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Skill development: Can I? vs. I Can!

Posted June 1st, 2016 at 03:27 PM by adouglas

TL; DR: That magic moment when your brain flips from "Can I go faster?" to "I know I can go faster."

Just got back from a couple of very productive track days. Musing on how much progress I've made, I was thinking about how I felt going into certain corners this year, vs. the same time last year.

For those that haven't done it, riding the track is intensely mental. You've got a whole lot to process and you're fully engaged, both physically and cognitively. You're staring your limits right in the eyes, even at beginner group pace.

As you get faster, the markers shift and your speed goes up, but that at-the-limit-of-mental-capacity feeling remains, at least for awhile.

This past weekend I passed an important milestone in getting past that. Before, I'd be going through a corner under control, but not quite sure if I was approaching the limit and about to crash. Evidently I wasn't, since people were passing me like I was a signpost, but I was not quite sure if I could corner faster without losing it.

"I'm doing okay here. Can I go faster? I don't know."

This time around I made some significant progress -- better body position, better throttle control, more confidence. Through those same corners, it was as if a switch had flipped.

"I'm doing okay here. I know I can go faster."

It's been said before by people far wiser and more skilled than me (@csmith12) that your ability to go fast through a corner depends on your confidence in your ability to get the bike turned. It really is true.

So what changed? Hard to say. I just started having more confidence in the bike... a feeling not of trying to keep it from getting away from me, but instead certainty that it would go where I wanted, would stay on the road, and would not bite me.

That freed my mind to think about other things... like how quickly I was turning, exactly where and how hard I was braking, whether I was nailing my line... all the things that lead to speed, instead of my brain yelling at me to not f*ck up, blow the corner and put myself into a survival situation.

I think this translates to the street very well. I've been following posts from new riders who are nervous about traffic. They're not confident yet, and that's going to hamper their progress because they simply don't have enough cognitive power left over to really focus on riding skills.

It's a learning process, and it's fascinating.
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