Strategies in track riding/road racing: Finding the limits of traction...safely - ZX6R Forum
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post #1 of 72 Old 11-10-2015, 08:08 AM Thread Starter
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Strategies in track riding/road racing: Finding the limits of traction...safely

Strategies in track riding/road racing: Finding the limit…safely.

**DISCLAIMER** This is an advanced technique and intended for experienced track riders and/or racers. Use at your own risk. It is also assumed that the rider has proper body position for this exercise. A rider MUST NOT be supporting their weight with the hands during this process as it diminishes front end feel.

I am not a crasher. You know the type; more balls than brains, more money than talent, etc. They possess the remarkable ability to throw a bike into a corner and hope that they go through ok with very little thought or regard for the outcome. As they say, ignorance is bliss and it works for some people. These types of riders can be incredibly fast, and is frustrating to the rest of us because they seem to progress at a pace that is significantly faster than our own.

The downside to this style of learning is that they tend to go over the limit about as often as they reach it, and crashes happen. Because they are not developing a conscious thought process for learning they are simply doomed to repeat these same mistakes until they establish some sort of equilibrium. Some riders get through this stage and move on to become truly impressive riders but the vast majority do not and simply give up either through injury, funding (it is expensive to keep repairing a motorcycle), or through frustration that they can no longer rely on pure bravado to get them around a track.

I have several other writing projects coming and it occurred to me as I planned out what to write that I kept having to move backwards in the process until I arrived here. So, without further ado, here is how I go about learning to reach the limit of traction…safely.

To begin, I need to clarify that I am writing about finding the limit at a corner apex; hitting the maximum corner speed possible to maximize your lap time potential. Finding the limit going in a straight line is a function of machinery. Finding it at the apex is a function of rider skill.

The riders apex is the slowest part of the turn (the apex of the riders line where he/she is leaned over the most. This is not the same as the apex of the physical turn). That should be evident but it bears mentioning anyway. The goal is to hit the apex at exactly the right speed so that you maintain traction, continue your turn in a predictable manner, and exit the corner in the fastest way possible. The process that I use to find this magical speed is as follows:

1) Start slowly. Go through the turn at a speed that you are 100% confident that you can make the turn with absolutely no drama. Do this a few times and commit to memory what your pace feels like. What gear are you in? What RPMs are you at? (If you look at your tach I will donkey punch you. You should know by the sound of the engine/feel of the bike). Are you in the right gear for the turn? If yes, continue, if not, shift and repeat until you are comfortable enough to continue.

What is your trajectory? Where are you tipping in? All of these things must be noted.

2) Once we have established a ‘safe’ baseline it is time to start pushing a bit. DO NOT push your brake marker back. Nothing causes a panic response/survival response like pushing your marker back…that comes later. Instead, brake at the same spot you currently do but either use a little less force on the lever or let off a little bit sooner. Make sure that your tip-in is at the same place as step 1. Our natural tendency is to tip in earlier to account for the additional speed. You need to fight that urge for now. The goal is to go through the turn only 1-2 mph faster than your last attempt. Small bites, young grasshopper.

Because you are going through the turn slightly faster, you will need to increase your lean angle just a bit to successfully navigate the turn. How does the bike feel? This is where your proper body position comes into play. You are light on the bars and can feel the feedback coming from the front tire. Are you able to move the bars?

WAIT!!??!? Move the bars? But you said that mid-corner bar input is bad! Yep, I sure did and normally, it is bad. Adding bar input on top of the cornering forces places a tremendous load on your front tire and is the #1 reason for mid-corner crashes so we must use caution while we proceed. I am talking about adding the slightest amount of bar pressure, the kind of pressure you use when typing on a keyboard or on your phone. One or two pounds of pressure, nothing more.

If you are not yet at the limit, the bike will tip in a little bit further. Make a note of this for your next lap and try to get to this new lean angle as you go through. Repeat steps 1-2 until…

3) Eventually, you will put that slight pressure on the bars and they will ‘push back’. There will be resistance rather than the bike wanting to tip in further. This is often referred to as ‘feeling heavy’ as the bike really doesn’t want to do anything. As soon as you feel that resistance you must immediately release all bar pressure. You are now at the limit of front end traction. Congratulations!

4) Most likely, in the process of finding that traction limit you have now begun to miss the apex of the turn and are now a few feet off of it. Now is the time to adjust your tip in point and brake markers so that you reach the maximum lean angle just at the apex and are able to exit the turn on the proper trajectory. This part is well out of the scope of this document and will be covered at a later date.

Congratulations! You now have the skills needed to learn to find the limit of front end traction.


Riding over the limit

Riding over the limit of traction does not immediately mean that you are going to crash. In fact, pro racers look to ride just over the limit all the time. It is hell on your tires and requires VERY fine control of the bike to do this successfully. There is a ‘grey area’ between 100% traction and crashing which I like to call my ‘slush fund of traction’.

The reason that I mention this here is that during the learning process, if you are applying the above techniques properly you may inadvertently ride over the limit very slightly. This is why we only increase our speed and lean angles in very small increments, so that if we overshoot we end up in this ‘slush fund’ rather than ending up on the ground.

If you happen to go past the limit, your front end will slide a bit, what we call a 'drift' or a ‘push’ because that is exactly what it feels like; kind of like dragging a pencil eraser across a piece of paper. You do not need to do anything differently. All that will happen is that you will go a little wider in the corner than you had intended. Traction will come back all on its own and it is important that you do not tense up or do anything other than continue on your way.

Smile at your good fortune and expert skill, go back into the pits to change your underwear, and revel in your most recent exercise in experiencing physics first hand ;-)

Last edited by PainfullySlo; 11-22-2015 at 06:47 AM.
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post #2 of 72 Old 11-10-2015, 08:46 AM
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Is this the same as having the front tire "push"? Sliding the front tire past the traction limit?

Edit: nvm, obviously that's what you wrote!

PainfullySlo, the part where you wrote about increasing lean angle. What if you were already at max lean angle? Couldn't you increase your turn speed by turning the bike faster instead of adding lean angle?

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post #3 of 72 Old 11-10-2015, 11:15 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Gawernator View Post
PainfullySlo, the part where you wrote about increasing lean angle. What if you were already at max lean angle? Couldn't you increase your turn speed by turning the bike faster instead of adding lean angle?
I am not sure exactly what you mean by this. Do you mean a faster tip-in? The time it takes to go from straight up and down to your maximum lean?

A rider will almost always want to get to his ideal lean angle as quickly as possible. That will not allow for more speed but it will allow for a tighter line/trajectory,which can save you time in terms of how much track you are actually riding...but it will not increase your actual speed.

Anyway, the point of this writing was to discuss how a rider can learn to find the limits of front end traction. Speed is a by-product of knowing just how much traction you have available.
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post #4 of 72 Old 11-10-2015, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by PainfullySlo View Post

Make sure that your tip-in is at the same place as step 1. Our natural tendency is to tip in earlier to account for the additional speed.
I was fighting this tendency all weekend! I am being told that I am rushing the corner entry. My entry on to the main straight has been getting better, and I am getting a bit braver at holding on the gas on the main straight. The result of this has been about 10mph more at the end of the main straight.

Then I get all freaked out and mess the turn at the end of the straight all up. This must have something to do with wanting to tip in too soon.

Thanks for the insight!
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post #5 of 72 Old 11-10-2015, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by PainfullySlo View Post
I am not sure exactly what you mean by this. Do you mean a faster tip-in? The time it takes to go from straight up and down to your maximum lean?

A rider will almost always want to get to his ideal lean angle as quickly as possible. That will not allow for more speed but it will allow for a tighter line/trajectory,which can save you time in terms of how much track you are actually riding...but it will not increase your actual speed.

Anyway, the point of this writing was to discuss how a rider can learn to find the limits of front end traction. Speed is a by-product of knowing just how much traction you have available.
Yep! Tip-in .. turning... just thinking about what Keith Code wrote about turn in time and how I've noticed its effect on your line in corners.

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post #6 of 72 Old 11-10-2015, 03:07 PM
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That actually answers my question contrasting your statement of 'No Bar Input' v my experience of correcting mid-corner on the street all the time. Answer: I am not using anywhere near all my front end traction or max lean angle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PainfullySlo
This is where your proper body position comes into play. You are light on the bars and can feel the feedback coming from the front tire. Are you able to move the bars?

WAIT!!??!? Move the bars? But you said that mid-corner bar input is bad! Yep, I sure did and normally, it is bad. Adding bar input on top of the cornering forces places a tremendous load on your front tire and is the #1 reason for mid-corner crashes so we must use caution while we proceed. I am talking about adding the slightest amount of bar pressure, the kind of pressure you use when typing on a keyboard or on your phone. One or two pounds of pressure, nothing more.

If you are not yet at the limit, the bike will tip in a little bit further. Make a note of this for your next lap and try to get to this new lean angle as you go through. Repeat steps 1-2 until…

3) Eventually, you will put that slight pressure on the bars and they will ‘push back’. There will be resistance rather than the bike wanting to tip in further. This is often referred to as ‘feeling heavy’ as the bike really doesn’t want to do anything. As soon as you feel that resistance you must immediately release all bar pressure

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post #7 of 72 Old 11-10-2015, 03:11 PM
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That actually answers my question contrasting your statement of 'No Bar Input' v my experience of correcting mid-corner on the street all the time. Answer: I am not using anywhere near all my front end traction or max lean angle.
Right... which is good for the street. Mid-corner corrections on the street are o.k. because of traffic and road hazards

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post #8 of 72 Old 11-10-2015, 04:44 PM
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Great write up man. *tips hat*.

This limit of traction is exactly what all racers are trying to ride along. If you listen to any of the MotoGP riders in their testing or practices it's all about "finding more grip" combined with good feedback from the front end. Grip is the key to everything that we do on these things.

These are very good tips for practicing. I'll have to remember to use them this month when I ride Laguna Seca for the first time.


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post #9 of 72 Old 11-10-2015, 04:58 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by commiehunter View Post
That actually answers my question contrasting your statement of 'No Bar Input' v my experience of correcting mid-corner on the street all the time. Answer: I am not using anywhere near all my front end traction or max lean angle.
I think that I have a better understanding of your question now and I am glad that my writings were able to clear something up for you. Truth be told, no rider should be using all of their front end traction on the streets but there are always extenuating circumstances which can affect our grip; debris, water, oil, etc. so it is good to practice these techniques anyway.

As for the statement of 'no bar input' it is a blanket statement that is right for >90% of the riders out there so it rarely gets clarified. It is much easier to say 'stay off the bars' than 'its ok to give minimal bar input with a practiced hand once you have learned proper body positioning and then developed a feel for your front end as long as you do it at a point when you can feel that you have available edge grip' :-p

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Originally Posted by PowerGroove View Post
Great write up man. *tips hat*.

This limit of traction is exactly what all racers are trying to ride along. If you listen to any of the MotoGP riders in their testing or practices it's all about "finding more grip" combined with good feedback from the front end. Grip is the key to everything that we do on these things.

These are very good tips for practicing. I'll have to remember to use them this month when I ride Laguna Seca for the first time.
First, I am jealous that you are still riding and doubly so that you will be going to Laguna Seca

Your comments remind me of an interview with a MotoGP racer whose name escapes me now but frankly it isn't relevant as the answer would be the same no matter who you asked.

"Would you rather have an extra 10 horsepower or more front end feel"? Universally the answer is better front end feel...
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Last edited by PainfullySlo; 11-10-2015 at 05:05 PM.
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post #10 of 72 Old 11-10-2015, 05:15 PM
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I'm constantly reminding myself as I take almost every corner at the Island, light on the bars, late turn in, less brakes, more pace.
You're on the money about the fighting the early turn in urge, I notice that if I carry more pace into say turn 1, which is no brakes and down 1 gear to 5th, I REALLY have to fight that urge because the difference in an extra 10kmh is damn scary!

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post #11 of 72 Old 11-10-2015, 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by PainfullySlo View Post
"Would you rather have an extra 10 horsepower or more front end feel"? Universally the answer is better front end feel...
I think it was Colin Edwards or Hayden that made that comment. I could be mistaken... but I'm sure they've all said the same thing.

And as far as your jealousy of my getting to still be riding... AND getting to ride that track.... well... I'll be doing some video that weekend for sure so you'll get to make "vroom" noises while you watch. It will be my first video in almost a year. I'm kinda stoke to get some different scenery!
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post #12 of 72 Old 11-11-2015, 04:29 AM Thread Starter
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I think it was Colin Edwards or Hayden that made that comment. I could be mistaken... but I'm sure they've all said the same thing.

And as far as your jealousy of my getting to still be riding... AND getting to ride that track.... well... I'll be doing some video that weekend for sure so you'll get to make "vroom" noises while you watch. It will be my first video in almost a year. I'm kinda stoke to get some different scenery!
Sounds awesome! looking forward to seeing the video and living vicariously through you
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post #13 of 72 Old 11-16-2015, 05:30 PM
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The apex is the slowest part of the turn.
Not usually. Depends on a lot of factors, but generally speaking a later apex is desirable, especially before a straight as it allows for a higher top speed on the straight. With a later apex, you are usually starting to accelerate already, so the speed will higher than the slowest part of the turn. This is a technique that is not usually used if there is risk of being passed by another vehicle as the second vehicle can use wide turn in as an opportunity to dive underneath the 1st car setting up a pass.

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Originally Posted by PainfullySlo View Post
If you happen to go past the limit, your front end will slide a bit, what we call a 'drift' or a ‘push’ because that is exactly what it feels like; kind of like dragging a pencil eraser across a piece of paper. You do not need to do anything differently. All that will happen is that you will go a little wider in the corner than you had intended. Traction will come back all on its own and it is important that you do not tense up or do anything other than continue on your way.
Front end push (understeer) is certainly a possible outcome, but its also possible to be set-up for or induce oversteer. See the video in the link below; it has some examples of oversteer, but the video is not dedicated to it...Its worth watching either way though.

https://www.facebook.com/14651543703...6593635238546/

I'm going to expand on this "slush fund" you speak of. The graph below shows what traction looks like between a typical passenger car tire and a race tire when plotting friction vs slip angle. Both plots clearly show a plateau that is relatively flat. This indicates there is some slip allowed where traction doesn't drop off. The race tire shows a much more narrow window which means there is less room for error. Ideally though, you would want to be right at the left side of the plateau. Going further to the right on the plot provides no additional grip but generates more heat and wear. However, circumstances aren't always ideal and if the suspension isn't set up perfectly for every turn, you are not likely to be able to be right at the ideal point for both tires. Due to this imbalance, its likely you will have to try and push one tire's slip angle further to the right to bring the other tire up to the plateau. A poorly set-up suspension may not allow both tires to reach the plateau with both tires simultaneously.

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post #14 of 72 Old 11-16-2015, 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by dazo View Post
I was fighting this tendency all weekend! I am being told that I am rushing the corner entry. My entry on to the main straight has been getting better, and I am getting a bit braver at holding on the gas on the main straight. The result of this has been about 10mph more at the end of the main straight.

Then I get all freaked out and mess the turn at the end of the straight all up. This must have something to do with wanting to tip in too soon.

Thanks for the insight!
Which track are you talking about? I ask since I've ridden LVMS "Classic Course" (road course outside the main stadium). That main straight is pretty short. The back straight though.... BRAAAAAAAAAPPP!


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post #15 of 72 Old 11-16-2015, 06:05 PM
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Spent the weekend at Laguna this year for the SBK race... I kept thinking to myself: "that price tag on the CSS two day camp doesn't seem so bad now..."

Ty for the write up, seems like something I'll try when the tracks open back up!
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