The Champ School instructors are “out in it,” surrounded by motorcycles and rider coaching. For a second week in a row, we peek into their world for the insights that will help all riders. This week, Chris Peris and AJ Ciampa share the problems and fixes they see while coaching, riding, and racing. The idea is simple: Form a plan to improve your 2019 riding based on what expert coaches see, dissect, and discuss. At the heart of their coaching is a single goal: pinpoint consistency at whatever speed you choose.
Chris is the current and four-time WERA Heavyweight Endurance National Champion (with teammate Ben Walters, see last week’s “Expert Eyes”). He is an AMA 600 Supersport winner and 1000 SuperStock podium finisher, and three years ago he got his streetbike license. He is a Champions School owner and chief instructor, coaching at all CRS programs and doing Champ School private coaching at his home track of Inde Motorsports Ranch.
As an instructor there are three major issues that I see, each having several intricacies within them.
Chris Peris at speed on the Erion Honda CBR600RR, AMA national winners.
1) Improper braking technique. The brakes are single-handedly the most important control on the bike. This is where all of our fine-tuning and precision comes from. Some of the issues I see come from:
Not covering the front brake. I see too many students riding through the pits without their fingers covering the brake lever. This makes their reaction time slower and causes them to get grabby when they do need to slow the bike. This gets exponentially worse as speed increases—it’s a killer on the street.
Being too quick on the first 5 percent and last 5 percent of braking. Understand that there is definitely a timing to braking. When we don’t respect these two applications, initial and final, we shock the bike. The fork dives too quickly or rebounds too fast, upsetting the chassis balance.
Chris coaching a super-cute student… Okay, it’s Nick’s wife Judy. A big part of YCRS is midcorner stops, seen here. This is a game changer.
Off brakes at turn-in. This hurts us in two ways—literally! One: Once you give up on your brakes, you give up on the ability to adjust to the radius of the corner or to the hazard in your lane. Cornering radius is directly related to speed and you have let go of your speed-setter too early. Two: When you let go of the brakes, you give up on the bike’s steering geometry. The bike is designed to turn in with weight on the front tire so when we give up on the brakes, the fork extends and the bike runs wider. We can get away with this if the corner is opening up, but when the radius tightens, this forces us across the yellow line or off the track.
2) Eyes not scanning. When we don’t scan our eyes back and forth between where we are and where we want to go, it makes it extremely difficult to adjust. Our eyes need to tell our hands what to do. If this doesn’t happen, we will always struggle to have the bike where we want. When riders aren’t scanning their eyes we usually see:
Bike is off line. I would say at your typical trackday less than 10 percent of the riders have the bike in the right place for a whole lap. The riders who aren’t scanning their eyes look lost, see things late, and are riding solely by repetition. They have no adjustability in their riding to place the bike where they want and they become unpredictable.
Missing apexes. On corner entries we are really trying to tie our eyes to our brake levers. When our eyes aren’t scanning to the apex soon enough and back to where we are, we struggle to make the fine adjustments to our braking, making it difficult to get the bike down to the apex.
Chris discussing lean angle versus brake pressure.
Not opening the radius on exits, or starting to accelerate before the bike is pointed. Before we arrive at the apex, we need to already be scanning our eyes to the exit to see if the road is opening up or if we need to continue to slow the motorcycle. If we accelerate before the bike has direction, the radius opens up too soon and that could force you across the centerline or off the track, or it could force you to hold lean angle just to stay on the asphalt. When we see the exit too late, the downside is that we have held lean angle for too long—lean angle is risk!
Abrupt inputs on the controls. When we don’t see things soon enough, we react too quickly and abruptly. The earlier we put things into our vision the more time we have to make a decision and the more likely our inputs will be smooth. I would say this is the number one issue for riders over-slowing corner entries.
3) Twisted up on the motorcycle forcing weight on the inside hand. We want to think about getting our body weight to the inside of the centerline of the motorcycle. When we see students get twisted on the motorcycle it hurts a few things:
They see things late. When your lower body rotates around the fuel tank and your head stays in the center of the bike it becomes very difficult to see through the corner and is hard on your neck. Think about rotating your upper body into the corner to open up your vision.
Abrupt on the controls. When we are twisted up on the motorcycle the load path for the weight is down into our hands and handlebars. When we have weight on our hands, it’s hard to remain smooth and utilize the dexterity of our fingers on the brake and throttle.
Weight on steering head instead of footpeg. When we initially have weight on the inside handlebar it helps add lean angle to the motorcycle, but if that weight never comes off the handlebar, the steering head of the motorcycle never rotates into the corner, this makes the bike harder to steer. We load our hands and arms under braking but as the bike turns into the corner the weight needs to come off of them.
Entering a corner on the racetrack in the middle of the seat. It’s pretty hard to get rotated around the fuel tank if your butt is off the seat before you approach the corner. If you get your body in position before you approach the corner, you have one less thing to worry about and have more time to focus on your corner entry speed and grip.
Chris entering a left-hand corner on the Army of Darkness BMW. His butt was placed on the left side of the seat before he initiated brakes.
AJ is an expert roadracer and competes on his Ducati 848 in AHRMA while club racing on an R6 and R3; he street rides on a variety of bikes. AJ coaches for YCRS in our ChampSchool and ChampStreet programs and is an N2 trackdays lead instructor.
Here’s what jumps out at me from my trackdays, YCRS/N2 coaching, and AHRMA racing:
1) Passing. All too often I see passing not just outside the rules of the group, but with a lack of understanding of where, when, and how to safely pass a rider. Poor judgment and impatience are the biggest factors here. We get plenty of riders asking about technique and how to go faster; rarely do you get a rider asking how to judge where and when to pass.
At YCRS we stress making passes when you are parallel with or going away from the slower rider’s line. That means inside before they turn in or outside before they apex and begin to stand the bike up. Saying “inside only” or “outside only” isn’t clear enough.
AJ with his AHRMA racer, a Ducati 848.
2) The emotionally driven rider. These are riders focused on the wrong aspect of the sport; they want to catch the rider in front of them, beat their friend’s lap time, or have similar emotionally driven goals. When we shift their focus to the techniques of riding well, everything else falls into place.
AJ shows a student a vital move: Roll off to the brake lever. Don’t close the throttle and reach to the lever; close the throttle with your fingers outstretched so they contact the lever as the throttle closes.
3) Brakes, brakes, brakes, brakes! Regardless of the level of rider, brakes are usually something that always need to be addressed. I couldn’t tell you the last time I worked with a rider where braking was not a focus. An understanding of slow point becomes a huge eye-opener. Here’s a great link on the subject.
4) Goals versus outcomes. I often see a lack of understanding of the difference between a goal (hitting every apex) versus an outcome (personal best lap time). These are riders who are focused on going fast or getting to a certain lap time but will ride an entire session and never hit an apex. Identify a goal, form a plan, then execute! The outcome will be the result of a well-executed plan.
5) Humility. Probably not one a lot of people like to hear. This is an aggressive sport with a lot of type A personalities. We have to remain humble as much as possible by putting ourselves in check to realize that we can always be improving and that we don’t know everything. Riders become champions because they understand this. They improve because of this. They have fewer crashes because of this.
AJ on his Yamaha R6 at Barber Motorsports Park during an N2 weekend.