Without doubt the rider, the fleshy bit on top of the bike, is the one thing that’s going to make the most difference to how the bike underneath does its job. A good rider can overcome a lot of what the machine, a mechanic, suspension
and engine tuning cannot. However, a good machine cannot overcome the limited abilities of the rider. Well, not strictly true: put me on Colin Edwards’ bike and I’ll ride fast, but put Edwards on my bike and I’ll want to retire to a dark corner
and hang my head in shame.
Get the idea?
But with all that said, talent alone isn’t going to be enough. This became obvious to me when started to coach Thomas Lüthi, the 2005 125cc World Championship contender and eventual champion. At this level it’s a combination of man, machine, mechanics, team manager and a good supply of humour for those times when the whole team is up against it. Shinya Nakano has these observations: “In the All Japan Championships I had a riding coach. He would watch me from the side of the track and he would say to change the body position or this or that. He helped a lot. He was a racer before. Then there are other people who come along who do not know racing and they tell me I am braking wrong. This is not good. You must find acoach you can trust this is very important.”
A rider will need to work on several areas if he’s to achieve his ambitions, wherever they may be on the scale of things. Needless to say, a track-day addict in his 40s won’t become a MotoGP World Champion no matter how much effort, time or money he invests but he can be the best in his class, in his field, at his level. “When you ride you should try and forget everything else,’ says Valentino Rossi. “Don’t think about the rest of your life or the rest of the world. Try to forget all that and think only of the road or the track and the bike. It’s not always easy to stay focused on the bike, sometimes you feel that one part of the brain rides the bike, thinks about the tyre, sees the road, but maybe the other part is thinking about a girl, a friend, a song.
So let’s take a look at what you need to do to prepare yourself as well as possible.
1 – PHYSICAL TRAINING
This aspect mustn’t be either over-rated or under-rated. Every rider needs to be fit. Some riders will be down at the gym at every single spare moment, or out riding motocross or mountain bikes. But research carried out by the British Sports Foundation demonstrates one thing very clearly to get ‘bike fit’ you need to spend a lot of time actually riding a bike.
2 – TRAINING SUPPLEMENTS
The rules on drugs are becoming increasingly complicated and the use of supplements in training is more and more common-place. It’s becoming more difficult to see where the line should be drawn. While this whole area hasn’t been as much of an issue in motorcycle racing as it is in athletics, the riders are nevertheless subject to random testing. If you’re in any doubt about training supplements, the best advice is to avoid them completely.
3 – MENTAL APPROACH
Focused. We hear this a lot on the television, a we often see the word in books, magazines and newspapers. It’s true that each and every rider should be focused before going out on the tra and riding. But focused on what? A track day rider will have a different focus from a racer. A racer will have different focus during testing compared with when he’s racing or practising,
Some racers have a mental coach or sports psychologist, but others don’t think it’s worth James Ellison is one: “No, I tried that. No-one knows what’s going on inside your head except you.” The point is, whether or not you have a sports psychologist, you must focus on something, and for your riding it has to be something very precise, very exact and very refined.
Just saying to yourself ‘I wanna go faster’ isn’t going to do the trick
4 – PLANNING
Now let’s take a look at the next area that needs your attention. You’re going racing and you need to get ready for the weekend
ahead of you. Again, a plan is good and helps you to get focused. Have you packed your ear plugs, spare gloves and licence? Have you got all your kit stored and ready to go or is it a last-minute rush after you get home from work? Do you have a decent, fully stocked tool kit? Do you keep all your paperwork in a folder? But what about the preparation a rider has to do to race, to win, to beat his team-mate this is a whole different area. All riders have little rituals, set ways of doing things before the flag. Some do it in the garage, some in the motorhome, some on the start line, some on the warm-up lap a ritual is a good thing as it tells you you’re getting ready for the challenge ahead.