A few weeks ago I started two threads on two different forums. On Keith Code’s Superbike School forum I started this little discussion. And on my club’s forum I started this.
As I mentioned in both threads the reason for thinking about lines is receive what I perceive as conflicting data from the same source. On one hand during my level one and two classes with CSS it was stated that while “yes, there is indeed a mechanical line” through a circuit there are reasons you won’t use that line. Slower riders getting in your way as an example. In two of Keith’s books there is further support for not staying on just one line. In “Twist of The Wrist 2” he states that any line that allows for good throttle control is a good line. In “Soft Science of Road Racing” he provides four different strategies for attacking a turn. Each strategy uses a different line through a turn. Finally, my own experience on the tack (I don’t race, yet, I just do track days) has forced me to change my line because of slower riders on many occasions.
The conflict comes to play when Keith and his crew throw tape on the track to show you where they want you turn point to be. During my level 4 class Keith was rather clear that he thought I ought to be turning on top of the markers they had provided. This leaves me wondering why.
Most of the people in the class were riding the ZX6’s from the school. All are prepared the same and have roughly the same capabilities. Therefore all should be able to use the same lines. A counter example was a 11 year old kid on a 250GP bike. It was fun watching grown men on the ZX6s trying to chase his lines through turns. The 250GP bike and 11 year old weighed a lot less and had a shorter wheel base so it could hold much tighter lines at higher speeds than the ZX6s. Very funny to watch as the ZX6 rider discovered that he had just reached the end of his lean angle limit.
What isn’t accounted for is the differences in rider. The machines are all wonderfully capable. Your average 600cc sport bike today on stock suspension and cheap rubber has more cornering ability than 80% of the riders out there. Hell, probably 99% of the riders. But even with two riders of similar caliber – they are going to ride different lines.
One rider might be really brave on the brakes so he is willing to move his turn point deep in the turn. The other rider might be comfortable with the back wheel squirming around so he goes for a harder drive out. And yet another rider might be really comfortable dragging his knee from entrance to exit. Each will produce a different line but yield similar lap times.
Right now I’m just talking about time trailing. Racing changes everything because now you have the influence of competitors. The rider who is great on the brakes but doesn’t like to slide his rear tire can setup the drive out rider so that he can’t get his drive out. The drive out rider can setup the late brake so that his late brake is timed wrong to stop the drive out. Which is why racing is so cool to watch. And watching the masters is even more fun. It is why Rossi schooled Stoner at Laguna – he simply had more tricks and had Stoner’s number from the very start.
So I’m going to stick to the idea that there is no ‘line’. However, it does bring up an interesting issue: staying on a line. I’m really inconsistent. My line is through the circuit is probably as wide (if not occasionally wider than) the circuit. I’m all over the place. That isn’t good. It is also probably part of the reason for Keith’s markers in his school.
The tape markers give you a very obvious, very clear reference point that tells you it is time to turn. My problem is that I suck at picking reference points out, remembering them and then consistently using them lap after lap. In order to go faster that is something I really need to do.
My next track day is coming up and I’m really looking forward to it. Frankly, I need it the way a crack addict needs his next hit. Getting on the track is a big reason why I get up in the morning and go to work. I love the feeling of being on the bike and moving. Yeah, I’m a bit scared because of my little road test, but the truth is I’m always a little scared. At least now I know firsthand what I’m afraid of. I also know how I got myself in that situation and hopefully know enough to not go there again. I also have a lot of friends that will stand me down if they think I’m getting out of line. Friends are a good thing to have around.
Anyway, with my next track day coming up I have a very simple outcome that I want to achieve – a line. A simple well formed line around Cresson’s 1.3 mile track that I can stay on and then get fast on. I’m going to use my lap timer and I’m going to develop as good a map of the track as I can. I’m not worried about getting my knee down some more. That comes with familiarity with the bike and I don’t think I know my 848 that way well enough yet, but I suspect by the end of the day it will come around naturally.