Complacency won’t get you anywhere. This is true in life and in motorcycle riding. Push yourself in a calculated manner, however, and you’ll start making progress in leaps and bounds. In motorcycle riding, that means moving reference markers, with the end result being a gradual improvement in lap times. But what reference markers should you be moving and, in pushing, how far is too far?
To briefly recap, reference markers are marks or objects on or near the racetrack that you will use to know exactly when to perform actions such as applying the brakes, letting go of the brakes, turning the motorcycle, or opening the throttle. Hitting these same markers lap after lap allows for consistent lap times and keeps you from getting “lost” on the track, with more markers generally equating to more consistency. But hitting the same reference markers over the course of multiple trackdays will also only allow you to go the same pace, lap after lap, trackday after trackday. There is no progress in terms of pace, even as your comfort level and riding ability comes up.
So which markers do you move and by how much?
While the answer to the “how much” end of that question is dependent on rider skill, comfort level, and bike setup, the answer to “which markers to move” is a bit easier to formulate; our general recommendation is braking markers (where you apply the brake) and throttle-application markers (where within the corner you open the throttle back up). Note of course that these markers will, regardless of skill level or comfort level, need to be adjusted in small margins, and moving one can have a direct impact on your ability to hit the other. Move your brake marker too far forward, for example, and you could be carrying so much speed into the corner that you’re unable to get back to the throttle as you roll past your throttle-application marker, which in turn affects your drive off the corner and your speed down the successive straight (read: It could actually worsen your lap time).
This is where the riding skills that you’ve been working on come into play. As you begin to feel more and more confident with braking, you can move your marker farther forward and start grabbing the brakes harder as you get into the corner. The end goal is to arrive at the apex of the corner at or near the same speed as before but to set that speed in a shorter distance.
Once you’re able to consistently hit your new brake marker and feel comfortable with your corner-entry speed, you can begin experimenting with a new throttle-application marker. Opening the throttle sooner has mass benefits detailed in Sport Rider over the years, not the least of which includes taking load off of the suspension and settling the chassis. Opening the throttle earlier will also enable you to carry more speed through and out of the corner, with the obvious risk being carrying too much speed and running wide in the middle or exit of the turn. Try moving your reference marker 2 feet back and then another foot if you’re still able to finish the corner off with ease, taking note of traction (at the front and rear) as well as your ability to hit your apex and corner-exit markers. The goal here is to continually find your limits as a rider and the limits of your bike and to ride on the side of them that enables you to feel comfortable and safe, while still working to leapfrog physical or mental barriers and gradually increase your pace.
And that’s the joy of motorcycling riding: There is always room for progress, both in terms of riding and setup—so much so that it’s asinine to ever become complacent.