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Track days!

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Track day coaching


bmart

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I wrote this for one of the groups I coach for back in 2019. 

 

Members ask every year what it is like to be a CR and if it is something they should aspire to, but never more than this year. So, as I promised them, here are my thoughts on being a coach, track days, and riding in general. It is my hope that other CRs will chime in and that members will ask questions. Don’t be shy.

 

Let’s start off with the elephant in the proverbial room. A number of members comment that they might like to coach to get free track time. Make no mistake, coaching isn’t free track time, and it isn’t just riding around all day at your own pace, working on your own skills. One of the negatives to CRing is that you’re nearly always off pace and it is hard to find the time (and energy) to get in sufficient Advanced sessions to keep your skills sharp. One of the great treats of coaching at the pointy end of the Intermediate group is pulling a guy who is ready for Advanced. When we pit in we both have the same eyes like saucers and giant smiles.

 

CRs do this mainly because they want to give something BACK to the sport that has given them so much. I certainly feel that way. I’m at 297 track days with 34 CR days with N2, 27 for Turn 1 at CMP (now defunct), and 7 with Track Tactics (now defunct). N2 has legs… I have many friends that I share meals with, text/talk/e-mail with who I’ve met through track days over the years. You won’t find more friendly/helpful people.

 

The CR meeting is at 6:45 each day, so we have to be up early. This can be hard if you’re staying off site like I do. It frequently means missing breakfast as hotels serve late on the weekends. No waking up at 7:50 and rolling through tech while your umbrella girl carries your leathers! 7-8 we register and tech bikes. Discussing the things we find is a post on its own! For instance, “I took it off because I never use my rear brake!”

 

Many of us have spare bikes so that we’re not “down” at any point on the weekend, as that would create more work for the other coaches. For me, that means purchasing and maintaining two bikes (decent tires, oil, etc.). For other CRs and for me, that also means loaning one out to someone who’s had a mechanical problem with theirs. A number of coaches and members have ridden “scruffy” (my spare bike) to get through their day. It is a pleasure to be able to help someone like this (they pay for consumables and any damage done!).

 

Because we generally run a lot of days and a lot of laps on any given day (I average ~225 miles a day when I coach), we go through a lot more consumables (tires, oil, plugs, pads, fuel, etc.). I can kill two new rear tires in a day at CMP at pace. This also means that we are more at risk of having an incident. While math isn’t for everyone, this all adds up financially and with our relationships. That means many vacation days get used for travel and riding instead of to the beach for a week with family. And it means, for many, days away from loved ones instead of with them. (Not to mention a loss of garage space!)

 

Many have asked about pace to become a CR. My $.02 is that while one has to be capable of running a certain pace at any given track (including new ones you’ve never seen before!), other important skills are being able to manage traffic at speed, identify people who are a danger or who need help and address them quickly, and be able to give accurate, useful feedback to members without offending them. Everyone thinks that they ride like (insert favorite racer here) and takes a hit to the ego when someone tells them that there are things to work on. We’ve all had to break a few hearts over the years.

 

We spend a LOT of time working with members and work with a lot of folks each track day. It is hard to remember them and how they rode, especially when we watch them on a bike and in their leathers but they come up to talk between sessions looking completely different. It is difficult to provide feedback once some time passes. If I average working with five riders in a session, riding double sessions all day, that’s ~140/weekend. My memory isn’t nearly good enough to remember specifics once I roll out for the next session.

 

It is such a pleasure to provide feedback to someone and see them take it, implement it, and get immediately better/faster/safer on the track. My buddy Nick is one of those (rare) people. We talk between sessions. He listens to me, does what I ask, and comes in with faster times and safer lines. His improvement over just a few track days is staggering. We don’t provide honest feedback to make people feel bad, but to improve the overall safety (and fun) for everyone.

 

Another great pleasure for a CR is to bump someone who never even knew that they had eyes on them. In my experience, many people who ask for a bump are the ones who make up their time with horsepower and have some skill gaps which they may or may not want to admit to or address. This is not always true, but it is common. I always tell them that it is much more satisfying to be fast on lesser equipment. (Don’t get me started on rider aids!) Stay behind better riders in the straights and see if you can match their other skills. After that, add the HP.

 

Many riders buy big HP bikes which are much harder to learn on, harder to coach, and are apparently easier to crash on. 😛 I can still remember hauling the mail on my 600 and getting passed by an AMA guy, two-up, on an SV650 back in 2012. I don’t want to get past him, I want to be him. Those are skills that I admire and want. You should too.

 

When I started track days back when we had to avoid dinosaur missteps, way back in 1998, I was “the fast guy” on the street. I led many rides at stupid pace on public roads. Some of you may be able to relate… At my first track day, I was one of the slowest riders attending. I distinctly remember getting passed into turn 1 at Loudon by a guy who looked like Santa on a BMW R-bike WITH side cases. I had a huge skills gap.

 

I’ve been running a 600cc bike for most of my track days since 2005. Even this many years later, I’m still getting new best times at various tracks every year (on the same vintage bikes and frequently with a street rear tire). Road Atlanta and NC Bike this year and all VIR configurations last year. THAT is satisfying. Due to better skills and body position, I also go home less sore, or not sore at all, even after 200+ mile days one after another.

 

Coaching…I love it. See you guys in the year of perfect eyesight (2020).

 

Brad

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