2023-08-25 Riding Season Update

Other than a couple of days at Thunderhill (one West, one East) and a couple of kart days on the Ninja 400, most of my track riding from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day Weekend has been at The Ridge in Washington State riding with Track Time. My thought process was to avoid the summer heat of Southern and Northern California (though the August Ridge outing proved to be about the same) but also to work more with riding coaches in one season than I ever have. I’ll have 5 days in with one-on-one Ken Hill Moto-Pilot coaches, including Ken and Phil. While there haven’t been any fundamental changes to how I ride, it’s been a continuing refinement of my technique becoming more precise, better anticipating upcoming actions, and a bit of body position work. In these days, I’ve ridden my Daytona, my Tuono, a Ninja 400 (stock), an SV650 (stock), and Ken’s FZ-1; I like to ride different bikes because it’s a great way to get a feel for different hardware and I feel like it keeps my mind sharp and probing for finding the best way around the track on different hardware.

I was able to get data + video of Ken riding a couple of my bikes this season, which continues to give me tools for working on my own craft to go faster while maintaining a significant safety margin. During my August trip to The Ridge, with Ken running chase on me, I was able to hit a new PB by 2 seconds. I was able to consistently run at least a couple of seconds faster each session, even with traffic. I’m finding new [safe] passing opportunities and am still enjoying doing this methodically.

For my final Ridge outing, I spent a couple of hours reviewing my data versus Ken’s on the Daytona. In order to do this with a degree of precision, I had to first make sure that I was mostly doing the same thing over a couple of laps in the same session and that those were similar to other sessions on the same day (which they were). Then I went through corner by corner looking for areas where Ken was a bit quicker than I was and because I have throttle, brake (front & rear), lean angle, gear position, and suspension data, I’m able to drill into things with a good amount of detail and try to figure out how to make myself do things that might be on the edge of my own comfort.

Below is what I’ve surmised for things I hope to accomplish at The Ridge for the next outing. In order to check on this progress, I’ll have to download data after every session or two and I’ll probably retreat to the truck or some other quiet spot for 10-15 minutes and take notes. Then before I zip up my leathers and pull the warmers, I’ll review my notes and try to work on those things. Before showing the list, here’s a sample of how I go through the data looking for opportunities. My goal in riding safely and expeditiously is to mimic what my coach does. Note that slow points are nearly lined up (I will confess that my T12 was not but I blame an aged-out front tire as feeling a little off when I wanted to carry the amount of brake and lean as I wanted). Most of what I’m working on is degree of application here.

Comparing Ken’s and my data and video along the entire lap while reviewing speed, throttle, and brake. Ken in red, Aron in blue

My list of objectives, corner by corner:

Chicane – keep working on holding WOT and finding the sweet spot in geometry for turn-in; try to stay as far right as possible; a smidge more throttle after the first left; KH is wide open earlier with ~30° lean; on end of chicane section, KH is WOT until middle of triangle on right; AS – maybe try short-shifting to G4 so turning on throttle isn’t quite as scary-this worked on the TV4

T1 – AS – about half as much brake pressure, don’t shed as much speed, slow point closer to 80 mph

T2 – KH is ~4 mph faster, brake curve & timing is virtually identical but he releases brakes 20’ earlier; to do this I will need to steer the bike bike a bit more in order to get direction

T3 – Throttle roll on & off is fine from last time (the see-saw section)

T4 – entrance KH does another quick throttle roll on and actually uses a smidge brake right before and ending before the apex (only ~2 bar, likely for comfort or fine-tuning speed)

T5 – be sure to do the slow continuous throttle build; AS went to too much throttle too quickly and held it for a moment; be sure body is off on the left-hand side, has a tendency to tuck back into the bike here

T6 – hold WOT (don’t slowly give it up or decay) and hold it a little longer, KH holds it WOT about 20 meters farther (just before he approaches the blue cones) and gets to 122 mph vs AS 117 mph; mid-corner, AS rolls off a smidge too much and gives up 2 mph; more body to get direction (bend the elbow, pull bike with outer thigh, etc.) instead of rolling off

T7 – Entrance – AS – slow down throttle hand, max ~85% throttle (instead of WOT), slight roll off, turn bike (earlier than I normally do), and brief WOT until you can just see the very beginning of the white triangle; on the way in, be conscious of trajectory and stay exactly parallel for the first bit of the curb; only slightly more brake pressure than what it takes to turn on the brake light going down until G’d out

T8 – good as is going in and in the middle, but on exit, get body off to the right, stand up the bike with body off and moderate throttle build to WOT and should end up at edge of track on the left exiting

T9 – Roll off to ~40% throttle to turn the bike, short-shift to G4, and be back to fairly quick throttle past T9 apex; on the way to T10, as much throttle as possible; should be just past 100 mph past the apex accelerating

T10 – Try to make the arc from T8 exit to T10 one continuous action if possible (what would WSSP do?!); any bit of throttle in here is good just to carry more speed; KH is ~9 mph faster approaching T10 apex; KH goes to very light brakes (2.5 bar) at the apex, builds to 5.9 on the way to T11 as righting the bike; try to get body over the front of the bike as much as possible to keep weight there

T11 – No real issues though can work on carrying in a smidge more roll speed and lighter initial brakes, adding brake pressure near the end when rotating the bike; be mindful of moving eyes to the apex early (exiting T10) as a reminder

T12 – had issues slowing the bike leaned on brakes last time (front tire was feeling off with brake + lean); AS brake release/throttle start was 15m too late, super slow throttle build at ~1/2 way across track on the way to the apex

T13 – entry – AS – reduce throttle decay, brake initiation is fine; slower brake presure build; mid-corner fine; exit – AS & KH nearly identical throttle build but AS gets to WOT and holds it just a little too long b/c it takes a little too long to get direction for T14; still shoot for WOT but a smidge less time at WOT; resulted in holding brakes 7m too long and still not having as nice direction

T14 – b/c of T13, KH had direction earlier and could start throttle 4-5m earlier

T15 – If T14 is good, this may sort itself; AS does typically hold throttle a little longer but that just catches up to KH, doesn’t go faster; BE PATIENT, look for direction, body off left side of bike, pull it down with outside leg if need be, pull the trigger with early direction, a little wheelie is okay

T16 – KH clicks G3 right before the T16 apex and gets to WOT 36m sooner than AS; AS does it somewhat inconsistently

Other items that I need to keep in the back of my mind:

1) be mindful of throttle builds and holding – it’s more important to hold WOT and snap shut early than to hold partial longer in nearly all instances (T7, T11 being exceptions)
2) be mindful of brake decay (how the brake pressure is released)
3) be mindful of building brake pressure (braking for chicane, T6, T11, T13, the longer braking zones); even a bit of brake pressure settles the mind