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What You Do


How Often


The actions of riding one lap of a complex circuit with say 13 corners, 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 number doesn?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 these 116 control inputs. Note: A lap at Laguna is only about 10% fewer actions.


More Laps More Actions


How much physical conditioning does it take 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 tends to add 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 level 8 lap event or track day session you begin pushing 1,000 actions performed for the 12 to 20 minutes of riding.


What creates a great ride? It?s the precision, it?s the exact degree you roll on the throttle or pull the brakes and it is the WHERE and WHEN of each of the 2,900 actions that adds up to a good event or a good day at the track. As above, if you are making mistakes, add a few dozen to that number.


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 skillful rider is making, that number may be significantly higher. This has a direct impact on the amount of time the novice rider has to identify and initiate a correct and accurate control response--he is still busy fixing the last one. I?m sure you can recall some examples of this.


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. The important ones get stepped on, they are late, the rider feels frenzied; now the bike isn?t responding the way he wants it to, when he wants it to.


Comparing Skills


Comparing a lap record time on any given track to that of a typical street rider?s lap time, and dividing the number of actions per lap, there is, on average, an action performed every .7 seconds for the pro and about every 1 second for the novice track rider. That is calculated without the errors. With the errors figured in, the novice rider is actually ?busy? with the bike on a non stop basis. He?s getting tired and tense and mentally blows himself away with no time to observe what he is doing between actions. That?s because there is no ?between?, it has been consumed correcting his errors!


Looking at a no error novice lap: you see the rider is spending almost 30 seconds each lap looking things over where the pro is responding to his impressions and perceptions and committing himself without the lag time.


The pro is using 30% less time to observe and respond. From this perspective, a rider who has shortened the lag between identifying the situation and responding with the correct control in the correct amount, is, by definition, more skillful, more confident and can and will go faster and is in better control. This could be called a rider?s recognition /response level.


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.


This comparison brings up a bunch of questions about what causes the differences in the pro?s time and the novice rider?s time.


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 riders?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. This is why I started breaking down the actions of riding into drills in 1976 and began creating a system for improvement. There is a lot going on.



The Next Now, The Future


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 though? Decidedly not.


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 he 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 against you.


This should send a message to you. You must find out what caused the lag. Was it your bike telling you something or your survival instincts that caused the hesitation? Was it a real reason not to roll on? It could be real, like getting on a bad line. In either case, you need to know so you can master it.


Living in the Past


Lingering on these past actions is what creates hesitation: this is the root cause of lack of commitment, it also adds that 3/10ths second on average to each of your actions. Would you call this lack of commitment? It looks that way but it could also be caused by a lack of understanding.


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. But this is wrong thinking, they?re actually burning up their observation time with hesitation.


In this 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? Quick flicking with confidence is a barrier riders push through. Training, and a little nagging from your instructor, helps push you through it. You can do this.


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?


Rules of Commitment


Completing actions is what buys you the time to observe and predict the results.


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


You can?t easily predict the outcome of an action on the bike until it is at least started.


When you are hesitant, you are giving yourself less time to respond. It seems (on the Survival Response level) you are making more of it but that?s not true.


Confidence can be defined as: control inputs, started and completed; which lead to a known and desired result.


Being decisive, 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 completed as you but using 1/3 less time to do them...and looking smooth.


Take simultaneous braking and downshifting as another 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.


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. It?s a rare and special ability to ?think yourself faster?, failing at this, they ask for the tricks to achieving it. But there aren?t any ?advanced? techniques for someone who is still fumbling with their basics.


Well crafted lessons and good observant one-on-one instruction can prepare you to get what you want. You do have to push through these barriers. Sometimes it doesn?t feel fast when you are thinking it through and grinding on yourself to perfect a technique. Well, that?s the way it is.


Live it, reach for it, embrace the butterflies, immerse yourself in the stress. All the cornering demons have one thing in common, they can?t stand the heat of commitment. Learn the skills, shorten the lag and beat the demons!


Keith Code

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Great write up.. After my level 2 CSS I noticed my Commitment in the corners really improved my speed and gave me more confidence in the cornerw. As soon as I really flicked into the corner the turn felt so much easier than before when I had been leaning my way into position. I still have to remind myself of this everytime I ride though! Quick turn! Quick turn! ;)

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