Strategies in track riding/road racing: Front Grip Management/Bar input is bad m'kay? - ZX6R Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 03-02-2017, 11:26 AM Thread Starter
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Strategies in track riding/road racing: Front Grip Management/Bar input is bad m'kay?

This will actually cover two topics which are closely related so it is liable to get a bit long.

In road racing, front tire grip is everything. As a general rule it is ok if your rear tire is stepping out all over the place but that front tire needs to be firmly planted. The exception to this is if you have enough skill to regularly push the front on corner entry but if you can do that, it is unlikely you are reading this anyway. We will not be going into front tire slides so for the sake of this discussion let us say that any time when your front tire is not 100% planted is bad.

So, a tire has a certain amount of grip available but it can be affected by a myriad of factors:
  • Tire pressure
  • Operating temperature (heat)
  • Tire wear
  • Track conditions (rain, oil, debris, sand, etc)
  • Rider Input

Tire Pressure This is static in that you set it before you go out onto the track and then forget about it. Each rider will have an optimal tire pressure to be running which we will not go into here. We will assume that tire pressure is set properly

Operating Temperature Cold tires have less grip. Overheated tires have less grip. For the sake of our discussion we will assume that the tires are operating within their optimal heat range.

Tire Wear Obviously this changes as we ride. It is the riders responsibility to interpret the amount of grip left in the tire and ride as close to the limit as possible. This does not affect this discussion since we will be dealing with grip as a percentage.

Track Conditions There are all sorts of things that can adversely affect front tire grip ranging from rain to oil to sand. For the sake of our discussion we will say that we are riding on a clean, clear track.

Rider Input Out of all of the conditions that can affect front tire grip, this is the only thing that we can actively manage while riding and so it will be the focus of this discussion.


We will be discussing grip as a percentage meaning that there is always 100% grip from a tire but external conditions can affect how much of that grip is actually available to us. It should go without saying that if you exceed that 100% grip you will crash. For instance we are riding in the rain which reduces the available grip by 80% so we need to operate within the remaining 20% grip. Make sense?

You have probably heard the expression 'riding at the limit'? What they really mean is that you are riding at the limit of available traction as that is always the limiting factor in our lap times. More grip=faster lap times. Got it? Repeat that until you believe it.

It is always the goal of a racer to be using as close to that 100% available grip as possible. This is one of the major factors which separates the pro racers from you and me. They are able to rider closer to the limits of traction, more consistently, for longer. To use myself as an example: I am considered to be a top level expert level racer. I have won championships. I probably spend less than 5% of my track time using 100% traction, and probably only another 15% above 90%. I spend the bulk of my riding time around 80% available grip if I had to take a guess so I am leaving 20% on the table. Some of this is conscious choice as I am giving myself a margin for error, part of it is lack of skill. Pro riders likely spend almost all of their time riding using between 95%-100% of their available grip.

What consumes tire grip?

There are several forces which use up our grip. We call them 'loads'.



Linear Load Forces which are in line with the tire. Since we are discussing the front tire, this would be braking loads. When you brake, you use up some of the grip that the tire provides.

Side Load These are forces which want to push the tire sideways such as when we are cornering. Centrifugal force tries to push the tire off on a tangent which uses up some of the grip that the tire has available.

Torsional Load This is a twisting force on the front tire, also known as bar input. Unlike linear and side loads, torsional loads are largely unnecessary, meaning that they do not aid us in navigating a corner.

So, lets walk through a trail braking exercise using these definitions.

Bob the pro racer is awesome and is capable of using up exactly 100% of the available tire grip. Bob also knows that unnecessary bar input while cornering is bad so he has none for the sake of this discussion.

As he approaches the corner, Bob is still upright (no side loads) and is not turning (torsional loads) and so can use 100% of the available grip for braking.



Now, since he is pro he is aiming to use 100% of the tire grip. As he leans the bike over to enter the turn, it places a side load on the tire. Well, we are already using 100% of the grip available for braking so what does this mean? It means that if Bob were to try to corner while still braking at 100% he would crash and so he releases some of his brake pressure to free up available grip for the side loads introduced by the start of cornering. Make sense?

So since he is just starting the corner, there is not a lot of side load yet so let's say he is using 20% of the available grip to corner which means he still has 80% available for braking.



As Bob continues into the corner, he needs to lean the bike over more so he must continue to release brake pressure to allow for the additional side load from cornering.



By now you should be noticing a pattern. As you lean more, you brake less. Bob continues to lean his bike over and releases more and more brake pressure until he finally lets go of the brakes all together so that he can use 100% of the available grip for cornering.





Light on the bars! Light on the bars! I am SICK of being told to be light on the bars. Why does it matter?

When we say to be light on the bars, what we literally mean is to not introduce unwanted torsional load into the front tire. There are two scenarios where this is bad:
  • It causes a crash
  • It slows you down

It is a simple fact that the vast majority of track crashes are the result of unwanted bar input (think upwards of 90%). Let's use the above example to prove this out.

So, Bob the pro racer is just starting his trail braking exercise however fledgling track day rider Randy Wannabe is right behind him. Randy knows that he and Bob are on the same machine so he thinks 'Well, hells bells! Bob can take the corner at this speed so I can to!' and proceeds to follow him in.

Bob just starts to let off the brakes as he begins the corner.



Randy tries to do the same thing except he is not as precise as Bob and so is a little off line. 'Well, crap. I guess I had better tighten up this line' thinks Randy and so he puts a little bar input to get the bike to lean over a little bit more.



Same bike, same track, same riding conditions except that Bob is planning his next turn and Randy wakes up in the hospital all because Randy went past 100% of available grip.

The only way for Randy to have survived that corner is to free up grip to allow for his bar input which means he either needs to corner less or brake less. This leads us into the second example of why unwanted bar input is bad. It is what we call an artificial limit.

Let's say that Bob is at 100 mph while turning and using 100% of his grip for cornering because it is a nice round number. If Bob wanted to use 20% for braking in that corner he would have to slow down to 80mph. The equation isn't exactly linear like that but for the sake of argument, work with me. Make sense?

So, if Bob is at 100mph making that turn and Randy is consuming 20% of the available grip with unwanted bar input he will have to slow down to 80mph to make the turn. That is why BoB is significantly faster than Randy.

You may think that 20% is a lot but I promise you that it is not. I know many track day riders that consume as much as 30% of their front end grip by being on the bars. This is the artificial limit of traction. We create a false ceiling for ourselves. This is why skilled riders blow past people on much faster bikes all the time. Skill > horsepower.

So, Valentino Rossi is going through a turn and because he is an alien he has absolutely no bar input while turning. This gives him 100% of his grip available for turning.




The fastest guy that you know probably looks something like this. This is the guy that wins all of your local championships. He is 2% slower than Valentino.




Realistically I probably look something like this. I am a skilled, trained rider who is very conscious of not introducing unwanted bar input...but I am not perfect.




Your top level amateur racer? The guy that wins all the AM championships?




And finally your average track day rider. Don't laugh. This is about as accurate as I can estimate based on my years teaching.




Ok! Ok! So unwanted bar input makes me slower. What else?

It also puts you at greater risk. Bar input while cornering introduces a torsional load not only into your front tire, but into your entire chassis as well. It is what we call 'potential energy' just sitting in your frame all wound up like a spring. The microsecond where you lose contact with the ground due to a surface imperfection, all that force has to go somewhere and your frame suddenly straightens out. We like to call this little maneuver a high side crash.

If you ever want to test this just get into a corner at max lean and push on the bars. WHEEEE! Enjoy your ride to the hospital.


In Closing: Hopefully now you can understand the 'why' of how unwanted bar input affects your lap times. Not only does it make you less safe, it also makes you significantly slower. This is why all us instructors harp on having proper body position. It isn't so that you can drag elbows and look like Marquez, it is so that you do not introduce unwanted bar input when cornering.
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post #2 of 21 Old 03-02-2017, 12:16 PM
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post #3 of 21 Old 03-02-2017, 12:52 PM
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Can you elaborate on when bar input should occur, and how?

When I approach a corner, I NEED bar input to initiate tip-in. Is this one fluid motion until I hit max lean? Or is it one short motion that is done even before the bike hits max lean?

I'm at my lean angle for the turn, and coming to the exit. While in the turn I gave it no bar input (I'm no racer and even I've experienced this). I do need to give it bar input to exit the turn, correct? Otherwise I'd just ride in a circle all day?

There's obviously weighting the footpegs here, getting on the gas as you become more vertical, but are you using bar input to stand the bike up?
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post #4 of 21 Old 03-02-2017, 02:18 PM Thread Starter
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Those are two distinctly different questions and need to be addressed as such.

Quote:
Originally Posted by commiehunter View Post
When I approach a corner, I NEED bar input to initiate tip-in. Is this one fluid motion until I hit max lean? Or is it one short motion that is done even before the bike hits max lean?
Notice how I said 'unwanted' bar input? There are absolutely times when it is necessary to exert pressure on your bars. Initiating a turn is one of those times but it is a push and release movement. I usually compare it to throwing a punch; a momentary exertion followed by complete relaxation so to answer your question, it is one short motion completed well before the bike hits max lean. I would generally say that most major bar inputs are completed while the bike is almost completely upright. The magnitude of the force needed to initiate the turn is a function of speed and bike geometry but it can actually be quite an exertion at higher speeds.

Take a look here:


Lets walk through this slowly. Upon entering the turn I start my hard braking while straight up and down. My rear tire is usually 'dancing' at this point between the 2 and 4 second mark in the video. I am effectively at 100% braking.



Between the 4 and 5 second mark I begin trailing off my brakes which frees up some front tire grip to initiate my turn. I have not yet actually started turning yet but I am putting pressure on the bars to start to turn the bike.



As soon as the bike begins to lean I relax my arms and reduce the bar input.



By the time I am starting to actually 'carve' the corner I am completely off of the bars and just continuing to trail brake to the apex.



Trail braking continues from there.

Bear in mind, all those above steps happen between the 5-8 second mark in the video. I would say that my actual effort on the bars is under 1 second and my momentum and body movements carry me the rest of the way to my desired lean angle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by commiehunter View Post
I do need to give it bar input to exit the turn, correct? Otherwise I'd just ride in a circle all day?

There's obviously weighting the footpegs here, getting on the gas as you become more vertical, but are you using bar input to stand the bike up?
Absolutely not, the throttle is the tool which dictates your line after the apex. I do not touch the bars at all. If you have the ability to stand the bike up using the bars, you are not anywhere near the max cornering speed that you could be going.

If you are actually using the bars to stand the bike up, please be VERY CAREFUL as this is a sure-fire way to crash. As your pace improves you will very quickly overcome the coefficient of friction in your front tire and crash out. This is a habit you really need to break yourself of.

To test this, get into a secluded parking lot. Begin riding in a circle keeping a constant speed. Make the circle as tight as you can and hold it. Your line should be set in a circle, yes? Now, slowly add throttle. What happens?

The bike should start to push wide and try to stand up. Do not fight this, allow the bike stand up. The more the bike stands up, the more throttle you add until you reach your maximum throttle and you are as upright as you need to be.

We racers 'cheat' this a little bit by weighting the outside pegs just as we are about to add throttle. It stands the bike up just a couple of degrees but it gives us enough extra rear grip to allow us to feed the throttle on just a little bit quicker. Check out the 'gas on, bike up' section in this thread: Strategies in track riding/road racing: How to sit on a motorcycle...no, really.

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post #5 of 21 Old 03-02-2017, 03:41 PM
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Very cool. Let me clarify, I'm riding on the street most of the time.

I'll admit, I don't yet have the experience to know 'This much bar input will produce a lean like this and a turn radius like this'. So a lot of my turns start with some bar input, then I use minor inputs as adjustments to add more angle. There's a feedback loop that I'm running through until I decide, yeah, this angle and this radius is good. That's the long sweeper or the slightly wider turn where I do get that 100% off the bars section.

I really like your practice suggestion. I should work on this both for using throttle coming out of the turn, AND for reducing the time where I'm initiating the turn.

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post #6 of 21 Old 03-02-2017, 04:32 PM
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post #7 of 21 Old 03-02-2017, 05:56 PM
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Ok, now I had time to read it. Great write-up again PSlo and I like the pie charts, especially the .gif one!

This does bring up a question that I've been wondering for a long time. I know for the most part in this post you're talking about percentage of grip level, but lots of times we talk about percentage of ability of riding. I know I've been guilty of using these terms as well, like saying "I'm riding at 90% only just having some fun, blah blah", or telling a beginner "Don't push yourself right away, just ride at 75% and you'll be fine". What exactly does that mean? How does one measure that percentage?

Does it mean X % of the best lap time that I'm now capable of doing or is it a mental thing based on effort? If it's based on effort, I feel it's a flawed way of describing it because a lot of times I've gone faster when I felt like I wasn't pushing as hard (in other words less than 100%) than times when I felt like I was giving it all I had. If it's based on best lap time, I feel like it's not a linear relationship. Because for example, for a pro, then riding at 90% of his best lap means he wouldn't even qualify for the race. If my best lap time is 2:00 at a track, 80% for example, would be 20% slower which would mean a 2:24 lap time...which is a huuuuge difference, and incredibly slow. Yet a lot of people tend to claim they're riding at 80-90% of their ability and they're going only about 2-3 seconds off their full race pace.

So, how do you quantify that? What is the real meaning behind these percentages?

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post #8 of 21 Old 03-02-2017, 08:27 PM
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How do you minimize bar input? Not sure if thats the right question but I hear time and again OFF THE BARS OFF THE BARS so I suppose my question would be how? Not sure if that can really be answered other than saying STAY OFF THE BARS and trusting your throttle to dictate your line through an apex. I took a tip from a AM racer who told me to try to flap my arms like a duck while cornering. Sounds very stupid but actually makes A LOT of sense. If you are on the bars your arms will be to still to flap like a duck while cornering where as if you are off the bars they will flap effortlessly.
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post #9 of 21 Old 03-02-2017, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Addhoc View Post
How do you minimize bar input? Not sure if thats the right question but I hear time and again OFF THE BARS OFF THE BARS so I suppose my question would be how? Not sure if that can really be answered other than saying STAY OFF THE BARS and trusting your throttle to dictate your line through an apex. I took a tip from a AM racer who told me to try to flap my arms like a duck while cornering. Sounds very stupid but actually makes A LOT of sense. If you are on the bars your arms will be to still to flap like a duck while cornering where as if you are off the bars they will flap effortlessly.
I've been given the same advice a few years ago from our local instructors...except they said like a chicken. Same thing, different bird
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post #10 of 21 Old 03-03-2017, 03:58 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commiehunter View Post
Very cool. Let me clarify, I'm riding on the street most of the time.

I'll admit, I don't yet have the experience to know 'This much bar input will produce a lean like this and a turn radius like this'. So a lot of my turns start with some bar input, then I use minor inputs as adjustments to add more angle. There's a feedback loop that I'm running through until I decide, yeah, this angle and this radius is good. That's the long sweeper or the slightly wider turn where I do get that 100% off the bars section.

I really like your practice suggestion. I should work on this both for using throttle coming out of the turn, AND for reducing the time where I'm initiating the turn.
Learning how much input will get you to what lean angle is really just a function of repetition and it is perfectly normal for riders to do that 'feedback loop' that you mentioned. The good news is that generally speaking the personal boundaries of riders at that level have them cornering using much less than 100% tire grip so you have that extra grip available to play with the bars if needed.

As your pace increases so too will your accuracy with tip ins so you will not need to hunt around for your lean angle as much.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sbk1198 View Post
Ok, now I had time to read it. Great write-up again PSlo and I like the pie charts, especially the .gif one!

This does bring up a question that I've been wondering for a long time. I know for the most part in this post you're talking about percentage of grip level, but lots of times we talk about percentage of ability of riding. I know I've been guilty of using these terms as well, like saying "I'm riding at 90% only just having some fun, blah blah", or telling a beginner "Don't push yourself right away, just ride at 75% and you'll be fine". What exactly does that mean? How does one measure that percentage?

Does it mean X % of the best lap time that I'm now capable of doing or is it a mental thing based on effort? If it's based on effort, I feel it's a flawed way of describing it because a lot of times I've gone faster when I felt like I wasn't pushing as hard (in other words less than 100%) than times when I felt like I was giving it all I had. If it's based on best lap time, I feel like it's not a linear relationship. Because for example, for a pro, then riding at 90% of his best lap means he wouldn't even qualify for the race. If my best lap time is 2:00 at a track, 80% for example, would be 20% slower which would mean a 2:24 lap time...which is a huuuuge difference, and incredibly slow. Yet a lot of people tend to claim they're riding at 80-90% of their ability and they're going only about 2-3 seconds off their full race pace.

So, how do you quantify that? What is the real meaning behind these percentages?
Well, percentage of tire grip is a fixed number. It is the same for my Pirelli front tire as it is for yours and so it is easy to quantify. What you are discussing is rider ability which is a lot more nebulous.

What we mean when we tell a student to ride at 75% really means ride at a pace where you are so comfortable that you do not need to expend thought process on doing anything. It is natural riding where everything is muscle memory and instinctual. This frees up the rider to think and process the changes that we are asking them to make, or to focus specifically on areas of improvement. Try not to get hung up on the numbers.

For example: At my local track my best lap is 1:14.xxx. I can ride at 1:18 all day long and not even think about it. I can face backwards, move around on the bike, do all sorts of things that allow me to monitor my students while still maintaining my pace. While that is not 75% of my pace, I would say that I am using 75% (or much less actually) of my ability at that point. I am free to focus on other things. It is so well into my comfort level that I would not ever evoke a panic response/survival reaction. Does this make sense?
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post #11 of 21 Old 03-03-2017, 04:09 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Addhoc View Post
How do you minimize bar input? Not sure if thats the right question but I hear time and again OFF THE BARS OFF THE BARS so I suppose my question would be how? Not sure if that can really be answered other than saying STAY OFF THE BARS and trusting your throttle to dictate your line through an apex. I took a tip from a AM racer who told me to try to flap my arms like a duck while cornering. Sounds very stupid but actually makes A LOT of sense. If you are on the bars your arms will be to still to flap like a duck while cornering where as if you are off the bars they will flap effortlessly.
The ability to stay off the bars is a function of proper body position. The rider needs to be locked in on the bike which allows them to bear their entire weight with their legs and core muscles. The 'chicken wing' method is a test to confirm that you are indeed being light on the bars. I actually ask my students to take their hand off the bars because as you mentioned you can still flap your arms a bit and not be completely off the bars.

Refer to Strategies in track riding/road racing: How to sit on a motorcycle...no, really. for some basic body positioning techniques and there is a TON of info in this thread that will likely answer any question you may have remaining: Help critique my riding/body position/whatever
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post #12 of 21 Old 03-03-2017, 04:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PainfullySlo View Post
This will actually cover two topics which are closely related so it is liable to get a bit long.

Ok! Ok! So unwanted bar input makes me slower. What else?

It also puts you at greater risk. Bar input while cornering introduces a torsional load not only into your front tire, but into your entire chassis as well. It is what we call 'potential energy' just sitting in your frame all wound up like a spring. The microsecond where you lose contact with the ground due to a surface imperfection, all that force has to go somewhere and your frame suddenly straightens out. We like to call this little maneuver a high side crash..
Hello PainfullySlo
That question was a very long in my mind ``why racers sometimes going up like a spring``while cornering
Right now everything is clear, for me at least. Even with my broken English I can understand. That means you explained this very well
ps. post a bit looooong
Thank you for sharing.

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post #13 of 21 Old 03-03-2017, 07:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PainfullySlo View Post
It also puts you at greater risk. Bar input while cornering introduces a torsional load not only into your front tire, but into your entire chassis as well. It is what we call 'potential energy' just sitting in your frame all wound up like a spring. The microsecond where you lose contact with the ground due to a surface imperfection, all that force has to go somewhere and your frame suddenly straightens out. We like to call this little maneuver a high side crash.
Can concur. Last session before lunch. Tired and hungry. Turn 11 at Jennings GP known for high sides. Guarantee I had bar input which led to the rear stepping way out. Panicked and chopped the throttle. Rear tire found traction again reeeeal quick. Spent a couple days in a trauma center.


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post #14 of 21 Old 03-03-2017, 09:40 AM Thread Starter
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Can conquer. Last session before lunch. Tired and hungry. Turn 11 at Jennings GP known for high sides. Guarantee I had bar input which led to the rear stepping way out. Panicked and chopped the throttle. Rear tire found traction again reeeeal quick. Spent a couple days in a trauma center.

I appreciate your effort but you did not have to go doing that just to prove my point =)
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post #15 of 21 Old 03-04-2017, 02:37 PM
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Can concur. Last session before lunch. Tired and hungry. Turn 11 at Jennings GP known for high sides. Guarantee I had bar input which led to the rear stepping way out. Panicked and chopped the throttle. Rear tire found traction again reeeeal quick. Spent a couple days in a trauma center.

Ouuuch man....scary !!!

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