As time goes on and those novice riders become experts or pros, testing is more about bike setup, racecraft and finding those last bits of time in each corner. These riders cannot rely on repetition and simply riding around hoping for improvement to come naturally; rather, testing becomes a matter of planned experimentation for both riding technique and bike setup.
In an interview on the television news program ‘60 Minutes,’ Metropolitan Opera director James Levine pointed out something that applies just as much to motorcycle riding and setup as it does to getting the most from an opera performer: "My job is to keep making it better, which gets subtler and subtler the better you get."
When I work with Jodi Christie and John Sharrard as part of the Honda Canada/Accelerated Technologies CSBK team, we are dealing with those subtleties. We try to consider every on-track session as an opportunity to try something new, whether it's an aspect of Jodi's riding and his interaction with the bike, or a setup adjustment. In my experience, this gives the best result as far as making the most use of sometimes limited practice time and finding improvements.
For the rider, testing can be an arduous task: Lap after lap at a set pace close to maximum, often with little apparent benefit. For the crew, in today's world of electronics and a seemingly infinite number of setup variables the steps are tiny, making any improvement difficult to discern. If the rider and team do not have a set plan in place, too much time can be spent in aimless adjustments and unnecessary wear and tear on equipment.
At Canadian Superbike events, we constantly try to balance both the short-term and long-term aspects of whatever changes we make or new parts we try. Qualifying, for example, is all about optimizing setup for one fast lap on a soft tire - a very short-term objective for the testing session. At the other end of the spectrum, we may spend a Friday practice trying new engine or suspension parts with the aim of improving the bike's performance in a general sense, even if it means losing out on posting the fastest lap time for that particular session. This goal-oriented approach has paid dividends with steady progress over time and a well-marked path forward.
With our short Canadian season and unfavourable conditions for winter testing, it's rare that CSBK teams have the luxury of dedicated winter testing days. However, at a recent Honda press event in Savannah, GA, Jodi was able to spend three days testing various suspension and brake components on his CBR600RR at Roebling Road Raceway. Because the track is not on the CSBK schedule and there was no race as part of the event, it was a perfect opportunity to experiment with some parts that we thought could improve the CBR's performance as a package - upgrades that should show benefits at any track. In some ways the results were inconclusive, but in others John and Jodi were able to make some advancements that will hopefully give us a head start toward regaining Jodi the Pro Sport Bike championship this year.