Strategies in track riding/road racing - Confidence - ZX6R Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 12-18-2014, 07:06 AM Thread Starter
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Strategies in track riding/road racing - Confidence

I haven't had much time to play on the forums so this is a bit late and for that I apologize.

Some folks have asked me questions like 'How do you not get nervous when you are that close to someone' or 'how can you really push that hard and not panic'.

Well, we know from earlier writings that anything that evokes a survival response (SR) is a bad thing, as it is involuntary. The last thing we want on the track is to lose control of the bike to our subconscious so we need to do all that we can to prevent SR's from happening in the first place and that all boils down to confidence.

It is a tricky thing, confidence. It comes and goes, it can be found in weird spots, or lost at the drop of a hat if thing's aren't going right. I call it the 'exponential emotion' because once you start on a roll of gaining or losing confidence, it generally continues in that path and rather quickly.

If something goes well, I usually shout in my helmet (weird, I know) and then the next, and next...before you know it I am smiling like a cheshire cat and riding better than I have ever done before.

Likewise, if something bad happens to damage my confidence, I start to over-analyze things and look for problems where none exist. It then spirals out of control from there if I let it.


The first thing that I fall back on to build confidence is reference points. For those who don't know what those are or use them, they are physical markers on the track that are used to signify an action. It could be a crack on the track surface, some paint marker, a cone or anything on the edge of the track. Whatever your brain can lock on to which will signify an action.

I generally have reference points/markers for the following actions:
  • Brake Marker
  • Tip In/Turn In
  • Throttle Marker (get on the gas)
  • Line Markers (to make sure I am where I am supposed to be on the track)

You will notice that I do not have a brake on and brake off marker. This is because on the track you should not be doing ANY coasting which means that the moment my brakes are off, my throttle goes on (or sometimes simultaneously)...so my throttle marker is both brake off and throttle on.

It is important to note for those who race that if you have a large differential in your lap times between 'good days' and 'bad days' it is a pretty good chance that you do not have enough reference points. It was very tough in the early parts of my racing but now my 'bad' days are rarely more than a second-second and a half off of my good days.

When I am struggling, I focus solely on my reference points. They are a known-good formula for getting me around the track quickly. It takes the emotion out of riding and boils it down to sheer math and motion. They won't be my fastest laps, but they will be quicker than if I panicked or got upset.

I have actually experimented quite a bit with this and it is funny but if I look ahead into the first turn coming off of the straight, I always feel those SR's starting to creep in, undoubtedly due to the speed and the way the track configuration is, it looks like the track simply stops. Instead, I focus on looking for a crack that runs across the entire track which signifies my brake marker. I know for a fact (because I have done it countless times before) that if I start braking then I will make the turn and so I have confidence..and no SR's even if I am driving deep into the corner.

Another huge plus in the confidence section is properly setup geometry and dialed-in top-end suspension components.

Unfortunately this is one of those things that you don't know until you know. If you have ever ridden a seriously set up track or race bike, you will know what I mean but even for those without thousands of dollars in suspension components there is confidence to be found with your stock parts.

Bikes are set-up from the factory with street riding in mind, consequently they are lacking quite a bit for track duty as comfort was their primary concern. comfort != going fast.

By tuning out wallow (your bike moving around in a corner) and easing things like transitions (side to side movement) and overall motion, it really inspires confidence. The bike just feels like it wants to go faster. This is done by adjusting your suspension and basic geometry of the bike which any suspension tuner can do, usually for a very minimal fee. For instance, the local guy at my track GMD Computrack - Boston will dial in your stock suspension for $25.


Some of the other methods of gaining confidence are a little less tangible. This is a write up that I did a few years ago for my sponsor at the time, EBC Brakes (I still use their GPFA race pads).

Confidence…

This magical sensation is what makes the racing world go ‘round. When you have it, everything seems possible. Things just seem to “go your way”. You go faster, easier, better, smoother than you ever have before. Confidence has a direct correlation to winning.

When you are lacking it? Well, that is another matter entirely. When you are lacking confidence no force in the world is going to make you push to your limit. You second guess yourself. Your performance suffers. Ever have one of those days where you “just weren’t feeling it”? Lack of confidence, plain and simple.

There are many forces out on the track that seek to undermine our confidence and like the resentful little gremlins they are, they gang up on you. One tire slip and suddenly you are questioning your tire compound or pressures. Next thing you know, you are distracted by that front end wobble that you are sure wasn’t there before. Wait, what was that noise from the engine?

On the other end of the spectrum there are the forces that inspire confidence and my EBC GPFA brake pads are one of the strongest, most confidence inspiring forces out there.

I raced this past weekend at Loudon, NH where the temps were a very chilly mid-40’s with massive gusts of wind; the kind that blows you 10’ off of your line. The very first race I started from the 3rd row but found myself directly behind the leader heading into turn 1 and I admit there were a lot of those confidence sapping gremlins running around my head. I knew I had some really fast guys right on my tail so I had to push deeper and harder into the turn than I have ever done before. Those gremlins whispered “Your tires won’t stick” and “You won’t be able to brake enough to make the turn”.

I waited a full second past my brake marker to where my body was screaming at me that I was in trouble and those gremlins were shouting inside my head, but the moment I touched my brake lever I knew I was ok. I heard the familiar whirring of my GPFA pads doing their work without complaint, I felt the rush of reassurance coursing up my arm as if I was directly connected to my calipers, and the pure raw stopping power practically laughed at those gremlins. In that one instant, all doubt was gone. I was racing.

In the end I did get passed by two of those really fast guys (hey, this is my first year starting in the expert class!) but I was more than happy to take home my 4th place finish with the knowledge that things only get better from here.

Thank you EBC and Spears Racing (my EBC connection) for the products that keep me safe and that help me to reach towards my full potential. Oh, and thanks for getting rid of those gremlins too!

Michael Weyant
CCS/LRRS Expert #434


What I wanted to mention from that is that to me, hearing that distinct whirring sound that these pads make was a source of confidence for me. They reminded me that I had really kick-ass brakes and that I could trust them.

Other sensations also inspire confidence. I usually try to watch an inspirational riding video before going out on the track for the day...it reminds me why I do what I do. I love the smell of race fuel and it reminds me that I am there to kick butt and take names...i.e. confidence.

Confidence is there to be found, usually in your routines. After all, if you did something before and didnt crash/went fast it would stand to reason that doing the identical thing will yield the same results. Confidence through repetition =).

What inspires your confidence?
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post #2 of 21 Old 12-18-2014, 08:03 AM
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Amazing right up man.
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post #3 of 21 Old 12-18-2014, 08:31 AM
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Good read man!!
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post #4 of 21 Old 12-18-2014, 09:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PainfullySlo View Post
If something goes well, I usually shout in my helmet (weird, I know) and then the next, and next...before you know it I am smiling like a cheshire cat and riding better than I have ever done before.

Likewise, if something bad happens to damage my confidence, I start to over-analyze things and look for problems where none exist. It then spirals out of control from there if I let it.
You're not the only who shoot in their helmet out of pure happiness and enjoyment......

Excellent write up.... I'm going to have to read this before every track day, confidence is my biggest enemy. It really hinders me of what I'm capable of and my track day buddies all tell me that i am very capable of doing do it.....

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post #5 of 21 Old 12-18-2014, 10:23 AM
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Great write up, confidence is definitely my biggest hindrance on the track.

I like that you emphasized reference points. That was something that I just started to work on last season in earnest and gave me a bigger boost in confidence than any other thing I've done.
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post #6 of 21 Old 12-18-2014, 11:19 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manolo View Post
You're not the only who shoot in their helmet out of pure happiness and enjoyment......

Excellent write up.... I'm going to have to read this before every track day, confidence is my biggest enemy. It really hinders me of what I'm capable of and my track day buddies all tell me that i am very capable of doing do it.....
Glad to hear that I am not the only crazy person shouting inside their lid

Confidence can be the greatest boon or the worst curse out there and it is something that needs to be worked on and improved. False courage (bravado) is what gets riders in trouble so you need to be careful to always ride within your limits...but push them =)

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Great write up, confidence is definitely my biggest hindrance on the track.

I like that you emphasized reference points. That was something that I just started to work on last season in earnest and gave me a bigger boost in confidence than any other thing I've done.
Reference points are by far the biggest way that I know how to build or regain confidence. I wish more people would spend the time to learn about this technique and put it into use.
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post #7 of 21 Old 12-18-2014, 11:39 AM
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Thanks for these write-ups! Very good information!

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post #8 of 21 Old 12-18-2014, 11:43 AM
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Thanks for the write up! Confidence building and trusting in my bike's capabilities will be my main focus in the coming season. I've got the main track riding mechanics down, like body position, but my lack in confidence is holding my back, especially on turn-in. I can't wait to hit up the CSS and try to get my riding to the next level.

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post #9 of 21 Old 12-18-2014, 11:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PainfullySlo View Post
Glad to hear that I am not the only crazy person shouting inside their lid

Confidence can be the greatest boon or the worst curse out there and it is something that needs to be worked on and improved. False courage (bravado) is what gets riders in trouble so you need to be careful to always ride within your limits...but push them =)



Reference points are by far the biggest way that I know how to build or regain confidence. I wish more people would spend the time to learn about this technique and put it into use.
Man, I talk to myself sometimes... "go in a lil deeper" "push a lil harder" "go for it" "look further" "keep looking" "oh shit, oh shit" things like that.... I swear if we were like nascar or indy cars with the comm systems, the things i say, you think im nuts

The way you put reference points makes great sense. a lot people who tried telling me over heard it seem so vague. I never thought of if i concentrate on reference points then I would never have to think about fear.

Im def adding this into next season... I really hoping of progressing next season, I really want to get into CCS and at least into the race scene....

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post #10 of 21 Old 12-18-2014, 12:53 PM Thread Starter
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Man, I talk to myself sometimes... "go in a lil deeper" "push a lil harder" "go for it" "look further" "keep looking" "oh shit, oh shit" things like that.... I swear if we were like nascar or indy cars with the comm systems, the things i say, you think im nuts

The way you put reference points makes great sense. a lot people who tried telling me over heard it seem so vague. I never thought of if i concentrate on reference points then I would never have to think about fear.

Im def adding this into next season... I really hoping of progressing next season, I really want to get into CCS and at least into the race scene....
If you decide to get into CCS, definitely look me up. I can fill you in on all the little details that the rule books leave out.

And it sounds like are far more calm in your helmet than I am :-p I yell at myself all the time. Maybe it's because its the only time I can't hear my wife yelling at me and so I feel that there is a void in my existence. Hmm...
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post #11 of 21 Old 12-18-2014, 01:16 PM
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Originally Posted by PainfullySlo View Post
Reference points are by far the biggest way that I know how to build or regain confidence. I wish more people would spend the time to learn about this technique and put it into use.
I think the issue at least with beginners like myself is that reference points seem overwhelming at first. When you hear the instructors and fast guys talk about how they have reference points for braking, turn in, corner exit etc for every single corner on the track it starts adding up to way to much to remember.

It wasn't until I had an instructor break it down and give me drills to systematically make references points one by one that I made any progress. Even coming away from a track day and only getting comfortable with two reference points resulted in a boost in confidence and an increase in pace. Too often reference points are talked about in an all or nothing manner (most likely unintentionally) and scare off beginners with the shear scale of the task. No one ever seems to talk about how much a single braking marker can make difference and that you don't have to have it all figured out all at once.
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post #12 of 21 Old 12-18-2014, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by PainfullySlo View Post
If you decide to get into CCS, definitely look me up. I can fill you in on all the little details that the rule books leave out.

And it sounds like are far more calm in your helmet than I am :-p I yell at myself all the time. Maybe it's because its the only time I can't hear my wife yelling at me and so I feel that there is a void in my existence. Hmm...
If you're doing CCS this year in NJMP, I'll most likely see you out there. I'll probably be working that weekend with moto-d racing....

I am def not calm. Not by a long shot. When I have a bad session, I'm complaining and bitching and pissed off. All my buddies just look at me and laugh. 2 of them being coaches, they talk to me and help me with whatever im doing wrong and go out with me on the next session.

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post #13 of 21 Old 12-19-2014, 05:41 AM
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Have you ever been so smooth that what seemed like you are going soooo sloooow but you are really picking up speed and time every lap. I have had this feeling in other forms of racing. I am thinking to myself my god I am sooo slooow this is almost boring, like watching paint dry. Then check your time sheet and think damn I was flying.
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post #14 of 21 Old 12-19-2014, 07:50 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by SGC View Post
I think the issue at least with beginners like myself is that reference points seem overwhelming at first. When you hear the instructors and fast guys talk about how they have reference points for braking, turn in, corner exit etc for every single corner on the track it starts adding up to way to much to remember.

It wasn't until I had an instructor break it down and give me drills to systematically make references points one by one that I made any progress. Even coming away from a track day and only getting comfortable with two reference points resulted in a boost in confidence and an increase in pace. Too often reference points are talked about in an all or nothing manner (most likely unintentionally) and scare off beginners with the shear scale of the task. No one ever seems to talk about how much a single braking marker can make difference and that you don't have to have it all figured out all at once.
Well, to be fair, this is an overview on how to gain confidence. I can go into depth about choosing reference points and how I systematically go about doing it but yes, you are right. It can absolutely be overwhelming if you try to do too much at once.

The short version is to ride around at say, 80% of your ability to where you have enough time to allow yourself to actively seek out something to use as a marker, and only work on one marker per turn, or every other turn until you have it down. For example, if I am at a new track I will look to find a brake marker only for every odd turn. I wont try to find new markers until I have those firmly ingrained.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Manolo View Post
If you're doing CCS this year in NJMP, I'll most likely see you out there. I'll probably be working that weekend with moto-d racing....

I am def not calm. Not by a long shot. When I have a bad session, I'm complaining and bitching and pissed off. All my buddies just look at me and laugh. 2 of them being coaches, they talk to me and help me with whatever im doing wrong and go out with me on the next session.
Sounds like you have a great resource there! I should be at CCS NJ this coming season so I will make sure to post up here so that we can meet up!

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Have you ever been so smooth that what seemed like you are going soooo sloooow but you are really picking up speed and time every lap. I have had this feeling in other forms of racing. I am thinking to myself my god I am sooo slooow this is almost boring, like watching paint dry. Then check your time sheet and think damn I was flying.
Absolutely. My fastest laps are always the ones where I feel like I am going slowly. You cannot force fast, it has to come naturally and comfortably. When you are pushing the envelope, you naturally tense up which, oddly enough, makes you go slower =)

When I got my last personal best lap, I had absolutely no idea that I had gone as fast as I had. I thought I was a good second+ slower than I actually was...because it was easy, and it flowed naturally.
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post #15 of 21 Old 12-19-2014, 08:14 AM
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What inspires your confidence?
For me, it's other riders (the faster ones). Unfortunately for me, the faster riders typically are faster because they have more skill than me...so when I try to catch a liter bike that passed me in the straight on the brakes, when the guy on that liter bike is once of the top experts, it doesn't always end up so well for me...lol. There were other issues with that as well, first lap, tires maybe a little too old.

My last race weekend, I was catching up to a friend of mine, he's actually on this board (Coffey), and lost the front in a turn trying to make up too much time in one corner. One of these days, I'm going to learn that lesson. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
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