Tag Archives: trackday

Training and riding is a balancing act…

18 Jun

Have you ever had those days where it just seems like you’re having a hard time staying in that optimal state of arousal?

When arousal is too high, we are unable to perform at optimum levels on the motorcycle. Often we can get too focused on something and begin to filter out relevant information/stimuli. When this happens we have poor performance. We may miss an apex, brake too late, too hard or lose our position on the bike to where something just feels off. At worst, it can have disastrous effects as the rider below experienced.

There is another theory that seems to be a bit more in line with what motorcyclists go through. It’s called Catastrophe Theory. It’s tough to explain, but essentially it states that once you go beyond the optimum level of arousal, there is no turning back within the event. Even if we were to back off and try to adjust our focus levels, we would not be at the optimum level of arousal and performance.

So it’s important to not (ahem) over stimulate yourself prior to riding. Too much caffeine, poor sleep, tension can all lead to over alertness to where you are focusing on things/stimuli that are not relevant to the task at hand. Part of me is wondering if that happened in the video above. Perhaps this guy was focusing too much on a single stimuli, creating a tunnel vision effect. Obviously he had enough space to the side of the other rider to miss him.

As he was not braking as early as the other riders in the frame, this would tell us something about his level of arousal. No matter what the cause, there is a lot information to take in when on the track. its a fine balance to take in all of the information coming at you without missing necessary stimuli.

To get acquainted with this skill, practice when you’re driving your car. Are you picking up too many details and “missing the forest for the trees”? Or perhaps you’re missing task relevant cues and changing lanes too late, having to rush passes and upsetting the flow of traffic.

Try it and see if you feel a little anxious while driving, a little relaxed, or if you feel like you are in the sweet spot, not too relaxed, but not too anxious. Once you begin to feel this on the road, take it to the track!

Smooth Riding is better riding. But what is “smooth”?

3 Dec

We hear it a lot in MotoGP. Reg Pridmore built his career (and his book on it). Smooth Riding the Pridmore Way

But being smooth is the best way to ride, bar none. Rough riding, deceleration, acceleration, lateral transitioning all will upset the suspension and make riding feel like work instead of fun. With winter coming and the weather starting to get sour in many parts in the world, riding time will decrease.

But how can you work on being smooth when you’re in the gym training for your trackday?

It’s actually quite simple.

Think about what it takes to be smooth when you’re on the bike. You have to roll on the throttle and roll off in a controlled manner. Control is simply being in tune with your body and being able to make small adjustments instead of making large inputs. Large input disrupts handling. Looking at MotoGP or World Superbike, when you’re on the edge of the tire is no time to be making large input changes to the bike.

When only 1/1000th of the tire is making contact with the ground is not the time to make abrupt changes. However, smooth riding is rewarded with faster cornering.

Now the best riders can make small, accurate inputs very quickly. I know when i’m riding and I focus on being smooth and not upsetting the suspension, it feels as though I’m taking a very long time to provide the input. And this is okay. It will get better, I will get better and the inputs will become more accurate and become quicker.

But how does a person improve smoothness?

By becoming more in tune with your physical body. When doing exercises, don’t just go through the motions and hope for change to happen. Instead, be intentional with your movements. Focus on how your muscles are working and which ones are working.

Imagine that your body is a computer. A really nice one. Your brain, it’s the CPU. Your muscles, joints and limbs? They are the hardware. The hardware relays information to the performance of your body back to the CPU. But if the hardware isn’t very sensitive, it’s not going to do much for the CPU.

Every time you focus on what your muscles are doing while you move, it’s essentially upgrading the hardware to match the upgraded software. So when you are focusing on being smooth on/off the throttle, you’re refining your hardware and your CPU is recognizing the upgraded hardware.

Think about the tunability of the CPU on a MotoGP machine, pretty awesome right? We’re always talking about how software makes these bikes amazing. Well upgrade your own software and hardware!

You can go out and run, cycle or randomly go through some exercises. Yes, you’ll see a modest “hardware” upgrade. But to really see some results in your ability to move on the bike, you have to focus and pay attention to what is going on during your workouts.

What are some ways to improve “hardware” sensitivity? First, gain some flexibility. Muscles that don’t stretch much, can’t provide optimal feedback. Start working on mobility with a deep lunge/Spiderman, lateral squats and hip crossovers. 

Strength exercises you can do are single leg squats, chin ups and dumbbell bench press (dumbbells require more rotator cuff use). For energy system development (ESD)/cardio, I would recommend a rowing machine, a VersaClimber or even some heavy rope slams as these all involve very dynamic movements that transfer well to the art of motorcycle riding.

So this winter, improve your smoothness by giving each workout the mental attention it needs and deserves. I think you’ll be pretty impressed by the results come spring riding season.

This training strategy will get you “Trackday Ready”

25 Mar

One factor that never seems to get thought about in motorcycle racing is the use of isometrics. Think about it, Although a riders heart rate is racing, and muscle are being used, there isn’t too much movement that occurs.

So why do we spend so much time with dynamic contractions yet most of the movement while on the bike has the knees bent to 90-120 degrees of flexion. When we get on the bike our legs aren’t pushing our body all the way up. Instead we are hovering with muscles contracted for almost the entire time.

And this is what will make you sore. I remember my first time on a track. I thought I was going in fairly fit. But my legs were sore for the next 3 days. I just wasn’t expecting the soreness to reach that level. But shifting your weight from side to side quickly, requires a lot of work and also creates a lot of stress on the muscle. As a result we get a lot of soreness. No surprise there, huh?

So what would an isometric training program look like for motorcycle racers or trackday riders? Well, if you’re following this program it’s a 5-second hold and then come back to the top. Repeat 5-8 times.

Another exercise I’ve included in the Isometric phase is a lateral slide thru. Basically, you hold a a pair of dumbbells in a front squat position with your feet placed wide. Squat down and shift your weight to the right. Hold for 2-seconds and slide back thru to the left without coming up. Hold for 2-seconds and slide back to the right. Repeat this until you’ve done 10-12 per side. When that starts to get easy, increase the hold to 3-seconds.

There are plenty of great core exercises that are isometric in nature, which is what we trackday riders need most. Pushups, planks, side planks, dead bugs, mountain climbers are all great isometric exercises as they force our core muscles to overcome inertia during a movement. This is VERY similar to how we have to react on a motorcycle when hustling around the track.

Maintaing proper body position when accelerating or cornering is imperative to not upsetting the suspension. Keep the core rigid and you’ll become a part of the bike!

So give this isometric workout a try. But be prepared, isometrics will bring a new found level of soreness that is uncommon to most people!

Perform exercises in pairs, doing A1 followed by A2. Rest for 60-seconds and repeat for 2 more sets before moving on to pair B, and finally pair C.

A1: Squat + 5-second hold x 5

A2: Pushup triple pause x 10 (pause at top, middle and bottom of pushup for 2-seconds)

B1: Stability Ball Leg Curl + 5-sec hold x 5

B2: Wide Grip Row triple pause x 10 (same as pushup pausing)

C1: Side Plank x 45-seconds per side

C2: Chin-up eccentric x 6 (jump to the top of the chin-up bar and let yourself down as slowly as possible)

Again, just be prepared as these will leave you aching for days!

Also, you don’t necessarily have to do a full 4-5 week cycle of isometric work. But throw this workout in once per week to make sure you train that characteristic. You’ll thank me on your next trackday!

 

You, your moto and crappy fuel

9 Nov

Have you ever put low grade oil in your motorcycle? Have you ever switched oils or brands of fuel because you read that a different brand or type improves performance? Most of us have.

Oil selection is sure to incite a riot of some kind on most message boards or email lists. I know on Ducati.net, it’s a running joke that if it’s a slow day for moto news, starting an oil thread will liven the list up. And it happens for good reason. 

castrol robot racing

If you were a robot, what you put in your bike would be the only thing that matters. But you’re not. Eat better, ride better.

We know our motorcycle performance can vary based on oil. We know first hand that a low quality oil or even just a different brand can change the way the bike runs, shifts, cools itself and delivers power. 

Now stop for a minute and think about this: If you’re bike is this sensitive to fuel selection, how sensitive do you think your body is? 

Now if your eating habits aren’t the greatest, you probably can’t tell if a performance difference in your body. If you’re eating a lot of high sugar cereals or pastries for breakfast chased by a coffee with creamer for breakfast, a burger and fries for lunch and an over-cooked chicken burrito with a sweet tea for dinner you probably don’t realize how bad your body is running.

But like changing the oil or grade of fuel in your bike before a trackday or race, changing your eating habits can have a positive effect too! When changing to a better oil for the bike, you might think “wow! the bike is running really well today!” Similarly, when you add veggies or fruit to a meal and replace any calorie containing drink (ie soda, juice, milk, sweet tea or beer) with water or unsweetened tea or coffee, you’ll discover you feel better.

You may not know why, but you’ll feel like you’ve got a little more energy to ride your Ducati, BMW, Aprila or Yamaha to the limit. You’ll improve reaction time, move around on the bike better and ride harder longer. 

Want a kick-start to improving the fuel going in your body?

Check out Gourmet Nutrition and start eating better. It’s the cook book that every moto-athlete needs to lean up and become a better rider. Image

Most trackday riders aren’t doing THIS…

2 Sep

The way that many trackday riders approach a track day is similar to how golfers often approach a round at the course. It looks something like this: we watch professional racing on television and see all the bolt-on goodies that these motorcycles have and think, “if I only had better brakes,” “if I only had lighter wheels, I’d be a better rider.”

The biggest variable in motorcycle performance is the rider. I know my Ducati Supersport isn’t the fastest thing in the world, but I know from experience that it’s a lot easier to move around on the bike, a lot easier to ride harder longer, a lot more fun to ride when my body is fit and able.

But this brings us to a more specific question: what type of training should we be doing? After all, training is performing exercises for the purpose of improving a specific quality. For us, that’s our ability to ride a 140-hp animal as hard as we can for 20-minutes at a time. Our sport also requires optimal focus 100% of the time; it doesn’t take long for bad stuff to happen at high speeds and high lean angles.

So we have to be able to react quickly. Now granted, most accidents on a motorcycle happen faster than we can react. But there are times when we can react and overcome an obstacle such as if we see gravel or sand on the road. We need to be able to react. In addition, we also need to be able to produce high amounts of force. The more force we can produce, the faster the force will come on. The term for this is called “selective recruitment.”

A quick explanation of how muscle contracts. It’s called the “size principle” and essentially states that as a muscle group is called upon to contract, it begins with the smaller muscle fibers and gradually ramps up to contracting the bigger stronger fibers until the amount of force produced is enough to overcome the external force applied to it.

However, the principle of “selective recruitment” essentially states that when a muscle is trained enough, when the muscle is called upon to contract, it the recruitment process will skip the smaller, weaker fibers and go straight to recruiting the larger stronger fibers. Now it may not seem like it’s going to save much time, but we both know that a few tenths of a second is more than enough to make a difference!

So back to the type of training we need to do. Strength training needs to be included in a training program. it is necessary to improve reaction time as well as core strength and is a component of overall fitness. You don’t have to do a ton of strength training, but 2-3 sets of your foundational lifts with heavy resistance should suffice to increase strength. How heavy? Use a weight you can only lift 4-6 times.

In addition to building stronger muscles, it will also increase lactate production which in turn will improve your lactate threshold, as studies have shown that strength training improves muscular endurance. In other words, that point when you’re riding and your legs start burning won’t come so soon.

After you complete your heavy lifts, then you can get into your fat-burning core and muscular endurance training. Don’t be afraid to life heavy. Most trackday riders are afraid they’ll get huge. But if you follow this pattern of doing 2-3 sets of heavy training before you really get after your endurance training, you’ll find riding the bike so much easier. -TDF

The BEST thing to eat during a track day…

15 Aug

MotoGP, World Superbike and regional superbike riders the world over might be asking this question of themselves: Does what I eat effect my riding? Does how much I eat effect my riding?

Well the simple answer is “yes,” and “yes.”

Motorcycle racing is one of the most energy demanding sports in the world. Studies have shown that the average road racing pilot has a heart rate that floats around or above 85% of their maximum heart rate for the duration of the race. Now there are some anomalies. I remember in the movie “Faster,” the section of the movie was discussing the difference in heart rate of Max Biaggi and Valentino Rossi.

Rossi’s heart rate floated around 130 bpm or so while Biaggi was up around 150-160 bpm. Now the higher the bpm, the faster your body burns through energy.

So although your last name isn’t Rossi, I know when you’re on the track, your heart rate is up there and your body is working.

To keep your body doing this type of work during a trackday (much less a race), you have to give it the right type of fuel.

Much like any other athlete, carbohydrates are the fastest energy source in our body. Once carbohydrates enter the body, depending on their complexity, they can be in the blood stream in as little as 10-minutes because carbohydrate breakdown begins in our mouths.

Carlin Dunne Pikes Peak

No matter if you’re racing a track, or hitting Pike’s Peak full bore, nutrition plays a big role in concentration and endurance. (Photo from: http://www.digitaltrends.com)

Now superbike racers aren’t often viewed by the public (or researchers for that matter) as athletes. Thus, the need to evaluate their nutritional demands isn’t deemed important.

But hey, I’m a rider. I do trackdays. I ride hard on the weekends. And I always want to be at the top of my skill level. So nutrition IS important to me.

So what should you eat during a track day? Well, the first step is to look at the demands. Is it hot? Are you in class between sessions? How often are you on the track? Every 20-minutes or every 40-minutes?

More often than not, you’ll want and need a lot of carbohydrates. But these don’t need to be in the form of cookies and cake.

No, you need NUTRITION. Other than sugar, cakes, cookies and soda have nothing to offer. Now fruit, whole wheat bread sandwiches, honey, peanuts, raisins, salad. These are all carbohydrates that have the vitamins and minerals to keep you at the tip of the spear.

When winning is coming down to tenths of a second per lap, you better be able to pour every last drop of effort and energy into your laps.

When the difference between life and death on your favorite canyon road is a tenth of a second in reaction time, you’d better not be delayed. Having not just adequate, but optimal nutrition is imperative!

Hot weather, poor ventilation and poor nutrition will do this to you and me both. This is not a good state to be riding a motorcycle in. Photo credit: http://www.motorcyclenews.com

So foods like oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, yoghurt, chicken, almonds, sunflower seeds, and let’s not forget PLENTY of water is imperative. I know when you’re on a day ride with your buddies, enjoying the food you eat is part of the experience. But first and foremost, food MUST BE NUTRITIOUS.

When you wake up the morning of a trackday, be sure to have a few eggs with some veggies and cheese. Then have yourself a bowl of oats and a big glass of water and some coffee. Bring a snack of chocolate covered almonds, or the po’ boy version: almonds and chocolate chips. Bring plenty of water to the track with you, even if it’s cold outside. You will still sweat while riding.

For lunch, keep in mind you are replenishing and preparing for the afternoon. So lunch should consist of primarily carbohydrates, with protein and fat lower on the priority list. But again, just any carbohydrates won’t do. Sandwiches are obviously very easy to pack and eat. But whole wheat or even better, sprouted grain bread should be the bread you’re having. As for meat on the sandwich, turkey is usually a good source primarily because it is lean. Foods higher in fat such as baloney or roast beef will sit heavy and can cause gastrointestinal distress. Eat slow and be sure to stop eating when 80% full. Food coma is not something you want just prior to heading back into the track.

Turkey Sandwich

Turkey, avocado and veggies makes a great track day lunch! Wash it down with some water and feel free to have some chocolate covered almonds with it!

Bring a Gatorade or Accelerade with you too for later in the afternoon when blood sugar tends to drop even without hustling a bike around the track.

For every session you’re on the track, you need to drink 500-mL of water. If it’s a summer day, bump it to 1000-mL. Trust me. Dehydration of just 2% can lead to decreased reaction times. You don’t want that when you’re relying on a few a 1/4 inch of rubber to keep you right side up!

Intuitively, we know what is healthy and what’s not. You can eat the stuff you want, but nutritious food needs to be a priority when you’re out on the track. You’ll enjoy your day more, you’ll be safer and yep, you’ll probably be faster. – TDF

The BIGGEST mistake a rider can make…

28 Mar

As I was having my tires changed on my Ducati SuperSport, my buddy and I got into a discussion about the amount of effort it takes to ride a Ducati fast. He too is a Ducatisti. He had owned a 1098 but sold it for something a bit more “practical” – a Ural.

We got into talking about why it is a Ducati just feels so heavy to turn. Eventually the bike gets into the turn, and once it’s there it sticks well. But man do they feel heavy.

This got me thinking about how much better riding would be if it took less effort. So aside from switching to a different bike, how can we become a better rider and make ANY bike want to turn easier?

First thing is knowledge. You have to understand the dynamics of how a bike works. If you’ve ever watched somebody try to turn the handlebars the direction they want to go, it’s usually a battle for the bike to be turned if it turns at all!

Technical instruction is a crucial part to being a better rider.

The second thing is instruction.

Having somebody teach you how to ride a motorcycle is an invaluable experience. The MSF safety course is great for urban riding skill and slow speed maneuvering for beginners. However, a high speed riding school such as CLASS, is amazing. Even with a heavy steering bike, after a day there I headed up on my favorite back road ride and I was amazed at how much easier it was to ride the bike.

But thirdly, rider fitness plays a role. And THIS is the BIGGEST mistake a rider can make: ignoring their own fitness or pretending it doesn’t matter.

How might front squats benefit the weekend rider?
Leg strength and endurance as well as core and postural endurance!

Denying that rider fitness plays a role is akin to saying that fitness does not play a role in golf (or any other sport for that matter). We’ve seen what the new breed of golfers is doing to the older generation that just played multiple rounds a day and tried to improve that way.

So two riders with the same experience and same bike will be separated by what? Fitness. Most of us aren’t riding in 5-10 minute clips and then heading back into the garage for suspension adjustments. No, we’re trackday riders, out there for 20-minutes at a time and doing it for 8-hours a day. Or we’re back road riders, heading out for a 1-2 hour jaunt that throws a lot of unpredictability your way.

And the rider who can stay focused and minimize fatigue is going to be the safer rider.

So although fitness is not a highly sought after quality of most riders, it can definitely be an asset to every rider of every type. Any type of exercise will benefit a rider, but a plan like Grand Prix Fitness is geared toward building total body strength, core strength, and a challenging finisher that will make your legs scream like nothing else.

Keep an eye out for Grand Prix Fitness in the coming weeks! Subscribe to this blog to get updates when new posts are put up as well as when Grand Prix Fitness is released!!