Tips for Riding Faster, From MotoAmerica“These motorcycles were built by experts so you need to ride them like one,” said Nick Ienatsch, instructor...
“These motorcycles were built by experts so you need to ride them like one,” said Nick Ienatsch, instructor for the Yamaha Championships Riding School and the day’s teacher. MotoAmerica had the ingenious idea of introducing the new series to the media by taking us through a quick track riding school.
In lieu of the typical classroom style power point presentation where we’d be forced to listen to board members spill out the same PR talk, introduce themselves, say something we already know, make an awkward joke and then introduce the next person to do the same—I’ll take track time over a media presentation any day. So first off, props to MotoAmerica and Kahn Media for pulling off a great event.
The Yamaha Champions Riding School made the trek from New Jersey for a day of riding at the Thermal Club. Far from a MotoGP or Moto America track, it’s still a stellar facility where only a few have the opportunity to ride. Located in Thermal, California—the other side of Coachella (you know the place with the huge music festival)—the track is surrounded by tall brick walls that block the view and wind. There's no formal entrance or any road signs and with tag lines like, “Private Pavement” and “A country club for racing enthusiasts," Thermal defines the term, private.
The Thermal Club houses a technical, tight 4.5-mile course that’s often divided into a North and South Track. Our day’s festivities remained on the North track.
Our charismatic instructor, Nick Ienatsch, is a Cycle World contributor with over 18 years of racing/riding experience and has been putting together a kick ass GSX-R1100 too. An expert columnist and long-time teacher, he was to-the-point, loud, confident, helpful, encouraging and overall just excited to be riding. He repeated simple instructions for most of the day, like occasionally shouting, don’t crash! Simple enough.
Why We Crash
The top three reasons a rider crashes are: focus, abruptness and rushing a corner entry. The two latter items were the focus of our rushed classroom session. Our class consisted of roughly 45 minutes of schooling, with some pit/parking lot demonstrations and then right to the track for lead-follows the rest of the day.
This was a two day school condensed into less than 2 hours. It was a speed drill of information and many complained of having a lot to digest, but all who attended learned something, including myself. We started concentrating on our own weaknesses on the track and luckily learned fast.
Note: These lessons were primarily targeted towards track riding. While, many of them can be helpful on the street, do not use this as a firm guide for street riding. Take these tips as a starting point for track riding information.
You can only use 100 percent of your motorcycle and its tires—this was our first lesson. Those 100 points must be divided amongst varying aspects of riding: lean angle, throttle input, speed, braking and track surface. Use too many points and you lose grip. Losing grip can mean gaining some new graphics on your gear, and what are we not doing today? Crashing!
Of course you’ll only know you’ve exceeded these points after the fact, never before. We were reminded to always think of our total points being used. As lean angle increases, throttle input and braking needed to decrease—like when entering a corner. As lean angle decreases, throttle input can increase, as you’re exiting a corner. But, if you use 50 points via throttle input at 60 points of lean angle, the tire will break loose since too much of the tire’s limit was used. The best way to find 100 points is to sneak up on it.
Trail Braking, It’s all About Trail Braking!
Go outside and kick the front tire of your motorcycle. It probably skipped, or slid across the garage floor just a little. Now, bend down and gradually apply pressure to the tire, equaling the same force you kicked it with.
Nick took a tire (without a wheel in it), leaned it over and then slammed his hand into it, it slid and fell over. Then he gradually pushed down hard on the tire, pushing in the same downward and outward directions, with the same force. The tire flattened out, adding more contact surface with the road. It did not slide this time. Keeping the tire loaded, along with the suspension, while cornering will increase your grip. Letting go of the brakes will shrink the tire, un-spring the suspension, and decrease your grip.
As you enter a corner, slowly give up braking points for lean angle points. The more the lean, the less you brake, all while keeping pressure on the front suspension until the apex.
Forget that old way of thinking where you brake in a straight line then coast through a corner with no braking. Instead, load the front suspension and tire, gradually apply the brakes into the corner, and gradually release the brake up until the apex. Once you pass that apex, apply throttle as soon as it’s possible.
With street riding, track riding, or even casual riding, this method will increase grip, stability and comfort. Imagine riding through the canyons and there’s gravel in the middle of the road. You’re mid corner and need to react. If you’re already on the brakes, you can simple apply more and/or change lanes within your lane.
Now back to the track. Freeze yourself, mid corner, touching your knee against the apex. Here you’re using 100 points of lean angle, hopefully. Therefore, no brakes and no throttle. As you exit, lean angle decreases, throttle increases, but your body needs to remain hanging off the side of the bike, pushing the bike upward.
As you exit the corner, you need to push the bike more upright. When the bike is straight up (or almost), that’s when you can use 100 points of throttle, but not before then. This is because if you’re on the throttle too soon, then you may slide the tire. And, what are we not doing today? Crashing!
You’ve hopefully heard this before in regards to body positioning: butt cheek off the seat, knee out, and toe on the peg, pointed towards the corner. Get ready early and make sure to do this position BEFORE getting to the corner. At the end of a straight, we were on the brakes hard in a straight line while positioning ourselves for the corner.
Also, stay off the grips. The only time you should be on your palms is when you’re on the brakes.
Don’t Crash Again
We jumped on all different Yamaha’s for the day including the new R3 and R1. Most of us were a little nervous to be the one who would potentially crash the team’s only R1, but had no problem whipping the little R3 into a corner. Luckily, only one guy crashed who had little experience and developed a bit of target fixation with the gravel. He was fine as it was a low speed crash.
I'd honestly forgotten why we were there by the end of the day. The Yamaha Champions Riding School taught us a few pointers that all MotoAmerica racers use. The new racing series will hit nine different tracks across the US this year, and the season is already well under way. They, along with Kahn Media, did a great job of keeping our attention for the first season’s media day.