Jump to content

Track days!

  • entry
    1
  • comments
    19
  • views
    511

Track day coaching


bmart

1274 views

 Share

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

  • Like 4
  • Thanks 1
 Share

19 Comments


Recommended Comments

  • Member Contributer

Man, I'd love to pick your brain.

I've been looking in to doing some stuff with N2, and I don't even know where to start.  I just want to get my skills sharpened up, and I really think a good weekend of focused training/coaching would be a huge step.

Cheers for the writeup.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
  • Member Contributer

Happy to help! Feel free to PM if you prefer privacy, or here if you want to share what we discuss. Where are you located? 

Link to comment
  • Member Contributer

If I'm reading the tea leaves correctly, I'm across the lake from you in Denver, NC.  Not too far.

I don't mind people eavesdropping... Perhaps someone can benefit from the discussion.  

As I mentioned, I'm really just looking for skills development.  Most "skillz" courses I've seen are really just low-speed stuff for people with 900lb bikes.  While that's all well and good, I don't need parking lot help.  I like a spirited pace on the backroads - nothing bananas, mind you - but also would like to be more confident in what I can do, and what the bike can handle.  Overall, I feel like that would make me a safer rider.  You know, stuff like the interaction of suspension movement with cornering behavior, better managing grip, and developing the muscle memory when things get greasy.

I've been really blessed to this point riding with people more experienced than I am, and they are happy to share pointers... But I feel I can be better for that inevitable day there's a deer in the apex.

From what I've gleaned, track time is expensive and the safety check stuff seems a bit intimidating.  I could frankly use someone to give me an "idiots guide" on what to do.   Ha!

Link to comment
  • Member Contributer

I'll keep thinking on this, but here are a few big things I see from folks. 

 

A comfortable rider will tire long after someone who is tense (grip on bars, tight arms/shoulders) and twisting joints (causing inflamation making it all worse), etc. This is bigger than you might think. Comfortable means different things to different people. I am light on muscle mass and have more than my share of medical stuff. Still, working on this. I can ride 2-3 day track weekends, double sessions all day and go home not sore. We always get folks who give up after 2-3 session exhausted. THAT is expensive track time. 

 

Being loose on controls is huge. The bike has to be able to move around a bit, and in a way that you shouldn't be fighting it. This goes along with trajectory. And body position is critical. Every group, including mine, will teach a right position. Again, modify to what works for you. Also worth noting, controls aren't switches, but rheostats. Modulate, modulate, modulate. 

 

I ride on the track using more street skills than most. I look at the exit I want in any given corner, and in any given circumstance (am I alone, trying to pass someone, etc.), and work backward for how I want to enter, from where I want to enter, what entry speed, etc. You will find that dirt guys dive to the inside WAY early. Inexperienced street guys do the same. As you gain experience, you realize that you can balance the time and line on the way in, with the same on the way out. VIR South last turn to first turn is a great example. I am on an ancient 600 and spend all day going past people on the way into turn 1, despite the looooong straight and 1/2 the HP. (And I'm not Rossi-skilled...I'm just a regular guy trying to lean on the bike's strengths and push my personal skill level.)

 

Back to body position. There is a rockin' thrill about getting a knee down. That thrill fades some with time and as you get faster, you're actually pulling your knee in out of the way. That's a big step in your skill set. Half butt cheek off in every corner is a great place to start. Remember you're already loose on the bars. As those becoming muscle memory, add moving your torso with it. That is where your weight is. By having your head off to the inside before turn in (if you can see your dash...you're not over far enough), the rest of your body will follow, and the bike will feel the best. 

 

A few safety things, never, ever follow someone on their line exactly, always have an escape path. I've followed fokls who have dropped oil, blown engines, lost chains, and so much more. If you have to ask "can I make it past", wait. You'll have all day to learn. For higher skilled in the turns folks you can pass easily in the straights, don't. Hang behind them and then learn in the corners. 300 vs. 600, 600 vs. 1000. I learn so much from the "kids" on the 300s. 

 

Back to work! Thoughts? Specific questions?

 

This is not me showing off, but you can see the variances in riding skills and decision making in this video. Sadly the guy crashes in the end. I'm on the blue bike, black helmet, not coaching. 

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
  • Member Contributer

I've found parking-lot exercises really helped me improve on track. Such as being able to go from upright to full-lean quickly. And speedy transitions from side to side.

 

Relaxed is key! Helps your brain work faster analysing data. I wear HRM while on track. If I get too tense, my HR goes up. Signal to take it easy. My fastest laps don't even feel like I'm pushing it, everything's smooth and in sync, almost boring.

 

I only started racing 5-yrs ago, but have improved more in that time than all previous 40-yrs combined! Wish now I had started sooner! And I've actually learned most from kids! We were lucky to have couple of MotoAm Junior Cup racers in our club every year. Speedy little suckers! 🙂

 

 

 

 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
  • Member Contributer

There's no substitute for track time, for skills gaining or heart/adreneline pumping fun. I feel like I peaked over the last two years, so this year will be interesting. I'm not interested in adding more risk to maintain speed. I'm also very slowly adding forest/service roads on the KLX250 to my list of hobbies. At some point, I'll be too old or my interest will falter and I'll leave the track scene. My first track day was 1998, and I was terrible at it. 

 

435-20n1200.thumb.jpg.3a57a5603597f6a0be66d658bc6a4ee9.jpg

Link to comment
  • Member Contributer
3 hours ago, bmart said:

Being loose on controls is huge. The bike has to be able to move around a bit, and in a way that you shouldn't be fighting it.

 

+1 bmart, great advice!

 

This is something I wish I was aware of much earlier in my motorcycle riding life...into a turn a little too hot, weight already on my arms, every muscle in my body tightens and, as you point out, the bike stops handling. It still takes me a conscious effort to be loose, or, as I think Lee Parks put it, only use the muscles that are needed for the task. Easier said than done, for me anyway.

 

For this reason adding Stompgrips to the tank of my RC-51 made me a much better track day rider (OK, I'm a lifetime B- group guy, but still...) because it allowed me to grip securely with my knees and use arms and hands for fine control movements. 

Link to comment
  • Member Contributer

One of my old track buddies was really fast and capable, but he went though a few pair of $300+ gloves a season. There's a message in that! Loose on the bars and hold like a screwdriver, not straight on. 

 

For me, the best I've found is loose on the bars, medium pressure on the pegs, and nearly all of my pressure on the bike against the outside of the tank. Leave enough room between you and the tank to easily transition from side to side naturally and without weighting and unweighting when you do it. Sliiiiide. 

 

A big challenge for me is going from bike to bike and gear to gear. The bars are in different places. The grips are different material and different lengths. The seats grip more or less. My gear grips more or less. Some bikes have tank grip while others don't. And none of that touches on the differnet size tires, different compounds and shapes, braking components, fuel load...you get the idea! One of Rossi's greatest strengths, and one of Lorenzo's weakest points, was the ability to adapt. This skill can't be overstated. 

 

You guys are getting me excited for track days this season. I don't start until April, but I do have three options for my favorite track! (Two tracks that can teach the most are rarely attended: VIR South and Patriot-no rest for the wicked here.)

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-0p_EGuIUw

 

A no charge favorite!

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
  • Member Contributer

My local track day group has two days at Laguna Seca in September this year, guess I have to sign up. Still haven't figured out turn 2 & the corkscrew...

 

Waaaay off topic but if you like Joey Cook you have to like Eva Cassidy.  😎

 

 

Link to comment
  • Member Contributer

Thoughts? Specific questions?

 

I took a bunch of classes, and had some coaching and it helped a lot. I was still getting frustrated, and could not get much faster. Rode (for fun, not commuting) almost everyday for two years during that same time period. Had incremental improvements, but eventually "gave up" not giving a shit how fast I was. Once I did that, everything I learned clicked, and I was relaxed enough to put it all together without thinking about it. When I look back I realized my fixation with being good kept me too stressed to improve. I was always trying to evaluate my riding position, throttle position, apex, riding lines, braking, hands positions on the bars, and where I was looking. Too much to process. Once I let go, I was able to do all those things without thinking about them.

 

Be loose on the bike, and relaxed - my best days were when I wasn't trying, and next thing I know I was keeping up with the fast guys in the turns. If you're tense then you are going too fast.

 

When I'm riding around the track, not thinking but just "doing" - from muscle memory, I many times have an out of body experience, like Bmart said when I come back in my eyes are as big as saucers, and I'm laughing and smiling halfway until the next session.

 

Very surreal and cleansing experience!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
  • Member Contributer

I appreciate the comment in the OP about being humbled by being passed by a coach or other rider that's two up, or on a small bike, etc.  That happened to me - I had some time at a local track and thought I was cutting a pretty good line until one of the coaches blew past me on another G6 VFR, disappearing through the next turn before I could get there . . .  I felt like the slack-jawed Coyote watching the Roadrunner disappear.  It was a lot to process in the moment as my stupid ego deflated - I had to process that I'm not even close to as good as I think I am and that I have a lot of development that needs to be done.  (I recall thinking "how is that even possible??")   I couldn't rationalize that he was on a better / lighter / more powerful (pick the adjective) bike than mine - it was the SAME!! - it was NOT at all about the bike, but WAS about my lack of skill.   I haven't done any track time since, but have not forgotten that experience and often think of it prior to departing on a ride to remind myself to stay within my abilities.  Riding on the road is not a race - the only prize is to pull the bike back in the garage with it as nice as it was when I left.  If only we all had the time / money / facilities available to get to that next level.  One other thing I took from that was that good ride leaders don't tell everyone to "keep up" - they rather tell them that "we'll wait for you at such and such a junction / landmark - whatever.  Ride your own ride and be safe." 

 

Great write up - thanks for sharing. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
  • Member Contributer
7 hours ago, Cogswell said:

I appreciate the comment in the OP about being humbled by being passed by a coach or other rider that's two up, or on a small bike, etc.  That happened to me - I had some time at a local track and thought I was cutting a pretty good line until one of the coaches blew past me on another G6 VFR, disappearing through the next turn before I could get there . . .  I felt like the slack-jawed Coyote watching the Roadrunner disappear.  It was a lot to process in the moment as my stupid ego deflated - I had to process that I'm not even close to as good as I think I am and that I have a lot of development that needs to be done.  (I recall thinking "how is that even possible??")   I couldn't rationalize that he was on a better / lighter / more powerful (pick the adjective) bike than mine - it was the SAME!! - it was NOT at all about the bike, but WAS about my lack of skill.   I haven't done any track time since, but have not forgotten that experience and often think of it prior to departing on a ride to remind myself to stay within my abilities.  Riding on the road is not a race - the only prize is to pull the bike back in the garage with it as nice as it was when I left.  If only we all had the time / money / facilities available to get to that next level.  One other thing I took from that was that good ride leaders don't tell everyone to "keep up" - they rather tell them that "we'll wait for you at such and such a junction / landmark - whatever.  Ride your own ride and be safe." 

 

Great write up - thanks for sharing. 

 

 

I had a similar moment that still makes me laugh.  I was Ricky racer on my 1200 (150rwhp ish) going into a sweeping right hander, giving it the beans (I thought), and an unnamed forum member here on a 40hp kawasaki versys on DOT knobbies passed me on the outside while waving at me.  Thats the day I really started asking questions. Hahaha

  • Like 2
  • Haha 2
Link to comment

I've never done a track day but still hope to. I ride better now at 63 than I ever have. I give all the credit to my riding friends that I've met here. I have several that are nice enough to set a pace that I can handle and then pull me up without me knowing it. Now, I find myself laughing at things that used to make me cringe. When I ride alone, I slow down and work on being where I want to be through a turn rather than my speed. Faster every time and more relaxed. It is interesting to feel my age slowing me down at the same time that I'm improving my skills. That track day needs to happen soon!😀

  • Like 2
Link to comment
On 2/20/2022 at 1:55 AM, Yokel said:

 

 

I had a similar moment that still makes me laugh.  I was Ricky racer on my 1200 (150rwhp ish) going into a sweeping right hander, giving it the beans (I thought), and an unnamed forum member here on a 40hp kawasaki versys on DOT knobbies passed me on the outside while waving at me.  Thats the day I really started asking questions. Hahaha

Similar: Perfect day on a perfect smooth Swiss engineered road on a K100, getting adventurous with shaving the footpegs and sliding the front tyre a little.  Then blown away by several Jappos - a Honda 750 four K1!!, GS750 etc.  Talk about ego deflation....till I caught up with them at a cafe, took a closer look and slowly began to understand.  All of them shared a common theme - Fritz Egli frames.

  • Haha 1
Link to comment
  • Member Contributer

I don't think that I posted this before. My first track day came about when I was the "fastest" guy on our street rides. I led a lot of rides and felt I was pretty excellent at riding. I signed up for my first track day expecting to be pumped to advanced pretty quickly. During my first day, I realized how little I knew...particularly when I was passed by a guy who looked like Santa, on his BMW R-bike, complete with saddlebags...like I was stopped. The hook was set!

  • Like 3
Link to comment

I’ve never had the opportunity or taken the time for a track day or scheduling a 1 on 1 coaching session but I’d like to. 
 

I was fortunate enough to become friends with a guy in the UK that has raced professionally around the world at all levels, still does some racing and offers 1 on 1 coaching in the UK and Europe. He has so much to offer and I only wish I could make it back to the UK for some training. If you ever run into or come across Mike “Spike” Edwards from Harrogate take advantage of the time. He’s one of the nicest guys out there! 

Link to comment
Guest
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Privacy Policy.