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Road America - a Novice's perspective

1173 Views 15 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  Champ91
seeing that omniglh's post is starting to look hairy, i'll interject some of my experience from the 2 day track day event sponsored by STT (btw - i was in the first novice group):

from a street rider / novice perspective:

personal background - 4 previous track days under my belt, read the keith code books, watch racing on tv, R6 streetbike-all stock

first impressions -
roadamerica is a very fast track. the 3 straight portions (3-5, 10-12, and 14-1 main straight) are blazingly fast. i overheard some of the fast guys seeing 167mph-indicated at the end of the main straightaway (i only saw 152 and i was extremely early on the brakes). some of the fast people were also hitting about 120 thru the carousel, i only did 92-95. turn 11 "the kink" can be taken at wot, but my novice group always backed off the throttle before entering it (however, we still saw 112-115 as we rolled on the gas and scraped knee). *i know that they tell you not to look at the speedo or tape it up (i'm not focused on the speedo, but i know it's there); i'm not looking at lap times so that 's how i perceive the ride, plus as a street rider i think that other non-racer types can get a better feel for the speeds i'm referring to (i can feel the flames on this one).

initial expectations -
as a street rider, i just wanted to see if i could drag my left knee. as it turns out, by the second day i was dragging both knees; and doing it in every corner. i soon learned that it takes more than puck scraping to negotiate the course effectively. my buddy (intermediate) ground thru his right slider in the carousel and consequently almost ground a hole in his leathers. i had to flip my right slider to help equalize the wear to not do the same. ok, so knee-dragging isn't such a big deal anymore, what next? read on.

areas i need to work on :
set a comfortable corner entry speed and start with a "stable platform" (braking and downshifting occupied too much of my time and distracted me - caused me to enter the turn too late, miss the apex and run wide on the rumble strips several times). this happened in 5, 6, and 8 (it probably doesn't help that 5 and 6 are hidden apex corners [i.e. blind turns].

the old adage "look through the turn" - it's counter-intuitive to execute, but it works nonetheless. every time i focused my attention on something else, i would invariably run wide and scare myself.

throttle "attitude" when leaned over and on your knee - here's where the "rolling on the throttle" comes into play (roll off and the front end pushes and you go wide, boy that's familiar). it's amazing when you squeeze on a little gas and the bike becomes stable, even though it boggles the mind since the inside bar seems like it's about 12in from the ground. you think to yourself..."ok it feels like i'm going to fall over and you want to give it more gas?" right, but it works.

body position - now i've become a little confused here, since an instructor told me i was doing it wrong. i tend to rotate my hips and get as low as possible on the inside of the bike, as a result my knee is pointing "down" more than it should (perhaps i'm over-rotating). i was advised to "stick it out" away from the bike so it acts like more of a downrigger. i tried this technique and just did not feel that comfortable with it. i think it's mainly due to the fact that i tend to hold onto the bike with the inside of my thigh, and i also tuck the inside knee towards the bike in anticipation of the lean. i guess i need some help here, i'll have to find someone to watch my technique.

i feel that i need to improve these areas, before i move into the intermediate "warfare" riding groups.

i'm glad i rode the track that i've seen on tv so many times. it's really unbelievable when i think how the pro's ride this course. would i go back? hmmm, maybe, but not until i can get a better handle on my cornering techniques (entry/apex/exit). all in all a good time, i guess it's always a good thing to finish a track day with no broken parts (self or bike).
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Friggin awesome, Sounds like you had a blast up there.
Glad everything went well and you didn't break anything. Sounds like you learned alot in two days.
I feel for you. I struggle with my body position and some of those same issues. I need to go to a track school and get them sorted out. I also could use more flexible leathers I think. I'm not very somfortable at high speeds, but I'll slide the bike around a little without a care under 80mph. I'm not sure I'd like RA very much at this point in my learning curve.
Aprilia Mille demo ride

hey, almost forgot. aprilia was there giving free demo rides to everyone. i took the mille out for a spin (5900 miles with some well used metzeler rennsports or pirelli supercorsas, sorry can't tell). after riding my r6 around the previous day, all i can say is "can you spell T-O-R-Q-U-E"?

i didn't need to shift like a madman like the r6. i would typically bang 3 downshifts on the r6 just so i could get a good drive out of the corner, while with the mille you could just bang one or two and ride the torque of the motor thru the turn. very smooth, but quiet since it had the stock exhaust. a little stretched out in the bar to seat length compared to the r6. the seat height was so high only my tiptoes could touch the ground (5'6"). that low end torque sure would be nice on the street though, anyone want to buy my 9r? :) the torque was plentiful enough, that even a novice like me could get the front end "floaty" by getting on the gas while coming out of corners (as i was standing it up and coming off lean angle). a different animal than an inline4 indeed. very fun, i highly recommend it.
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no times...

kruz - i don't have any times. however i thought i overheard my instructor talking to another person in my group and thought he said something in the 2:45's??? and he also said that was slow, considering that he can run a 2:26.
What a great experience! Well done and great day!:thumbsup
Rich, sounds like you had a great time. I'd like to ride there but with everyone talking about how fast it is I think the Can-O-Tuna would be a little underpowered.

Does sound nice though, and glad you got the knees down that is my next goal after planting the peg in turn 1 at BHF, it should happen I just want to advance at the right pace. :D
Well if you are running 2:45s you are no novice.

RA is very intimidating for me; too fast....after the rain cleared up I was turning 2:55s. Most of the CLSB guys were well above that.

Of course Ken (pre-crash...second one, not when the 9R tackled him in the staging area:D) was much faster than me. More your level. I guess that makes Ken a novice. :D
yeah so what i am a newbie...:laughing
man that was embarrassing

hey rich i hit 171 a few times down the stright...i had to carry that right pass the 1st break marker...then play the slide threw turn1 was assome!!!!

a couple other turns...i was able to make some great pass's i dont know the corners off the top of my head but...that long stright with a touch right curve right before turn 5 down hill left...oh man..noting but wide open all the way threw that turn.

then that one up hill (not 6) but its a blind left under a brigde and when you come out theres and access road to the right...right there i use to kill ALOT of guys setting up threw the right hander then taking that left on the edge of the wall almost:evil

i love that track..I REALLY do...:cheers
Spree - good post :) Sounds like you are well on your way!

As for your body position - I too thought there was a "right" and "wrong" way to do it. Probably the only thing I actually learned at the Learning Curves school, is that there is NO "right" way. Do it however you're comfortable. I know my riding position isn't the best, but it works for me. Probably won't work for the next guy. I guess the best thing is to just stay loose. Keep your arms loose and relaxed. Let your body "flow". Eventually you'll probably just get a riding style of your own down.

Don't feel bad about not getting 5 and 6 - I don't have them down either. In taking with Chachere Tuesday - neither does he (and he's the regional CCS Am points leader.)

And going back is the best thing you can do! Where else are you going to learn to get a handle on cornering speeds? :)
Nice read, thanks for taking the time to write that up.

How was the STT experience? Did you feel you got your money's worth? Did you have any suprises?

I envy you. One of these days I hope to get there and do that.
I had a great time too.......where were you pitted?
a humbling experience...

sfd18 - i was stationed by the big white industrial-size tent at the far end of the paddock. if i got any further away from the staging area i'd have to get a taxi, that's what you get when you're late to the track. my buddy and i were in a white van parked next to the tent. (is that a rear sway bar in your avatar?)

ricerocket - as far as the experience goes (in the school group): since the weather was suitable for riding all day (in the 90's and humid, makes me sweat just thinking about it) there was adequate track time. i think we got in 5-6 sessions/day, each session was about 20-25 mins. with the hot conditions and the extended session time (most of the other smaller tracks have 20 min sessions) i feel that this was sufficient. at the end of both days i was physically tired.

the small groups with an assigned instructor are manageable. however, you must make an effort to extract/ask for help in your own riding. let's face it, the instructors are kind enough to donate (i don't believe they're paid, i could be wrong) their time and answer questions you may have, but they are also doing it to get extra track time for themselves as well. i'm seriously considering doing a more "individualized" track school (like calif. superbike school/pridmore's star/etc) to get more direct instruction. firehawkf4 did CSS and was very pleased.

surprises? yeah, finding out how little i know about cornering "fast". it sure looks easy on tv when edwards/bostrom's/hayden/rossi go to town. another - being at a decent lean angle with knee scraping and having time to think about it is pretty weird at first.

was it worth it? sure, you just have to keep it in perspective in terms of what you want to accomplish. do you aspire to become a racer? do you just want to improve your riding skills? do you want to find the performance envelope of your machine? for someone who is debating on their first track day i'd recommend the experience. i'd say book 2 days in a row if possible, that way the first day you can learn the sensations of being on the track and the second day you can push a little harder and do things you would never dare on the streets.
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Great read Spree. Sounds like you had a blast and learned alot. Thats the most important thing.
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