TL;DR you go where you look.
**Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I am a guy on the internet sharing his experience. The riding techniques discussed below are not something that I have mastered, but I did a good amount of gear testing to gain the small amount of understanding I have. I do not feel comfortable implementing any of the intentional sliding/skidding etc on my big bikes. I take this training so that I know how to act when sh|7 happens. If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t try it without experts on hand. We had full gear on 100 lbs bikes with 7 bhp on a closed course with 1 instructor for every 2 students. Please do not attempt any of the “more advanced” stuff because *I* wrote it here. There are finer points of these techniques which I will gloss over as “feel” because I cannot properly describe them. **
Well, I took a riding class over this last weekend. I decided to wear my new gear on the idea that if it is going to fail, I want to know about it when there are lower risks involved.
They say there is a 6 "gravitational event" per day quota for that class. I met it.
Day one started with threshold braking drills going from pavement to loose gravel, and tight circles/figure 8s. We then went down to the track once it had "Dried out" to start working on transitions, throttle control, and visual acuity. The main straight and bottom half of the "ribbon of shame" had about 6" of almost pudding consistency mud built up. Hubris is the downfall of all men, and so it was for me. Lap 2 heading from the straight up the hill starting the ribbon of shame (off chamber with a positive elevation change) I got too confident, then suddenly looked in the wrong place got scared and rolled off. When I rolled off, I overloaded the front driving it into the mud and a gear test was performed. My contact at sportbiketrackgear would have referred to this type of event as an agricultural experience.
I spent most of day one proving that "you go where your eyes go" and "twisting the throttle may not solve all problems, but it will quickly remove any doubt". The laps when I focused on staying loose on the bars, only really focusing on my references points, and twisting the loud handle appropriately I stayed on the bike. The laps when I did one or more of those things wrong... I tested my gear some more.
Due to track conditions, we could not do a few of the drills which are normally on day one. Right before lunch we headed up to the flat track for a modified version of the triangle drill. The first session out the orders were “Point the bike at that cone over there, go WFO in second gear as far as you think you can, use only the rear brake until lock up and use the sliding rear tire to get the bike leaned over more/faster while shifting vision to the next cone, on the next lap go a foot further. 1 brake input, 1 steering input, 1 throttle input NO COASTING! rinse and repeat.”. Next we did it the other direction. After that we started adding in the front brake with the goal of sliding both tires, staying light on the bars, using our cores to “push the braking forces below the steering stem”, then came the easy part… do all of that with one hand on the gas cap.
About 13:00 we took a break for lunch. I mostly quietly ate my sandwich while listening in awe as the racers told war stories with interjections from various instructors. Aaron did some instructing, feeding with a fire hose then distilling it down to a shot glass worth. “The biggest robber of performance is coasting”, “You are always making an input to the front or rear tire, do so purposefully” “Elbows up/Mr winkey on the tank” “You go where your eyes go” “Screwdriver hands” “1 time to apply the brakes, 1 time to apply a steering input, 1 time to apply the gas” and a few others were the chorus of the day.
First session out after lunch we had our first real crash. One of the racers tried to save a skid by putting his foot down in the mud and torqued his knee pretty bad.
By this time the track was mostly dry(ish) which actually offered a surprising amount of grip. We ran various circuits with lecture every few sessions, and individual feedback during the sessions. The instructors would provide feedback from the side of the track as we rode by. I heard a lot of “elbows up” “gas! gas! gas!” and “look that way!” I had one conversation of note. I was talking to one of the instructors about visual acuity, and I mentioned how surprised I was by how many situations that day had been so much easier/undramatic just by moving my eyes out to the furthest thing on my line and twisting the throttle. There was one section of the straight which never fully dried out all weekend, it was deeply rutted with silty loose stuff on one side and thick goopy congealed pudding on the other. I kept trying to “plot” my line through it, I was trying to think “I want to be there then the traction will be better over there then there…”, when I was trying to do this the best case was a really rough bucking ride. The front end would be bucking all over the place, and it was a bit unsettling. The times I looked at the ground… Gear testing… Conversely the laps when I just picked my brake point in the distance, twisted the throttle to the pin, and shouted obscenities at the bike the bucking felt less severe. The bike just went there. **forgive the new-ageieness of the following there were many references to pilot and bike and which one is on the line in space and time… it made sense when fully explained. Here it may just sound new-age stuff… sorry** He explained that he liked to think of it in terms of “I’m already at my brake point and thinking about my TIP when I am just exiting the last turn before the straight, it’s like in my head I’m there already and I’m just pulling the bike to me with the throttle.” and “you can’t over think it, this is just a bunch of straight lines with corners in between. Just point and squirt.” and “the rear tire is like a traction seeking missile, and the throttle is the guidance chip, as long as you keep it on it will find traction”. I don’t know that I explained it right, but the point is he said very few words, and made something click in my head.
Day two: I was not quite as spry as I had been on day one. My thighs ached. The parts that had been beat up from other “I like to go fast” gravitational events were more sore than usual. My body stiff as I snap crackled and popped my way towards the shower. I ate a hearty breakfast of apple pie and assorted gas station staples while rigorously abiding by the speed limit back to class ;-)
This was the day were things really started to click and I was “finding my rhythm” brake turn gas, brake turn gas, brake turn gas. I was starting to work with one of the instructors on finding the point where I could go from a progressive roll on to just pinning it after snapping the bike up, and using the extra throttle to widen my exit and get to the line. At my best I almost could not really tell when I stopped one and started the next, they were starting to blend together. It had dried up significantly and now much of what had been relatively sticky mud was fine silt, on hard packed clay.
We had three less trivial accidents, one guy high sided on the flat track, he was fine and kept riding. Another banged his knee, and I got to test my back protector when a classmate got me after a fall. The gentleman with the bunged knee was out for the day.
We talked a lot about line selection, and squaring off the corner.
Then came the WILD corner, this was another decreasing radius dynamic chamber/dynamic traction event. Basically come in Wide Initiate Late and Deep, committing to a late apex with lots of throttle and a long sight line. This was braking so hard that we were leaving rubber on the clay, both wheels locking or locked up sliding the bike going in and spinning the tires going out. It was absolute giggles time. Following the trend, once we started to get it down it was time to do it one hand on the gas tank.
On the back half of that circuit was the downhill chicane, which was silty and yet some how muddy, it was a great chance to work on transitions, and throttle control and body positions because it would punish you if you failed at any of the three.
Finally it was final exam time: not-a-jump you crest this meter tall berm then need to brake turn gas through a decreasing radius/off chamber/silty leading to muddy/there is no good line right hander then twist the loud handle towards Oak Tree. I didn’t actually wipe out on the final exam. Many did. I only had one time when I thought I would wipe out, but I focused on my next brake point and gave it a handful of throttle. Like magic I was pulled to my brake point.
The day wrapped up with a quick round-table review of the weekend, then some open play time.
well, that’s my story. I hope you liked it, if not please accept this cat video as my apology.