Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Riding a motorcycle the right (less wrong?) way - Part two

It's been nearly a month since our last installment and I'm actually preparing for another trip to the racetrack. We left off at the end of part one having identified a goal that would hopefully allow my brain to take in more information and maybe even be able to learn from it. Leading up to the trip I'd decided that I needed an easy way to evaluate my intensity level while riding. Joe suggested wiggling my elbows. At first blush this idea seems pretty ridiculous, but it turns out to be very effective. It's not possible to do this unless you're calm and loose.

I'd planned to ride Saturday and Sunday and was prepared to pay cash and ride Monday too. Another good, if somewhat crash prone, friend Aaron would be accompanying me for the weekend. For this particular trip, on Saturday the track was run clockwise which is opposite the normal direction. I'd only done a couple of lead-follow laps in this direction prior to this track day so the track was almost completely unfamiliar to me in that configuration, making it even easier to avoid falling into old habits. The lack of a well rehearsed line combined with several decreasing radius corners, forced me to keep a sane, safe pace that allowed me to remain calm. By the end of the day I was noticing that in addition to getting quicker, I was better able to process the visual information that the track was presenting to me. I was able to recognize earlier in each corner if my speed and/or line needed adjustment. As these adjustments were made I had spare brain cycles to alter the entry plan for the next lap and would more often than not remember it when I arrived at the corner again. Some of this can likely be attributed to the natural learning curve for what was effectively a new track, but it felt good regardless. By the end of the day it seemed that I'd made some progress and achieved the goal of remaining calm and loose.

Sunday saw the return of the familiar counter-clockwise track layout. It also brought the surprise arrival of Steve and Joe (yes that guy from part one). The goals remained the same, "stay calm, stay loose". Through the morning I was successful at remaining calm, I was noticing more and more 'stuff' as the day progressed. It felt completely natural to start associating these recognizable things with actions that I was taking on the bike, next thing I know, I'm developing a mental list of markers and associated actions (sounds kinda like Joe's mental checklist, doesn't it). As the day went on and I got more and more comfortable on the bike I started looking at other bikes again. I felt my focus moving away from staying calm and moving towards chase mode again. As soon as I recognized this, I decided that I needed a distraction. I proceded to act as if I had no brakes. This is a somewhat well known excercise that helps develop a better sense of speed, more trust in the front end, and ultimately leads to faster corner entry, higher mid corner speeds and earlier application of throttle on corner exit. By not using the brakes I had to go slower on the straights in order to enter corners at a speed that would also allow me to exit on the pavement, this took the chase right out of the equation while still giving my mind plenty of entertainment. I finished the day feeling good. I'd stayed calm for most of the day, was able to recognize and then correct myself when I wasn't, had a good time and best of all, I didn't test any of my equipment's crash worthiness.

It's back to the track this weekend where I hope to continue along the same path. I'm also feeling that with all this newfound calmness and spare brain cycles, maybe I can teach myself a new trick. The really fast guys use the front and rear brakes. I typically dare not touch the rear brake pedal, but why not give it a shot? If I'm staying calm and cautious the worst I'll do is learn something, right?

1 comment:

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