It isn’t only year-round riders who have to cope with adverse weather...
When it gets wet and windy, the same riding principles apply
Riding in the rain, often accompanied by wind, is a huge topic. Learning correct universal technique helps you to overcome fears of riding in the wet. The same basics apply. First off, approach your cornering with some caution, adding small amounts of speed and lean angle to get the feel of the grip. We can say be relaxed, but the most important factor is to not react to small slides and movements of the bike; firmly establish that you will let the bike do the work, and understand that it will always try to stabilize itself with no assistance from the rider.
This translates to several positive actions you can take. 1) No abrupt throttle changes. 2) A maximum of about 10 per cent pressure on the bars. 3) Your torso as limp as you can possibly make it. This lowers your sails and allows you to flow with the bike. 4) Stay centered on the bike where you will be positioned to have the least bad effect on small slides. Gripping the tank with your knees connects you to its centre. 5) Remember to breath, it can help remind you to not overreact and remain relaxed.
One of the biggest problems with riding in the wind is that we find ourselves doing the opposite of what we should. As the bike is blown in one direction you must add some lean angle just to go in a straight line. Because you’re attached to the front of the bike through the bars, with the rest of your body linked to the rear of the bike through the seat and footpegs, as the wind blows the effect on your body is like the wind in a sail and this is transmitted directly to the bike making you and it feel decidedly unstable and unpredictable.
Our instinctual reaction is to stiffen up the torso and hold on tighter to the bars; naturally, the sail effect becomes even greater and more of the wind buffeting is transferred through you to the handlebars and bike. It’s not just a case of saying to ‘relax’ because that’s impossible, you must apply some counter-steering pressure to the bars to compensate for it being blown off line – the question is how much pressure, and that is the crux of the matter.
As counter intuitive as it feels, when you’re feeling under pressure that’s when you need to go as limp as possible, get as low on the bike as possible, to minimize the sail effect and stay as centered on it as possible. Ultimately, your bike wants to go where you’ve pointed it and can with just the right, light touch to correct but no more.
GREEN AND BLACK
Q I watch all the racers on TV and it seems as if they hug the outside white line whenever they’re not deep into a corner. To be frank, this scares the shit out of me when I’ve tried it – I just think that I’m going to stray onto the grass. How crucial is it that I use every last millimetre of track? Should I be kissing the white line on every exit and down every straight?
A Deputy Chief Riding Coach Andy ‘Spidey’ Peck Ah, the scary green stuff! Let me give you three options: ignore it, stay away from it or confront it. Can you ignore something that you’ve already logged as scary? No matter how hard you try, I guarantee you’ll have an amount of your attention on it, just in case the scary green bit decides to suddenly jump out at you! Your current plan is to stay away from it, but by how much? If you stay a nice safe 5-6 feet away from the scary green stuff then you are narrowing the width of your track by up to 10-12 feet in sections where you could go edge to edge. That means your line through those corners is going to be tighter than it could be and that allows for less speed or requires more lean angle than the person using all of the track. So how do you confront this fear? Go and explore it. Use sighting laps and warm up laps to ride to the edge of the track, make the most of riding at that lower speed to get near the white line, get on the kerbs if there are some, find out which ones are grippy and smooth and which ones are slippy or bumpy. Even those, once you have ridden on them, will feel less scary and allow you to go nearer to them in the future. Make sure that when you are riding near the edge of the track, you are looking in from that edge of the track and a fair bit further ahead than just in front of your front wheel! Go and explore!
SKIDS AND GIGGLES
Q I really want to learn how to back a bike in on track, mainly because it looks really cool when I’ve seen other riders do it! I guess because racers do it, there’s a good enough reason as they wouldn’t do it if it cost them time. So do I need to install a slipper clutch, or just loads of weight over the front when I’m braking and changing down?
A Riding Coach Richard ‘Badger’ Browne Backing it in is a result of several things; the rear wheel rotating at a slower speed than the front due to engine braking, hardly any weight on the back wheel and a small amount of steering input through the bars. It all sounds simple, but add to that the fact we’re approaching the corner with all the distractions this has to offer as well.
When riding, we only have so much attention to share on everything we have to do. How much attention would you give to the back of the bike when the rear wheel starts stepping out on the way into a corner? If your attention goes to the back wheel, some other part of your riding will suffer, your turn point, for example, which would be compromised and therefore the rest of the corner as well. As you can see this technique would require the rider to be very confident in all the other aspects of their cornering skills. This is something that could cause more problems than solve.
The majority of Moto GP and SBK riders don’t back it in, which would suggest it’s not the ideal way of approaching a turn. Even in supermoto racing it’s less extreme then it used to be. Although it looks cool, is it better to have the wheels in line and be able to hit your turn point, apex etc? This is what slipper clutches were developed for – to allow riders to do just this.