Why every motorcycle rider should attend a track school
Let us look at why it’s a great idea to attend a track school training if you ride a motorcycle. It doesn’t matter if you ride on the road for commute, long tours, you ride a commuter bike, a tourer, an adventure bike or a sport bike. Also there is a misconception that track schools are for racing… which is completely wrong.
Current state of Motorcycle Riding and Coaching in India
If you look at Indian context and riding on a motorcycle, you would realize that, here in India we don’t have a structured way of teaching someone how to ride a motorcycle. All of us learnt how to ride a motorcycle by the help of a friend, colleague, neighbor, uncle or someone who made us sit on a machine with 2 wheels and an engine and just told us how to use the throttle. I am sure all of you have the experience of figuring out the remaining part of riding through panic and falls in the following days and months (probably years too) 🙂
What does a Track School teach? And why is it important?
Track Schools teaches you the following 3 things in a systematic way and also in a more safer environment (a race track)
During the course of personal experiences, due to lack of proper structured training all of us picked-up several wrong habits which makes it dangerous while riding a motorcycle. Unlearn portion of the training covers such topics which helps to reduce the mistakes from us as riders.
Second phase of training involves learning skills, methods and tips of how to ride a motorcycle safer and also how to make them part of muscle memory to get them applied without even thinking about it.
Like the saying goes, Practice makes it perfect. This is when you sharpen your skills and become a better rider. This phase is something which goes longer and more the merrier. Open track days are always a great opportunity to practice and enhance the skills.
Most common reasons for Road Accidents and how Race Track experience helps
Here is a list of most common reasons for road accidents (Not necessarily the only ones)
- Panic braking
- Target Fixation
- Narrow vision
- Steering input
- Abrupt navigation
[Panic Braking] is the most common reasons for road accidents. Panic braking happens when you are riding and something unexpected happens like a new speed breaker, a person crossing the road, a dog/cat/cow running across or even a new pothole. Most riders in such panic situations, jam the rear brakes and ends up falling. What jamming the rear brake does is to lock the rear wheel and the motorcycle goes into something called ‘fish-tail’ where the front wheel is going faster but rear slides. This causes the rider to go out of balance and crash.
On a race track, every corner is a panic situation when you are a newbie and this allows your brain to slowly get adjusted to this sudden rush of heart-beat and improve your skills. Race Track experience also helps you to learn how to feel the speed (no-brake drill) and the correct braking techniques for different situations.
[Target Fixation] is an issue which happens where your sight gets locked on the object in the front, especially in panic situations and your motorcycle just goes towards it without you realizing it. In other words your eye sight gets stuck on something in front and you will be unable to navigate your motorcycle to avoid hitting the object/person etc.
On a race track, this is a skill you will learn to use positively under the guidance of instructors. This technique is unbelievable till you try it on a race track, specially while navigating a corner. In race track terms common phrase used is ‘look where you want to go’ and that’s exactly what happens. The motorcycle just goes as per where you are looking automagically. This is an easy skill but takes time to make it a muscle memory. I have personally escaped probably life-taking accident due to this skill I learnt from the race track. More details about it in another article.
[Narrow Vision] is when you look focused on only a specific narrow area you are going and ignore what you can see in the peripheral vision. This issue is much more troublesome in the case of road riding since you miss out a person trying to cross, a cat/dog/cow coming your way or miss other obstacles which might give you that split second extra time to avoid a fall or a crash. This is a great technique, to be more self-aware about the environment while riding which helps in reducing lot of accidents.
On a race track, you will be in a position to practice this and make yourself self-aware of the environment. Since race tracks are more safer environment it makes it an ideal place to learn and practice such techniques.
[Steering Input] or wrong steering input is a scenario where, the rider mostly out of panic, stops a motorcycle from correcting itself. Motorcycles are designed in a way that it can correct the steering automagically in several scenarios. When in panic situations the rider tends to hold the handle bar tight and stops a motorcycle from correcting the steering thus leading to a fall or crash.
On a race track, you learn how to hold the handle bar with soft grip and not to straighten the elbow while riding. You also learn techniques like quick turning which is usually known as ‘counter-steering’. Often I have seen the explanation is done in a way, it’s difficult to understand. Push the right handle bar to turn left and push left handle bar to turn right, makes it confusing and crazy when you read it. This topic with an easy to understand explanation coming soon…
[Abrupt Navigation] is one of the most frequent causes of accidents on the roads. Specially in Indian road conditions, we ride with assumptions of the rider/driver in the front/back/side to travel in a specific way. When someone makes an abrupt navigation change, in most cases we are not ready with quick reflexes thus end up in accidents. These abrupt changes are usually due to lack of focus on the road, an obstruction in front like speed breaker, someone braking hard, talking on mobile phone etc…
On a race track, you learn and practice in every corner how to navigate the motorcycle. With more and more practice your reflexes become better and you will be able to react to such situations more easily without panic. No panic makes all the difference between a fall/crash and riding away unhurt.
Here are the track schools I have attended and will be writing in detail about my personal experience soon
- TWO (Throttle Wide Open) – Indimotard
- CSS – California Superbike School
- RACR – Rajini Academy of Competitive Racing