Review of Focussed "Rider Development" with Simon Crafar - Silverstone Stowe, 31/7/2010

Hi,

Just to report I had generally a great day at Focused Events Rider Development Day - at Silverstone Stowe. Nice to see Rixxy there too on a more normal track day. I thought some newbies might find this of interest.

I gather this was a bit of a special event in line with the WSB weekend. This is only the second “Rider Development” day they’ve run, so still settling in perhaps.

Fair play to Focused, they laid on quite a lot for the £399.

  • Motorbike hire (R6, ZX6, etc – normally £245)
  • 6 track sessions (normally, £100+?, or I notice some £225 specials for novices inc bike hire coming up)
  • “Rider Development” tuition from Simon Crafar
  • 3 or 4 class lessons
  • On track leading etc
  • Free Pillion ride with Simon Crafar (otherwise £30).
  • Stunt show by Craig Jones
  • Very nice bacon in a posh roll for breakfast, served by a complete gent of a waiter (Silverstone silver service I guess :wink: )
  • Weekend “roving seat” pass to WSB

Looking back, that was quite a full-on day and good fun.

The rider development was the main focus of the day. Simon Crafar was an extremely nice gentleman, obviously knew his stuff and had his own opinions on riding which he shared willingly.

The morning’s taught sessions were broken into :-

  • Rider position
  • Shock absorbers
  • Tyres

This seemed a slightly strange mix of topics to me (after just recently doing California Superbikes well polished level 1). However, I gather this “rider development” is a new thing for Focussed and bits seemed unrehearsed. It quickly became apparent too that the rider levels were vastly different - from newbies (like me), to international bike testers. The course seemed to be aimed towards newer riders though.

The rider position session allowed Simon to inform of his body position preference. There was quite a lot of expert information to digest as a first lesson, and might have been nice to break down, structure and take time over. There were some more rider tips in the other lessons too - though mostly some quite low level technical bits.

My recollection of Simon’s rider tips -

  • Don’t play “musical chairs” while riding. Only move your body when you have to. Essentially, stay on one side of the bike, and change only when the next corner demands it. Only sit flat for (very) long straights.

  • The straights are the most important, and the winner is the first to full-throttle out of a corner, not “some” throttle. He’s 100% in the straights and mentions being a “relaxed gentleman” in the corners :slight_smile: Throttle and lean are inversely proportional.

  • Keep groin & body forward against tank, slide butt off to side first (one cheek on seat, head still forward), use outer leg to “grip” tank, then when into corner “relax” and move over top-half of body and head to commit into the corner. I believe Simon mentioned “moving the bottom half of the body does most of the work” - getting centre of gravity lower etc.

  • Simon disagrees with CSS theory on corners (CSS = brake, fast turn, crack throttle open and increasing power out). Simon believes engine breaking gives you a tighter turn, and allows you to get full-throttle on faster. His theory is to enter a corner “faster” than you’d like (in correct gear!), turn in, let engine breaking increasingly slow you down into it (my interpretation is the bike almost “falls” into the corner), then as soon as you can get the bike vertical again - full throttle. I guess CSS would say this keeps the bike unstable for longer then necessary, but it may get some corners faster. It seemed to work for me on some corners anyway.

  • Warming up tyres – can go full-throttle in the straights, just be slower in the corners. Don’t go slow all around!

  • Simon’s Tip: Tape a 5-pence piece under the foot peg to raise it better for corners / leaning. (see photo)

On the track, it was my first time at Stowe - and an R6 (or anything like it compared to my Honda Hornet). It took quite a while to get used to the bike’s rider position, performance and the track - as well as not wanting to bin a hire bike. This was all straight after the “body position” lesson, so trying to practice that too (I’ve not done much “hanging off”) - all while on the first sighting lap.

This felt a bit frustrating, especially as the ~14 people on the course were trying to follow 2 instructors in single file, getting a feel for all that was a bit difficult.

To my surprise, the next 2 morning sessions were pretty much the same … just 7 people trying to follow instructors in line, and anyone more than a couple of people behind an instructor couldn’t learn much from the instructor at all - especially lines. In fact, I started at the back in session 2, the group behind caught up which resulted in me being worryingly “black flagged” into the pits. I then learned this was nothing wrong, but affected my confidence and enjoyment, and re-warming tyres etc. The third morning session, I got more used to the bike and course and faster.

The afternoon was MUCH better. Especially after an awesome stunt show by Craig Jones, and a pillion ride around Stowe with Simon Crafar - incredibly fast and smooth.

The on track tuition moved onto more free form riding, with students being “black flagged” in pairs to be led around the track by Simon Crafar for 5 laps, or his assistant coach. This helped immensely with lines, speed and overall progress.

While following Simon on the 5th session, someone got overconfident … undertook me, overtook Simon on a bend (with inches of gap). Not good. Next lap, it seems the same chap binned his hire bike! The bike was a wreck and I gather £700 of damage. Though I also learned that Focussed take ALL your deposit if you damage the bike, compared to some places that take the deposit as a maximum.

So, all in all a very nice day (apart from a very soggy early-morning ride up from London). A good experience on a different bike and track. Got some interesting tips and experience from Simon Crafar, and some bonus entertainment.

I just wish the morning lessons and track time had been a bit more structured and organised, to better match the afternoon.

Oh, and seeing Focussed using all those black flags to bring people in (for good, or bad) is a bit negative … would be nice if it it was a different, more positive flag! I gather Focussed do like using their flags, and track safety … which is fine and usually quite a polished operation, though sometimes the flags and timing confused.

As a general track day I preferred No Limits easier going approach. Speaking of which, I learned a great deal using No Limits free instructors for a couple of sessions at Brands Hatch, including their more personal feedback. I gather Focussed do something similar on their track days too … something to try next :wink:

Cheers,

Alex

There’s more photos on my Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=202271&id=659077609#!/album.php?aid=202271&id=659077609 :slight_smile:

Simon is a top bloke and I’ve had coaching from him before.

He’s methods are to teach you to be a fast track rider and to do it in the safest possible manner. He’d admit that to win at decent level that tecnique would need to be a modified slightly.

CSS isn’t the only way to ride, you don’t have to adopt the same body position to go fast. Simon is a GP winner BTW.

Hey Pete,

I think that he was such a nice guy really added to everything. I’ve been reading a bit more about his history today too, GP win and the others he almost got or was denied.

I guess CSS have figured out a great formula to split-up riding into bite-size chunks which help most people. Its a bit harder to bite-size Simon’s tips (I tried above :slight_smile: ), but if possible I’d definitely sign up to the course :slight_smile:

PS - I’d be intrigued to know what you’ve learned too sometime :slight_smile:

Cheers,

Alex

Good review! I can see the difference in techinique that you are talking about, I have not done the CSS but I have done a lot of reading of Keith Code’s stuff and the corner technique seems massively different. Saying that I think the Keith Code stuff is for track and road, whereas maybe this stuff is 100% track? I like the Keith Code stuff, I have found that working my way through his teachings has really helped my road riding a lot over the last 4 months.

Also could you explain the 5p thing a little more? I am not quite sure what difference it makes, isn’t a five pence piece like 1-2mm thick? Oh just googled it, it is 1.7mm. Do you tape it into where the footpeg bends to force the peg up, obviously 2mm there would create an angle which would increase the peg height at the end by more hten 2mm. It just doesn’t look like that is what you have done in the picture?

Could you elaborate a bit on what that is supposed to do and how you went about it, did it make any difference for you personally.

If you get the time.

I enjoyed a whole day with Simon at Cartegena a few years ago. It was his first time doing the coaching thing and by the end of 3 days he was really enjoying it.

Him and Steve Plater are the nicest guys you could hope to meet - I intended to buy Simon lunch but he beat me to it.

I was a huge WSB fan in the 90’s and Crafar was the most unlucky rider to ever ride a factory bike. He suffered from engine failure etc numerous times while leading or being in the leading pack.

His last weekend in WSB, before leaving for GP summed up his luck. Race 1 leading and pulling away when his front fender expoded back into the engine - he pulled in convinced the motor had gone again. Race 2 last lap last corner leading the race when Lil Jon decides to make the most optomistic last lap lunge in the history of suicidal moves and takes them both out.

Both styles work and are great to learn.

Doesn’t Code stress having the throttle slightly open through the corner to balance the load between front and rear? That works great, makes the bike really nice and stable through the corner - but I promise you, it doesn’t get used like that in WSB or GP - (with maybe a odd eception.)

Yeah that is spot on. I found it stopped me rolling off the throttle mid corner which unsettles the bike and tends to send you wide, which I think as a learner on a fast bike you tend to do if you get a bit worried about the corner, because although it initially sends you wide you quickly duck in tighter as your speed drops without having to lean any further, so to learn the technique stops you doing that which is a good thing.I am not knocking Crafer technique btw, that was not my intention, the guy clearly has a lot of talent if he has won GP races.Though if I am honest, I don’t think I could use it without a hell of a lot of practice and training, I think my fear reactions would kick in to stop me going into the corner fast enough.

great review, i had some one 2 one at brands with simon and he is excellent, such a down to earth nice bloke.

Sounds very different to CSS, gaz rode level 2 recently and some people say its not as full on as level 1! But level 1 with bike hire would cost you £600 or there abouts so for £300 quid or whatever it was it sounda like a great day.

Im a big fan of focused, i did a hottrax day and they are nowhere near as saftey orientated as focused, im a big fan of doing track days with these guys for that reason!

It was nice to see you out there!!

Hi guys, glad you found the review of interest :slight_smile:

To answer a few questions, that 5p photo was on Simon Crafar’s bike. He was quite keen to mention and show it in that first class session. I’ve not tried it myself yet, but I gather its to keep the footpeg further off the floor when leaning, but also possibly to help encourage you to keep your foot in tight and on your toes / ball of foot.

I agree that the engine-brake corner seems more for tracks, or corners you know well. I think CSS allows a lot more room for error as you’ve already braked into an area you can see before your turn point (at least level 1-wise :slight_smile: )

Rixxy, I can well imagine you learn “most” in CSS Level 1, especially as you are starting their method from scratch. Level 2 and 3 sound like they review and repeat Level 1 to some extent, but add a good deal more on top – no bad thing :slight_smile: There were even people at my CSS day who’d done all levels, but were repeating level 2 to improve their vision and focus etc, rather than level 4. I’m quite tempted by Level 2 in Silverstone this month :slight_smile:

Cheers!

Alex

An enjoyable read thank you , Always been a Crafar fan there aint a lot that he aint done and welldone to Focused for getting him onboard .

I ain’t gay or owt but…

Simon signed my helmet today!

You the man he laughed at mine :smiley:

Darn! I should have thought of that ::blink: Congrats on the sig :smiley:

PS - glad you enjoyed the read BERGY :slight_smile:

I usually wear my Nakano lid and Simon laughed when he saw I’d dug out the Crafar lid!

Cheers for the review Zander,

I would love to go on a pilion ride, I reckon that would be a really good learning experience…

How was the stowe circuit? :slight_smile:

From what I understand, you are either on the throttle or on the brakes (some use both simultaneously) and there shouldn’t be any time when this isn’t the case.

Racers today can go from corner entry, apex to exit on a large amount of throttle, but electronics have a lot to play here though…You can hear that buzzy clicking engine note from the bikes on the exit of corners in BSB, WSB and GPs, that typifies the retardation of ignition in traction control systems.

That’s how the winners do it for sure.

What Simon is trying to do is make you go quicker but without the increased risked of loosing the front trailing the brakes into the corner or loosing the rear with early throttle action.

Hence he is trying to get you (well not you specificaly!) to brake late and hard but release the brakes on turn in. He tries to get you turning in at a speed you thought too fast previously - he knows that the bike will slow further as it turns onto the smaller tyre circumferance (SP?) as you have the throttle closed - no nasty brake or throttle inputs to upset things before you apex.

Nice explanation there Pete, thanks, and I’m sure you’re right that there’s much more yet to learn and eek out of turns :slight_smile:

Hey Ian,

The pillion ride was great - and perhaps the most thing learned was just how fast and smooth it can be done. Also, though it was that fast and smooth … it didn’t feel unnatural or impossible. Just practice and smoothness … oh and hard acceleration and brakes! Though I’m sure Simon was going “easy” on us :slight_smile: He claims girls get a more exciting ride … being smaller on average etc :slight_smile:

The Stowe circuit … I found a bit frustrating. After getting used to the lovely space, curves and rythm of Brands Hatch, Stowe felt a bit cramped. I’ve seen others call it a go-kart track etc. Having said that, it has its own challenges … not least having few markers, and lots of smaller corners. Worth a try, but Brands is hard to beat from my limited experience :slight_smile:

Cheers,

Alex

The missus is doing her CSS 1 in sept so will be interested to see how she gets on. Not least because she will have only been on a supersport for a couple of months by the time she does it having stepped up from a Vanvan!

Can’t quite decide if I think it would be best for her to do a td first to get the feel of tack riding before trying to improve how she rides round?

I guess with the training they’re just teaching riders ways to turn a clean lap before getting too carried away.

I think if you turned up and they said ‘ok so this morning we’ll start you on trail braking, and after lunch it’s backing it in’ the results might be less than favourable :wink: