The 11 things you can do to improve your riding, starting today.
This is how it’s done.
By Ken Hill
As both a motorcycle coach and former racer, one question I’m often asked is what I enjoy more—riding or teaching. The answer is both, equally. I love riding motorcycles. No other sport combines the same degree of physical, mental, and technical skills that are required to operate a motorcycle. While I love riding, teaching allows me to share this passion by facilitating pathways for other riders to reach their fullest potential. I don’t train “racers” or “street riders”—I simply teach people how to be better motorcycle riders. The correct techniques are the same for everyone, no matter what or where you ride. If you want to become a better rider, these 11 habits are the place to start…..read more
From Cycle World –
Cycle World Long Term Project ZX10 – ABS Wrap Up
Our lime-green ABS-equipped ZX-10R, a 2011 model, has performed superbly on the street and quite admirably on the track, thanks in part to a few affordable modifications.
We handed our bike over to Ken Hill, an instructor at the now-defunct Yamaha Champions Riding School as well as a private riding coach and part of fastersafer.com. Hill racked up thousands of trackday miles and applied a handful of mods that he felt offered solid performance gains while remaining within our self-imposed $1,500 spending cap.
A Lee’s Cycle Service’s stock ECU flash ($450; leescycle.com) with a revised map based on that ofKawasaki’s race kit ECU unlocked the engine’s hidden potential. This alone substantially boosted the engine’s output above 11,500 rpm and raised the stock 13,600-rpm rev limit to 14,100. Hill also installed a Muzzys Catless Slip-on exhaust with street-core packing ($489.95; muzzys.com) offering an 8-pound weight savings. The ECU/pipe combination produced 174.2 peak horsepower with as much as a 25-hp gain achieved across much of the upper 2,500 rpm of the rev range.
Hill enlisted Mike Canfield at MC Technologies to assist with the chassis. An AMA crew chief and suspension expert, Canfield felt the shock spring was too soft overall, particularly so in the initial part of suspension travel. He also found the stock damping’s shim stack setup to be too light, causing the valving to open early. Since our target budget didn’t allow for a Race Tech Gold Valve kit, Canfield worked with Race Tech’s Paul Thede to come up with a new valve stack for both compression and rebound that was much more aggressive; Canfield also cleaned up a few internal pieces and used Race Tech US-0 high-quality suspension fluid when putting it all back together. All told, the shock makeover, including a firmer spring, was kept at a very reasonable $375 since we R&R’d the shock ourselves.
SIMPLE MODS: Rizoma Proguard System ($133 with adaptor; rizoma.com) offers protection against inadvertent brake lever contact, can be installed on clutch side as well. GB Racing high-impact nylon protectors ($266.29; orientexpress.com) easily install over the clutch, alternator and starter covers.
We stiffened the front to match the rear, increasing preload and compression settings from stock, but that was all the ZX’s Big Piston Fork required. Although the ZX-10R comes equipped with an Öhlins steering damper featuring a clicker knob, in stock form, it offers no discernible range of adjustment. Canfield installed a replacement orifice available from Öhlins, a ($95) fix that enabled damping adjustability for improved stability at speed.
The result is summed up nicely by former Superbike World Champion Scott Russell, who rode the bike for two days at Thunderhill Park in Northern California. “Man, I like this ZX-10!” Russell exclaimed with his signature ears-wide grin. “I can’t believe how stock it is; it’s as good as some of the racebikes I’ve had.”
The Kawasaki ZX-10R in this form is certainly impressive, mixing big racetrack performance and excellent streetabilty and stock reliability. Aside from a few oil changes, brake pads at 6,850 miles, and countless trackday tires, our long-term Kawasaki ZX-10R has been drama-free, an incredible feat given all that we’ve asked of this bike.
|AVERAGE FUEL MILEAGE||36 mpg (street riding)|
|PRICE AS TESTED (2011)||$14,799|
|RELATED CONTENT||Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R ABS – Update #1|
|Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R ABS – Update #2|
|Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R ABS – Update #3|
|FROM THE LOGBOOK|
|Matthew Miles: Thanks to the recent rains, I’ve had several opportunities to play around with the different power and S-KTRC levels. With just a flick of a switch, the 10R adapts to situations that would have been pretty dodgy on Open-class sportbikes from just a few years ago. And the ABS? Seamless.|
|Mark Hoyer: This is, by far, the best ZX-10R I’ve ridden. I loved the chassis setup on the street, and the uncorked power gave the bike the sizzle it was missing. It was even better at a Chuckwalla Valley Raceway trackday. I had so much fun I rode it until I could barely walk. But I’d have to tone back that Muzzys “muffler.” Wow, is it loud!|
|Ken Hill: The drivetrain changes really work together. The motor pulls insanely strong, and the mapping proved to be spot-on. It revs out like it should. The modified shock completely changed the nature of the bike, giving it the feel of a well-set-up race bike. Canfield’s first try was right on.|
TV Moto Pilot for Tour of California
Learning lessons while serving as a motopilot for the 2015 Amgen Tour of California bicycle race.
A new riding experience on a bike I’ve never seen. And this was the weather 11 hours before the race.
I walked out of the hotel in South Lake Tahoe anxious to start my latest challenge, serving as a motopilot for the 2015 Women’s Amgen Tour of California bicycle stage race. It was 35 degrees and despite a forecast calling for clearing skies, the brisk temps and wet/slushy pavement had me wondering, “What did I get myself into?” I can ride a motorcycle. I teach others to ride for a living, I’ve raced extensively, and I’m still a test rider….so why was I nervous? Well, let’s take stock of where I was that chilly morning.
I arrived late the night before because the original plan to ride the bikes from the rental place in Sacramento to Tahoe went out the window because of a small issue: snow! It was snowing over the pass on Highway 50, so at the last minute I rented a trailer and towed the two rental bikes up, only to discover snow-chain controls over the summit of 50. No problem, I have 4-wheel drive. Did you know that even if you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle you will need chains if you’re pulling a trailer? Ummm, I didn’t. Say, doesn’t the race start in 11 hours?
The two rental bikes had at one point been someone’s pride and joy, but that obviously had been a long time ago. The 5-year-old Honda ST1300 and 7-year-old BMW GS1200 had both seen better days, but despite the careful neglect, both would work fine. I was assigned the GS, since Peter, the other motopilot and full-timer from the UK, pulled rank and grabbed the ST keys. No big deal; I can ride whatever. That said, I discovered during my pre ride “tech check” that I couldn’t flat-foot the GS. Did I mention there was wet pavement and slush on the ground that morning?
Headed out on my new best friend, the rental BMW R1200GS.
My partner for the next three days was Scott Ogle, a serious veteran of the moto-video world. My contacts at TV Motos International, the company I was working for, assured me Scott was the guy, one of the best and one of the first people in the US to start filming bicycle racing from a motorcycle as far back as 1977. I was assured he’d “let me know what to do.”
Scott was no bullshit and it was obvious he knew exactly what to do and what was going to happen over the next three days. My training began with Scott asking me, “You can ride right? I hear you can.” My training continued with Scott stating, “I could spend 30 minutes confusing you with some BS talk about all this stuff that’s going to happen. Here’s how this works: Up means speed up. Down means slow down. Hold means hold your speed. Either you get this or you don’t. Let’s go.” Training complete.
Challenge is a good thing, right?
Let’s back up to explain what I’d be doing. The Amgen Tour of California was hosting a special three-day Women’s Stage Race open to international competition. It was being held in South Lake Tahoe and is a very big deal in the cycling world. Since the men’s race was separate, a few additional motopilots were needed and my friend Gregg Bettonte (one of the co-owners of TV-Motos International, along with Phil Bryden, both fellow cyclists) knew of my motorcycle riding and contacted me.
I said yes immediately because I just had to do this gig. It was real world, and it was targeted directly at what I do. My only experience came from watching the big European stage races on TV, seeing the camera bikes ripping around with inches to spare right in the action and more importantly: complete lawlessness. Right up my alley. A challenge, indeed.
The start line was organized chaos with officials, team cars, highway patrol officers, and motopilots all trying to be in the same place at the same time.
Day 1: This consisted of a 75-mile race around Lake Tahoe; thankfully, I was on a motorized vehicle and not pedaling. The women’s race had about 85 riders from all over the world and the race organizers left nothing on the table; it was amazingly organized and orchestrated. At our internal briefing before we left the hotel, I raised a few eyebrows when others heard I had never done this before. Fortunately, Greg had said some good words and Scott, even though he had never ridden with me, said he would get me through it.
Having done thousands of two-up rides, I can always tell how it’s going to go by how the passenger gets on the bike. If the passenger gets on the bike and almost pulls you off the machine, or jumps on so hard that you almost fall over, that pretty much sums up how the ride will go.
Scott tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Ready?” Ah, yes, a professional! (Little did he know I was on my tiptoes using every plank muscle I had available to hold us up!) Scott carefully got on and we pulled out of the wet parking lot for the short ride to the start finish area at the Heavenly ski resort.
Having not ridden a GS for quite a while—oh, wait, I’ve never ridden a GS—it took a mile or two to get used to the bike and its characteristics (very soft brake lever, huge clunk between first and second gear, clutch engages early, rear brake has a ton of pedal travel, front tire feels like it has too much air or is cupped). No sweat, I got this.
We rolled up to the start in the best fashion possible. “We’re TV,” Scott said. “We go where we want.” Oh, I like this. After checking in with the officials and nailing down our credentials, the start was coming up quickly. Our plan was to film the roll out and jump in at the back of the pack and then mix it up, going through the pack, covering breakaways, and the sprint points.
The pack rolled by for the start, and Scott quickly jumped on (after he asked if I was ready), and we literally pulled out into the thick of the follow cars—Highway Patrol, officials, VIPs, and team cars, along with the throng of other motorcycles carrying spare wheels and photographers. We had a communications system mounted in our helmets but it wasn’t great, so I really couldn’t hear what Scott was telling me. Perfect!
As we blasted our way through the sea of cars, (“Just leave the horn on the whole time!”) we got to the back of the pack. My first instruction: “Let’s get in there.” So, we did. Closely. My focus was equal to an AMA National, every movement, every sound, the slightest quiver, the slightest nuance, I was taking it all in and adjusting.
As the roads narrowed, we encountered steep uphills, steep downhills, the pack stringing out, the pack bunching up, officials honking to get by, other motorcycles with photographers, police, VIPs, all wanting the same spot as us, at the same time. At this point it was still early, only 45 minutes into a 3-hour race and I was still pretty tentative, still figuring things out.
And then I made my first mistake.
Day 3: By this point, having Scott stand up and look for “the shot” is easy, even on the tight circuit race course.
We were on the left side of the road, at the back of the pack, with riders within a foot of us on the right. When I say left side of the road, I mean the left edge. There was maybe six inches of pavement to my left. This also happened to be the exact moment Scott decided to stand up for the first time, and precisely when the pack of riders drifted even more to the left. This was not going well.
The bike veered hard to the left because when Scott stood, he weighted the left peg first. And I couldn’t counteract to the right because there was a pack of 80 women riders there! I had one safe place to go—off the road and into the dirt.
At first I thought no big deal; I’d just hop back on the road as soon as the lip is small enough. But then I saw the puddle. Looming 50 feet ahead was a huge puddle from the previous snow. We were going in, and we had no choice. I shouted, “puddle, puddle, puddle” and attempted to slow down as much as I could before impact, remembering Scott was still standing. The impact and splash were minimal, although I’m sure the gesture from the German rider who took on a bit of water means the same thing in her native tongue as it does in English. Ugh. Freddie Spencer had a great way of handling matters like this. Freddie would ask, “Do you know what you did wrong? Could you not do that again, please?” Loud and clear, Freddie.
The rest of Day 1 was more of the same except for a few memorable experiences. When Scott told me to get ahead for a roll-by shot, we needed to jump ahead of the circus by five minutes to find a suitable place to shoot. Is there anything better than having your own personal closed road with CHP officers waving you by as you blow through the speed limit like it’s nothing? Pure. Heaven.
The finishing climb for Day 1 was brutal, with the last two kilometers almost all climbing, including a merciless 20-percent pitch that was sure to decide the race. Here’s where the other memorable experience happened. Every tool in my toolbox was about to get used. Imagine having someone on the back of your motorcycle crawling all around to get the best shot he can, someone screaming in your ear, “Up, Down, Hold!” while trying to balance and maintain a speed of 5 or 6 mph on a bike not designed to do so (hint—barely slip the clutch with steady throttle while modulating the rear brake). All the while, the fans are screaming and you are beeping the horn, dodging other motorcycles and the cyclists. Challenges.
At the end of Day 1, I read my scorecard. I didn’t get yelled at by Scott, and the officials didn’t single me out for anything. Whew, that was a steep learning curve, and the three-hour race felt like it took 15 minutes. My two biggest personal takeaways were how long I had to be focused and how subtle my motor controls needed to be. I’d like to think my throttle, brake, and steering inputs are decent, but they weren’t quite where I wanted them.
Day 2: This day featured a 50-mile race consisting of two laps around a circuit of the South Lake Tahoe area. The weather had blown out and we were treated to some chilly but epic skies. The race featured a little bit of everything: Big, wide-open roads, steep climbs, long descents, and tight residential areas. By the end of Day 1, I was starting to get the hang of it and my plan for Day 2 was to be more proactive and even more subtle with the controls. We started out filming at the front, where I learned how to read the field even better. Just like everything else in human nature, the path of least resistance is where the pack will go. At the front, it’s easier to be proactive and get where we needed to be at the right time.
This day also had a few extremes. Remember the crazy finish climb from Day 1? We went down it this time, as speeds as high as 55 mph. The finish climb was also a bit steeper than Day 1’s, so my slow-race skills again came into play as speeds dropped to 5 or 6 mph at times. It was also interesting to negotiate the tight residential areas because the cyclists were quite fast in the corners and keeping the proper distance was not nearly as easy as I expected.
Day 2 ended well and I received a “Good job” from Scott, which I was told was ever so hard to earn. Day 2 takeaways were much the same as those from Day 1, and I began feeling that I was close to figuring it out.
On the racetrack or while being motopilot, the techniques Nick and I teach at the Yamaha Champions Riding School allowed me to be the adjustable rider I needed to be to carry me through this challenge.
Day 3: Stage 3 was held in downtown Sacramento, so I loaded “my” GS in the rented trailer and made the trip over the pass while Peter, the other motopilot from our group and new to the US, took the ST to enjoy the epic ride and weather.
Any type of motorcycle riding has one thing in common—lots of bench racing!
This last day was considered easy: a 35-mile circuit race run on a 2.5-mile loop around the State Capitol. Since the men were starting their race before the women and also finishing in the same place, it was a true circus with tons of people and all the support staff for both races there. Pre-race consisted of telling stories with the other motopilots while looking for free food and coffee. Hmm, just like a Sunday morning ride!
Our job today was to stay in the back and pick off “famous people” from side shots and catch any crashes or mechanical issues. From our perspective, the race was pretty boring: The tight circuit made it tough to get where we needed to be, and the only real action for us was watching overall race winner Trixi Worrack from Germany change a shoe mid-race.
I took on this challenge because I want to be a better rider and to experience riding from a totally different perspective. I got that in spades. Did I leartn anything new? Not really. What being a motopilot absolutely confirmed is this: The techniques I teach work regardless of bike or environment. As the pace comes up or grip level goes down, proper technique matters even more. Focus, motor controls, eyes, being able to take away lean angle, these were all there. While filming with Scott Ogle, I used the same techniques I do on the track, only with a different degree of application.
Ken’s pedaling history includes competing as a youth in national championship racing. The Sacramento native still competes on bicycles, and that passion is shared by his wife Kristen, son Sam, and daughter Kennedy.
Special thanks to TV Motos International, Arai Helmets, and Alpinestars for supporting this effort.
The Ken Hill Clinics
RRW Riding Series #1: Apexes Equal Horsepower
By Ken Hill
Driving off the final turn onto Thunderhill Park’s long front straight, I saw a rider I knew about 15 bike lengths ahead. The rider was the local 600 fast guy and I was on my freshly put together R6. My Yamaha, just built-up from a crashed bike, was basically stock, except for track bodywork, an aftermarket pipe and set of sticky tires. My drive out of 15 onto the front straight was good, the best one of the day so far. I nailed my slowest point of the corner, allowing me to get to full throttle sooner, which had me catching an extra gear up the long front straightaway.
About halfway through the lap, I was on my guy and looking for a way around him. He missed his apex in turn 9 and as soon as he did, I knew I had the pass into 10, outbraking him because of my better drive. As I finished the next lap and took the checkered flag, I took my arm off the bar to signal I was getting off the track and looked back to see he was 2-3 seconds behind me.
He followed me to my pit area, flipped up his face shield and asked, “Who built your motor? That thing is fast, you pulled me off every corner and this bike has my Superbike motor in it.” I explained it was pretty much stock: suspension, brake lines, motor, gearing, etc. He said, “Yeah right” and rode off.
We all want to believe it’s the bike. It has to be the bike, right? How many beginning track-day riders have thought: If I just had Josh Hayes’ bike...
But wait: what’s the single biggest variable on your bike? It’s YOU, the rider, the person telling the motorcycle what to do. Between the Yamaha Champions Riding School and my one-on-one coaching, I’m on the track well over 100 days a year and the biggest misconception I see is this: riders looking for that silver-bullet of set-up, or that one new part that surely will get the bike to finish the corner. With all the things we spend our time, money and energy on in this sport, we spend the least on the thing that makes the biggest difference, the rider.
I didn’t buy my first motorcycle until I was 30 years old. Since I didn’t have any dirt track or motocross background, or really any type of motorsports background to fall back on, I looked for technique and was surprised at how little information was out there. (Of course, that was before the Internet. Now everyone is an expert.) What I was able to learn was from trial and error and what words of wisdom the fast guys would tell you, if you were lucky enough to have them tell you the truth. “Yeah really, I brake at the 1 board”. So, it was pretty much sink or swim. Fortunately, I swam and I owe much of my early success to two things: Attending the Freddie Spencer Riding School and working as a fly-in mechanic for a top level AMA team. What did they have in common? They both did what the best in the world did.
Freddie’s technique was simple: ride like the World Champions ride. Why? Because it’s faster and safer. I became an instructor at the Freddie School and am now at the Yamaha Champions Riding School and those techniques…do what the best do…is what we teach. At the highest levels of motorcycle roadracing…MotoGP, WSBK, AMA…they do what they do for only one reason: they can go faster, longer. If there was a better way to ride, they would adopt it.
Ask any racer from any of those series what they would do for .4 of a second on a race weekend and they will tell you, “anything”. I’m not as fast as Stoner, nor will I ever be, but I can apply the same technique to my own personal degree. Why would you not?
So, what are some of the things the best in the world do? We’ll start my Ken Hill Clinic series with Apexes. What? Apexes? So simple, but by far the number-one issue I see at trackdays and club level racing is riders missing their apex by not being close enough to them, or having their trajectory completely off. Does Casey Stoner miss his apexes? Uhhh, not if he can help it. If he misses one, it’s a major mistake.
Let’s define an Apex. An Apex is simply the closest portion to the inside part of the track you come to. But more importantly and almost always overlooked, is there is an Exit Apex as well, the closest portion to the outside part of the track you come to. Which one is more important? The Exit Apex is more important for a multitude of reasons: Exits are what matter in this sport…there is no track I know of that has more time decelerating than accelerating, so we want to be in a position to be accelerating as much as we can. The Exit Apex determines where the corner’s Apex is, by making the line back from the Exit Apex to the corner’s Apex as straight as possible, taking in consideration the entry as well. Done correctly, you will be taking away lean angle as you go from the corner’s Apex to your Exit Apex as you add throttle.
What is the fastest way around any track? To hold the throttle wide open everywhere. We can’t do that, of course, because those darn corners get in the way, but the technique I’m teaching you is this: put the bike in a position to be at full throttle as much as you can. Most riders get our sport backwards by trying to make up all their time on the entry of a turn, when in fact, the fastest lap is the opposite. Exit’s last longer. Sure, there are corners where the entry lasts longer and we’ll break those down in another KHC, but if you can hit your apex, put your bike in the correct place so you can accelerate, you’ll be ahead of most people on your trackday or race day.
So you want to ride like a Champion? First thing you can do is hit your apexes…it can make a stock R6 faster than 600 Superbike.
The Ken Hill Clinics
RRW Series #2: It’s all about the Exit
By Ken Hill
Let’s not complicate things. What’s the fastest way around any track? Simple, hold the throttle wide open the whole time. Yes, corners complicate this plan, but my point is this: acceleration is what matters in this sport and acceleration comes from Exits. I don’t know of a single racetrack in the world, where time spent decelerating is greater than time spent accelerating.
How many times has a rider blasted past you on the entry, missed his apex (you remember those from last column, right?) and you easily go by them on the next straight? That rider has the sport backwards, trying to make up time in the area that lasted the least, where they were traveling the least feet per second. A good lap time comes from accelerating the longest, where you are traveling the most feet per second.
Exit turns, where the amount of time accelerating is greater than the amount of time decelerating, are most prevalent at tracks. Having worked with many champion riders, listening and watching World Champions, they are working on one main thing: getting to wide-open throttle as soon as they can.
As an Instructor at the Freddie Spencer School, I watched Nicky Hayden drive off turn 7 on the Inside Road Course at LVMS. He was working on getting the bike pointed, so he could be at wide-open throttle sooner. When I asked him about it after his session, Nicky said, “I’m trying to accelerate as early as I can and when I go to drive off the corner, I want the bike pointed so well, I never have to give up any throttle to my exit apex. “
With Exit turns, the goal is to get the bike slowed and pointed, so you can start your acceleration process as you go past the inside apex. As you drive off the turn, you should be able to add throttle points as you take away lean angle points, getting to your exit apex just as the bike is straight up and down. If a track has 10 turns and 7 of those turns are Exit turns, just getting those 7 turns correct will get you a pretty darn good lap time.
Why do we see all those cool pictures of Pro riders looking over trackmaps with their crew? I know with the Pro riders I coach, looking over a trackmap after nearly every session is critical for success. We may be talking about many things, but the first thing subject is, Are you taking advantage of every Exit corner? Why don’t you study a map of your local track and see where the Exit turns are? You’ll be surprised at how easy most of them are to spot and if you can get the bike slowed and pointed for them, the lap times will tumble.
How about another report card for your riding? When I’m on track, I’ll pick the Exit turns with the longest straights and get a tach-out point, an exact spot where I can look and see where my RPMS are on the Exit. I keep working on my Drive, trying to increase my Exit RPM every lap, while also bringing my entry point in deeper. When my Exit RPM drops, I know I have pushed my entry too far and sacrificed my exit.
What about those other 3 turns? We’ll cover Entry turns and Balanced turns in another segment; there is time to be gained there, but let’s make things simple and take advantage of what lasts longest first: Exits.
The Ken Hill Clinics
RRW Series #3 Entry and Balanced Corners
Dang, this guy was fast. I worked my way to within three bikes length of him from turns 4-11 at Laguna Seca and out 11, even with my better exit, his 1000 pulled my 750 by another three bike lengths onto the straight. I passed under the bridge and crested over blind turn one, scanning for Turn two and lining myself up to go in as straight as I can, to get my bike lengths back. He had a good line going in and suddenly, he came back to me at an alarming rate, going to his brakes way earlier, and harder than I would have ever imagined, based on how I saw him ride the previous lap. As I approached my turn in point, I went sailing by him, nailed my entry apex and used my brakes to the slowest part of the corner, getting the bike pointed to drive off the second apex of turn two. That was a free pass, Thank You.
Later in the pits, I talked to that rider and he said turn two at Laguna was his worst turn because, “his front end wasn’t set-up right”. He said he needed stiffer fork springs to brake like I was able to…What that rider needed, instead of approaching every corner the same, was to understand that there are corners where the Entry lasts longer than the Exit, where the time of deceleration, is great than the time accelerating, Entry corners.
Turn two at Laguna is an 180 degree turn and a perfect example at of where an Entry turn is. With 180 degree turns, they can be broken up into two different turns, an “A” and a “B”. The A will always have a great Entry, there is no Exit off of A, it simply sets you up for B, the exit portion of the turn. So, to take advantage of Entry turns, use your brakes, to or past the apex. Entry turns are the place to maximize your entry speed. The rider I so easily passed going into Turn two, approached every turn as an Exit turn and that worked well, except at Laguna, he left three turns on the table, turns two, seven and eight. I used my brakes, lighter and longer, carrying more speed in, to take advantage of Turn two’s Entry. I didn’t need stiffer fork springs for that.
Are 180 degree turns the only Entry turns? No. With our example track of Laguna, Turns seven and eight also have more of an Entry than Exit, so approach as an Entry turn.
Balanced corners,-where the Entry and Exit have the same amount of deceleration and acceleration zones-can be approached as either an Entry turn or as an Exit turn, depending on your situation. Want to set up a pass on the brakes, no problem-Entry turn. Want to pass on the drive out-Exit turn. Given the choice with a Balanced turn, approach it as an Exit turn, as it is safer and more repeatable.
Yep, we all want to go faster, whether it’s Trackdays, Club Racing or making that step up as a Pro rider. To do that, there must be a secret, a silver bullet of set-up. or be Pro Dirt Tracker at age 11….Nope, Watch MotoGP, WSBK or AMA, there are reasons why they are doing what they do. They need a fast lap time, but they need to be able to run that fast lap time consistently, not just a one-off flyer and that that all starts with their environment, taking advantage of each type of turn.
Next month, the slowest point of the corner.
Ken Hill Clinics
RRW Series # 4-The Slowest Part of the Corner
I needed one second. Actually, I needed more than one second as that would only get my laptime equaled to the fastest rider…and of course I wanted to be faster than that. I was nearing the end of my second day of two days at Mid-Ohio and time was running out. I was sure my drives were strong, I could feel the back squirming around as I tried to get to wide-open throttle sooner and sooner. I was satisfied with my braking, I was building strong brake force, enough to feel the bike starting to move around under me as I neared my maximum brake force. My lines felt good, I was hitting my entry and exit apexes and using the entire track when called for. I had two sessions left, where was I going to find that second!
The first thing I did was to get out my trusty track to see whether I was taking advantage of every exit and entry corner. Crud, I did. (You did read KH Clinics 1-3, right?) That precious second I was looking for was getting harder and harder to figure out. The next thing I did with my track map was to put a mark at where I was letting off the brakes and another mark where I was beginning my drive. In between those sections I looked to see how long I held neutral throttle, neither decelerating nor accelerating. In the shorter radius turns, there was very little or no neutral throttle, nothing really to be gained there….but looking at the longer radius turns, Turn 1, Turn 4 and Turn 13 I had a ton of neutral throttle…I just found my second.
What this sport all boils down to is – getting to and from the slowest part of the corner in the least amount of time. Let’s define what the slowest part of the corner is: The slowest part of the corner is the end of the deceleration zone and the beginning of the acceleration zone. The slowest part of the corner should also be where your direction change is complete. The goal is to make that slowest part of the corner as short as possible, optimizing your entry speed and optimizing your exit speed. Sure, there are corners where the radius of a corner is so long that the slowest part of the corner lasts a long time, (Road America Carousal, Infineon Carousel, Willow Springs Turn 2) but it’s the same goal, make the slowest part of the corner as short as possible.
Let’s take a step back and fit this into Exit and Entry corners. With Exit corners, the slowest point comes early, before the apex to take advantage of what the Exit corner offers, acceleration. With Entry corners, the slowest point comes relatively late, at or past the apex to maximize the entry. This is a great tool for understanding what control you should be using at what time. Exit corners, get it slowed and pointed early so the throttle can used to drive off the corner. Entry corners, maximize entry speed by carrying the brakes to or past the apex.
The slowest point of the corner is also where you should have maximum lean angle.
Now let’s fix my problem and find my second. Turn 1 at Mid-Ohio has a very long radius and is an Exit turn. I was getting off the brake too early, essentially setting my speed for the corner way before I needed to, my slowest point was too early. By using the brakes lighter and longer, closer to the real slowest point of the corner, I was able to make the transition from brake to drive throttle almost instantaneous, using zero neutral throttle. My time away from the slowest point stayed the same, but my time to the slowest point was reduced because I carried more speed in to it. This was almost half the time I needed, in one corner!
Once I figured out Turn 1, I used the same technique in Turns 4 and 13 and there was the rest of my laptime…and a little more. This all became even more apparent in turn 4-5, the Keyhole, I was never quite satisfied with my exit onto the back straight, it was good, but it wasn’t what I would consider to be great. By making my slowest point of the corner later and more defined, the bike had a better trajectory for the exit that allowed me to get to full throttle significantly sooner. A huge bonus since it leads onto the fastest part of the track. I was now faster in and faster out.
Next month-Putting it all together.
Ken Hill Clinics
I was riding a new CBR1000 for this very magazine testing all the new liter bikes at the Las Vegas Classic Road Course and entering Turn 6, I had the back end hacked sideways trying to keep up with Chris Ulrich. Every rider at that test, but me, had stood on an AMA podium and I was worried about being too slow, am I finally too old to be doing this? The only plan I had going my first session was to lose my mind trying to go fast, and it wasn’t working out.
Back in the pits getting ready for my second session it occurred to me, where was my plan? The first session I had zero idea of what I was going to be doing. For the second session I got focused and put my plan together, nail my exit corners. I did just that and went 1.5 seconds a lap faster with zero drama, it actually felt much slower because my plan allowed me to be proactive instead of reactive.
We’ve spent the last RRW clinics giving you a great foundation for your riding, so let’s put into place by executing it – having a plan for your riding. Here’s a typical session-by-session plan that applies everything we’ve gone over.
Session 1 Apexes: Whether you are racing or doing a trackday, hitting your apexes should be the very first thing you are trying to accomplish. Brake pressure, throttle pressure and body position are all about getting you to and from those apexes. Let’s also add a note here about bike set-up, if you can’t hit an apex how can you be consistent enough to even know if your set-up change works or not? When I ride for myself I won’t spend the whole session on apexes, more likely just the first or second lap or until I am satisfied with my bike placement, then I’ll move to the next thing I’m working on. Magazines aren’t going to want you as a test rider if you can’t hit the same few inches on the track lap after lap…
Session 2 Entry/Exit Corners: The second session should be focused on taking advantage of your environment and maximizing what each corner has to offer. This was my exact problem during my first session during the Open Bike Shootout, I was rushing the entry of the biggest exit corner and getting crushed on my drive out. Knowing that exits last longest, I made that my plan and my pace was up and drama was down.
Session 3 Slowest Point of the Corner: As the pace comes up, the seconds get harder to shave off. You can look for that crucial time by seeing where your slowest point of the corner is. Get that track map out and place a mark where you are letting off the brake vs. where you should be letting off the brake and where you are coasting. Adjust where you are using the controls and gain speed and control by having less coasting time.
Session 4 Eyes: Want to know the best-kept riding secret in the paddock..GET YOUR EYES SCANNING! Your eyes tell your brain not only what’s in front of you, but also at the rate of what’s in front of you. If your eyes are down or you are picking your eyes up slowly, it will be very hard to build consistency and speed. (Notice how the word consistency came before speed) Scanning involves continually looking forward to your entry point, your entry apex and to your exit apex and back again, allowing you to adjust brake pressure, turn in point and turn in rate. Another overlooked point is that the faster you go, the earlier your eyes have scan. If needed, look for reference points (that don’t move) further up the track than you think, aligning your entry and exit trajectory as straight as possible. Ex: Out of Turn 4 at Laguna, look for the bridge before turn 5, Out of Turn 2 at Sears Point, look for the corner worker station in Turn 3….
The other major benefit of having your eyes scanning is it slows your thought process down. If the information intake is coming at you slower, it makes it so much easier to process and is the key to getting your thought process ahead of your bike.
Notice how we are working on ONE thing at a time per session? If you try to get everything every lap every turn, I can almost guarantee frustration. I’ve worked with countless AMA riders that may be just bit off the pace and instead of trying to work on every corner, we’ll work first on the segment they are losing the most time in, then once that is cleared up, we’ll go for the next biggest one.
Now get your plan together and go ride!