Well its been a couple of slow weeks. Temperature hovering above 90, I really don't want to get into my leathers and armor. A couple of rides in the morning before sun started scorching the pavement, but that's about it.
I did however managed to finally meet up with a local rider for a really brief session. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to practice fully as our session was interrupted by rain. However we got off to a good start, and hopefully will get more practice time in the next few weeks.
As slow as these weeks were, they gave me a chance to mull over motogymkhana riding techniques, and process some stuff on a back-burner. I find that sometimes when I'm trying to acquire a new skill, my mind as well as body, needs some rest period to sort of process all the data. After that, I sometimes see some dramatic results, after which it plateaus for some time, until next processing break.
Here are a couple of things that have been bugging me, in my own riding.
First is the front brake. I'm not using if efficiently enough, to keep up the speed in the straights between the cones. I would accelerate out of the turn, but would have to chop and brake in the middle of the straight, to scrub off speed and coast to an entry speed, that allows me a quickest turn. That way I'm loosing a lot of time in the straights, even if my turns are clean and tight.
After reading, watching more videos on youtube, and a bit of a discussion over at amgrass, I started playing a bit more with front brake. Trail braking into the turn. Honestly, its not as much drama as everybody warned me about.
Here is a good read on front, trail braking right here on ADV.
So here are a few things that helped me to get to grips with (haha) front brake.
First is very simple. Same as emergency stop, but at a speed at which you are attacking straights, just apply all three, rear, front and roll off a bit for engine braking.
First grab the front brake a couple of times. Feel that bite and front dive.
Then smoothly load the front, feel how much different it feels, and at which point a bike actually starts to dive, as you need to squeeze quite a bit, when doing it smoothly, before bike really starts to slow down.
Then, pre-load the suspension with rear brake. Apply rear brake, and then smoothly add front. You will feel the difference, as the bike will be much more planted, and won't nose dive as much.
Then as you are squeezing the front brake lever, start rolling off the throttle a bit. Feel for that motion of the hand and fingers, where you are sort of pivoting and sliding your palm over the lever.
Do all of these, until bike feels smooth and you can decelerate quite rapidly. Do not stop though, as you would need the bike moving in a turn. So just slow down, accelerate, slow down, accelerate.
Next step that worked for me, was to get the feel of how the arm twists and stretches, and how it all feels with the fingers on the lever, in a turn. A left turn is a lot different that a right turn, as your throttle hand is either stretched out from your body, or tucked in, close to the tank.
So without any cones, find a wide spot of the road, and drag the front brake ever so slightly while you do a big, lazy figure 8.
Just get the feel for how much the position of the fingers change (if at all) on the lever, as you move your hand back and forth, while steering the bike. Remember you need to get a feel for the entire range of travel, of your bars.
As you are getting comfortable, start squeezing a little bit more. Feel for the nuances and what the bike tells you. Most likely you will have to pick up some speed, as you will decelerate that much faster with the front brake in a turn. S
Start incorporating the rear and roll off, slowly, the same way you did on a straight. You are going for a smoothness here. Bike should not lurch forward.
At this point its basically fine tuning your sensations of the bike. How much pressure is needed, how much your rpms drop and how much you need to roll off or roll on in a turn, so not to stall the bike. Also the point and speed at which the bike tries to stand up. Its interesting, but you will feel that with the brake in the turn, the bars will want to move to a full lock by themselves, while the bike tries to stand up. Let the bars do their thing, don't wrestle with them, but lean into the turn a bit more, to keep the radius tight.
Don't rush it, and give it some time. It might feel awkward and weird at first, as well as scary. Stick with it. Push a bit at a time, and at the end, there really no drama in applying relatively heavy front braking in a turn, in a lean. Its all about training your muscles to be gentle and smooth with the controls. Fine tuning it.
Now before you attempt any of this, a warning. This is a learning process, and at this point, you are taking your bike to an edge. So be prepared to drop your bike. If you are not comfortable with that, practice on other techniques.
Now the second thing that was still bugging me, was riding posture.
From a few snippets here and there, as well as observing the Japanese riders, it seems there is a certain posture for motogymkhana riding.
When accelerating, lean forward, chest over the tank.
When decelerating, straighten out.
It seems that these motions come partly from g-forces acting on the rider and him overcoming them.
Also it seems they are transferring weight from front to back, to keep the bike relatively centered, and not diving or wheeling too much. I'm still figuring out the exact reasons and techniques for that.
However, here is an interesting find and my own personal experience.
On my Speed Triple, I tend to ride it as a standard bike, with my back relatively straight, and arms relaxed with elbows pointing down.
Today I was practicing with the posture as well, and there is a noticeable different in the feel of the bike as well as control, when I'm leaning forward in a more sporty position, with my chest over the tank, and my elbows raised. This posture allows me to lean into the turn instead of counterbalancing, while still going relatively slow and bringing the bars to a full lock. Also, it gives me a better feedback on how much I'm turning my bars. Feels a bit like I'm steering a large steering wheel, rather than handle bars.
Great exercise I discovered for myself, while waiting for my rear brakes to cool, was to run same figure eight, but keeping the throttle at a constant speed, very low. Then applying the above posture, and running figure eight, with additional rotation at each cone. Its a bit hard to describe, as it was a multitude of new sensory inputs, but the result was much better turning, and the feel of the bike, as well as feeling for that natural fall into the turn, and bike's turning radius.
So, chest over the tank, elbows up and out, throttle constant (maybe a slight roll-on in the turns as RPMS drop), no brakes, lean INTO the turn.
Try to go as slow as possible, right on the edge of the bike falling down. Start out relatively straight up, then start leaning the bike a bit more and more, while keeping the bars at full lock, or close to it.
Now for the session today, with all that information, heat climbing up and just overall wobbliness, I just couldn't get into the groove. It took me a few hours of constant riding to just wake up and finally start to get somewhere. I got to the spot at around 6am, and only at around 9am I got a few decent runs. Of course I was overloading myself a bit with new techniques, and just putzing around on the bike, trying this and that.
Only after I started approaching each thing separately, and braking it down to manageable and practicable pieces, did I start to get some results.
At the end, I got a few good runs, and stabilized a bit new information, hopefully enough for my muscles to remember. I will have to do a few more sessions this weekend and if work permits during the week, as I need to practice and entrench the new techniques, otherwise it just evaporates and I'm back to square one.
Another good thing from todays session, is that I managed to get SUPER close to my personal milestone of 35 seconds in figure 8. I somehow, despite horrendous turning radius on some of the turns, managed to squeeze in a 35.5 second run.
The rest of the runs were hovering in 36-37 range.
I'm pretty happy with this. Here is the video of it.