In the canyons, riders will...
In the canyons, riders will occasionally enter a corner too hot and run wide — a mistake that could spell disaster and should be learned from. Sometimes the change to your riding could be as simple as slowing down a few mph, other times the lesson is to learn how to better set your corner speed.
Motorcycle racing can be a dangerous sport, and canyon riding isn’t without its own share of risks. No rider wants — or expects — to crash, but the undeniable truth is that anything can happen at any time (that’s the reason you gear up every day, isn’t it?). But while crashes can’t always be avoided, they can certainly be used as a tool for becoming a safer, better rider. Near-crashes and mid-ride mistakes can be equally as instructive, providing you with the opportunity to make changes to your riding before something more serious happens. No, we haven’t been sipping Trevitt’s “happy juice,” there really is a silver lining to crashes, so long as you’re willing and able to learn from your mistakes.
At racetrack speeds a motorcycle crash happens faster than you’d expect, often leaving riders curious as to what went wrong. Figuring out what led to the fall, however, is an important part of the learning process and a must if you plan to progress as a rider. Give yourself some time to cool down, relax and survey your injuries, and then begin putting the pieces together by asking yourself a few important questions: Was it the front tire or rear tire that lost traction? What was it that caused the bike to lose traction? Perhaps you made too heavy an input to the bike, or maybe your bike’s suspension setup led to the fall. Figure out the basics and then try to understand what you could have done differently to prevent the crash. More often than not it’s small changes to your riding or to the bike that could prevent a similar accident happening again.
If you’re unable to pinpoint exactly what caused your accident, avoid throwing your hands up in defeat; odds are if you can’t understand what you did wrong, you’ll make the same mistake again with similar results. One trick that we’ve found helpful over the years is to walk the track at day’s end, looking for clues along the way that shed some light on what happened at the impact zone. A few things to look for include tire skids and grind marks in the pavement. The location of the tire marks offers the best glimpse into what happened; marks closer to the entrance of the corner, for instance, suggest traction was compromised by overriding the front tire on the brakes. Likewise, front tire markings towards the middle of the corner suggest the front gave way under load while banked into the corner. Clues such as these, or markings from hard parts hitting the ground, will help you better understand the dynamics of your crash and what area of the corner you’re perhaps riding beyond your — or the bike’s — limit.
An unfortunate truth about motorcycle racing is that crashes happen more often than we’d like. While there’s little to appreciate about a crash, understand that they are an opportunity to learn from your mistakes.
It’s important to remember that — on the street especially, where lap times, trophies and competition are all non-existent — the ultimate goal is to keep the rubber side down and shiny side up. That being said, it’s understood that you may still make a mistake here or there. Said mistake could be as simple as running a bit wide or as big as running off the road, but something can be learned from either.
In the canyons, riders often make the mistake of getting into a corner too hot and crossing the double yellow line — a slip-up that could spell disaster at a moment’s notice. If you catch yourself doing this, even just once every couple of rides, take a step back and try to figure out what is causing you to continually make this mistake. Maybe you survived the incident unscathed last weekend, but you may not be as lucky on your next ride. Are you riding too fast? Or perhaps there is a certain type of corner that’s causing you problems, an off-camber corner for instance.
Some crashes happen so fast...
Some crashes happen so fast that it’s hard to tell what happened. In the past, we’ve found it helpful to walk the track looking for markings that indicate the dynamic of the fall.
Once you’ve narrowed the problem down and can recognize what’s causing you to run wide in certain areas, work on honing your skills to minimize those mistakes. If you don’t make continual mistakes, but made one glaring mistake during a recent ride (like ran off the side of the road), look back at what you can do differently to avoid that situation altogether in the future. Sometimes the solution is as simple as slowing your pace down a few mph. Other times it may boil down to getting your bike set up properly for a given section of road. Really determine what’s causing your problems and work out the chinks to avoid a potential accident.
Back on the track, one aspect that causes many track-day enthusiasts and racers to blunder is the “grit your teeth” method to going fast. Improving lap times at the racetrack without making mistakes is more about being methodical in your riding rather than simply pushing harder. Try to smooth your riding out during your next track day, and be precise, not aggressive, with brake and throttle inputs — braking later and grabbing the throttle earlier might cut your lap times initially, but the more aggressive riding will eventually lead you to make more mistakes. Being more methodical in your approach to quicker lap times will also make you a smoother, better rider down the line. It’s easy to learn from your mistakes, but it’s almost just as easy to not make them altogether.
Whether you ride on the track or on the street, the possibility of making a mistake is always looming. If and when you do make a blunder, understand that it’s more of an opportunity to learn and improve as a rider than anything. Make sure to not brush the incident off however, and try not to leave the track without having a good understanding of what caused the accident. If you can figure out what you did wrong, chances are you can learn from the incident and become a better, safer rider.