Street riding and track riding are different, we all know that. I’ve done my fair share of both and consider myself above average in both. What continues to surprise me in the 20 years I have been riding is how some track riders aren’t all that quick on the street (when I mean street, I mean out in the mountains on a twisty road going nowhere fast). Why is this?
Well, it comes down to skill to be honest. When you spend most of your time on a track, your focus is just on fewer things (Ok,……maybe just different things). Corner entry speed, apexing, carving the most efficient line around a corner, passing, being passed, getting on throttle earlier, etc etc etc……
These are great skills to learn, and much of it is transferable to street riding, but street riding brings a whole slew of things you need to learn, and learn to deal with that you would rarely if ever have to deal with on a track. The biggest one in my mind is navigating corners.
Tracks are clean, smooth, and well………..really nice! The street is very different; sand, gravel, boulders, dead things, grooves, tar snakes, oil, diesel, etc……….all make for a different way of thinking. A really good street rider is constantly scanning from about 50 feet in front of their tire to where the corner disappears (the end of your sight line). Track riders don’t need to do this, so its not instinctual. A street rider takes the cleanest line around a corner, not the fastest line. On some of the best roads I have been on, the corners require you to move left or right and change your line multiple times while you go through the corner, navigating whatever the road surface has to offer. I’m not saying one rider is better than the other, they are just different.
The second big difference is obvious; distractions and hazards, and more importantly, how you the rider reacts (or doesn’t) to them. First time I came across a deer while on a multi-day trip, my brain went “Huh? and I just kind of paused for a few seconds. Having all kinds of creatures jump out at me, or a mattress fly off a truck, or a shovel appearing on the road right in front of me, I’ve gotten much better at reacting instinctively. Heck, I remember a run up to Baker one evening and a Possum appeared before me. Never having seen a possum before, my brain went to “Good God, what is that hideous thing”, which to my riding companions with me at the time looked like “Why is Frank riding toward the ditch?”. Sure track riders deal with crashes, close calls, bike parts and such, but Bears and ladders are different.
Track makes you a better rider, and probably a better street rider. Street riding does not make you a better track rider.
Seasoned Rider & Writer
Frank has been riding for about 25 years now, and is currently on his 15’th bike (don’t do the math please). Having ridden a full spectrum of bikes from supersports, to supermotos, superharleys, hard-tails, sport-tourers, to my current Ninja 1000, his riding style slowly evolves over time. He has also gathered a wealth of experience with motorcycle mods and multi-day group rides.