June 12, 2010 at 8:46 am #4036
Today was a good day. It started with another crash. I’d hired out a local racer who runs one of the track day schools for some one-on-one instruction. He was following me when my bike unexpectedly came out from under me in a totally relaxed corner (I was doing 35-40mph at the time). The bike (and the rider) were totally fine, so after a quick dust-off, my instructor told me I was outpacing my tires and gave me a pair of his racing slicks (take-offs from a previous race). The rest of the day was absurd.
Anyway, for those of you that saw my last track post, I was trying to get into the expert group. Pushing really hard, I was down in the low 1:40s. But at a track day you’re not supposed to be pushing hard. You’re supposed to be riding at 70-85% percent, learning and practicing, but not taking major risks or trying to set the track record. If I wasn’t pushing hard, my lap times would fall (rise?) to the high 1:40s, and that wouldn’t fly in an essentially all-racer group. After today, I’m able to consistently run between 1:37-1:39 laps without breaking a sweat. Getting a bit of one-on-one coaching (and race tires) is so valuable; the effects are dramatic and, in my case, immediate. I just needed somebody to show me how much faster I could go.
See that little “1”? That’s the expert group sticker. See those red fabric things on my tires? Those are tire warmers. Slicks take a long time to warm up, so you can save yourself a few warmup laps by nuking them ahead of time with tire warmers. I don’t have tire warmers. Until this morning I’d never used slicks, and therefore didn’t need them. Luckily, I was riding with a well-equipped guy who let me use his for the day, and boy, what a difference race tires make! Hauling 100mph through a big sweeper with the bike leaned way over can be scary, but these tires make you feel like there’s a rail on the track and you’re just hooked into it. It’s nuts.
Here’s the crazy thing: I can now keep up with a lot of the expert racers (this is “expert” race class, not track day group) that participate in WMRRA race events here at Pacific Raceways, yet I’m still super slow compared to the “fast” guys. The track record for the 600cc class is 1:25. That’s 14% faster! That’s an average speed of 95 mph instead of my 83-85 mph! It’s nuts! The fact that there’s that much more time to be gained on this track is really a testament to the skill and bravery (and sometimes stupidity) of the guys that do this for a living. Truly remarkable.June 12, 2010 at 5:18 pm #26997eonParticipant
Congratulations on making such big improvements, but even more so for the obvious fun you are having doing so. But it now you will need your own slicks + tire warmers. Hopefully these things are not too expensive.June 13, 2010 at 3:05 am #26999
The best way to get slicks is to buy take-offs from a smooth racer. The tires won’t be trashed and they’ll usually only be about $150 a set. Tire warmers aren’t actually necessary. They’re a convenience so you can go out and immediately have confidence in your tires. Otherwise you just need to take two laps easy in the corners so they can come up to temp. The difference between a cold slick and a hot one is absurd. At 160 degrees, a slick turns into soft, tacky gum that just glues itself to the road.
And yes, having tons of fun. Honestly, the way you’re riding in those videos, I think you’d have a blast trying it out for yourself. I have no doubt you’d prefer being on the open road for most of your miles, but testing yourself in a closed environment every now and then can be a lot of fun.June 13, 2010 at 5:07 am #27000eonParticipant
Well, I am taking the Advanced Street Skills class (from Puget Sound Safety) this Friday at Pacific Raceways. I’ll see if I can get into the 1:40s
I have no doubt if I had started riding when I was in my 20’s I would have gone to the track soon after. These days I have a wanderlust that has to be satisfied and taking country back roads is what appeals to me just now. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one day down the road I do head to the track just to see. There are so many different types of riding out there and I want to try them all (well, maybe apart from the pirate scene )June 17, 2010 at 1:57 am #27061owlieParticipant
Congratulations on making the expert group! That is fantastic.
Isn’t it incredible how much difference a few pointers can make once you already have a skill set?June 18, 2010 at 8:57 am #27070
What’s particularly amazing is that I don’t get faster by pushing, necessarily. It’s all about being smart, taking the right lines, keeping your vision open (i.e., looking WAY the hell down the track), and then taking baby steps. You can get dramatically faster without ever having an “oh sh$%” moment…or, well, at least without having a lot of them. I feel like I’m running the same relaxed pace I was when I was running 1:48s but I’m going over 10 seconds quicker. That’s a difference of 10 mph in average speed, and that should be enough to freak me out!
The same is true of the street. There’s no need to push yourself to go faster and faster on your favorite rides. That’s not how you become a better rider, and it’s not how you stay a living rider either. Lately I’ve been trying to learn how to cope with a sliding rear tire on asphalt. I’ve been taking my supermoto to a parking lot, leaning it farther and farther and opening the throttle more and more. I’ve also tried rudely ripping open the throttle at high lean angle. The truth is it’s very hard to get my tires to slip, and when they do, it’s only for a tiny second. I thought, especially with street tires and bumpy, dirty, and crack-filled pavement, that it’d be pretty easy to lose grip. This told me how much more grip I have than I thought, and within the same day’s ride I found it easier to commit to turns that would have scared me just an hour before.
A step at a time, using smarts instead of balls. That’s how you get better.June 21, 2010 at 6:01 am #27105megaspazParticipant
Learn how to brake effectively and the track dynamics of the track you’re on. That’ll help you push it without having oh shit moments.
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