Last week our advice came from a pair of new-rider instructors; this week we go all-track with Bill Sink and Scott Rybarik. In each of these series, pro instructors have written about the issues they see most with the goal of coaching us to a terrific 2019 riding season and beyond.
Bill is an owner of EvolveGT trackdays, an expert roadracer, and a senior YCRS instructor at all our programs, including the military advanced training days. Bill’s understanding of the sport is a huge help to his students, and his on-track speed and consistency are legendary.
If you’ve been a student at the Yamaha Champions Riding School (YCRS), you are familiar with the phrase, “reasons why we crash a motorcycle.” We discuss the reasons riders crash and frequently repeat them throughout the entire school.
Frustration. For trackday riders, I have another familiar reason for crashing that must be addressed because I see it too often: frustration.
Trackday riders know the benefits of riding your motorcycle on a closed course without the added distractions of the street. However, during our on-track sessions, we’ll occasionally find ourselves in the middle of a large group and sometimes are not 100-percent comfortable with the riders we are riding with. This is one place where frustration starts.
And repeat. Next session, you find yourself lined up on the grid next to same riders you were bunched up with and start anticipating the same issues. A little more frustration. You go out for your session and have the same experience you did last session. Even more frustration.
A bad move. It feels like riders are all over the place and not riding predictably, or they are riding with abruptness and completely parking it in the corners. So, out of frustration, you make a move. Abandoning your usual decision-making process, you decide to take a risk. And often you will find yourself off the track or, worse, on your butt and coming back to the pits on the crash truck. We’ve all seen it happen or experienced it ourselves.
The fix. When frustration is the reason for an off-track excursion or crash, it’s 100-percent avoidable. And the fix is simple.
I’ve noticed at trackdays no matter how much we spread the group out in the beginning of the session, riders tend to bunch up in just a few areas, leaving huge sections of open track. The next time you find yourself in that situation and your frustration rising, get a hand up, pit in, wait on hot pit for the track marshal to find you a clear piece of track, and go back out. It takes less than a minute out of your session and the reward is you’re back out there, riding in one of those empty pockets.
Remember, it just takes a little change for a big fix. With a quick pit-in, you saved your day, saved yourself, and amped up your fun factor.
Scott is an expert roadracer, multiple class champion, and current president of the Utah Sport Bike Association that races at Utah Motorsports Campus, formerly named Miller Motorsports Park. His wife Sarah rides on the street and track, and Scott is the mechanic, pit crew, and food provider for his nine-year-old twin boys who race BMX, supermoto and motocross. Scott is a Senior YCRS instructor who teaches all our programs.
Failure to prepare… Here are a few things I see frequently, the first is a failure to prepare, and it comes in two categories.
…For an event. I see many riders doing basic maintenance at the track in the hours and minutes before the event starts. Things like changing oil in the bike, or checking to make sure enough brake pad is left to get them through the day. This kind of behavior sets the tone for the event as a whole. When we start on the back foot it’s really hard to catch up.
This mindset leads to hurried work, rushed thoughts, and missed steps. I’ve seen riders rush to prepare their bikes and then forget to remove the tire warmers before they take the bike off the stand. I’ve seen them forget to put on their gloves or clean the visor on their helmet. When you go into an event with all your time already allocated, there is no space left for that “something” that always seems to happen; you’re already at capacity.
Prepare for each event well in advance; have a checklist for the things you need to pack and bring to the track (I’ve included my checklist below to help you get started). Get that routine maintenance done immediately after your last event so that you’re fully ready for the next one and not scrambling for a set of brake pads at the track. This brings presence of mind and focus to the day of the event. You can concentrate on your riding instead of being rushed, distracted, and worried about what you forgot.
…For a corner. When I’m observing riders early in one of our schools or in practice or a race, I often see them leaving a lot of activity until just before the corner. There are a number of things that we can do to prepare for the corner well before we arrive. Most importantly, we can move our butt off the seat in the direction that we’re going to turn very early in the process. At YCRS we state it very clearly, “Your butt should be in place before your brake.”
We can actively work on scanning our eyes ahead and back, assessing where we are on track. Also, we can catch a couple of deep, restorative breaths before we exert ourselves in braking. For most corners we have to perform a variety of tasks, things like body position, braking, downshifting, initiating the turn, correcting line, and maybe even executing a pass. Getting the timing right and moving tasks out of the last 100 feet reduces workload in that critical space and frees resources to react to something unexpected.
Abruptness. This is something other instructors have mentioned in this series, but I’m going to say it in a slightly different way because it’s a big deal. This concept is simple, and to emphasize the point I’m going to use the words of my son, Aaron, from when he was 5 years old.
I had a private coaching job one day at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Colorado and was away from home for the whole day. My student was a novice looking to improve. She was going plenty fast but was inconsistent in finishes and lap times, so was seeking to get better. For these private sessions I was using the camera a lot in lead-follow exercises.
When I got home, Aaron asked what I had been doing all day. Instead of telling him, I showed him some of the videos I’d taken. We were watching as this student was really giving it all she had. Throwing the bike into the corner, jamming on the brakes, and accelerating abruptly away. She was working really hard—and it looked like it.
After watching a couple of laps Aaron just looked at me and said, “Dad, she shouldn’t surprise the motorcycle like that.” Enough said.Want more news like this?
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Smooth inputs are not easy to master, but this is something that can become a part of your daily life and your plan to be a better rider in 2019. At YCRS we say, “Quit crashing your coffee.” This is aimed at smoothing out daily movements. Inputs in the car are just like inputs on the motorcycle. Practice being smooth in each thing you do in the car and it will quickly transfer to what you’re doing on the motorcycle.
The last thing I see far too often: Riders forgetting that it’s supposed to be fun! I’m fortunate beyond belief. I get to ride motorcycles for fun. I have a family that also loves motorcycles and I even get to help make other people better riders along with the amazing group of people I get to work with at YCRS. I’m never going to get paid to race motorcycles professionally, but I have the opportunity to get paid every time I swing my leg over the bike. My paycheck is a grin that goes ear to ear, a worn-out set of tires, and a lifetime of stories to tell.
Far too often I see people struggling, not having fun, or simply taking this whole thing too seriously. Remember: It’s supposed to be fun, and if it’s not, then figure out why and fix it.
Scott Rybarik’s Weekend Checklist for Track Day Or Race Events
|RACE WEEKEND CHECKLIST
|KEYS (toolbox / moto)
|TIRE PRESSURE GAUGE