Throttle Wide Open – Our First Track School Experience

Handling a bike along the city roads and handling the same bike in the race track are entirely two different experiences. Except the bike being used and the rider, there exists absolutely no similarity. For the first time, we at BikeAdvice decided to attend a track school to know what it is all about and here goes the report of it.

Indimotard Adventures, a name in India that is synonymous with biking adventures and racing school conducted an event called Throttle Wide Open (TWO) in Kari Speedway, Coimbatore. This is a track school event which basically deals with first level on track handling techniques and capabilities. TWO is a two day event scheduled on 15th and 16th of this month (October). I’m posting a write up on this after a gap of about ten days as I’d my exams in college the every next which got over today.  Here, I try to cover all that happened out there and give some insights on it to our dear readers.

I completed the registration process for the event a week back before the scheduled date.  All set to go back, I got a mail with a check list where it was mentioned that the vehicle you need to ride out there will just have to need 2 wheels with an engine! It just means that any bike is fine to bring.

So, I called up a friend of mine in Coimbatore to get his bike which can be used in the track. He owned a 2009 Hero Honda (which was the name when he bought it) Hunk which was modified to bear the Karizma ZMR’s side and front fairing.

Stepping Into the Track

Our classes were scheduled to begin by 8.30 in the morning and the final registration in the track commences from 6 in the morning. This intimation was given to us a week earlier by IndiMotard over mail. The Kari Speedway is situated along the outskirts of the Cotton City in a remote area called Chettipalayam which is about 30 kms from the city. With sheer excitement in mind, I started from my room by 7.30 and was there on time (as usual, trust me guys!).

As intimated earlier, the class was all set to start by 8.30. The team out there comprised of Anand Dharmaraj, Prashanth Kumar, Joshua Crasto and Dodo. To add on to this time, we also had Shubarathna Marmar or ‘Schumi’ as he is often referred to as from OD. Schumi was initially trained by IndiMotard as well.

All the riders were instructed to remove their main stand of their bike. The headlamps, turn indicators and the speedo console was taped to avoid any diversions initially.

As usual, introductions were made about the riders who were around 30 in number. Then, we were informed that we’ll have theory sessions followed by track sessions where the ‘Practical Implementations’ of the concepts taught to us will be implemented little by little.

Survival Reactions

Our first session dealt with Survival Reaction or SR. Survival Reaction is nothing but actions that we do to prevent us from a danger which we imagine to face in a shortwhile. This plays a vital role when it comes to riding. For instance, when we are in car and we see a dragonfly coming towards the windshield, we tend to move our head to shoo it away. We fail to realize the fact that we’ll not be hurt in any ways as there is the windshield between us and the dragonfly. I assume that I’ve made it clear now. The concept was to make us understand the fact that ‘As and when we ride our bikes, we tend to use brakes more often than what is necessary owing to SRs’. You might find it hard to digest the fact at this point of time (just like us), but keep travelling with me to understand the fact.

Off To the Track

We were then instructed to wear all our protective gears and get into the tracks. But before this, we had our instructors allotted to us. Every group of five riders will have an instructor. Dodo was the instructor for the group of which I was a part. Initially, we were allowed to take more than a couple of rounds along the track to get a feel of it and to warm up the tyres of our bikes as well. There were hell lotta R15s and CBR250Rs which dominated. There was also a considerable figure of Ninja 250 too. Apart from it, there were very few pulsars, FZ-16, RX-100 and I spotted a TVS Suzuki Shogun too.

We circled the track for about half an hour till we were able to get familiarized with the curves and corners. We were instructed earlier not to overtake anyone at this point of time and so went one after the other. Note that we did nothing but just went on and on around the track.

First Instruction

We then headed back for the theory session. The first instruction that was passed to us was not to make use of the rear brakes all across the track, which simply meant we’re permitted to use only the front disc. All our inner mind asks “Will you be able to control your bike with just front brakes? Won’t that be dangerous? Won’t I skid and fall?” As we were trying to answer ourselves, Anand said, “There are only two categories of riders. Guess who they are? One who hasn’t fallen so far and the other who will fall!” (What the freaking sh** is this?) But still, we were determined to follow their instructions and so decided not to keep the foot on the rear brake pedal.

The first task for us was to go around the track with just one gear. Tje ideal gear for this would be either second or third depending on the bike. I decided to take the bike in third gear. All across the track, it was fine except the last stretch which was a perfectly straight stretch. This is where we are free to rev up the bike, but the problem is the single gear concept which we are practicing. This meant that the needle in the instrument console was always somewhere in the red zone. We tried avoiding the usage of rear brakes and after a couple of laps, we were very comfortable with the discs than the rear. Oh yeah, they were indeed right.

After the session, we headed back to the class and the discussion mainly centred the high RPM issue. Their response was too cool. Don’t pat and flatter your bike, for nothing will happen when she is revved hard. We’ve been doing it for years together. This instilled us more confidence and guts to do that.

Entry, Apex & Exit

Now, we head to the most important session. It’s all about entry, apex and exit. Before we started with this, it was quite important for us to get a visual representation of the entire track i our mind. Every curve was numbered and named as C1, C2 and so on. The time finally arrived to prove us the fact that riding in a track is not an absolute cakewalk.  Curves are the most toughest part to handle in a racetrack. In fact, it is these curves which differentiate an expert racer form a novice rider. This session of the program dealt with identifying the entry point of every curve, then hitting the apex mark following by identifying the point which is most feasible to exit the corner.

Lemme try to put this concept in the simplest form. There are basically two types of curves. One which opens up to a straight tarmac after the curve and the other which opens up for another curve ahead. For both these curves, it becomes mandatory to identify the three points mentioned above. The entry point of a curve should be practically such that you comfortably lean with your bike at the speed you are most comfortable with. It is at this point that you start decelerating your bike and get ready to downshift your gear. In simple terms, you are all set to face the curve in front of you.

Following the entry comes the ‘Apex’. It is at this point of the curve that the bike crosses the exact curves surface of the tarmac. Choosing the apex point is the crucial of all. What happens here is the bike is at the lowest gear possible for that speed and the throttle is almost closed. But, it is to be noted that this is where the rider gets ready to get his full nerves on the bike. While at the apex, the rider gets to decide at which point will he exit the curve.

The last part is the exit. Here, the rider is completely out of the curve and gets ready to rev up the bike getting a proper sight of the stretch ahead of him. ‘So far, so good’ is what we riders felt listening to all this theories. Now, we get on inside our suits to practically implement them.

Implementation Turns Misery

To make us get used to this, there were bold ‘X’ marks on the track to make us aware of the entry, apex and the exit curves. We all were in our bikes to see what these are all about. This time, the restrictions to us were 2 gears and minimalistic usage of brakes.

At this point, I’ll have to mention that this is when I met with a crash (luckily not a major one!) As I started the bike and was in middle of the track, it so happened to me that the SHOEI helmet which I was wearing ditched me. There’ll be an upper beading on the top surface of every helmet.  As I was revving up my bike in the mid of the track, this beading got cut and fell down closing both my eyes. I was absolutely blindfolded and I know that the bikes will be cruising at high speeds behind me. I also know that I’m not supposed to bring my bike to a halt in the middle of the session. But, when I don’t get to see what’s happening around me what else can I even think of doing? I was forced to halt the bike and the trainers came rushing to me. They understood the seriousness of the situation and instructed me to get into the pit. This is where the mishap took place. To get into the pit, I’d to make a U turn from the track. But, I’m still blindfolded. I made a U turn and dashed against a poll and the entire side fairing of the bike got crushed immediately. One half of the side fairing is gone. I was vexed for a couple of minutes. If you can observe the pics here of mine here, you’ll notice the broken fairing clearly onto the right side of the bike.

Think of the situation; it just wasn’t my fault. At this point of time, I felt that the other riders are still practicing hitting the three toughest points on the track. But, my bike is crashed will ended up with some issues in the gear lever consequently. Luckily, Indimotard had a mechanic with them for back-up service who rectified the issue with the lever and brought it ready. But, by this time the session was over.

What Next?

With the broken bike in hand, I decided not to give up the forthcoming sessions. The next session was also the same except that we were taught a little on the body posture. Of course, it was just the basics. Tucking down ourselves, as we all know enables better aerodynamics for the bikes which helps in zipping fact against the conventional riding posture. The important hint given to us here was that the legs should be firmly attached to the fuel tank and the arms will have to be loosened. There is a reason behind saying so. When the legs are stiff, it just means that you can hang on to the fuel tank and with the hands loose you can change the position from one side to the other as we negotiate a curve. Similarly, we were taught about the way in which the foot will have to be placed along the pegs. It is the end of the fingers which is to be placed. Wanna know why? Sit in your bike with the bike parked in the main stand and see to it that the bike is parked near a pole which you’ll be holding in one hand. All that you have to do is place your foot on the peg in the conventional manner and try leaning your entire body from one side to the other.

This time, I was determined to do this task as I didn’t go even for a single round the last time. I found the initial couple of rounds pretty uneasy and then started zipping the track at ease. With these tasks ended the first track day. The time was 5.30 in the evening when it all got over.

Next Day Begins

The second day begun in a very similar manner as the previous day so as to warm up the tyres and to get a pinch of the previous day’s flavour. In the theory session we were given a couple of more instructions.

First, to use only two fingers to hold the front brake lever and the other to tuck in properly during riding along the straight stretches and wherever possible. Before taking this task, I approached my trainer, Dodo to guide me along C1. Every track will have one complicated curve to bring down the speed of the racers completely and in fact this will be the point where most of them will go off the track. C1 was one such curve which took the breath off for me. But, it was when I told him that I came to know that everybody was facing this particular issue. So, every instructor took the lead in their respective bikes and made their teams follow them. They gave clear gestures in the track where to decelerate, where to lean and where to start accelerating. This made handling C1 pretty easier than before (But remember that this was the toughest curve still).

Practice Makes A Man Perfect

We went on and on practicing every single curve. There were two curves other than the C1 which was little tough to handle, but not as tough as the C1. But, I found these two curves very easy and was able to zip the bikes at a comfortably high speeds here.

I went on and on just to take the C1 at ease which refused to compromise on me. I missed the apex and went off the track a couple of times but managed to keep the bike under control. A rider with an FZ and an another one with Apache lost their controls here and crashed their bike, hurting themselves. I’m telling this to make you understand the intensity of C1.

What Was I Towards The End

Sheer interest in knowing track techniques coupled with practice gave us amazing results towards the end of the entire two day session. Though there was a small lag in the C1 which I’ve mentioning over and over, I felt that my confidence in handling has gone up skyrocketing.

During the last set of rounds, I had absolutely no fear within me and was able to keep the bike fully under my control. During one of the session, we were told that the bike will go only where you see. This was the powerful fact I learned. During one of the curve, I felt that I’m losing control as I made a late entry into a curve. But, I made up my mind to keep seeing where I wanted to turn and to my astonishment, I found that the bike made a perfect turn without even a slight pressure on the brakes. That was way too cool to be felt rather than hearing. I, in fact ended up so confident that I upshifted the gear along the curves knowing that I can bloody handle the track. It’s not words of attitude, for we felt it live out there.

What Weren’t We Taught

We weren’t taught anything related to overtaking in the curves as this was not that easy. We also needed to learn a lot more on the body positioning and movement. All these and a lot more will be covered in the 2nd level which is most likely to happen in the month of Jan, next year. I’ll for sure be in to know more racing techniques and share them with you guys as well.

I Say

After attending the first proper track classes, I recommend you to enrol in such sessions to hone your riding skills so that you prove yourself who you are and what are you really capable of. As I’d mentioned in the very first line, this is an entirely different experience compared with the regular city commuting. Hoping to hear our readers’ experience next time when this event happens again.

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