So I asked a seemingly simple question from a bunch of my friends. If you’re one of my friends that I asked… don’t get offended… I asked a bunch of people “what are you working on as far as skills now?” I got a mixed bag of answers, but they basically fell into two categories (about half and half): 1) “lap time” and 2) “something more specific.” Guess which group is the fast one.
My theory on this is if you’re not working on a specific skill, you’re just cruising around. Fun it may be, but “Deliberate Practice” it ain’t. If you want to quickly advance, you need to focus on one specific thing at a time. Yes, at the expense of all the rest of it. Because the rest of it will still be there once you’re done drilling the one thing into yourself.
Some of the more specific answers I got. This isn’t about things to work on, but an example of SPECIFIC goals that fast guys are setting themselves:
- Turn in timing, corner speed, first 10% of throttle - no it’s not one thing, BUT it’s a laundry list of things to work on, and this racer can do them all in different corners or on different laps.
- Relying on brakes less to “rush the corner” and increase roll speed - similar to the “4th gear no brakes” drill that lots of coaches will suggest at track days. Rather than scaring the hell out himself with the brakes, this rider is working on finding corner speed by getting to angle quickly. Once he has that nailed down, he can add the “wait till you see god then brake” back into his laps but get off the brakes at a higher speed and find time that way.
- Trying to tweak things in the vehicle and monitor that with data to see where I am weak and where I am strong - when a racer goes analytical, you know they’ve got the fundamentals nailed. And with data acquisition, there are suddenly new interesting things to examine. If two laps have pretty much the same time, but sectors or corners don't, the racer can now pick and choose the faster techniques from each corner and find more time!
- Lifting the front more naturally for surmounting obstacles. - yeah, this is a dirt/singletrack rider. But once again, it’s a specific goal he can work towards and once achieved, will free him up a lot of processing power to deal with the rest of the trail.
“Wait, Sergei, I don’t have a goal when I’m out there, does that mean I suck?” Absolutely not. (or if it does, that means I suck too). This week, I did a track day on my “new to me” sv. I’m disappointed to say I learned nothing. I just went, cruised around, had fun, and didn’t focus on any specific thing other than getting used to a perfectly planted and decently powered bike. It almost felt like a waste of a day. This is OK, but it isn’t a viable strategy for getting better. Pick a goal. Work on it. Once you reach it, bring the rest of the skillset back in and pick the next goal.