Use Vehicle Electronics to Improve Your Riding

A lot of modern bikes have electronics and these are huge advents in safety. These electronics often include ABS, riding modes that cover traction control (TC), engine maps, etc. As far as track riding is concerned, it’s also a very effective way to build confidence in the bike and your own application of technique.

Rain mode can be useful on track…

I recently worked with a rider who mentioned that he was apprehensive about using more throttle on exits and straights, he said it felt a little overwhelming. We decided to try putting his bike into Rain mode. Having familiarity with this bike (2022 Triumph Street Triple 765 RS), I knew that the TC would engage quite a bit earlier and that the high RPM power output is reduced significantly. It’s virtually impossible to wheelie the bike in rain mode so it definitely softens things. I explained that my hope was that it would build his comfort in using more of the bike’s throttle (where appropriate) and get to the point where he felt that the electronics were holding him back. I should add that this rider already had very good bike placement and his control timing was solid so this was really working on degree of application. If the rider’s vehicle placement wasn’t good or consistent, we would have put our focus on that.

Once we got to that point, I explained that we’d bump the bike to Road mode, which has slightly less intrusive TC and slightly more aggressive throttle mapping. As he continues to build trust, we’d go to Sport mode and eventually Track mode. It might be a while before we get there but by riding a full day in Rain mode, this rider was able to build confidence in his application of technique and degree of application. From the beginning of the day to the early afternoon, this rider was able to trim 10 seconds off his Thunderhill East lap time consistently. Because he felt that he could use the bike to a greater degree without any untoward consequences, he was able to start carrying more lean angle and use the brakes to a greater degree and exit turns with far more authority.

I’ve used this approach in my own riding, particularly at tracks that have multiple hard braking zones (think Sonoma). Often times I’ll do the first session with the ABS in a more intrusive mode and consciously force myself to get into the ABS for T9 and/or T11. Once I feel the brake lever pulsing in those turns consistently, I’ll switch over to Track mode. If I’m not hard braking for T9 or T11, I’m giving up lap time (these are both 100+ mph down to ~30 mph braking zones on a supersport or bigger).

Having confidence in your bike is huge. If you feel it’s going to do something unexpected or is going to out-accelerate what you can get your head around, try out the electronics if you have them. We saw some fantastic results with this rider by taking this approach. I’m still working on this with my Tuono V4 myself.

I wanted to get some data for the rider I was working with to reference in the future so I took his bike out for a session. I did a few laps in Rain mode and then came into the hot pits and switched to Sport mode. Immediately I could feel that my exits were limited by the TC in rain mode, as well as top speeds (which you can see a ~15mph difference on the front straight). In retrospect, it could be really fun to ride the bike in rain mode again but try standing the bike up sooner which would reduce the TC intervention sooner.

Below is a video in the two different modes getting some data for the rider I’ve mentioned. The first third is the bike in Rain mode, then after 6 or so minutes we pull into the hot pits and switch to Sport mode. The TC intervention was still noticeable but nowhere as restrictive (and it’s visible in the data overlay). There is also a significant difference in top end power as we saw 130+ mph on the front straight. Only once did the ABS intervene but not enough to be problematic. In this video, we used an AiM Solo 2 DL with a custom ECU map connected to the bike and an AiM SmartyCam 3 Sport. The overlay shows TC in the bottom right and particularly in Rain mode you can see the TC engage and the bike’s acceleration is severely limited.

03:58 is the beginning of a lap in Rain mode, compare to 11:41 where I have the bike in Sport mode

There is a difference between using the electronics to build your own faith in the bike and your technique compared to depending on the electronics. I’ve seen plenty of liter bike riders completely rely upon the electronics in that they’ll just pin the throttle at full lean counting on the electronics to manage power vs traction. This can be a very dangerous proposition–if the electronics hiccup or if you go too far with overriding the electronics or if you hop on a different bike, the results can be catastrophic, particularly since this is the scenario that can result in a spectacular high side. Conscious use of the electronics to build confidence and find limits is huge and can speed up your own development as a rider.

Now if you’re having trouble hitting apexes or if you’re not accelerating past the apex in exit corners, that should take precedent over using electronics to build your degree of application, however if you can’t get yourself to slow down enough in a less intrusive riding mode, it might help to try one of the more intrusive modes to force you to slow down a bit and focus on the things you should be working on.