Keith Code gives a run-down of some of the things that riding coaches at the Mid-Ohio division of the California Superbike School look for when cornering.
Being a spectator at motorcycle roadraces is a very exacting skill and Mid-Ohio is one of the best circuits in the world to exercise that skill. Look at it from this perspective: in order to understand precisely what techniques the leading rider is employing, either better or more efficiently than his competition, you would have to start out with an understanding of riding techniques used by racers, wouldn’t you? Motorcycle racing is far more than simply slamming on the brakes later than the other guy and hitting the gas sooner. The truly fascinating part of it is that the same techniques required to pilot a 200 HP Superbike around corners apply most anywhere you ride your street bike as well, and, if you know what they are, you can get right into educated spectating at tracks or at home while watching races on TV.
Here are some component parts of cornering that a spectator may watch for: (They also happen to be what a good riding coach would look for.)
1. Where exactly is your favorite rider pulling on his brakes?
Where is the competition getting on theirs? Earlier, later, the same place? Watch this at the end of the back straightaway.
2. How accurate is your man with his turn entry points?
Does he start the corner in the same place each time? Or, does he vary his turn entry point? What is the competition doing? Does your rider change his turn entries when under pressure? Choose any turn to watch this one.
3. Is he charging the turns, forcing him to keep his brakes still on at his entry point?
Charging is usually due to a frantic attempt at making up tim e and generally fouls up the entry speed (making it too slow). If the brakes are coming off easy and the bike goes into the corner with very little suspension movement, your man is doing well with his brakes and probably with his turn entry speed too.
4. In switchbacks or ess turns, is the rider getting in position early enough for the second turn or is he looking busy or frantic in getting set up for the next turn?
Watch his turn-in points in the esses as well to see if they vary. Mid-Ohio is switchback paradise.
5. Where exactly is your man getting back on the gas in the corner?
Does he have an early-into-the-gas style with a clean consistent roll on? Or, is he late on the gas or holding the throttle for a while and then blasting it out of the turns? (Guess which is usually better and easier on the tires). Observe this in any turn.
6. How stable is the bike going through the turn?
Too much suspension movement mid-corner means that either the rider isn’t adept at setting up his suspension or he is overworking it with poor riding and limiting his speed and traction.
7. In switchbacks, is he getting into the power too hard in the first turn to make a clean line for the next one in the series?
The really pro rider will carefully calculate his speed and acceleration out of the first turn to preserve his line for the next.
At first, everyone out there may look smooth and consistent in their riding but once you begin to classify each of the actions listed here, your pleasure as a spectator is greatly enhanced as you begin to notice small differences from one rider to the next. These details can determine who goes to the winner’s stand and who does not; but sometimes they are just rider preference.
One rider may like to get into the turns with the bike very loose, get the machine turned and go for hard acceleration coming off the corners. Other riders may try for a higher overall turn speed and less tire squirming at the exit.
If you are honest and you think about it, you’ll find these same situations apply to you. At the California Superbike School our crack team of coaches will be on hand to give you precise direction and get you focused on each of the technical skills you need to find and realize your own style: after all, each of us has one lurking in there somewhere.
The past thirty years of training riders has brought me to the realization that the character of any street rider should be similar to that of the racer, especially when it comes to accuracy and consistency in their approach to corners. The most obvious thing about motorcycles is that they all have the same six controls and from sport bikes to touring machines cornering is the key to all of the fun and occasionally all of the fear.
Come out to our special, semi private, 2-Day Camp in August at Mid-Ohio and we’ll take you a giant step beyond spectator.
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