When speed and direction vary wildly, trackday riders get hurt. It's easy to blame the faster rider for making an unsafe pass, in this and the first article in this series focus on the responsibilities that all trackday riders and racers have, centered around decisions, lines, and approaches—all aimed at one goal: being consistent and predictable at any speed.
6. Tuck In On The Gas And Sit Up On The Brakes
We don’t run brake lights at the track so our bodies become visual braking indicators. This is a big deal.
A. Riders who don’t tuck in “behind the bubble” on the straights will not sit up on the brakes and, bam, they’re hit.
B. Riders who stayed tucked in when they begin braking will also be hit.
C. In both cases above, the following riders have no idea that we are changing our speed if we don’t change our body position. Not tucking in or staying tucked in are leading causes of getting taken out in the brake zone.
D. We can watch this move in any professional racing series on TV and, more importantly, practice it on our stationary motorcycle in the pits or our garage. Practice tucking in on the straights with the throttle open, and then sitting up as we roll off the throttle to apply the brakes.
7. Our Bodies Can Communicate Turn-In Points Better
One pass that can be a bit close for comfort is when a faster rider goes underneath a slower rider late in the entry of the corner. The slower rider is turning into the corner and the faster rider surprises or “stands up” the slower rider.
A. Yes, the faster rider’s pass is too late but the slower rider may have left their head static when they turned into the corner. We must learn to slowly move our head in the direction we are planning to turn a bit earlier to serve as a signal that we are beginning to turn our bike.
B. If we “flick, huck, throw” our bike into corners, we will constantly surprise riders making passes inside of us because we go from straight up to lean angle so quickly. Study the best riders and notice how they guide the bike into corners (because they are trail-braking, a subject I’ve written about constantly because it’s so important), adding lean angle in a linear manner as they give away brake pressure in a linear manner. If we are steering our bike linearly, any contact we make will be much easier to adjust to, the bike easier to save.
Be Sure You Are In The Correct Group
A. The main problem here is expectations: A-group riders expect damn-good riding from anyone in their group; so consistently slow and poor riding will be a shock. When A-group riders go out in B or C sessions, they expect slower and perhaps sloppier riding and adjust their speed and expectations. They do not expect that when they return to A group.
B. By the time our clubs place a rider in A group, they have watched that rider over a series of months or even years. The pace is up, lines are clean, and they run consistently quick laps. They have coached the rider through most mistakes and that rider is rewarded by being placed in a group that often has the least crashes over a season. They leave the pits with a plan to haul ass and expect everyone in that group to do the same. Riders significantly off line or pace are unexpected and dangerous in this group.
C. Conversely, if we are in a slower group and see a rider who is significantly faster and passing our group members too closely and aggressively with a large speed differential, we should speak with the trackday management about moving that rider up to the next group. We don’t complain to the faster rider; we just speak with the management and they will fix it. Big speed differentials can be dangerous and that’s why we have racing classes and trackday groups. Trackday groups must be ever focused on which riders enter the track. Waving a C-group rider into the A group by mistake could hurt two people. A large sign at pit-out, constantly updated per group, is a great addition for safety, as is clear, precise, repeated public-address announcements.
D. Trackday groups must be ever focused on which riders enter the track. Waving a C-group rider into the A group by mistake could hurt two people. A large sign at pit-out, constantly updated per group, is a great addition for safety, as is clear, precise, repeated public-address announcements.
We Are Sudden With Our Decisions And Movements In Crowds
We’ve heard the saying: “You can’t win a race on the first lap but you can certainly lose it.” First laps and especially first corners of a roadrace are busy and tumultuous affairs that will require precise and instant choices on speed and line, but those choices must be a subtle and as minimal as possible.
A. First corners of a roadrace often put riders stacked on top of each other in all directions so braking, accelerating, and line changes will definitely disrupt and change the plans of those around us. Our changes in speed and line must be as small as possible but as large as necessary to avoid a collision.
B. Big swerves and hard, last-moment grabs of the brakes must be minimized for our safety and those around us. If we ride recklessly in crowds, we will soon become the victim of rough riding as our reputation for being an idiot grows.
C. Our championship-winning approach to racing must always guide our actions, especially in first turns. We win championships by gathering points over the course of the season, not by leading the pack out of turn 1. Recklessness in crowds will hurt your championship hopes and incite riots with riders who have been taken out of their championship plans.
10. Dangle That Foot As You Catch Traffic
11. When And How To Look Behind You: Experts Only
Looking back on a racetrack is a no-no for many good reasons; mainly, that riders often swerve in one direction or another, they change what they were doing after seeing what’s happening behind them, or they lose focus on what is rapidly approaching. All that said, I know some very accomplished riders who take occasional rearward glances.
A. The main problem with looking back is that we see another rider has caught us and then we change our line to let that rider past. Wrong! The rider behind us has planned their pass based on what we are doing, and our sudden change in approach can cause a collision. We must stay on line, stay predictable.
B. There aren’t many good reasons to look back during a trackday, but if we do, make it a quick but smoothly accomplished move so we don’t add input to the handlebar and steer the bike.
C. Racers who do not have pitboards may use an occasional rearward look to gauge many things, including how hard to push.
D. If we look back, do it in only one spot on the track. The best place is as our bike becomes fully upright off a relatively slow left-hand corner. Midcorner or high-speed looks are not recommended.
E. Our looks back must be calm. We take our left hand off the handlebar and twist our waist and neck calmly. A quick, snappy look will upset our bike and add unnecessary mental and physical drama.
F. New-to-the-track riders should stay “eyes forward.” Racers without pitboards, racers looking for a tow in qualifying, and racers looking to see if other racers are trying to get a tow in qualifying all might look back, but it must be smooth and safe.
Many riders ask if they can share my “Ienatsch Tuesday” columns with their groups and I always answer, “Yes, please.” The message over the past five weeks, delivered by the Senior riders in their personal stories and by me in my columns about not crashing and not being taken out, is that roadracing is immensely enjoyable, challenging, addicting…and survivable if approached with a champion’s interest in consistency over everything.
The Champ school team I’m surrounded by knows that excellent riding equals safe riding. We call this approach our Champion’s Habits, and hope to share it with the entire motorcycle industry.
Nick’s note on photos: I ask photographers for pictures that will help me illustrate a point, but often do not know the identification of the rider or even the circumstances. For instance, a crash that was caused by a mechanical failure like a broken wheel might look like a stab of the front brake lever, a mistake I was trying to illustrate. I would run this photo and describe tire loading, not knowing that the wheel broke. I apologize in advance if I do not know the history of every photo; they are not meant to be a personal attack or discussion of the rider, they are used to illustrate points that Cycle World and I feel will help riders and our industry.
More next Tuesday!