Holding Your Line
Predicting a Line
If you always knew precisely where the bike was going to be, as far up ahead as you could see in corners, what sort of impact would that have on your everyday riding, touring, track riding or racing?
Think of how easy it would be to have good throttle control if you always knew where you were going to be! Isn't throttle control easy when you know your line is "good"?
This could easily lead you to believe that having a good line was the key to good throttle control but it's not. In fact, it is the opposite: Good throttle control is the answer and opens the door to "good" lines.
It is true, one of the great results of good, standard throttle
control is the bike holding a predictable line in the corner; and all
riders realize that having the ability to accurately predict the result
of their line would result in a far more positive riding experience in
any cornering situation.
I'd like you to take a look here at some data on this subject and at the end I've prepared an exercise you can do to gain better control of your line and more confidence in predicting it.
Throttle Control Virtues
At the Superbike School we spend a lot of time and put heavy emphasis on Throttle Control. From a technical perspective, all that goes right and most all of what can go wrong in a turn starts and ends with how well you conduct that precision control device on the right hand bar known as the throttle. A predictable line is one of the many positive results of controlling the throttle accurately.
It's easy to communicate how easily good Throttle Control solves common problems and puts the rider in "full" (the best it can be) control of the bike. We sing its praises and tout its many virtues--when we get it right.
Riders generally deplore their own shortcomings in being able to maintain it when fear and panic seize them. They understand its simplicity; they grasp its importance immediately and see areas where they could improve throttle control just from a classroom briefing on it.
Running wide is a major concern for all riders. Name a situation (other than in multiple radii turns) where running wide is a benefit. If you are at a loss to find one, I understand, no one ever has. How do you handle running wide?
This is a huge concern and it brings up such questions as: Should I just trust the tires? Should I just lean it over more thinking "the bike can do it"? Should I stand it up and go for the brakes? What do you do?
Let's start out with our Survival Instincts and see how they
may cause problems. When the bike is running wide the last thing your
instinct tells you is: "You need more gas here". In fact, it
is quite the opposite. It tells you that rolling on the gas will make
it worse and you will crash.
This particular Survival Reaction (SR) may be based on the very first day you rode a bike at slow speed in a parking lot. Perhaps the bike felt like it was falling over and you gave it some gas and that stabilized it: that stopped the feeling that it was going to fall over. It may have even felt like it brought the bike up.
This second one is a false perception. The bike did not "come up" but it did stabilize. If stopping the bike from falling inwards mistakenly becomes confused with "coming up" your right hand on the throttle would have a very strong opinion about this in the future, i.e., gas on = bike comes up; as opposed to the truth of the matter which is: gas on = bike stabilizes its lean angle.
A related misconception that many riders have follows along this
You Choke, You Lose
In running wide, even a momentary hesitation is enough to cause
By the way, this is another area of false perception that many
Back to the point. Even with terrific reflexes it takes time for you to subdue the Survival Reaction (SR) that created that hesitation and finally make the decision to roll it on. A half a second is short for this type of thing. In reality it takes more like a second or even two to regain your control. That is a lot of space, that is a lot of running wide, that is a lot of anxiety and that is most of any short turn.
Superlative Throttle Control is a precision activity. Easy for those who can do it and very confusing (probably based on the contrary evidence from false perception as above) for those who cannot.
Finding the right amount of gas to stabilize the bike and hold
its line isn't even vaguely easy, it is hard. Initially, you have to break
through some pretty tough barriers just to maintain good throttle control
to get the bike to hold a predictable line, especially as the speed increases.
Throttle control must be looked at from the angle of a fluid and continuous maintenance of the bikes attitude in the turn, i.e., enough weight transferred off the front and onto the rear of the bike to maintain its best and most neutral handling attitude, not too much or too little. And more importantly, maintaining the suspension in its optimum stroke-range with the throttle. This requires a continuous roll-on.
The point is this: your ability to maintain good throttle control
is an absolutely necessary and integral part of conquering the SRs connected
to running wide.
Note: Throttle control is well covered in "A Twist of the Wrist", Volume II, as those of you who have read the book already know.
Not yet. Without first hand knowledge of how it feels and looks my words are not likely to make running wide disappear as a problem for you. Another thing I should mention, there is no iron clad, fits all situations type answer to it. But there are answers.
Here is a drill to improve your ability to predict your line.
Run Wide Adjustments
Here are some classic errors and problems that counter your efforts to maintain a predictable line:
The Usual Bike Setup Errors
As Good As It Gets
How many turns it will take to build confidence in yourself and, eventually, the bike I can't tell you. I do know that it will all come down to achieving a high degree of good, solid control of the throttle.
It goes like this: you can't trust the bike or the tires until you can trust yourself and your right hand to do the right thing. That's as good as it gets. It is a tried and true route to confidence and accuracy in your lines.
© Keith Code, 2006, all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
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