Learning A New Track | Riding Skills Series

Tips and tricks for getting up to speed

Learning A New Track | Riding Skills Series
Many professional racers have admitted to using video games to learn tracks, and thanks to advances in video game technology there’s a surprisingly large overlap between the digital and real-life versions.

Before the advent of the Internet and action-sports cameras, there were just a handful of ways to learn a new track. You could talk to a friend who’d ridden said track or walk the circuit before your first riding session, but the information gathered doing that was all you’d have as the green flag fell on your initial practice. Reference markers would have to be picked up along the way, your riding lines would need to be tailored throughout the first few laps, and it’d take some time to find the proper gear position through certain sections.

That’s all changed thanks to onboard footage, video-hosting sites, and video games. And by coupling these resources with the tried-andtrue methods already mentioned, it’s decidedly easier to accustom yourself with an unfamiliar circuit. The result is a more fulfilling first day at a track and a riding experience that’s both safer and more enjoyable.

One of the technologies that's taken the strain away from learning a track is video games, and despite what your significant other says, it'd be advantageous for you to play any game featuring a track you plan to ride. Think Marc Marquez didn't run laps around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on his PS3 just before winning the 2013 Red Bull US Grand Prix in his first visit to the track? Think again. Video games have helped us prepare for time-constricted motorcycle press launches as well, but we'll follow up that comment by mentioning that these games should be used only for understanding the general direction of a track. You won't use the same reference markers in real life as you do on a video game with unlimited "lives." The track's elevation and surface quality won't translate well either, so while you can be confident the first turn at Daytona International Speedway's road course is a left-hander, don't be so sure you can start braking at the 3 marker in your first run down the banking.

Learning A New Track | Riding Skills Series
When possible, reference footage from a reliable source rather than a rider who may or may not be using the correct lines.

Onboard videos posted to YouTube or any other video-hosting site will validate such things as track direction. They should be viewed carefully but also with some skepticism; keep a close eye out for track surface conditions and the gear position indicator on the bike, if shown and applicable, but also remember the footage could’ve come from a less-experienced rider, and the lines or reference markers could be a bit off. Josh Hayes’ onboard footage from Barber Motorsports Park will be pretty spot on, whereas a video recording from John Doe and his ’95 CBR600F3 might not be as fruitful.

Once you’ve set down your remote control and are at a track, you can speed up the learning process by picking out reference markers early on and by finding similarities between a corner at the new track and a corner at another circuit you frequent. If things like camber, arc, and track width are similar, try to approach the turn with the same mentality as the corner you’re already familiar with, as this will make the track feel more recognizable and help speed up the learning process. Similarly, keep an eye out for more experienced riders, as they’ll generally have a few line-related tricks up their sleeves. Don’t override your bike to keep up with the rider, but take what you can and try to apply his lines throughout the day and see if it doesn’t help you in your quest for quicker lap times.

The drive into a track’s front gate will be nerve-racking no matter how many laps you’ve run in your head. However, by preparing yourself with video games and onboard footage you’ll feel much more comfortable on the first few laps. Ultimately, this confidence will make your first day at a new track both safer and more enjoyable.