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Introduction

Are you considering making the jump to the track? Are you nervous about looking unprepared? Maybe you are worried about the costs or about meeting the safety standards. Are you asking yourself what the hell you should pack or what tires to bring to the track?

If you are like many newcomers to the sport, you have a plethora of questions! I’ve been in that same position and understand the emotions that go through a rider’s head. The good news is, I’ve got you covered.

In this “Ultimate Guide to the Track for Beginners”, you’ll reap the benefit of all the experience and learnings I have under my track racing belt. I will lay it out all for you in a way that is simple and user-friendly. Don’t fret! I’m not going to advise you to go buy a thousand dollar suit off of Revzilla.

Who is this guide meant for?

This guide is tailored to the new street rider wanting to test the waters of the track.

This guide will go over:

• Finding a track near you
• Gear
• Preparing the bike
• Transporting the bike
• Extra items to bring
• Typical Track Day
• Common Questions

Finding a Track

First things first, you need to find a track near you. Use this website here (US ONLY) http://www.cornercarving.com/track-finder/.

Once you have located a track near you the next part is to find their website. Luckily the site will also show here:

Each organization runs their events a little differently, but each will have an introductory class for the new track rider. This information will be listed on their website. If for some reason you cannot locate the introductory class information, contact the organization and mention that you are a new rider first time on the track. They will be happy to provide you with details on the course.

The class will allow you to learn the inside scoop on how to be best prepared for your first time on the track. Learning the ins and outs of the sport will boost your confidence and enthusiasm so you’ll be a functioning member of the community.

On a personal note, one of the first question the instructor asked during my introductory class was “Who is nervous?”. You bet your ass I shot my hand up and was met with appreciation for being honest. You won’t be the only one that is anxious or nervous to dive into the exhilarating sport of riding on the track.

During this class, instructors will cover the basics such as entering the track, inspecting your bike, and properly taking corners. And while it may seem overwhelming at first, the instructors are trained to provide information at a pace you can handle. Believe me, I have never met an instructor that was not passionate about what they do. Remember, track instructors are using their own track time on the weekend to teach you how to ride safely at your level. They are the experts and welcome your questions!

GEAR

LEATHER SUIT

Every organization will require you to have a set of leathers such as featured below.

These are suits designed to protect you in the event of a crash, breathe well, and make you look cool as fuck for those Facebook photos. There are two-piece leathers as well as one-piece leathers and this will be based on personal preference.

Organizations will have leather rentals for new track riders like you. The rental costs can vary but it is much cheaper than buying a whole new suit. Make sure to contact the track organization and let them know you are interested in renting a suit ahead of time. Just as a reference point, the leathers I rented were $75 at the organization I joined.

DOT APPROVED HELMET

DOT-approved (Department of Transportation) helmets are the minimum standards for all motorcycle helmets. You can almost guarantee that if you ride on the street you already have one. Just check the back and you’ll see in the letters “DOT”. Obviously, you’ll need to procure a helmet if you don’t already own one.

OVER ANKLE BOOTS

Depending on the organization, they may or may not rent out boots. If they do not, I highly recommend getting a real pair of over-the-ankle boots. The organization MAY allow basic over the ankle boots, but I’d invest in some real track boots to protect your feet. In the event you do not continue to attend track days, you’ll still have the best protection around for riding on the street.

GAUNTLET GLOVES

Gauntlet gloves protect the hand all the way down to the wrist. They overlap with the end of your leather suit. Regular gloves will not be allowed, so make sure to purchase a pair of gauntlet gloves.

Preparing the Bike

Preparing the bike for the track usually boils down to a few basic actions. Each organization will vary slightly, but most have a very similar protocol. This may include:

• Removing mirrors
• Taping lights. Tip: make sure to use painter’s masking tape. It is very easy to remove and won’t leave a mess.
• Disconnect tail light
• Remove license plate
• Taping wheel weights (get picture)
• Check for leaks/all bolts are tight
• Proper chain tension
• Inspect tires

Tires

An often-asked question is regarding what tires to bring the track. The short answer is, as long as your tires have enough tread from daily riding then you’ll have no issues riding on the track. You’ll see other regular track riders with what are called “slicks”. These tires are made for the track and have no tread. You won’t be needing these until you reach that higher level of speed.

I’ve personally gone onto the track with street tires for over a year because I never reached a pace that would require slicks. Make sure to lower the pressure in your tires to allow for more grip on the track. The general rule is 30 psi front and 28 psi rear, but the track techs will be glad to help you adjust pressure when you arrive.

Typical Track Day

The typical track day will consist of an early morning check-in and inspection around 7 a.m. During registration, you will select between different groups based on your experience, which starts at “novice” and end at “expert”. At 8 a.m. your group will join together for a safety briefing. The track will be hot around 8:30 a.m. and the first group will head out to practice.

The sessions will alternate between each other throughout the day and you can come and go as you please. Sessions are usually about 20-30 minutes in duration and each organization may vary. Since you will be in the beginner course, the instructors will be on call to assist you the entire day.

Loading and Transporting the Bike

For the best explanation, check out this video that demonstrated how to properly load a bike into a truck:

How To Load a Motorcycle Into a Truck at RevZilla.com - YouTube

If you own a car, a small U-Haul trailer will still work but be sure check your vehicle manual for towing requirements.  This is actually very common and affordable method for motorcycle transport, as bikes are very light and easy to tow. For example, see the Ford Fiesta below:  (Credit to Reddit user “spotted_peegle”)

If you have no transportation, considering asking in location forums for someone who is willing to help out. Many riders are always willing to stow an extra bike in their trailer if they have room. Another option is to ride to the actual track, but in the event of a track crash it may be a bit hard to get home and can be quite exhausting.

Extra Items to Bring

· Extra Fuel
· Snacks (lunch can be purchased on the track, bring cash)
· Water!
· Polyester/Under Armor shirt so leather suit doesn’t stick to your skin with sweat.
· Flip flops
· Pop up shade canopy
· Basic toolkit
· Sunglasses and hat
· Keys! (You wouldn’t believe how often keys are forgotten!)

Conclusion

If I could offer one piece of advice, I would caution against stressing out too much. A track day is meant to be engaging, fun, and exciting.

Bring the basics and don’t overdo it. You may see or receive a lot of advice from regular track riders to bring a load of items, but they fail to remember this is your first time. Over time you will adjust your items and your prep ritual to suit your preferences.

Lastly, have fun and go conquer!

I hope this guide has been useful in preparing you for the incomparable sport of track days.

If you have any questions please feel free to email me in the contact section of the website.

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Professional motorcycle racer, Elena Myers Court, knows full well the level of grit and determination it takes to make continual breakthroughs in racing progress.  In a recent article for McGraw Motorsports, she explained: “Once you can control your approach and mentality, and harness your will, you’re really capable of anything”.

Court has mastered the art of the mental and physical preparation that the sport requires of its riders.  When combined with ongoing skills practice, implementing elements of self-coaching and having a set plan in place makes a rider more disciplined.  Ultimately, discipline leads to a more capable and adaptable rider.

In this post, we will discuss the research behind self-improvement, how it leads to becoming a better rider, and real-life examples of ways in which this method can be put to the test.

The Science Behind Self-Improvement

Self-improvement isn’t just a fancy, a new-age phrase reserved for those involved in business or searching for a sense of spiritual guidance.  In his book “The Science of Self-Improvement’, Steven Handel states that “Being able to exercise greater control over our lives is the primary lesson in The Science of Self-Improvement.”

The various techniques for self-improvement carry over into all realms of personal life, including helping to create more successful athletes and hobbyists.  As riders, most want to improve the least element of their riding experience.  Whether it’s learning to relax and enjoy the ride more, brushing up on race lines, or developing a killer pre-race planning ritual, most all riders employ goals that help them achieve a better sense of overall satisfaction with riding.

In terms of science, we know that a portion of our brain called the basal ganglia is responsible for the formation of habits.  “When we get into habit mode…our brain works more efficiently”, explains Charles Duhigg, in his book “The Power of Habit”.  He continues “By freeing up mental RAM from our cerebral cortex, our brains can use that mental energy for more important stuff like creating a plan”

Neuroscience tells us “once our brain encodes a habit into our basal ganglia that habit never really disappears.  It’s always there looking for that certain cue to initiate the habit sequence  That wouldn’t be a problem if all out habits were good for us.  Unfortunately, our brain doesn’t distinguish between good habits and bad ones”.

This is where self-improvement comes into play.  Part of this technique is being able to identify healthy habits, as well as bad habits.

Some riders may shrug off the notion of self-improvement because they believe it will be overwhelming or tedious.   But this simply isn’t the case.  What matters more is a commitment to improvement and to creating healthy habits.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at what good and bad habits make look like in a real-life riding scenario.

Example of a good rider with healthy habits: This rider will have the track printed out, his gear ready, bike set-up, his stomach full on a good healthy breakfast and hydrated the night prior. Prior to going out on the track, he will study the track map one more time to understand what to expect.  He may repeat a chosen mantra to help him focus and get in the zone. His first goal is to learn the race lines. After his first session, he now knows the race lines. He will relax while waiting for his next session he makes marks on his track map of where he believes he needs to brake on turns one through three. After he masters these turns, he will work on the following turns.

This rider is focused on continual improvement but also celebrates his successes and learns from his errors.

Example of a bad rider without healthy habits: He will not have the track printed out, and maybe will have only eaten a few snacks. He talks to a few friends, perhaps loses track of time, and gets caught off guard that it his session to go on the track. He hops on the bike right away and is haphazardly speeding at 100 mph on the straightaway and doesn’t really know the race lines. It may require a solid five minutes for him to really focus in and thus he may not be making improvements.  After his session, he is distracted by what he did wrong and sets the sole goal of being faster. With no actual game plan, he will just focus on gunning the throttle and taking turns faster.

This rider thinks short term and forgets the progress to be made in thinking long term and continually assessing his successes and failures.

While these examples may sound exaggerated, they aren’t far off-base from what many riders experienced or have witnessed.   Riding a motorcycle has, literally, many moving parts.  This includes the intentions and mentality of the rider as well as the dynamics and mechanics of the bike.

How Self-Coaching Impacts Riding

Creating and maintaining a positive mental mindset can take on many forms when it comes to the sport and hobby of motorcycle racing.   Our previous blog posts offered solid advice on the elements of “getting in the zone” and having a ritual and mantra.   Yet the possibilities are endless for the ways in which a rider can harness the lessons learned from both poor performances and successful performances.

By becoming intentional with planning, and assessing performance afterward, a rider learns the positive dynamics of self-coaching.  Self-coaching is a simple way of explaining the method of motivating yourself and becoming self-reliant. This can translate to any aspect of your life, but often includes those involved in a performance sport.

In an article titled “Why Self-Coaching Can Be a Good Thing”, author Mackenzie Madison explains that the benefits of self-coaching include:

  • Taking credit for your own success
  • Becoming your own motivator
  • Knowing your strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else
  • It’s free!

Madison goes on to say “You become more aware of your body and its responses to a variety of training situations. Self-coaching makes you tune in closely to your body’s responses and make honest assessments.”

As motorcycle riders, we are all aware of how important it is to stay attuned to our body’s cues, both large and small.   When we pay attention to things such as our reflexes, change in heart rate, breathing patterns, and even the release of sweat, we learn how to integrate that important mind-body connection that can make or break a good race or lap.

Honest assessments, as Madison mentioned, can play out in the way we are able to process through the mistakes we may make as riders.   Instead of just getting angry or embarrassed by a mistake, we can learn how to better prepare for next time. This also allows a rider to be less apprehensive for the next performance.

For example, it is rare for even the best of riders to have a perfect lap.  Not every turn will be taken perfectly or the timing of every gear shift or braking technique.   Many times, riders will become frustrated when they know they didn’t take a corner correctly and will obsess, thinking that they’ve ruined their performance.   Instead, self-coaching can help a rider learn to observe quickly and then release any fears or unnecessary frustrations.    These riders will know they can start the lap at the next turn and have a better chance of being more focused.

It’s important to be aware that there are many different and fundamental skill sets to learn before becoming a faster and more technical rider.   Each of these skills takes dedicated practice and it isn’t plausible to learn them all at once.  Some examples include:

  • Race lines (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60mpzDGCWVI)
  • Straight line breaking (Breaking in a straight line)
  • Trail Breaking (Breaking while in a turn)
  • Downshifting (Going from 3rd gear to 2nd gear etc.)
  • Body position (Leaning properly)
  • Timing of all of the above

As dedicated riders, it behooves us to break down these skills using self-coaching, planning, and the creation of good habits in order to become highly capable in our sport.   As many riders can attest to, burnout can occur much more quickly when one tries to cram an entire set of practical skill learning into a high-pressure timeframe.   Those situations usually end up embarrassing, exhausting, or downright dangerous for the rider.

The Power of Preparation and Planning

Elena Myers Court continued to share this relevant wisdom in the article she wrote: “I eventually came to realize that while mental preparation starts with physical preparation, it doesn’t end there. It’s really about creating peace of mind, so you can be totally in the moment when you’re out on the track.  Over time I learned a key for me to feel mentally prepared was making sure I had a routine for getting all of the predictable activities squared away so I could deal with anything unexpected that would come up last minute…”

Check yourself occasionally on what your goals are with the sport.   Assess if you are on track to meeting your goals of if you have found yourself off course.  Remind yourself why you dove into riding in the first place and what keeps bringing you back to the bike and the track.   If, perchance, you are feeling burned out, then take a break to rejuvenate your body, mind, and spirit.

The racetrack deserves the best of you.

References

Mental Preparation: The Unspoken Element of Motorcycle Racing

Why Self-Coaching Can Be A Good Thing


http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/11/20/power-of-habits/
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-self-improvement-secret-work-on-strengths/

 

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Flow While Riding

Effortless.  Symbiotic.  In the zone.  Losing one’s self.

Each of these words and phrases are examples commonly used to describe what it feels like for a motorcycle rider to “be in the flow”.  In positive psychology, flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

When it comes to riding, this euphoric state can manifest in a number of different ways that can be exhilarating, beneficial and often surprising.   It is a state of being that requires practice, assimilation, and a keen sense of intuition coupled with trust.   However, once harnessed, the power of flow can drastically up your riding game.

The Science and Psychology Behind Flow

Learning the background fn the fascinating science of flow helps tie together the powerful benefits that this mental state provides and how it could potentially aid in motorcycle riding performance.

According to writer Steven Kotler in “The Science of Peak Human Performance” (Time.com), the state of being in the flow “emerges from a radical alteration in normal brain function. In flow, as attention heightens, the slower and energy-expensive extrinsic system (conscious processing) is swapped out for the far faster and more efficient processing of the subconscious, intrinsic system.” 

Essentially, those experiencing flow are able to hone in on all of their senses, allowing the mind and body to work together to creative optimal focus and performance.  Both mental and physical capacity is increased, due to hormone release and altered brain functionality.

This state of mind can be achieved by anyone, as commonly experienced by those immersed in an intensely physical or creative experience, such as musicians, athletes, and artists.

The term “flow” was adopted by Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the 1970’s when he became a pioneer in the psychology world for studying this state.   He gathered people of all background and cultures and asked about the times in their life when they felt their best and performed their best.  Interestingly, every person mentioned being in a state of “flow” in response to this question.   Those interviewed consistently described feeling more fluid, collected, and able to concentrate readily during a state of flow.

But the science behind flow goes even deeper.  “A team of neuroscientists at Bonn University in Germany discovered that endorphins are definitely part of flow’s cocktail”, mentions Kotler, “So are norepinephrine, dopamine, anandamide, and serotonin. All five are pleasure-inducing, performance-enhancing neurochemical.”

Not only does being in the flow help one function better but it actually feels distinctly better.

It makes sense, when applied to the sport of motorcycle riding, that flow could be an underlying contributing factor to the appeal of the activity.

The Benefits of Being in Flow

Along with practice and sharpening of riding skills, being in the flow is a useful method that can help create peak performance on the track.   Like developing a ritual and mantra, the experience of flow can give riders a renewed sense of confidence and enjoyment in the sport.  It can take riding to an entirely new level in which a rider feels a paradox of both liberation and control.

Because being in the flow heightens a sense of awareness in the brain, riders become more effective and, essentially, safer during their rides.  Whether on a track, a dirt trail, or touring along a scenic road, a rider becomes more attentive to hazards, the bike’s capabilities, and to their own limitations.

Overall, the researched benefits of flow include:

  • A sense of clarity
  • Sharpened intuition and instincts
  • Increase in muscle reaction times, pattern recognition, and lateral thinking (problem solving)
  • Improved mental and physical performance

According to off-road motorcycle racer Blake MacMillan “Psychology- based accounts of flow however, can sometimes be misleading because it locates flow squarely within the mind.  For practitioners, flow actually feels like turning off the mind.  It is about letting the external world crowd the space of conscious thought.  Flow is the ability to lose oneself to the situational demands of a task.”

As an example, motorcycle riders are taught the term “smooth is fast, fast is smooth”. One of the most common misconceptions in the sport is that fast riders accomplish actions on a bike much faster than everyone else, such as shifting gears, braking, and adjusting body position.

The truth is more in the fact that they are simply in flow, or “in the zone”.   What the rider experiences, even during times of transition or high-concentration, actually feels calm and like second nature.  There is a sensation of time standing still as senses and instincts take over and make split-second decisions for the rider.

Being in this state allows a rider to make steady movements that lead to a smoother, more dynamic ride.  For example, if a rider has to break suddenly, grabbing a fistful of front brake will only cause a crash. The same theory applies to handling the throttle. Most riders know that hitting the throttle too hard will put increased pressure onto the tire, causing it to slip from underneath if in a turn or if from a standstill. The dangerous end result is a backflip.

How to Get in the Flow

While oftentimes this state is achieved spontaneously, there are definitely tips and tricks to help boost the probability of getting in the zone.

  • In terms of motorcycle riding, don’t forget the power of practice and muscle memory. This means riding the track or trail until every curve, bump, and nuance becomes ingrained in the rider’s head.  Think of think this practice as pre-planning, one in which you don’t even have to be on the track to suddenly remember what it feels and looks like.   Perhaps you remember that on turn three you’ll brake, downshift, add some gas, lean in, and then shift up.  Map out the steps as if it were a kind of adrenlanline-laden dance. Remember that speed comes naturally after good habits are formed. They key here is focusing on pattern and repetition while connecting it all to movements of the body.
  • Another helpful practice is to engage in a form of functional movement training. This type of training helps you to isolate movements that are essential in riding and then commit them to muscle memory.   Relearning some of these basic movements can also prevent injury. Blake MacMillan explains functional training in this way, “To become a better rider, don’t choose a fitness routine that is based on the movements of riding. Instead, challenge yourself to learn an entirely different movement discipline.  movement training is not a means to improve at another sport; instead, the goal of movement training is movement itself.”
  • Prepare for your practices and ride by developing a ritual or mantra. This will help alleviate anxiety, subdue fear, and boost confidence so that your mind and body are more open to easily transitioning into a state of flow.  You can read more about this in our previous post.
  • Ride with intention. While riding a motorcycle is certainly a fun hobby, riding with intention can help ensure safety as well as enjoyability.   This means give yourself ample time for a ride so that you don’t feel rushed.   It also means being as prepared as you can be, in terms of equipment, route, and mechanics as well as mental and physical preparation.   The last thing a rider wants to have occur is finding themselves too exhausted or mind and body to truly get the most out of their experience.
  • Though time and practice you will learn to trust your instincts. This is that voice in your head that warns you of danger or situations that could be risky or harmful.  As Gavin de Becker, author of “The Gift of Fear” states “You have the gift of a brilliant internal guardian that stands ready to warn you of hazards and guide you through risky situations.”   Trusting your intuition and instincts is a driving force behind maximizing the state of flow.  For example, if your intuition tells you to slow down, watch out for something up ahead, or to adjust your body position, learn to listen.

The Thrill of the Flow

The impact of the moment of flow for a rider is unparalleled and often intoxicating.  It is often one of the experiences that brings riders back to the bike and the track over and over again.   Feeling at one with your bike, as if the bike is being controlled by a fluid external force, is often described as being akin to a “runner’s high”.

It’s an unexpected reward for the rigorous and concerted effort required during the most adventurous and satisfying of rides.

Resources:

http://www.humantwopointzero.com/gym-training-for-motorcycle-riders-its-all-about-the-flow/s

http://upliftconnect.com/being-in-the-flow/

http://time.com/56809/the-science-of-peak-human-performance/

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Smooth Throttle by Andrew - 5M ago

The deep, ominous sounds of the motorcycle engines warming up on the paddock.  The thrilling and anxious tones of bikes shifting as accelerating as they pass on the track.  The image of racers gearing up, the rush of the mechanics in the pit, and the curves and lines of the bikes in motion.  The smell of sweat signaling a memorable day at the track.  The captivating sight of a rider and his bike in harmony, moving as one nimble entity through space and time.  This is the potent world of motorcycle racing.

For a professional motorcycle racer, the dynamic and competitive world of racing entails unshakable determination, sharp focus, and relentless self-discipline.   The most renowned in this sport remain racers both on the track and off by developing an intentional approach to being staying motivated and avoiding non-complacency.

While some of these approaches are evident, such as continual performance practice and development of advanced skills, others may not be so conventional. One of the methods that many racers employ is the element of defining and practicing a consistent pre-race ritual.

Known for his riding rituals, former Superbike World Champion Scott Russel would famously flip his helmet visor down and whisper the mantra “I’m a fucking badass” before heading to the track.  This steady mantra was an auditory way to strengthen the mind-body connection that is critical in competitive racing. Russell went on to win the Daytona 200 a total of five times in his career, making him a beloved mainstay in the sport.

Racing legend Valentino Rossi, multiple MotoGP World Champion, is also notable for his consistent and quirky rituals prior to mounting his motorcycle.  This has been dubbed the “Rossi Ritual”, which includes bending down and reaching for his boots, crouching down to bow his head before his bike, and adjusting his leathers.  Rossi also has revealed that he always puts on boots and gloves in the same order, as well as gets on and off his bike in the same way.   He told interviewers at MotoGP.com that his ritual began for practical reasons but evolved to help focus concentration.

Benefits of Rituals

Putting a solid ritual in place has a plethora of benefits for anyone wishing to up their game when it comes to meeting goals or increasing productivity.

Rituals can:

  • Help empower an individual in staying motivated
  • Bring a sense of “being in control”
  • Alleviate stress and reduce uncertainty
  • Increase alertness
  • Effectively alter the mind-body connection
  • Aid in creating and accomplishing meaningful goals
  • Dismantle fear
  • Build courage and tenacity
  • Improve health

The Research of Rituals

The science behind why symbolic rituals can successfully influence one’s outlook is rooted in the way the brain is wired to constantly reshape its connections in response to our experiences.   Our brain learns to associate sensory rituals, such as mantras or repetitive actions, with the practice at hand.

Applied to the sport of racing, this can mean that a racer is literally training both the body and the mind to help shape their thoughts, beliefs, and performance. Rituals can also be thought of as a type of relaxation technique which can decrease heart rate and blood pressure and allow for a centered state of mind.   This can lead to a greater ability to transform the senses.

In an article in Scientific American, behavioral scientists Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton explain “These findings are consistent with research in sport psychology demonstrating the performance benefits of pre-performance routines, from improving attention and execution to increasing emotional stability and confidence.”

A solid practice of a fixed, repeated set of actions can help alleviate anxiety, subdue fear, and boost confidence in all areas of life.  As a racer, bringing this ritualistic practice to the track helps to provide a seamless transition for the clarity and precision needed once in the game.

How Rituals Can Impact Performance

A rider often takes on an immense level of preparedness. From maintenance checks, to loading gear, to track day responsibilities, a rider’s mood can quickly go from excited to overwhelmed in a matter of hours.

It is imperative for a rider to stay in the zone with his goals and to ward off mental-fatigue as much as possible. In this way, the precarious nature of motorcycle racing requires a tremendous amount of drive, resourcefulness, and a reliance on keen reflexes and instincts.

The well-documented effects of adrenaline, in conjunction with high speed sports such as racing or an open track day can take a toll on the body.  Negative effects include increase in anxiety and anger problems, as well as heart disease, insomnia, and depression.

As a racer, staying healthy and in peak shape can make the difference between a win or a loss, or perhaps help prevent serious injuries. Preparing in advance with practices such as rituals can help maintain a strong body and improve crucial concentration skills.

 The Key to Building a Consistent Practice

 For those who want to incorporate elements of ritual into their racing practice, it is important to not only build one but to work on maintaining it.  The key to achieving the most effective benefits from a ritual include:

  • Don’t stress. This means that rituals don’t have to follow any set of rules and can be unique to each individual.  They can be something that is done physically, a routine set in place, or even a phrase repeated before, or during, a race.  Rituals do not have to be complicated and can arrive organically.
  • Ensuring it is intentional, meaningful, and purpose-driven. Know your action-oriented goals and objectives and work on linking those to the rituals you create.  For example, your goals may include safety, focus, performance, challenge, balance, or even fun.
  • Give yourself ample time to include your ritual in your practice. Make it a habit to take the few moments or minutes it may take to engage your mind and body.   Don’t worry what other people may think or say; this is your time to prime yourself for the ride and reinforce your goals.
  • As with any technique, if it doesn’t feel good or isn’t serving you, ditch it. There is no harm in changing a ritual or eliminating it all together if it isn’t effective.   Check in with yourself before and after a race to reflect on your performance and the ways you prepared.   There is no such thing as failure when it comes to self-growth.

This level of preparedness helps to alleviate a feeling of arriving at the race in a dazed or frazzled state.  Of course, being overwhelmed and nervous are often unavoidable with such a formidable sport.  However, being proactive in the way you adapt and organize for your ride can elevate you from daft to deft.

Examples of Rider Rituals

 For many riders, rituals can also be rooted in superstition as a way to ward off back luck.  Interestingly, science once again backs such a method, surmising that superstitions help people feel protected from negative situations or outcomes.

According to Donald Saucier, professor of psychological sciences at Kansas State University, superstitions “Provide meaningful psychological benefits because they give us an illusion of control, especially in uncertain situations.  We can now believe that we can influence events, whether or not we actually can.”

Essentially, the physical movements associated with superstitious behaviors help individuals to connect their fears to the gestures and relieve their stress.

Many riders swear by certain gestures or are insistent on wearing their favorite lucky gear.  In an article from Motosport.com, seasoned motocross riders gave a few examples of consistent and favorite superstitious rituals, which included:

  • Dropping a brand new helmet on the ground. This superstition arrived with the belief that the first time a rider’s helmet hits the ground, their head won’t be in it.
  • Playing a specific song or type of music
  • Wearing a pair of worn out gloves to prevent feeling restricted
  • Reciting a prayer or a mantra
  • Putting on gear in the same order
  • Eating something specific before the race. The article explains that “Kailub Russell eats an orange before racing because it settles his pre-race nerves.”

Superstitions are as unique as the riders themselves.  Many of these such rituals have become synonymous with the racers and fans enjoy keeping a fervent eye out for new and old ones.

Zoning In to Avoid Zoning Out

In the end, a stable and determined mindset is one of the most valuable components to achieving a rewarding career or hobby as a motorcycle enthusiast.  It can have an impact on both safety as well as the level of enjoyment and success.   Including rituals in the sport of motorcycle track racing is just one way to equalize the grit necessary to stay alert and to eliminate burn out.

Meaningful mantras and rituals can also include elements such as healthy eating and exercise, creating checklists for race day, getting plenty or rest and hydration, and enjoying life outside of the track.   As in any sport, balancing play with work can be the key to a sustained and enjoyable career.

A rider can often position himself for success by being mindful of the comprehensive strategy needed for eliminating distraction both on and off the track.    When fear, doubt, or mental fatigue begin to set in, rituals can be a powerful way to re-calibrate both man and machine.

References:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-rituals-work/

http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/ritual-science

http://www.businessinsider.com/surprising-benefits-of-superstitions-2014-7

http://www.motosport.com/blog/motocross-superstitions-rituals-10-best

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