How to launch/race start a motorcycle - ZX6R Forum
 24Likes
Reply
 
LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
post #1 of 34 Old 09-16-2014, 06:38 AM Thread Starter
MotoGP Champion
 
PainfullySlo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Connecticut
Posts: 4,266

I Ride: 64 Ducati Monza, 99 Sprint ST, 04 TTR125, 04 Sportster, 09 GSXR600, 12 Street Triple, 13 ZX6R
Garage
How to launch/race start a motorcycle

Someone posted a thread recently about going to a drag strip and it mentioned that they had no idea how to properly "launch" a motorcycle which reminded me of this post that I made on another forum a few years ago. This was back in my lightweight SV650 days but it still is relevant on any bike. Hopefully some folks find this useful.

Some recent threads brought it to my attention that there really isn't much info available on how to do a decent race start. Couple this with the fact that the Penguin school doesn't even mention the topic during your race training and it is a recipe for disappointment.

Let me preface this by stating that I am by no means the best starter out there. I am consistently decent if not good and I am always going into the first turn ahead of my grid position.

This is a start from the last place grid position:
RaceStart1 - YouTube

Up until now the only way one could learn these things is by word of mouth and LOTS of practice. Sadly the new guys won’t have either for some time so it is with this in mind that I am writing this guide.

The start of a race can very often determine the outcome; especially so in the extremely short 8 lap sprint races that most of us do in club racing. It is absolutely critical that you master this if you intend on doing well during your career as a racer.

To begin we need to look at your ride. For the newcomer, twins generally have an easier time starting when compared to inline 4s. This is due to two factors: More torque and a power band that comes at the lower end of the rev range. Keep this in mind while learning to launch and above all do not get discouraged. This is a practiced skill that requires very fine control.

A good start is a precise balance between clutch and throttle control while adding body position and mental condition into the mix.

Step 1

RELAX. No, seriously. Focus on breathing. I know you are going to think I am lame but try to get into a calm, Zen-like state. I keep hearing horror stories of people that are vomiting in their helmets due to nerves. Be calm, be smooth, be in control. This is just another patch of asphalt in front of you, the same as you have been riding for quite some time.

If you are hopped up like a gerbil on a three day coke bender you are going to botch your start AND be drained from the attempt. I see it all the time; the nervous types never launch well.

Breathing exercises really help to find some inner calm during what can be a nerve-wracking time. Focus on taking deep breaths in through the nose, out through the mouth. By the way, racing is all about stress management. You need to master your own stress/panic in order to do well and this is the first step. RELAX. Oh, and RELAX in case you didn’t get it earlier. This isn’t a big deal! RELAX!

Step 2

Body position. Wait, what? I am just sitting on the bike, right? Very, very wrong. You want your weight as far forward as possible. The more weight forward, the more throttle you can give it before the front end comes up, the more power you get to the ground, the faster your start.

I climb as far forward on my gas tank as possible while keeping my head as low as possible. It is an awkward, uncomfortable position but thankfully you aren’t in it for long. This is where having strong core muscle strength will help you a lot.

Some people start with two feet on the ground, I start with one and with the other on my shifter. I find that it is easier for me this way so try both and see what suits you best. Personally I find that my attention is devoted elsewhere and I ride a twin with a 10.5k rpm hard limit which comes up really fast in first gear. This is where the screaming redlines of the I4s will have an advantage in that you will have more time to get your feet situated before you are required to shift.

The rule of thumb here is to do whatever is most comfortable for you so long as you can get your foot in place for shifting before you exit your power band. Refer back to Step 1 and don’t forget to relax and breathe.

Step 3

Drop your visor! From here on out your hands will be on the controls so you need to get your visor down and locked into place.

Step 4
The grab point. This is where the real work starts. The idea behind starting is that you should bring the RPMs up about 2k into the power band of your bike. During the entire start process you don’t want your RPMs to ever drop out of where your power is so we give ourselves a 2k RPM “cushion” to float within.

For me on an SV650 I try to start around 7k RPM as the power really starts around 5k on my bike. If you don’t know where yours is, get your bike to a dyno. This is invaluable info to know. Until that time try asking people with similar bikes what revs they start at. Most people will be happy to share a little knowledge with a newcomer.

We obviously don’t want to sit at high RPMs spinning away forever so this is where you have to look to your starting station. Some places use lights (think MotoGP) however at my home track of Loudon, NH we have a boardman and a flagger. The boardman has numbered placards that count down from 3 to 1. Depending on how quickly you can find your “sweet spot” of revs you will want to start this step at around the 2 board.

Clutch in, put it in first gear. If you ride multiple bikes now is the time to remind yourself whether or not you are running GP shift…ask me how I know

Bring your RPMs up to that sweet spot 2k rpm past where your power starts and hold it there. 7k for me!

Slowly let your clutch out until it feels like the bike wants to begin to move forward and then pull your clutch in the tiniest bit. You want to sit right at the “grab point” of your clutch. Eventually this will be second nature to you but in the beginning if you need to use your brakes to keep the bike from rolling forward while you find the grab point, do so. Just don’t forget to release the brakes once you find the spot ;-)

Step 5
Finally, the start! Now it is time to watch the starter while you hold your bike right at the clutch grab point. For those with flags, the micro-second that the flag moves it is time to go. A tip: watch the flaggers shoulder as it will move first. For those with lights, typically it is the moment that the red lights go out.

It is easy to get tense here. Refer to Step 1: Breathe and RELAX!

OK! The flag has moved/lights have gone out, now what? Let your clutch out enough that the bike lurches forward but is still slipping. Because we are sitting right at the grab point for the clutch this is a very small movement.

Your RPMs will start to drop and we counter this by adding more throttle. Practice this motion!! Clutch goes out, add more throttle. Clutch goes out, add more throttle. Do it over and over again until you have this down as it is the very core of good launches. Your goal should be to keep your RPMs at your starting number but again we have a 2k rpm slush area to work within.

If you ride on the street you can practice this motion at traffic lights or stop signs at more reasonable RPMs. Focus only on keeping the RPMs steady as you slowly feed the clutch out/add more throttle.

So, let’s say I started at 7k RPM. I begin to let the clutch out and the revs start to drop. I add more throttle until I am back at 7k. Great! Now let more clutch out, and the RPMs drop again…and we counter by adding still more throttle. You continue to smoothly feed the clutch out while gradually adding more throttle until eventually the clutch is all the way out without ever allowing the RPMs to drop out of your power band. This is a balanced motion between clutch and throttle. Practice, practice, practice!

Sounds simple, right? It is harder than it seems. Bear in mind that this process can take less than a second on some bikes. You can see that on an I4 you will have to slip the clutch a lot longer simply because their power generally doesn’t start until the 12k-14k rpm range.

It truly is a learned skill and practice will help a ton here! Oh, and RELAX!

Troubleshooting

What do I do if the bike starts to wheelie?
Your clutch is the control you use at this point to keep the front end down. It is perfectly fine to have a low wheelie while you are starting but if at some point the front end starts to raise more than a few inches off of the ground simply ease the clutch in the tiniest bit while maintaining throttle. Your revs will start to climb and the front end will drop. Begin easing the clutch out again and pick up where you left off.

What if I stall?
Stalling is by far the most common starting error. Nerves cause the rider to let the clutch out too fast and the bike stalls. IMMEDIATELY signal so that those behind you have a chance to react. Once you are certain that the danger of a Suzuki enema is minimal, restart the bike and get going.

At this point don’t bother trying to do a formal race start as your nerves will probably be a wreck. Just get the bike going and get into the race.

What if I start before the signal/false start?
GO! You cannot “save” it or make it better somehow. At best you will be penalized a lap and it is far better to be down a lap from the front than it is to try to make up a lap from behind the pack.

Again, this is harder than it looks but with some practice and determination you can learn to start like a pro. Above all, be calm, be cool, and relax! It all starts with this!

RaceStart2.wmv - YouTube

This is just my own personal experience with race starts, feel free to comment or add feedback!


**2014 EDIT**

So, now that I am only riding I4 bikes I will add that my starting revs for the ZX6R is about 12K RPMs. This gives me a lot of rev range to work with as the '13 has a lot of torque to aid in starting.

Last edited by PainfullySlo; 09-16-2014 at 06:44 AM.
PainfullySlo is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #2 of 34 Old 09-16-2014, 06:52 AM
World Superbike Racer
 
exalted512's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: College Station, TX
Posts: 1,768
Nice write up! So my 09 makes peak HP around 14,500, so I should be launching at red line?

I usually launch around 12k-ish

dyno for reference:

-Cody
exalted512 is offline  
post #3 of 34 Old 09-16-2014, 07:17 AM Thread Starter
MotoGP Champion
 
PainfullySlo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Connecticut
Posts: 4,266

I Ride: 64 Ducati Monza, 99 Sprint ST, 04 TTR125, 04 Sportster, 09 GSXR600, 12 Street Triple, 13 ZX6R
Garage
Your peak torque is 12k, your peak power is 14.5. I would start around 13 and try not to let it dip below 12. You will end up hitting the limiter quickly so be prepared to grab 2nd and 3rd in rapid succession.

You will have to do a fair amount of clutch slippage until everything gets caught up.

There is a lot of feel to this, and it isnt an exact science. You may have to bang shifts so quickly due to starting so high that it may be worthwhile for you to start a little lower in your rev range.

How are your starts beginning at 12k?

Last edited by PainfullySlo; 09-16-2014 at 07:29 AM.
PainfullySlo is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #4 of 34 Old 09-16-2014, 07:28 AM
World Superbike Racer
 
exalted512's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: College Station, TX
Posts: 1,768
Sweet. I'll try that. My starts are generally pretty good...problem is since I hardly ever race, I always start from the back and end up having to slow down because of traffic
-Cody
exalted512 is offline  
post #5 of 34 Old 09-16-2014, 07:31 AM Thread Starter
MotoGP Champion
 
PainfullySlo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Connecticut
Posts: 4,266

I Ride: 64 Ducati Monza, 99 Sprint ST, 04 TTR125, 04 Sportster, 09 GSXR600, 12 Street Triple, 13 ZX6R
Garage
Quote:
Originally Posted by exalted512 View Post
Sweet. I'll try that. My starts are generally pretty good...problem is since I hardly ever race, I always start from the back and end up having to slow down because of traffic
-Cody
The outside line is your friend =)
TheEvilTwin likes this.
PainfullySlo is offline  
post #6 of 34 Old 09-16-2014, 07:39 AM
World Superbike Racer
 
exalted512's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: College Station, TX
Posts: 1,768
Quote:
Originally Posted by PainfullySlo View Post
The outside line is your friend =)
It is unless
A) You start on the inside and can't make it over
B) Everyone else thinks the same thing
C) It's wet (first 30 seconds of video):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SfmF6mB4oM

The camera is on a fork mount, so when the camera goes sideways despite the windscreen staying in place, that's because the front completely tucked and slid for about 12 feet...
-Cody
rainman37 and Vladius like this.
exalted512 is offline  
post #7 of 34 Old 09-16-2014, 07:43 AM
Squid
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Nepa
Posts: 34
Nice post.. Thanks
Tonkintom is offline  
post #8 of 34 Old 09-16-2014, 07:56 AM Thread Starter
MotoGP Champion
 
PainfullySlo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Connecticut
Posts: 4,266

I Ride: 64 Ducati Monza, 99 Sprint ST, 04 TTR125, 04 Sportster, 09 GSXR600, 12 Street Triple, 13 ZX6R
Garage
Quote:
Originally Posted by exalted512 View Post
It is unless
A) You start on the inside and can't make it over
B) Everyone else thinks the same thing
C) It's wet (first 30 seconds of video):

-Cody
Well, there are always extenuating circumstances. I dont know your race experience so forgive me if that came across as condescending, that was not my intent. Sometimes you get railroaded on the inside :/. I do *everything* that I can to fight my way to the outside.

And HOLY CRAP! You said "It's wet" and all I thought when I saw the start of the video was "there isnt a drop of water there...". Where the hell did that puddle come from? And on paint to boot. That was some scary stuff right there.
rainman37 likes this.
PainfullySlo is offline  
post #9 of 34 Old 09-16-2014, 07:56 AM
Team Green
 
GearHedgehog's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Fairfax, VA
Posts: 194

I Ride: 2013 Ninja 636 Black
I'll also add that as soon as you can get your feet off the ground; grip the tank with your legs and relax your upper body, especially your arms. The quicker you can support yourself with your legs, the quicker your shifting will be with relaxed arms.

I find my rhythm, I push, I push, and I win -Rossi

Bikes:
2013 ZX-6R with Akra TI full exhaust, -1/+2 sprockets, Power Commander
2004 GS500 (starter) SOLD
GearHedgehog is offline  
post #10 of 34 Old 09-16-2014, 08:13 AM
World Superbike Racer
 
exalted512's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: College Station, TX
Posts: 1,768
Quote:
Originally Posted by PainfullySlo View Post
Well, there are always extenuating circumstances. I dont know your race experience so forgive me if that came across as condescending, that was not my intent. Sometimes you get railroaded on the inside :/. I do *everything* that I can to fight my way to the outside.

And HOLY CRAP! You said "It's wet" and all I thought when I saw the start of the video was "there isnt a drop of water there...". Where the hell did that puddle come from? And on paint to boot. That was some scary stuff right there.
haha, no worries. I'm not easily offended. I agree though, I always try to get to the outside. For whatever reason, my last races I either couldn't make it over or the whole damn track would be blocked

That particular race, it had rained the night before, and that water had pooled there from it draining on the banked front straight. I never saw it on the warm up laps because I don't look right while turning left...lol. Definitely a pucker moment! I collected myself somewhat nicely, but was having a hard time getting around a zx10 on my zx6 and wasn't confident enough in the track (wonder why?) because it was still damp to really try and push the brakes...ended up finishing what I would consider mediocre. Started around 25th, finished 10th.
-Cody

Last edited by exalted512; 09-16-2014 at 08:15 AM.
exalted512 is offline  
post #11 of 34 Old 09-16-2014, 08:50 AM
Post Master General
 
Scorpi0's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: LA, Cali
Posts: 9,746

I Ride: 06 636
Good stuffs. Ive done my share of practicing taking off at stoplights
laggy311 likes this.
Scorpi0 is offline  
post #12 of 34 Old 09-16-2014, 08:54 AM
MotoGP Champion
 
SSGSXR ZX6R's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Pottstown, PA
Posts: 5,453

I Ride: 05' GSXR 1000 05' GSXR 600 04' ZX6RR
Great read/write for the rack track! +1

Only thoughts on it... Since you were basing this off the guys also trying to drag race. Food for thought, a drag strip is different launching then a road course.

Overall great though

A man without tattoos is invisible to the gods - Iban Proverb
SSGSXR ZX6R is offline  
post #13 of 34 Old 09-16-2014, 10:13 AM Thread Starter
MotoGP Champion
 
PainfullySlo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Connecticut
Posts: 4,266

I Ride: 64 Ducati Monza, 99 Sprint ST, 04 TTR125, 04 Sportster, 09 GSXR600, 12 Street Triple, 13 ZX6R
Garage
Quote:
Originally Posted by SSGSXR ZX6R View Post
Great read/write for the rack track! +1

Only thoughts on it... Since you were basing this off the guys also trying to drag race. Food for thought, a drag strip is different launching then a road course.

Overall great though
This is where I could use some education. I have only been to a drag strip a handful of times and I always started with the method I wrote. How does a dragstrip start differ from a racetrack start? I always assumed that they were the same since, as far as I know, this is the fastest way to get a motorcycle up to speed.
exalted512 and Tonkintom like this.
PainfullySlo is offline  
post #14 of 34 Old 09-16-2014, 01:15 PM
Guttermouth Ragdoll
Supporting Member
 
MistressOfMayhem's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: The 8th Ring
Posts: 8,209

I Ride: 04 ZX6-R, 07 R6 (Sold), 09 DRZ400S (Sold, but forever in my heart) 2015 XT250
Excellent writeup and thread. Moved and stickied.
ZIXXER636 and Tonkintom like this.

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds" - Albert Einstein

If you're a glutton for punishment, visit my blog: TheApexDream
MistressOfMayhem is offline  
post #15 of 34 Old 09-16-2014, 02:01 PM
MotoGP Champion
 
fulopchoy99's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 4,205

I Ride: 2011 ZX6R, 2007 GSX-R (Sold)
My head just exploded...
fulopchoy99 is offline  
Reply

  ZX6R Forum > ZX6R Forum > Racing

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page
Display Modes
Linear Mode Linear Mode



Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
wHY THE 190 MPH BMW S1000RR WOULD MAKE A TERRIFIC FIRST MOTORCYCLE ... .. . THUG Motorcycle Talk 38 10-08-2016 01:51 PM
Titanium fasteners NatBrown Mechanical and Technical 26 08-06-2014 12:00 PM
Aftermarket parts list for the 2007 zx6r Knotty Boy Motorcycle Talk 0 04-21-2014 06:04 PM
Another view - Couple getting it on riding on motorcycle trev0006 Motorcycle Talk 2 09-21-2012 11:29 AM

Posting Rules  
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

 
For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome