I shared the news of KTM organizing yet another track day at MMSC sometime back. Even though I wasn’t lucky enough to make it to Chennai, Joseph Dsilva, a good friend of mine, attended this event. Here’s what he has to say about the entire thing, and I think it’ll give you an idea of what future KTM Track days might hold for you!
Following are excerpts from KTM track day held at MMSC Chennai on 15th February 2015. The post is divided in two parts:
- The knowledge imparted by Apex Racing
- My experience of the whole event
Any new training where you are a newbie entails one to unlearn the very thing you have done all your life, here in this case – Riding. This was my first time on a track, and that kinda helped! Afterall, what you do while you tour/commute and what you do on track are 2 completely different things.
KTM Track Day – Points covered by Apex Racing:
- Bike preparation
- Body positioning
- Braking and gears
A race bike needs to be light and tactile. So here’s how you prepare your bike for a track day:
- Remove the mirrors, rear tire hugger, hand guards, number plate, fender extender and if possible tail tidy, if you have one.
- Plaster the indicators and headlights and tail lamp because in case of a fall the glass shards and broken plastic bits can be risky for other track users.
- Tie the rear foot pegs to prevent donuts in case of a fall.
- Check your tire pressure and adjust as necessary, generally to a lower value to provide a bigger contact patch.
All in all, what you are attempting to do is remove all the unnecessary bits from the bike and trying to make it as predictable as possible. Needless to say, it’s always good to know a bike well BEFORE you take it for a spin on the track.
I really appreciate KTM service guys doing a brilliant work in setting the bike before the event. My bike is used primarily for commuting and touring hence it’s anything but a track prepped machine. On a track timing is everything, other aspects of normal riding take a backseat.
So that’s about the bike prep, and now it’s time to get the rider up to the task!
The Duke and the RC390 are pretty badass machines, light and easy to handle. Even so, the bike can only do what the rider tells it to! Here are some tips to make you as nimble on your motorcycle as possible:
- Tuck in your knees close to the tank. Use them to latch onto the bike.
- Keep your hands in a relaxed position in a way that the elbows are as close to your ribs as possible, to bring in better aerodynamics into the equation.
- Your seating position should be such that there is a palm’s length distance between your crotch and the tank.
- Be relaxed and ensure your hands are on the handlebar in a firm but flexible position. Let the bike do its work, with you being the guiding force.
- Keep your feet in such a position that the toes are sitting on the pegs. Do not extend your foot too far forward, it might scrape the asphalt while leaning into a corner and destabilize the bike.
- Track riding is an energy sapping and dehydrating process. Drink lots of water. Glucose/Electrolytes are better.
Needless to say, I didn’t manage to follow even a single one from the above mentioned points during the first 20 minutes. I was too scared, holding the bike too hard, and basically doing everything that wasn’t helping. After the nerves calmed down, I slowly started enjoying the ride and the confidence built up.
On straights you follow your natural instincts, so nothing new there. While cornering however, you must focus exactly where you want to go. At times you’re too hot leaning into corners carrying too much of speed for you to follow the rule “Slow in Fast out”. At such moments just take a brief glance behind after your are done with the turn, this will give you a fair idea what went wrong where and on the next lap you can improve upon your mistake.
Braking and gears
A fast rider is a smooth rider. Anything done suddenly or abruptly, whether acceleration, breaking, or gear shift will make your ride unstable, full of unwanted surprises, and something which will fail the very purpose of a track day. Use engine breaking only if you have a slipper clutch. Never do the below while you are already leaning into a corner:
- Change gears
This will make the bike stand up and you will overshoot the corner making you go wide and losing those precious few seconds. A low side is another disaster which can strike, something that you always want to avoid. Overall, gear change and breaking must happen just a yard before you are about to lean into a corner so you are in perfect sync with everything.
Tires make a lot of difference, and Metzelers are awesome for cornering. A corner has three parts, applicable to every single turn you take, whether a hairpin, a long sweeper, or a tight one.
- Entry: Just before you enter a corner you must make sure you are in the right gear, slowed down enough to countersteer and looking in exact direction you want to head to. Sudden breaking, and abrupt gear changes are a big no. Following a smooth entry gives the rider that advantage where throttle can be opened wide at the exit, giving you immense time advantage especially if the exit follows a long straight.
- Apex: This is where you are focusing on where you want to go, with the throttle kept in that sweet spot where you are on the edge of grip but holding on ever so smoothly, making the exit and blasting away. Here I learnt something new, initially I was going wide before the corner, staying wide, and then exiting in the middle. I was told to do the exact opposite, which means enter from a wider angle, take the tightest possible entry through the apex, and exit smoothly towards the wider part of straight.
- Exit: This is the critical part where most people make mistakes. You need to make sure that you push hard as soon as your corner is complete, accelerating hard while picking your bike up from the lean. Staying smooth here is extremely important, as any sudden movements might lead to the rear breaking traction.
Now comes slightly tricky part where you have back to back “S” curves. I was told that until the apex, everything is as described above. After the apex however, you have to keep the throttle smooth and constant, trying your best to make your exit out the second corner without compromising on the stability in any way. That takes a lot of practice, and I’m still learning!
KTM Track Day – My experience:
I managed to finish within in the first 15 positions out of total 28 riders on the track in first session, and my best show of the day was a 6th. The difference between the leader and me was just a few seconds, but we all know that’s what racing is all about. I had a good time there, and was frankly quite impressed with myself!
I rented a bike for use on the track and I can safely say you shouldn’t do that. It took me a while to understand the bike, its niggles and its character. I understand that people are scared of crashing their own beloved machine, but I think there’s a much smaller possibility of you sliding off of your bike that you know well, as compared to an abused piece of 2 wheels that you just met a few hours ago.
Has the track day made me into a better rider? Hell Yes! Getting to ride your machine in a controlled environment, free of all distractions, is a blissful experience. I’ve learned a lot about braking and acceleration and cornering in those few kilometers, that I couldn’t on the thousands of kilometers I’ve done on road. I’m eager to go back there again, and hopefully would see you improving your skills alongside me as well!