Do you have space? Can you make it, use it, manipulate it? Yes, you can!
What looks like a lot of room, vanishes at over 100mph, like this third gear 110mph curve ...
You don’t have to be brave to go faster, you just need more space. Guess how wide a standard motorway lane is. It’s about 2.5 metres, which is around eight feet in old money. Compare that to Yas Marinas circuit in Abu Dhabi (one of our favourites) which is 12 metres wide – that’s wider than all three lanes of a motorway and the hard shoulder put together. Does that sound like a lot of space to play with? No wonder racers are so fast...
But hold on a minute. If they all have the same amount of space to play with on track, how come some racers are so much faster than others? Whether they realise it or not, the quick riders are the ones who are able to create space for themselves to work in. Cornering becomes easier the more space we have because it changes our perception of speed. Therefore, the amount of space we think we have determines how fast we can go. And that means the less space we think we have, the slower we go, because we perceive that we’re going faster than we actually are.
Many factors affect our perception of space and, therefore, speed and this topic is covered in Level Two at the California Superbike School. It’s a big subject and for many riders it involves correcting many years of bad habits, but here are the bare bones to get you thinking and mulling.
Space is rarely a problem when we are traveling upright and in a straight line (unless you’re filtering in heavy traffic). However, when we enter a corner we want to make sure we have enough space, so we look for the boundary, which is the outside of the corner. Then we keep an eye on it, to ensure we’re not running out of room, but this actually reduces the amount of perceived space we have. If you’re not careful you end up looking closer and closer to the bike until you’re looking just in front of the wheel and going so slow you could run faster!
So, is looking as far ahead as you can the answer? I’m afraid not. You can look too far ahead.
If you look too far ahead you run the risk of ‘losing’ your actual position in a turn and then your eyes will instantly drop down to a more natural focal point, which is normally too close to the bike. Once this happens you feel you rushed and panicky, because you seem to be running out of space.
If you want to take command of the available space in a corner then you need to break it down into manageable portions – turn point, apex and exit and then look at where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go, and definitely not too far in the distance.
Bear in mind that our perception of space becomes even more critical when we add the forces of braking, accelerating and leaning. Think about what happens when you brake really hard. Things seem to happen really quickly, even though you’re actually decelerating! That’s because you’re almost certainly focusing on the stopping point, which narrows your field of vision and reduces the amount of space you perceive. By rights we should be able to keep our space the same, but it’s not the case and those that have a better command of their space will ride with more confidence and more speed. Get yourself some decent training and you too could feel like you’ve far more space to play in. The FB lads found Level Two to be one of the most useful lessons, although all of them are useful, but many find vision the key to safer riding.
TURNING ON, TURNING...
Q I know I turn in too early for corners, both on the road and on track. It’s just one of those things that my body feels it wants to do. On track I know I need reference points, but how does that translate to roads that I’ve not been on before? Help!
A Reference points have the same value on a new stretch of road as they do on a track; they allow you to find out exactly where you are. On a road, using the markings and signs put there by the local council enables you to make assumptions about the road ahead. Employing good observational skills such as vanishing points, will also allow you to draw firm conclusions about what the bend ahead is doing – tightening up, remaining constant or opening onto a straight. You’re not alone in turning ‘too early’ as this is one of the most common rider errors. CSS Level 1&2 can help!
Riding Coach, David Cook
THE WET STUFF
Q Should I be changing my suspension in the wet on track. I’ve heard a few stories that you should to get a bit more feel, but I’m not sure whether I should be listening to these people.
A It’s often difficult to separate well meaning advice from real solutions to riding problems, but it’s true that a bike’s suspension can be optimised to suit the prevailing conditions. Before that though, I would put my attention on getting the best from the bike (no matter what the suspension settings are) by ensuring good throttle control, which is why we devote an entire session just that at CSS.
Riding Coach, David Cook