I want to do ‘confidence’ as a question of the day because the ‘question of the day’ is always about riding, and riding is all about confidence.
As I have mentioned in the Motovudu book and DVD, most of us have made the mistake of buying a too bigger bike, whether it a dirt bike, track bike or road bike. You dirt bikers will know the feeling of getting on the next smaller capacity bike than you normally ride and riding the wheels off it. Feeling like you can do anything with such a great handling bike, all whilst the throttle is firmly on the stop, dancing on the gear lever. I have my clearest memory of this when I jumped off my 250cc 2stroke MX bike, onto a friends 125. Even though the two bikes basically had the same chassis, the always spinning engine mass of the larger capacity bike makes it want to go straight ahead when you come to the corners, and it feels much heavier than the couple of kilos difference is on paper.
This ability to feel the boss of a bike…. to ‘rag’ it… to make it do whatever you want, is what you need to be able to do in order to develop quickly as a rider. Sure, you can grow as a rider on a bigger capacity bike, but it happens slower, requires more natural ability and mental strength. Plus it can more easily go wrong. This is the same reason it takes time for even great WSBK riders to make friends with a MotoGP bike. It’s also the reason that racing is so good in the smaller classes, because more people can ride them to their limits.
In my experience, the nastier, more powerful and dangerous the class of bike was, the less people I had to race to the chequered flag. In the bigger classes its less about how much power you have and more about who can get the throttle open.
Recently I have witnessed experienced 1000cc riding friends of mine jump on a GSXR 600 or 750 (because that’s what I had spare for them to ride) and have their most enjoyable day on track in recent years. They felt they’d never ridden so well, while on their 1000 they’d ‘hit a wall’ years ago development wise. For me its a pleasure to see riders come in off the circuit so happy and animated. I’m not saying that all track day riders should stay on the smaller capacity bikes, but why not use it as a tool for a while to get your confidence/ Mojo up? Surely its more fun than riding a 1000 around half-heartedly for years?
When racing I found that when my confidence was up and things were going well, I could get on any bike, ride around problems the bike had and ride it fast. I could also feel clearly what needed improving on the bike and give accurate and clear feedback to the team. When my confidence was down, I not only struggled to ride any bike fast, I could not tell clearly what was wrong with it. I’d go around in circles set up wise and not give clear decisive feedback, driving the poor chief mechanic crazy. To get out of this hole I needed everything on the bike to be right so I could go faster and my confidence grow, which is ‘catch 22’ and why when the downward spiral starts, its hard to stop.
Sometimes you have to walk away, take some time off to get your enthusiasm/passion for riding up again, then start afresh and hopefully enjoying riding again, because that’s why all of us ride in the first place.