The Importance of Proper Motorcycle Track Training

Even the most experienced riders can benefit from understanding safety and knowing the limits.

motorcycle track riding, track training, track-school training
Track riding under controlled conditions is the best way to explore limits safely. The lessons and experience gained translate directly to riding on the street.©Motorcyclist

The prophetic words of one student with more than a million miles in the saddle still echoes in my mind: “I came here thinking I had 26 years of experience, but after training I realize I’ve had one year of experience 26 times.” His complacence could come from several sources, including ego, bravado, or even denial, but they led him to avoid or defer proper training.

Another popular reason for not wanting training is, “I haven’t crashed for years, so why do I need any?” No one can argue against that. If you never crashed, you’d have considerable status and serious street cred. The history of professional racing argues a similar case, meaning the best have crashed the least, with very few exceptions. Not crashing would seem to indicate a high level of riding skill, but that’s not necessarily a fact.

There is a wide divide between safe riding and timid riding. Safe could be defined as “experience learned and applied.” Timid riding is more along the lines of, “I don’t want to find out what will happen.” Applied experience requires recognition of potential riding scenarios and how they can play out. Timid could be summed up as an overall idea that less is more in the quest to stay safe—less speed, less lean, less challenging circumstances in general.

However successful the less-is-more scheme might appear, it has significant limits. Gaining experience requires us to assume some degree of risk beyond our perceived boundaries in order to build a reliable portfolio of experiences to apply, when needed. For example, even though riders feel reluctant to practice “snap-turning” their bikes, for road-hazard avoidance, it is an indispensable skill. The less-is-more rider will lack the skill and practice to make aggressive maneuvers that could prevent an accident on the street.

“Applied experience requires recognition of potential riding scenarios and how they can play out.”

Training in most subjects and pursuits is generally based on what is needed to forge ahead to the good stuff, the known and desirable results available in that field. But in riding, stalking the spectacular results we envision for ourselves isn’t always the way to success. The wise man looks at both sides of the story. It is just as important for riders to identify and understand the limitations. I say the limitations, not the rider’s, which are most often governed by his imagination.

Riders without some knowledge and experience of the limit are forced to abandon analysis of situations and leave them to their imagination. As our imaginings are tethered by our self-preservation instincts, they inevitably guide us toward a frenzy of limitless doubts. Rather than analyze whether we can accomplish something, we start to assume we can’t unless we know we can through experience.

Trackdays and track-school training, under controlled conditions, are the most efficient routes to finding limits. Tracks offer freedom unavailable on the street and, most importantly, allow riders to become acquainted with both the limits and their own shortcomings while rapidly expanding their portfolio of learned and applied solutions.

Some might say that the track would offer a false environment for learning because road conditions are so variable. Let me assure you that the errors riders make remain consistent, no matter where they ride. The huge upside is that they become even more obvious on the track simply because you are riding the same piece of road—the same corners with the same problems and solutions are presented to you over and over again. Think of it as learning multiplication tables: The number of times you go over them, the easier they are to master.

Related Video

Check out Ari & Zack in this episode of On Two Wheels when they take the 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R for a test on the street and on the track.