Lap timers are great, but they can do so much more than just flash your current and predictive lap times. I’ve been using AiM hardware for about 3-1/2 years now to further my own riding. While I appreciate a solid lap time, I need to do this in a methodical and consistent way. Of course, I want to get quicker, but I want to continue to improve the quality of my riding and not crash. I’ve got mouths to feed and in order for my family to get behind me in doing this track thing, I need to stay safe and data analysis helps me find ways to improve my pace and my safety. This involves being accurate (hitting every apex), using the right control at the right time (brake release before the apex for exit corners, after the apex for entry corners, etc.), minimizing off-brake and off-throttle times, maximizing exits, appropriate gear selection, short-shifting when it makes sense, and of course, safe passing.
In the simplest terms, if you don’t have reference data, you can look at nothing more than GPS speed (a.k.a. ‘speed trace’) and dive a little deeper to look at the track map at the same time to see if you’re doing the right thing at the right time. With that said, here’s a fairly easy way to start looking at data. In this example, I’m using data pulled from a lap at Sonoma Raceway on my Triumph Street Triple RS in June 2022 using nothing more than an AiM Solo 2 DL (the base Solo 2 will give you speed traces and acceleration and braking force) and AiM’s [free] Race Studio 3 software suite. If you have video as well, that will confirm that your lines are good but if you don’t, we’ll somewhat have to assume that they are and this is something you probably know already if you’re at this point. If you are just chasing lap times though through the idea of ‘more throttle earlier, more brake later’ concept, you might be in for a somewhat harsh and expensive wakeup call.
Looking at the above speed trace, one of the first things you can look for is well-defined slow points. This will indicate that you’re using the brakes to the slow point of the turns, or in other terms, getting to the slow point and away from it as quickly as possible. Assuming the slow points are at the right point on the track, well-defined slow points are a great start. If you see more of a U-shaped slow point, you have work to do. There are exceptions, such as corners with a long radius, like turn 2 at Thunderhill East. In this example, Turn 6 (Sonoma’s Carousel) is another long radius turn. The same can be said of acceleration–steep angles and sharp pointy peaks on the straights are good, these indicate that you’re using the controls to a high degree.
Now using the same data in Race Studio Analysis 3, I can also check my slow points if I’m not sure. In the software, you can add the track map and it offers imagery from a variety of sources (Google, Bing, etc.). In the left, I can click on the slow point and zoom in on the track map to see the physical location of my slow point as indicated on the track map with the small dot.
In Turn 7 at Sonoma, the widely accepted goal is to have the slow point somewhat past the first apex. On the track map you can see the path of the AiM Solo that was recording the data and the dot on the track map indicates the point selected in the data. The absolute exact line may be a couple of feet off on the imagery data (I don’t run over the curbs in T7 as it shows in the overlay but my goal is to have my knee over the curbs) but the fact remains that the slow point is about where I want it. You can review this for all corners of course. You can review multiple laps and look for consistency. If you see a large deviation, this can be where having accompanying video to review is useful, maybe there was traffic, maybe you missed a shift, etc. Any way about it, this is a fairly quick way to go about checking to see if you are using the right controls at the right time. I rank this shortly behind the importance of accuracy (a.k.a. lines and direction).
So going deeper in data analysis, we can also look at other channels. Here I’m using the AiM Solo 2 DL which is not just a GPS lap timer but also has the ability to log vehicle data (DL = data logger). This unit interfaces with my Triumph’s ECU and has other ‘channel’ data that can be used to look deeper into what the rider/driver is doing when and where. In this example, I can pull up the same speed trace and also gear selection and throttle (for which AiM has an ECU profile for the Triumph Daytona that works with my Street Triple). I am working with a custom CAN developer which is why my data includes traction/wheelie control data. The standard free ECU profile includes throttle, gear, RPM, etc.
In this lap I was working with another rider so I know my control utilization wasn’t as far as it could have been but it illustrates the concepts.
In coaching and data analysis, don’t immediately jump into looking at throttle, brake force, gear selection, etc. until you first determine that bike placement (lines) are consistently accurate, followed by the right control at the right time.
If I were looking for areas to improve here though, I can see that in some areas I rolled out of the throttle a little before my brake point (giving up a bit of acceleration/speed) and I could have braked later with more authority (knowing that -1.0g is about the top of my comfort for braking). I see that TC (which on this bike is combined with wheelie control) only activated in areas where the front wheel was off the ground so I had potential to accelerate a bit sooner/harder (though I don’t want to see TC activating with appreciable lean angle).
If you’ve gone as far as you can with reviewing your own data, in other words, you have the accuracy, consistency, correct control timing, you are maximizing throttle and braking force, etc., you may want to begin comparing your data to another rider’s data, particularly a solid performing rider who consciously works on the same concepts of accuracy, control timing, etc. Reference data can be complicated and I wouldn’t recommend that most people use it unless they have accompanying video to go with it. I’ve compared my data to a Moto America supersport winner at Sonoma and the gap is so large that it’s purely for entertainment, I can’t get my head around so many things he is able to do!
The discussion about slow points, direction, control timing, etc. follows the methodology of Ken Hill, YCRS, Blayze, etc. If you’re not versed in this, I highly recommend listening to and/or participating in their offerings.
I use AiM hardware because I feel strongly about the quality of the products, the comprehensive range, and user support. Additionally, it is the largest provider of hardware and software for consumer track day enthusiasts and racers and has a tremendous library of user resources and community so the support is excellent between the vendor and the customer base. The software is constantly undergoing development and they truly listen to their audience.