Friday, March 30, 2007

Track Riding for Newbies – Ron Haslam tells you how

That's 'Rocket' Ron Haslam, on a Honda NS500. The ex-GP racer can teach you a thing or two about going very, very fast on a motorcycle...
Rocket Ron Haslam Rocket Ron Haslam Rocket Ron Haslam

In this month’s issue of British magazine, BIKE, Ron ‘Rocket’ Haslam (500cc GP racer in the 1980s and 1990s) has written a brilliant article on ‘track riding for novices.’ It’s an extremely useful article because it takes a quick, succinct look at the mistakes that novices are likely to make, and suggests suitable remedies.

You’ll have to buy a copy of the magazine for the full story (and it really is a superb issue – the Honda VFR800 vs BMW F800ST, and Ducati 1098 vs Ducati 916 stories are very interesting…), but here’s a brief summary of some of Rocket Ron’s wisdom:

1. Use every inch of the track
For track novices, more conditioned to riding on the road and expecting traffic coming the other way, the most common failing is not using the full width of the track. So adjust your thinking for the track – there’s nothing coming around the other way. Use the full width of the track – go from kerb to apex to kerb – get a feel for racing lines.

2. Ignore everything behind you
Don’t worry about being slower than other riders and/or being overtaken by them. Don’t worry about what’s happening behind you – focus fully on what’s ahead. Concentrate!

3. Sort your riding position
Don’t be too stiff or too upright, and don’t be desperate to hang off too much – getting your knee down is not important. Avoid locking your arms, and try to relax. Your first movements for a corner should be with your upper body – make sure your inside arm is bent more than your outside arm. This will bring your head down, and get your knee out. It’ll also get your weight forward and help you through the corner.

4. Brake hard!
You rarely get to use your bike’s full braking potential on the road, but braking late and braking hard are important for going faster on the track. So practice braking hard in a straight line and aim at coming to a stop in shorter and shorter distances. Get used to how the weight transfer feels, under very hard braking. On the track, this will help minimize or eliminate the time you spend ‘coasting,’ where you’re neither hard on the brakes, nor twisting the throttle.

5. Use the engine
Too many riders change up too early, never getting their bike into the fat of its powerband. They also carry too high a gear through turns. To fix this, try riding with fewer gears for some time – perhaps only the first three. You’ll get used to hearing the bike at the rev-limiter, and to how the bike feels when revved higher in lower gears. You’ll learn to use the full rev-range of your bike’s engine and change up at the right time.

Like what you just read? Buy the March issue of BIKE for the full story. You’ll also get pointers from stunt-rider Martin Child, and advanced riding instructor, Simon Weir.

Visit Ron Haslam’s racing school website here

Ron's son, Leon Haslam ponders the mysteries of motorcycle racing...

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