It is no great mystery that we need to be in control in order to go fast on a motorcycle. Things like fear and doubt inhibit our ability to control things and so it stands to reason that if we can do something to prevent fear and doubt that we will have a better time in the saddle.
I can tell you with absolute certainty that every single time that I have turned a new PB (personal best...fastest lap) it has always
been a surprise because I felt slow. I was calm, my actions were smooth and deliberate, and I did not feel rushed at all. In essence: I had no fear.
Now, even the best of us feel fear. I am sure everyone here knows what a survival reaction is; your bodies natural and instinctual response to fear. Because it is controlled by your subconscious we cannot change what we do but what we can
control is when we start to feel fear. Here are some tips to help 'slow things down' which will help you gain confidence and feel more in control. Reducing your sense of speed
Have you ever felt fear when driving your car on the highway under normal circumstances? I am betting no, even though you are likely traveling at ~70mph which is fairly quick. Why is this?
There are two main reasons: your sense of speed is reduced because the physical stimuli (touch, sound) of driving in a metal box is greatly reduced when compared to riding a motorcycle, and also because your vision is naturally farther ahead of you.
We can adjust these things on a motorcycle which will drastically help to reduce your sense of speed, and thus allow you to ride faster.
Let's address the physical stimuli first, and there are a myriad of ways that we can help ourselves feel more calm and reduce the sensation of speed.
- Gear - wearing top notch protective gear helps to reduce our feeling of speed. If you can feel the air rushing by your body through a thin or poorly designed suit, it will make you feel more exposed. A helmet that is noisy or buffets in the wind will make you tense up.
- Ear Plugs - The sound of rushing wind greatly improves your bodies perception of speed. Properly fitting ear plugs will reduce this while still allowing you to hear the important things that you need to hear. I am ALWAYS faster when I wear ear plugs.
- Suspension - The main benefit of quality suspension is that it allows your bike to maintain a stable geometry while cornering but an added perk is that the bike feels more stable which reduces your sense of speed. A bike that is wallowing through corners can do horrible things to your confidence, even if the bike is no where near the limits of its traction.
- Body Position - If your hands are lighter on the bars you will receive less vibration which also reduces your sense of speed.
As for vision, why does traveling at 70 in a car feel ok but may make us start to feel a bit nervous on a motorcycle? A street sign in the distance slowly approaches you and it feels perfectly natural. When riding a motorcycle we can see a lot more, including the ground which is much closer to us and moving by quite fast; this is where our perception of speed comes from. If you want to prove this out, try opening your car door (do this safely) and counting the dotted lines as they go past...suddenly 70mph doesn't feel so slow anymore.
We can counter this by keeping our vision high, essentially looking further into the distance rather than focusing on the road immediately ahead of you. It takes practice to do this but I promise that it is a worthwhile endeavor.
A general feeling of confidence will also help you to feel more calm and to push back the point where we start to feel panic. You can read more about that here: Strategies in track riding/road racing - Confidence
More to come as I get time.