December 12, 2018

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IENATSCH TUESDAY: Four World Championships, Two Slow Laps Eddie Lawson’s approach to being the fastest in the world, and how it helps us mere mortals.

Eddie Lawson headshot

Let’s examine a nugget of wisdom from America’s only four-time Grand Prix world champion Eddie Lawson. “I bet I went slower than the whole 500 GP field on the first few laps of practice. I didn’t care,” he says now. “I was just looking at everything, working into it easy.”

“…working into it easy.” Let’s start with this, literally. Start your next track-day session or streetbike ride with this part of Lawson’s advice in mind. If you’re coming out of winter-riding hibernation take the time to “relearn” the sport. If you just bought a 2016 or new-to-you, used motorcycle, take the time to learn that new bike. If you’ve just made a bunch of changes on your current bike, do it Eddie’s way to give yourself a chance to feel the changes as the pace increases gradually.

Winter- and spring-time riding forces us to deal with cold tires and cold pavement. At the last cold-weather track day I attended in Las Vegas, there were ten (ten!!) crashes as the riders were heading onto the track! The access road was a curvy little number that went right, left, right before accessing the track. It would have been a perfect day for Lawson’s advice to be posted in bright red letters on the pit exit. That warning could have saved ten moments of pain and expense.

“I didn’t care.” At some point in your life you should quit caring what other people think, and that time is now in your riding career. Lawson could have felt the peer pressure of throwing in a quick lap right away, of running with Gardner, Roberts, Spencer, and Doohan, but he developed the confidence to stick to his program of two easy laps. His program worked: Four 500cc GP World Championships, AMA Superbike and 250 Grand Prix championships, Daytona 200 winner, Suzuka Eight-Hour winner.

Eddie Lawson racebike

My instructors and I spend a lot of time at the Yamaha Champions school instilling confidence in our students. “You know more about this sport than most people,” we tell them at the end of the school. They have just spent two or three days immersed in the bike and rider equation, learning to be the “on-board engineer,” reading and studying quotes like the one we’re discussing here. We aren’t telling students that they will be immediately fast or immediately drama-free, but if they stick to our Champions Habits program, they will become enormously fast and constantly drama-free. Part of this program is to realize that America’s most successful Grand Prix racer worked into it easy.

“I was just looking at everything…” Try this experiment: Sprint down the condiments aisle at your grocery store and then tell us what the price is on the 12-ounce jar of Jiffy chunky peanut butter. Eddie would stroll down the aisle and know the prices on quite a few items. He figuratively strolled around the track to see apexes, bumps, turn-in points, all the information he would need to beat the best in the world.

The rider who leaves the pits or the breakfast stop at 100 percent rarely sees more than the eight-inch-wide line they’re trying to hit. Our instructors have found that the student who always tries to ride at 100 percent learns at a much slower rate than the student who backs off the intensity and works on the next challenge. The always-100-percent-student will be fast initially but slower eventually, and vise-versa.

If you have quit improving in your riding, it could be that you spend too much time in flat-out panic mode. In panic mode, we always grab and stab and rarely use the track or lane correctly, cheating ourselves out of radius, and you know radius equates to mph or less lean angle (safer). The more we grab and stab, the tougher it is to relax. The less we relax, the lower our eyes go and the worse our “feel” gets. You can see the big ball of snow rolling downhill, gathering size and momentum, until the fun is gone and the bike is up for sale. Phew, take a breath, run a few slow, perfect miles and corners. Be like Lawson.

To repeat: “I bet I went slower than the whole 500 GP field on the first few laps of practice. I didn’t care. I was just looking at everything, working into it easy.”

Got it riders?

Final thought for the track-day industry: This website has a large number of track-day junkies and track-day providers, big movers in this industry. Answer me this: How many crashes/red flags/ambulance runs/schedule stoppages/lost customers/shortened sessions would Lawson’s advice cure? How many cold tire/cold brakes/cold brain crashes would be fixed with the four-time champ’s words?

For street riders: How many crashes caused by carelessness and rushing would Lawson’s approach save? Can you think of friends who would still be in the sport if they mimicked Lawson? Would you personally have saved pain and money?

Let’s do what the best do.

More Next Tuesday!

Eddie Lawson racebike close-up

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