while driving in a car is what allows you to apply what you know on the track without thinking it through.


I may be off base but I believe thinking takes too long out there we need to do our thing knowing that it is right with the confidence aquired through prior visualization.





Pete Goebels

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i have heard it said that it is physically impossible for the human eye of a professional baseball player to follow the ball from a pitcher's hand, watching the ball in flight to decide if it's a "good" pitch. there simply isn't enough time. therefore, the decision to swing must literally be made before the ball leaves the pitcher's hand.




the corollary of Keith's words here to success in any of life's endeavours is spot on.


point taken mate. i hear you loud and clear.

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mushroom with a twist grip in your hand...? :lol:

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Guest Guest

I've heard it said that when Michael Schumacher closes his eyes and visualizes a single lap... He opens his eyes typically within a hundredth of a second or two of his typical lap times.


I heard when Chuck Norris visualizes a single lap, the track straightens in fear.

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