Track Road And Lines - Whose Line Is It Anyway?

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Riders crash on both road and track. Often it is a single-vehicle accident explained as "loss of control." That means the rider concocted his very own set of circumstances that led to the crash. From a technical perspective, citing "loss of control" is about as useful as teats on a bull. There is always an inciting cause for the incident and it isn't always obvious.

Since you can't put yourself in the rider's place to know which of the eight Survival Reactions (fear-induced panic responses) were at work, it is necessary to analyze the accident and discover what can be known. The most obvious component of riding is the space the rider used to negotiate the bend-in common speak, his line.

While there are many choices in lines both for safety and for speed, not everyone who rides is adept in the fine art of choosing a line. And it is an art. Compared to the street, track riding is more forgiving. A racetrack may be 40 feet wide, whereas your slice of a two-lane road could be as little as 8 feet. That means an error in line judgment on the road is roughly five times more critical than on a track; i.e. a 1-foot error on the road is equivalent to a 5-foot error on the track.

Thus your turn-entry position, mid-corner and exit all must be five times more precise. One more point: If you couldn't hit your lines under control on a track, it would be hopeless to think you could do so on the road. From a coaching perspective, seeing someone make 5- or 10-foot errors on a track...well, you wonder how they survived this long.

A case can be drawn for any one of the above three elements to be the key in cornering. Get your exit right and all is well. Get your mid-corner (or apex) spot on the money and you're golden. It can also be argued that a right choice on turn entry influences the others. All are true, to a degree. But which one do riders struggle with the most? Their turn-entry position, and there are a number of pressing reasons for it.

Consider a corner's three main divisions: entry, middle and exit. Which of them seems the busiest to you? In my surveying of thousands of riders, entry wins hands-down. Having the corner's entry under control generally gives riders a breath of confidence. Getting entries wrong tends to start one off on high alert, induces panic and is a definite distraction, mainly because the moment to correct the line passes too quickly. Choices in line are rapidly eliminated; what apex and exit lines can be achieved past that point is more luck than skill.

Control inputs, too, become haphazard and often misguided, like an untimely grab of the brake or throttle chop and steering corrections-possibly all three in a really dire circumstance.

Are there solutions to perfecting lines? Many will tell you it's all about visual skills like picking reference points and looking ahead; that it can't be done on unfamiliar roads; that you have to be smooth or just slow down. This is good advice, and when I began training riders 34 years ago that's all there was. Now experience tells me you may have other problems that good advice won't cure. Oddly enough, over those 34 years I've come up with 34 technical riding skills, drills and correction points, and each of them has some bearing on lines. Which one will solve lines for you?

Once again, here is my pitch: Get out to the track and make your mistakes; get coached; get trained. Whatever speed you go is irrelevant. Once you are running consistent lines, within 1 to 3 feet, you will be doing way more right than wrong. And your chances of surviving spirited street rides will soar.