The surprisingly clear containment plan that the Government has us on is something I am very thankful for. At least for now I don’t have to make important decisions on where to go or what to do. Having said that, I realise that the waters are likely to get muddier the longer we are unable to work and play like we once did. If there is one thing we do know, it is that there will be big changes for all. Our immediate plan is to do more work online as there will always be people in need of some kind of training, but hopefully we will at least be able to train local people at our home base here in Tauranga like we did with Charlotte just before the lockdown, and I hope you can catch a glimpse as to why the work that we do here is so important.
When the call came for cross country training I immediately thought of my track. The grass and thistles have covered much of it due to a lack of use, but that only made the training even more relevant for her.
Before a session I never know what the main needs will be for a rider, and as it turned out with Charlotte there were two sides to it. On the one hand I was able to help by giving her the key to unlock some of the things that she had already been working really hard to improve. On the other there were some things that she didn’t realize she could do better. While I know she appreciated the standing stuff, the cornering skills were going to take some serious trust. Fortunately she had the wisdom and courage to give these things a real go.
It was near the end of our session that I noticed a lot of rear brake in the early part of a corner when she was in racing mode. It wasn’t a brake slide. It was something else that I want to explain properly because it is something that many decent riders like to do a lot of, yet there is another option that should be learned. I want to show; 1. why it is a problem, 2. why we do it, and 3. what to put in its place.
A Little Physics
Firstly it is a problem because it means that you are either limited in how early you can put your leg out to help you lean, or you will not have your outside foot ready to push on the footpeg if you lean too far- depending on whether it is a righty or a lefthand corner. The second problem is that you will be using valuable traction for braking when you could be using it for turning at that point of the track.
As to why we do it, and please allow this to truly sink in before you disagree. It is not actually to slide the rear into a turn as there is actually no sliding happening, and if you were to slide then you are really going to struggle with your cornerspeed. So, if we don’t do it to slide the rear, then what is it all about? My theory is that we unconsciously know that there is too much weight on the front wheel at that part of the corner because we are not powering yet. When your bike is leaned over as you start to turn, which way does your front wheel naturally want to go? It wants to go straight ahead, which will put you on your face in a real hurry. Cars tend to lean outwards for a corner but bikes lean inwards so the pressure dynamic has to be different. Just take a moment to think that through before I continue.
Ok, so I am saying that we unconsciously know that the front wheel has too much weight on it in the first part of the corner, so we use rear brake to put more weight on the rear and less on the front. It is a way of balancing out the pressure, which is very important, and if I asked you to stand through that corner at the same speed you would probably need less rear brake because you might naturally move your weight back through that part of the corner. This is harder to do while sitting down, so lets get onto how to do it.
Charlotte needed to learn to sit forward on the seat more and get her head further behind the handlebars at this crucial time. It meant she could get off the rear brake earlier, and when she asked if it meant that she should start braking earlier before that corner, I told her something else that you might find interesting. By starting your braking at the same time as usual but getting off the rear brake earlier you would have a bit more speed through the corner, but that should work because you are putting all available traction into turning rather than slowing you down. It means you can lean yourself and the bike further into the turn, which is the next level that we all want, whether we know it or not.
As I said earlier, I was fortunate that she was able to trust me enough to give it a go. This is a scary thing to try, but it wasn’t long before the results started to show. She had been struggling to do a 38 second laptime around this section we were using, but not only did she end up getting two in a row while using this skill, she did it easily after posting a 37 second laptime. When your sprint time improves, your sustainable speed also increases. She might put it down to something else, but I was pretty convinced.
It is sessions like this that I enjoy the most- helping someone who really wants to learn to better themselves. Whether I am doing that in the bike world or some other sphere, only God knows.