Body Positioning when Cornering

Last time I rode at Brands Hatch I started to develop backache during the day. I’m pretty sure that this was caused by poor body positioning when leaning for corners.

Because I don’t have any photos of my own mistakes, I’ll use some images of other rookie riders (taken by my GoPro) to try and illustrate the kinds of mistakes that I think I’m making. Apologies if you’re one of the riders in the photos… although it’s worth noting that they were all faster than me so they were probably making fewer mistakes anyway.

Looking at the photo above, I’m beginning to understand what Andy (an instructor with EasyTrack) was trying to get me to improve on. The red line also denotes the central upright position of a rider on the bike. The angle of incidence between the pink and red lines denotes the lean angle of the bike. The yellow line is an imaginary line drawn through the rider’s hips, while the green line is an imaginary line across the back in line with the shoulders.

If you study the (top) photo you can see that the rider has correctly displaced their hips to the right and the inside of the turn. However their head is displaced to the left of the red centre line instead of being over to the right. The shoulders are also incorrectly positioned to the left because of a twist starting at the hips (right of the red center line) and ending at the shoulders (only just right of the red center line). I’m pretty sure that I’m doing something similar (or worse) and that that is what caused my backache.

The photo to the left shows a much quicker rider using better body positioning. His hips are much further over to the right, along with his shoulders and head. There is no twist in his back compared to the top rider.

Interestingly, the lean angle between the two photos is about the same, yet the second rider was able to corner at a significantly higher speed. By leaning off the bike more and positioning his body better, he was able to carry more speed through the corner for the same lean angle.

Remember that one of the reason riders “hang off” is to reduce the lean angle on the tyres as it allows you to keep the bike more upright. Looking at videos of the two riders, I estimate that the second rider was about nearly 2 seconds (about 25%) faster through the corner than the first.

I spoke to an ex-racer about body positioning, recently, and he suggested a useful trick to try. Push your (inside) elbow in an exaggerated fashion towards the apex of the turn. This will force you to bend you elbow (and arm) and has the effect of “pulling” your body away from the bike more towards the inside. While doing this also focus on placing your head in the spot between the screen bubble and the mirror on the inside turn. If you move your head in this way, then you will automatically be positioning your shoulders correctly.

Apart from practicing on track, the best way to get your body used to leaning correctly is to fix your bike on its centre stand (or a paddock stand) and carefully move from side to side. (Please don’t blame me if you or the bike fall over!).

Getting someone to photograph or video you from behind can also be really enlightening for you to see whether you are in fact leaning correctly or not. The more you practice (on or off track) the more natural it will feel when you start doing it for real on track and the faster speeds you will be able to carry through corners… and all hopefully without the dreaded backache!

QStarz Q818XT – 10Hz GPS receiver

The QStarz BT-Q818XT bluetooth GPS receiver is a 10Hz unit that is 100% compatible with RaceChrono. It also offers high poll rates, DGPS (differential GPS), AGPS (almanac GPS) and long battery life.

While most decent GPS units use the SiRFstarIII chipset, the 818 uses the relatively unknown and new MKT II chipset.

My experience with the 818XT has all been positive. It acquires satellites very quickly, and I’ve not had any bluetooth issues with the connection to my Android phone. However, I was confused by a few of the features and settings when I first started using it, so hopefully this blog post will help answers some of the questions I originally had … as you might be having them too.

DGPS
There is a 3 position on-off switch on one side of the unit; those positions being Off, 1Hz and 10Hz. The differential (DGPS) capability is not enabled when operating at 10Hz, but is available when the switch is in the 1Hz (middle) position. However, 1Hz is not really fast enough for reliable lap timing, so what can be done?

Well, you can download the Windows drivers and the GPS View application (for Windows only) which will allow you to reconfigure the 1Hz switch setting to a frequency between 1 and 5Hz. You can find the downloads for the 818XT at QStarz Downloads page – select “GPS Receiver” as your product type and choose your exact model from the secondary (right hand) menu. There are also links to a quick quide and full user manual.

After installing the driver and application, connect your Q818XT to your computer and switch it on to the 1Hz setting. Open Settings->Control Panels and select the System control panel. Switch to the Hardware tab and look to see which LPT/COM port the 818 is listed as being connected to. Launch the GPS View application and set the appropriate COM port at the top of the window. You should then see the GPS messages scrolling in the top left panel of the window – if you don’t then you have probably selected the wrong COM port.

If you switch to the Setup tab, you can change the frequency for the middle (1Hz) switch position. Look for the section that says “Fix Update Rate” and hit the Query button. It should report 1Hz in the Data Bandwidth box to the right. Since we want 5Hz instead of 1Hz, all you need to do is change the rate in the pulldown menu from 1 to 5 and hit the Set button. That’s it, the 1Hz switch position will now operate the unit at 5Hz with full DGPS capabilities. It will remain at 5Hz until you pull the battery out of the unit or possibly until the battery runs completely flat.

Just remember to make sure you select the middle (1Hz) setting instead of the 10Hz switch position before you head out on track! In my opinion, a 5Hz refresh rate with DGPS is more valuable than a 10Hz rate without DGPS as the position reports will be both frequent enough and have a greater accuracy.

AGPS
The AGPS feature is less important for accuracy as it primarily affects how long the unit takes to get its first fix. It does this by updating its internal almanac which enables it to locate the appropriate satellites more quickly. You can use the Update button in the lower panel to download a new almanac automatically from the internet. The new almanac will last for 6 days, and you can update it as often as you like.

Bluetooth Pairing
Pairing this unit with your phone should be simple. Enable Bluetooth on your phone, switch on the Q818XT and it should show up in the list of available devices. The pairing code will be “0000” (four zeroes).

Make sure you change the “GPS receiver type” setting in RaceChrono to be “Bluetooth device” and select the QStarz 818XT as the external GPS device.

Unit Location
In order to give the unit decent line of sight with the satellites in the sky, I mount the unit on the tail of the bike. The 818XT has a rubberised bottom which is placed on the tail unit, and the whole thing is then taped to the tail.

I used a lot of tape; firstly to ensure that the receiver doesn’t fall off (?!) and secondly to try and form a waterproof barrier around the switch and the USB connector. Since the device lasts for 24-40 hours on a single charge you can switch it on before taping it to the bike, and then leave it on for the full track day.

Pre Track Day Preparation
I usually charge the unit for 2-3 hours before a track day. Using QStarz’s GPS View software, I also upload the latest almanac(which lasts for 6 days) and double-check that the 1Hz switch position is still re-mapped to 5Hz.

That’s really all you need to know about this receiver.

If you want background on using the QStarz 818XT then have a read of this post on how to set up and use a lap timer.

Update Summer 2014

You might be interested in reading a comparison between the QStarz 818XT and the Garmin Glo.

Brands Track Day 12 Nov 12

What started out as a promising dry (but cold) day soon changed into a typical winter day… cold with fine misty rain, followed by heavier drizzle, and finally rain… and quite a lot of it! I enjoyed two dry sessions, followed by a session with light misty drizzle (mizzle?) and then a final session in the rain.

The event was run by ClubMSV and the organisation was pretty slick and low key. They even included breakfast and lunch in the £99 ($160) ticket price! I also booked two instructor sessions, and arranged them for sessions 2 and 4.

Like my last Brands Hatch outing (two weeks ago), there were far fewer bikes than you would expect to see on a typical summer track day. The novice group had 15 riders which meant that each bike pretty much had the track to itself. Only once did I come across a pack of about 6-8 bikes bunched together. However within a lap the group had dispersed and I was riding on my own again – I overtook a few riders while the other faster ones pulled away from me.

Although I was apprehensive before venturing onto the track, that feeling soon disipated within a lap or two. My lap times for the first session were pretty consistently around the 1:14 mark with a quickest time of 1:13. I was much more comfortable with my gear selection for the different corners and that allowed me to focus on my body position a bit more.

In session 2, I followed the instructor round the track for a couple of laps before he waved me on so that he could follow me and observe. After about 8 laps, he signalled me to pull off the track into the pits. I was slightly surprised (and annoyed?!) that he hadn’t allowed us to run to the end of the session for the debrief.

He confirmed that I wasn’t really hanging off the bike much (even though I thought I was!), and that my body position still needed sorting out. He reminded me that I needed to move my head and shoulders over to the inside of the corner much more than I was so far doing. He also stressed the need to transition from one side of the bike to the other more smoothly, so that the bike didn’t become unnecessarily unsettled. Other aspects of my riding were OK he thought; my racing line was OK and I was getting on the power quickly and smoothly. So yet again, body position is the thing that I really need to be working on.

So for session 3, I was intent on focusing on body position. This time I really felt that I was starting to position my body better. The laps felt quicker and I was braking much later on the Brabham straight before the right hander at Paddock. Where I was lifting off the throttle as I crossed the start/finish line at my previous trackday, this time I remained on the throttle until the first braking marker, changing down from 5th to 3rd gear before turning right down the hill. Paddock really is a sublime corner!

The corner at Druids which seemed impossible to get right also at the previous track day also seemed far less of a problem. Despite the fine misting rain the track still seemed to have good grip and I didn’t feel that I needed to back off. I felt that I was running lap times down to about 1:08 that session, although checking the lap timer would confirm that.

Pilot Error

As I pulled into the pit lane at the end of the session, I was keen to see my lap times and hoped for improvement. I parked the bike up in the garage and pulled by phone out of my pocket. Oh $#!T%&#!!, … I’d forgotten to start the lap timer before I’d gone out for the session! What an idiot! I had no way of knowing how much better I had been doing. Luckily I quickly realised that I could use the video footage to get a lap time to the nearest second instead. Phew!

During lunch the weather began to deteriorate even more, so that by the time of my 4th session, it was raining. I was sharing a garage with Andy, an intermediate rider and great company, who confirmed that although soaking wet, the track was no longer greasy and that he was getting good grip running his set of wet tyres.

I had a chat with the instructor and we agreed that I would go out for the 4th session, and that he would follow and observe. I set off pretty gingerly but by the end of the second lap I started to get a lot more confidence in my tyres and the grip level on the track. I started that session running 1:32 and ended up lapping at 1:25 – I was shaving off about 1/2 second per lap as I became more confident. And this time I’d remembered to switch on the lap timer!

In the debrief, he confirmed some improvement in my body positioning and seemed (slightly) impressed that I was still accelerating hard down the straights in spite of the rain. Although I had one more session available to me, I decided that common sense was the better part of valour, and that I would pack up and head home rather than risk crashing the bike in the final session – the weather looked like it was getting worse anyway.

Here’s a summary of my progress that day

Session Laps Fastest Comments
1 12 1:13.14
2 8 1:11.59 Pulled in early, grrrrrrr!
3 ? ? Fastest session? Forgot lap timer, doh!
4 10 1:25.80 Rain!

I estimate that in the 3rd session, I was lapping at close to 1:08 to 1:09 but only the video would confirm it.

After getting home, I downloaded the files from the GoPro video camera, and discovered that after the first session, I must have switched the camera from video mode into camera mode by mistake – so when I thought I was switching the video on and off at the start and end of the session, I was in fact taking an unwanted photo!

I really was not having much luck with technology!?!

Does it matter that I don’t have video or some lap times? Not really, as I still learned a tremendous amount and I am beginning to feel that I am improving (albeit slowly) and the bike and I got home in one piece.

What I did miss is the ability to quantify (from the lap timer) if I really was getting on the gas faster and decelerating/braking later into the corners. This is where the benefit of the RaceChrono software comes into play.

What else did I learn? Check and double-check your equipment and settings before you head out on track!

Lap Timing Part 1

One of the most useful tools to measure your progress on track is a lap timer.

A lap timer enables you to “see” how changes in your riding style, race line, tyre choice, gearing or suspension setup affect your lap times.

Normally these devices cost from a few to many hundred of pounds (or dollars) depending on which make you buy and the features that it offers.

How would you feel if I told you that you could potentially have all this lap timing capability for free?

Pretty excited, I’d imagine…

With the advent of smart phones, this is a reality because a small group of Finnish software developers created a lap timer called RaceChrono for mobile phones. It runs on Symbian (Nokia), Windows (Mobile) and Android devices. Sadly, there isn’t a version of RaceChrono that runs on iPhones so those users might want to consider getting a “cheap” Android phone to use instead.

If you have one of these phones that can run RaceChrono app then you can get a fully featured lap timer… for free. Yes.. you read that right! All you need do is to ensure is that your phone incorporates a GPS receiver or has bluetooth capability built-in to allow it to connect to an external bluetooth GPS receiver. Without some form of GPS, RaceChrono cannot work.

How it works
RaceChrono has details of over 400 tracks around the world including different track layouts for the same circuit. The track at Brands Hatch for example has two layouts; the Indy circuit or the full GP circuit.

Each track has a start/finish line recorded as well as the location of either one or two additional split time markers.

As you ride around the track, RaceChrono will use the GPS receiver to determine where you are on track (up to 10 times a second). In this way, RaceChrono is able to determine when you pass the start/finish line or any of the other split timing markers. As you do this repeatedly during your track session, RaceChrono will mark off each lap and calculate your lap and split times automatically.

In order to use RaceChrono for your track day, just choose your circuit (and track layout) from the list. If the track doesn’t exist in the list then you always have the option of adding your own track and defining the start/finish line and any additional split timing markers that you want or need.

Just before you start your session, switch the app on to record, slip the phone into your pocket or attach it securely to your bike, and you’re good to go. There is no need for any external track side timing equipment for the app to work – just clear line of sight to the satellites in the sky.

Accuracy
In fact RaceChrono works so well, that anecdotal evidence suggests that it is accurate to within a few hundreths of a second compared to the times reported by official track side timing equipment.

But, that accuracy comes at a (small) cost…

The internal GPS units built into most phones, while often very accurate, cannot sustain a high poll rate. This means that they often cannot report a position fix more frequently than once a second. When you’re travelling at 100mph (160kmh) that equates to a distance between two fixes of around 48 yards (44 metres). A GPS unit that can operate at 10Hz (polled 10 times a second) will get a fix every 4 metres when travelling at 100mph. The faster the GPS can be polled, the more accurate your lap times will be.

A further issue affecting accuracy is that the phone internal GPS receivers normally don’t have a differential capability (DGPS) built into them. If they did, it would allow them to compensate for the selective inaccuracy that the US military build into the GPS network.

You can overcome both this issues by using RaceChrono in conjunction with an external Bluetooth GPS receiver. Two popular ones are the Garmin GLO and the QStarz 818 series – these typically cost between £50-90 (US$90-150) depending on the unit.

In the case of the QStarz 818XT (which I have), the DGPS capability is disabled at 10Hz, but can be enabled by running the unit at 5Hz instead. 5Hz means a position fix every 1/5 of a second and is perfectly good enough for accurate lap times, especially since the position accuracy is enhanced by the DGPS capability being enabled.

Although you might be wondering whether to bother with the hassle and cost of an external receiver, it is worth noting that in addition to providing inherently better accuracy, you can also mount these units so that they will have a better view of the sky compared to a phone in your pocket. Popular mounting points include on/under the tail or under the fairing bubble. All you need is some gaffer/duct tape to stick the unit in place.

Relying on the internal GPS of a phone stuffed into your pocket when your body is shielding much of the sky could lead to poorer quality position fixes at certain points on the track and as a result less accurate lap and split times.

Now that we’ve covered the preliminaries, I’ll explain how the app works in more detail in Part 2 of this article.

Track Day 101

I think that getting maximum enjoyment and benefit from your track day really depends on you.

It starts with good preparation. Remember the Army adage, the “7P’s”? Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Production.

Is you bike ready for the track? Are you ready for the track? Are you physically fit enough to handle a full track day with two or more hours of track time in the current weather conditions. If the answer is “no” to any of those questions, then either abandon the day, or if you have enough time then try and remedy the situation before the track day.

Are you mentally prepared for the day? Have you decided why you are doing the track day and what you want to get out of it? It sounds simple, but I suspect that a fair few riders get out on track not really having thought what they want from the day.

As with many things in life, if you don’t have a clear goal or set of goals (beyond the basic goal of not crashing), then there’s a strong chance that you won’t derive maximum benefit from the experience.

As someone who wants to learn to ride better and faster, and who wants to use track days to achieve that objective, my overall goal is easy to state. However, a slightly non-specific goal like that is hard to deliver on without defining what it actually means.

I can start by quantifying my goal. My quickest lap last at my last Brands outing was just under 1:12. My goal for my next Brands track day is to get down to 1:06 – that involves shaving 6 seconds over 5-6 sessions, an improvement of 1 second per session, or approximately 1/10th of a second a lap.

If you read my previous article on my first Brands track day, you’ll know that I summarised quite a few points (from Andy my instructor that day) that should deliver the extra speed I’m looking for … if I can put them into practice.

These points are in fact what I will use as my sub goals – if I can improve on each of those issues, then I have a good chance of being able to deliver faster lap times.

These are the some of things that I’ll be concentrating on:

  • Proper body position when cornering, specifically:
    • Keeping my arms bent
    • Sitting back in the seat away from the tank
    • Dropping my head and shoulder low to the inside of the turn
  • Following the racing line and not turning into the turn too early
  • Getting on the gas harder and earlier coming out of the turn

Each session I’ll be focusing on one or two of those specific things in order not to overwhelm my little brain. In later sessions, I’ll try to combine and focus on few of the points together.

How will I know whether I’m making progress?

Using a lap timer will allow me to monitor my progress after each session. If I was being really pedantic, I could use a notebook and record the things that I tried to focus on that session and to see what kind of difference they made.

Some improvement will come from being more familiar with the track, however focusing on specific issues like my body position will yield faster returns, I feel.

The second part of the analysis comes after the track day when I review the footage taken from the bike. Watching your ride after the event can be phenomenally eye opening. What seems quick on track often looks (very) slow on video… especially in my case!

One of the major benefits of a video is that it enables you to see your lines around the track, and to hear the engine. Listening to the engine sound tells you whether you had the right gear for the corner, when you started driving out and how hard you were able to get on the accelerator.

If you spend time reviewing the data collected on the day, you can use that to quantify your improvement at specific corners and parts of the track.

To summarise:

  • Prepare the bike and your kit
  • Make sure you’re fit and ready
  • Define one or more goals for the day
  • Breakdown those goals into concrete objectives and/or areas to work on
  • Monitor and measure your progress
  • Review your data during and after the track day

I’ll let you know how I got on after my next visit to Brands.

Track Day Check List

Part of your track day preparation will involve getting your documentation and equipment ready ahead of time.

In order to help me with this process. I’ve prepared a check list I use – this helps me to avoid leaving important things behind!

Paperwork / Money

  • Driving license
  • Indemnity forms; one for the organiser and one for the track
  • Credit card for fuel
  • Cash for hot food/drinks

Spares

  • Spare levers; clutch and brake
  • Spare gear change, rear brake pedal (on order!)
  • Exhaust baffle

Tools

  • Duct/gaffer tape
  • Set of spanners
  • Screwdrivers
  • Allen keys
  • Socket set
  • Torx bit + wrench (to fit baffle)

Accessories

  • Tyre pump
  • Tyre pressure gauge

Lap timing / Video

  • Phone
  • Bluetooth GPS unit
  • Phone charger + car charging lead
  • GoPro camera
  • GoPro charging lead + spare battery

Food

  • Fruit; apple and banana
  • Sandwiches
  • Chocolate/fruit bar (for quick energy)
  • Water (lots of it!)

Self Preservation

  • Earplugs
  • Helmet, leathers, gloves and boots
  • Waterproofs
  • Extra layers for riding and when hanging around the pits (for cold days)
  • Extra gloves; summer and winter pairs (depending on weather)
  • Plastic bags to store wet things

This list is designed for me riding to a track day. All the items above easily fit into a single backpack – although the tools and water can make it a heavier than I’d really like. Bring a small bottle of water and top it up throughout the day, or buy more bottles at the track for £1.50 (US$ 2.40) a time!

If you’re lucky enough to use a van to get your bike to and from the track then you can include a full set of tools, spare wheels, tyre warmers and paddock stands!

Brands Track Day 29-Oct-12

Brands Hatch is the closest track to where I live, so I searched the internet for the next available track day there. EasyTrack were running one on the Indy Circuit on the 29 October 2012.

The Indy circuit at Brands is short which means you get more laps per session and the chance to repeatedly practice the same corners again and again throughout the day. In fact that makes it a pretty decent circuit for novices as a result.

EasyTrack.co.uk were running their track day with three groups, so I was also likely to get six sessions which was good. After two good experiences at Ron’s school and because this was my first track day for more than 20 years, I decided to book an instructor for the day and put myself into the novice group.

I left home at 6am with a foreboding grey sky and damp roads – this didn’t bode too well for the day ahead, I felt. An hour later I arrived at the paddock at Brands, parked the Daytona up and signed on. The first thing that struck me was how few bikes were actually there – I guess the poor weather had dissuaded many from even bothering to turn up.

After sign on, I collected the bike and drove to the noise test area. For the static noise test, you’re required to hold a certain RPM – 6,500 in the case of the Daytona while the tester puts his rod up the bike’s rear end. The static limit for the day was 105dB and I was well below that despite the fact that the arrow can didn’t have its baffle in. (As a precaution, I had brought it with me to fit if I failed the noise test without a baffle).

Andy + bike

With the test out of the way, I went over to find my instructor. I was introduced to Andy; a chap of about my age but with far more riding talent and ability than I will ever have (as I found out later). I noticed that his steed for the day was his 600cc race bike running sticky tyres that had little in the way of a wet weather tread pattern.

As we talked Andy tried to gauge my level and find out what I wanted from the day. I tried not to let on that my main concern was not to hurt myself or crash the bike on its first outing!

Our first session was at 9:40am. Brands always requires that sighting laps are done for the first session after which you return to the pits before being let out for the remainder of your session. The first of the three sighting laps was not pretty – there was standing water in parts of the track while the rest of it was also damp. These were not the track conditions I was hoping for when I made my booking! As a result, I tiptoed my way around – I think Andy was less than impressed by my performance.

I started the first session running 1:30 laps and ended the session after 10 laps running 1:20 – the speed up coming primarily from my getting used to the track layout. At our first debrief Andy pointed out that I needed to sort my body position out. He wanted me to drop whichever shoulder was on the inside of the turn, and to ensure that my inside arm was nicely bent while the outside arm was straighter. He wasn’t concerned whether I was hanging off the bike or not, but he did stress the need to move around and to try and do this on the straights well before I arrived at a corner so that I wouldn’t unsettle the bike unnecessarily.

So armed with this information, I set out for the second session with Andy following again. I took it easy for the first couple of laps in order to try and get some warmth into the tyres. By the middle of that session I was running 1:22 pretty consistently, and ended up posting a 1:18 lap on my penultimate lap of the second session.

During the debrief, Andy put me on his bike to review body positioning again. We looked at foot position – the boot on the inside of the turn should have the ball of your foot on the tip of the peg with your foot canted slightly away from the bike. The foot on the outside of the turn should be placed in line with the bike and with the peg nearly under the arch of the foot – this allows your leg to rest against the tank more naturally and allows the use of your larger leg muscles to support your weight and body position instead of relying on the muscles around your knees or using your hands and wrists for support.

In the third session, I tried putting more of Andy’s wise words into practice. After two warm up laps, I was posting 1:14 to 1:16 laps pretty consistently and managed to finish the 13 lap session with just under 1:14. That was more than a 6 second improvement in just two sessions compared to my best time in the first session. It looked as though I was making some progress – I was pleased and Andy didn’t seem quite so dispairing of my riding!   :)

In the debrief, Andy wanted me to try and focus on following the racing line more. He pointed out that with the damp track, it was getting easier to “see” the racing line just by following the drier part of the track as I went along. He also gave some specific advice on different parts of the track; specifically the different corners and how to approach them.

Despite the extra information about racing lines, I think he felt that sorting out my body position and moving around correctly would yield the biggest gains. He wanted me to move my head lower and further over to the inside of the bike in the turn. Andy also predicted that I would be posting sub 1:10 laps before the final session of the day.

In the fourth and final session before lunch I was running 1:14 laps pretty consistently again. Unlike the other sessions, Andy was sometimes in front of me trying to “pull” me along behind him, and sometimes he was behind me watching to see what I was doing. Unfortunately the session was red flagged and stopped because some poor unfortunate sod managed to come off coming out of Clearways (the long right hander before the Brabham start/finish straight). That meant that rather than the 12-14 laps I’d have expected to ride that session, we only managed 8 laps. However despite that I did manage to post a sub 1:12 lap time which pleased me immensely. I also had great fun overtaking two other riders on the outside line at Clearways.

During the debrief, Andy explained that I needed to get on the throttle earlier and harder coming out of the turns. He reckoned that doing so on Clearways/Clarke Corner alone would yield nearly 2 seconds a lap. He thought that if I continued improving at the same rate, there was every chance that I ought to be able to get close to a 1:05 lap time. I was game to try, and looked forward to the first afternoon session at 2:20pm.

Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas. By 2pm it had started drizzling. While the track had been slowly drying and improving during the morning, it now began to develop the characteristics of an ice rink again!

Because of his tyres, Andy decided to sit out this session, but advised me to have a go while taking it easy just trying to practice some of the body positioning that we had discussed earlier in the day. Having seen six other bikes crash at different parts of the track that morning (in better conditions) I wasn’t too happy about my own prospects.

On my second lap the heavens opened and I gently feathered my way around the track posting times around the 1:30 mark. My feeling of inadequacy was further enhanced by being lapped twice that session by one of the other “novice” riders, although to his credit he had been posting sub-59 second laps in the drier morning sessions.

Despite the best efforts of the weather, I felt elated. I’d had a brilliant day’s riding where I had learned loads and seen how simple changes can make a big difference to your lap times. Andy, Phil and the other EasyTrack instructors had taken me under their wing and made sure that I was properly looked after including inviting me to park up with them in their garage.

Here’s a summary of my progress that day

Session Laps Fastest Comments
1 10 1:20.19
2 12 1:17.88
3 13 1:13.84
4 8 1:11.74 Stopped due to crash
5 11 1:32.17 Rain!

And a summary of some of the tips I picked up from Andy and Phil

  1. Body position is key – get used to moving around the bike
  2. Carry your weight in your legs not your arms – keep your arms and hands relaxed
  3. Position your feet on the pegs correctly
  4. Drop your shoulder and head to the inside of the turn – make sure your inside arm is bent
  5. Keep both arms bent at all times rather than having them straight and pumped
  6. Sit back in the seat – that way you’ll be able to position your body more easily for the corners
  7. Turn later into the corners – beginners like me tend to want to turn in early
  8. Look through the corner at where you want the bike to go – if you stare at the runoff area or gravel that’s probably where you’ll end up!
  9. Drive out of the corners earlier – get on the gas and accelerate towards the red line before changing gear
  10. Quicker laps come from smoothness and carrying more speed through the corners
  11. When it comes to corners, remember slow in and fast out

As a result of the day I spent with them, I can’t rate EasyTrack and their team highly enough, and I will be back for more track sessions with them next year when the weather improves.