COAST AND YOU’RE TOAST
Come on, admit it. You coast, don’t you? By coast, I am not referring to cruising past a beach boulevard admiring the sights. No, the coast I am referring to is the gap, or time differential, between control inputs while riding your motorcycle. Coasting can cost you a lot of time and reduce your control. It’s time to fix that.
WHAT IS IT?
Coasting is the time you are not accelerating, maintaining speed or decelerating using control inputs using either the throttle or brakes. During this time, you are effectively ‘rolling’ down the road and generally decelerating due to road friction (unless you are rolling down a steep incline). As a result, coasting introduces a time lag between control inputs. This time lag is not only inefficient, but it also reduces control.
The most common example is the time lag between coming ‘off’ the throttle and applying the brakes. Let’s consider this example for a moment. Imagine you are flying down a straight in top gear at 250 km/h. You need to slow to 100 km/h for the next corner, so in preparation, you retard the throttle fully and apply pressure to the brake lever. The time it takes you to reposition your hand from the throttle to the brake lever and commence effective braking is the period during which you are coasting.
TIME IS MONEY, OR METRES
At 100 km/h, you are travelling at 28 m/s, so in the above scenario, you are potentially coasting for tens of metres before you start to brake effectively. Of course, the above scenario can also be experienced in reverse. For example, you could delay the application of the throttle after the completion of braking. This example of coasting is arguably worse than the first because of the negative effects on motorcycle control. More on this later.
The amount of coasting is generally proportional to a riders experience and proficiency level. If you are lazy, the coasting period can last seconds, which is the case for many novice riders. How long does it take you to reposition your hand from the throttle to the brake lever and start effective braking? Now compare that time to a Speedee (see what I did there?) track day rider or motorcycle racer. If they are faster than you, I can just about guarantee they are coasting less than you are. Their aim is always to be either accelerating or decelerating using the controls with minimal lag (coasting) in between.
How long do you think Toprak waited before applying his brakes?
SLOWS YOU DOWN, HOW?
Coasting lengthens your lap time. In the time spent coasting, you could still be accelerating to your braking point instead, or twisting the throttle to begin acceleration earlier. Since you are generally decelerating while coasting, the differential can add up to a lot of lost time. The time spent coasting is time better spent braking or accelerating.
While improving lap times is an important reason to minimise coasting, safety is more important for most track day riders. After all, everyone wants to get home unscathed after a day at the track. Being fast and safe at the same time is the holy grail of track riding. Eliminating coasting can help you achieve that.
COASTING ROBS CONTROL
Would you agree that to lower your lap time safely, you must have control of the motorcycle? If you agree, know that you do not have full control of your motorcycle when you are coasting.
A motorcycle needs input from the rider, and it is your job to provide that input. Anytime you are not commanding the bike to do something is time you are out of control. More importantly, by delaying your inputs, you are not meeting the machines need to be controlled. It is your job as a rider to align your control inputs to machine design.
Meeting the needs of the machine can only be achieved by using the throttle and brake controls to balance the motorcycle. When you are coasting, the weight distribution between the front and rear tyres is not optimum. The result is reduced traction.
USE YOUR THROTTLE
The best way to balance your bike in a corner is by applying throttle. This is why it is critical to get the throttle on (cracked) as soon as possible after braking. While there are exceptions to this rule (like the advanced skill of off-throttle turning), generally speaking, delaying this action leaves the bike in limbo and vulnerable to imperfect weight distribution (tyre loading).
Least amount of coasting wins
Cracking the throttle transfers weight to the rear tyre, reducing stress on the front tyre, improving traction. This is what the motorcycle wants you to do. Ever notice how your motorcycle instantly ‘feels’ better after you have applied the throttle? This is why. Delaying this by coasting reduces traction, therefore reducing your safety margin and eroding confidence.
USE YOUR BRAKES
Coasting is not an effective way to reduce speed; that’s what the brakes are for! So use them instead of coasting. How do you do that? Keep accelerating until you need to brake, and then start effective braking as soon as possible. It sounds simple, but it does require you to do some planning.
Riders generally coast because they do not know where they are on track. In other words, they do not have reference points and a plan to use them. In the absence of these things, riders tend to coast until they feel like it is the right time to initiate the next control action.
Wouldn’t you rather know what you are going to do and when you will do it? Would this make you faster and safer? Unfortunately, coasting robs you of both. So instead, pick a point to start your braking and keep accelerating until you get to it. Then get to that brake ASAP.
No coasting here – throttle is on until the braking marker
BE FAST AND IN CONTROL
Coasting is all about timing. Becoming more proficient at timing your control inputs will result in a corresponding improvement in your riding. As you reduce the amount of coasting you do on the track, you will experience a faster lap time with the bonus of feeling more in control. Who wouldn’t want that?