American Speedway  

Stan Bradbury's
Speedway Training Notes

Table of Contents

Stan Bradbury's Speedway Training Notes

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For a New Rider

The rear wheel should be in the centre or back from the centre in its slot. This adjusts traction. The further forward you set the wheel, the more traction but poorer handling, causing the front wheel to wash out on you going into the turn. Having the wheel right back makes it easier to turn and slide but, you get more spin. The centre of the slot is the furthest forward that most riders can manage. If you have the wheel forward of centre in its slot, the machine tends to grab sudden traction and head for the fence, also, you are more prone to "wheelies" at the start.

On the subject of riding position, it is a mistake to believe that a rider is "standing up" on a speedway bike. Many novice riders make the mistake of trying to stand up on the right footrest with their backsides clear of the saddle, with their left foot out which means their legs are apart. This is the worst possible start. Not only does it put a lot of weight on the right footrest (which you don't want when you are learning), but it means that the machine is free to move from side to side between your legs. You will also find that your arms tire quickly as some of your body weight is being supported by your arms.

The position which is easiest and gives the most control is where the right foot remains on the right footrest, but the right thigh muscle is against or across the front of the saddle and by increasing or reducing the pressure on the left foot, the right leg becomes a lever to control the balance of the machine throughout the turns.

A rider viewed from the outside of the track looks like he is stood up, but from the inside of the track, due to the angle of the machine, it looks more as if he is sat on a low stool.

It is by varying the weight on either foot plus upper trunk body movement and throttle control that a rider achieves the balance necessary to overcome centrifugal force, varying traction and changes of direction, irrespective of how he may choose to describe the way he does it.

For a new rider, the easiest and safest way to learn control is to coast to and through the apex of the turns at a speed well within his capability. Then progressively open the throttle as he heads for the next straight. Given sufficient throttle, the rear wheel will automatically swing out and spin, which will give a controlled exit to the turn. The rider can then progressively open the throttle earlier and earlier until he can go 3/4 of the way around the turn from a modest entry speed. Fast entries to the turns should only be attempted when the rider has mastered the previous recommendation and feels he is comfortable and capable of controlling the machine. To enter the turn at high speed is not something that can be done by half measures, consequently, other limitations must be eliminated first.

To learn this technique, come down the straight at full (or near full) throttle, ease off on the straight before starting the turn then, as the machine is laid over for the turn bring on the throttle moderately and progressively. Do not snap the throttle open suddenly or lay the bike into the turn in a sudden jerky movement. If you do, you are courting disaster and even if you are able to control the result, you will be unbalanced. You will have "scrubbed off" far too much speed which in turn will require a greater increase in forward motion to get back up to the speed you should have been at in the first place. If you find you are heading for the fence because you did not get it quite right the first time just lay the bike over more and gently ease up on the throttle. Never close the throttle suddenly while in a slide as this will pitch you "over the top" and break your right collar bone unless you are very lucky. This advice applies to any point during the turn.

An "over slide" (which is the rear wheel too far out) cannot be corrected by suddenly closing the throttle. It is far better to push the bike down on its left side until it is on the ground than to risk going "over the top" (high siding) or going around nearly 180 degrees and being thrown off backwards.

About the most difficult situation is when you intend to pass a slower rider on the inside with not much space available. As you rush up inside him and catch him up, you find there is not enough room on the inside, and the fear of touching his rear wheel causes some riders to ease up on the throttle. This reduces wheel-spin, increases traction and momentarily increases forward motion. The result is that what was a possibility becomes a probability and a collision occurs which may also bring down the rider that you hit. The thing to do is to rush up in the inside as you originally intended but, if the space is too small, cross the machine up more to scrub off some speed and then just follow that rider until you can pass on the inside or outside, or pass him on the inside on the straight, or if you can't pass him, decide what maneuver to try on the next turn. If that rider is reasonably quick, his rear wheel will stay hung out all the way around the turn and you can sit inside him, maintaining your position and the pair of you will look like a four wheeled sprint car. However, if the rider is an inexperienced or inconsistent rider, watch out! He may straighten up in the turn and squeeze you on the inside so you need to leave about two more feet between the two machines.

On an outside pass, providing the rider you are passing does not get into trouble as you approach or draw alongside, things can go smoothly. However, if you catch a slower rider as you exit from a turn, watch that he does not squeeze you into the fence. In this case you have two possible solutions, one, to ease up on the throttle if there is time and two, to "Cross up" the machine more before your front wheel enters the gap between his rear wheel and the fence, which will "scrub off" a little speed in that manner, and so avoid a collision.

An experienced rider naturally uses these techniques without necessarily being aware that he is doing so. He also can increase traction (and therefore speed) in some cases by easing up on the throttle if he finds that he is on a "slick" area of the track. By doing this, not only does he increase his traction but he also makes things easier for his motor and keeps the revs. lower in a more torque- producing part of the power curve.

Experienced riders put their left foot on the ground as little as possible after they have entered the turn. Once they feel they have control, they get their body weight as far back as conditions will allow, then attempt to get their wheels as straight as possible, as soon as possible, as they head for the exit of the turn in order to obtain the maximum amount of traction at the best throttle opening. All of these recommendations should only be attempted by riders with sufficient experience to control the result. Perfection takes time and experience to develop the necessary "feel" and is used to extract more speed from an otherwise equal or even slower machine. I might add at this point that riders with limited experience should avoid the common tendency to modify their engines to make them go faster. If you have a perfectly standard machine producing the power it was designed to produce, you can beat anyone on a similar type of machine, if you ride it faster than your opponents.

Many World Speedway Championships have been won on perfectly standard machines. It is a fact that under many conditions, a more powerful machine ridden by a less experienced, slower rider will lap in an even slower time than if he had been riding a less powerful machine. There are good, logical reasons why this is so, which it is not possible to explain at length here. Sufficient to say that, to try to go from a slow speed to a higher speed with more power usually means more spin, therefore less traction (or grip) and so, less speed.

Physical fitness, light weight, diet and exercise are all pluses in favour of the rider who does not smoke and drinks only enough to balance the loss of body fluids due to perspiration.

Laying the Bike Down

This is the only way to stop or slow down a speedway bike in a hurry. It is an unwritten law in professional speedway that if a rider directly in your path falls, you must lay down your machine to reduce the consequences (notice that I didn't say "to miss him"). It is never too late to lay the bike down. So often I have heard inexperienced riders say after a serious collision, "He was too close to miss" or "It was too late to miss him." The purpose of laying the bike down is not necessarily to miss anything, but to greatly reduce the force of the impact. There is no way the professional riders in Europe, U.S.A., or Australia would survive as riders for year after year unless they followed this rule.

Many professional training schools include laying the bike down as part of their curriculum in which the trainee must reach proficiency in order to graduate. In California, a new rider must demonstrate his ability in this regard before he may compete in actual races.

In professional competition, it is not unusual for two or more riders to be touching each other going into the first turn. Everyone s going approximately the same speed and in the same general direction. However, if one of the leaders starts to fall, the riders behind can see this and prepare to come down at the same time and place. As the falling rider hits the ground, the following rider (riders) do the same and all machines slide to earth at about the same speed with hopefully little more than a slight bump and perhaps a few bruises.

If on the other hand, the following rider had closed the throttle, the rear wheel would stop spinning and, as the machine ceased to slide, traction would increase and the speed would also. momentarily increase resulting in a much more serious impact. At best, if there was enough time and room for the following rider to run wide of the falling rider, he would then have the fence to contend with, which is now approaching at a bad angle (up to 90 degrees), and the bike is no longer in a slide. Even at this late hour, laying down the bike will still reduce the inevitable impact. It can even be done in the middle of the straight if your path is suddenly blocked by a rider who has lost control, or, if you come in much too fast inside a slower rider, going into a turn and the method of making an inside pass, as described in the previous chapter, has been left too late.

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