No discussion of training for motorcycle racing would be complete without talking about the mental focus required to navigate a motorcycle around a racetrack quickly. If you talk to someone like former 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz, he’ll tell you that ninety percent of racing is “between your ears”. What he’s talking about is mental focus that racers use to make the motorcycle go faster.
You can have the quickest motorcycle and be in the best shape of your life, but if you lack mental focus and preparation on race weekend, your results may not be as optimal as you would like.
There’s a number of ways you can be mentally prepared on race day, and I’ll talk about a few ways to be mentally prepared and visualize a race weekend, as well as some race-day strategies as well.
The same holds true for motorcycle racers. Life as a racer is often a busy one, as you’re trying to hold down a Monday-Friday day job, while driving anywhere from 3-5 hours from one racetrack to the next every weekend. Your motorcycle often needs work—oil changes, gearing changes, crash repairs—all before the next race weekend, and yet you put it off all week long only to be scrambling on race weekends. This is bad preparation. Instead of going to the racetrack on Friday with a free and clear mind to focus on planning out your race weekend, you’re thinking about what whether you brought enough oil to do that oil change or whether you can fix that faulty fuel pump in time for Saturday morning practice. Meanwhile, what you should be thinking about is turning laps, visualizing how you’re going to go faster on the track, imagining yourself on the top of the podium ahead of your competitors or beating a personal best laptime.
Being mentally prepared doesn’t end with the motorcycle. On race weekends, it is also important to be organized with your tools and gear. Is your toolbox organized? Do you have all of the tools you need for those wheels changes or minor crash repairs? Do you have a spare set of rims for rain tires? Do you have spare gloves or helmet as crash replacements? Do you have basic crash replacements? Being organized and planning ahead will save you from scrambling on Saturday afternoon when you should be thinking about your qualifying session.
It requires a bit of extra work up front, maybe an investment in some basic spare parts, but at the end of the day being organized and prepared will allow you to keep your mind free to focus on getting the best result possible on race day.
The point is, it is useful to imagine or visualize the racetrack, completing lap after lap in your head as you prepare for the upcoming race weekend. Often, if I am going to a new racetrack, I’ll try to find a lap of the track on YouTube, or download a track map, and do laps of the track in my head on my way to the track.
Another key to visualization is imagining yourself overtaking your opponent, making that winning pass, or accelerating out of that turn faster. If you visualize yourself finishing last or running slow laptimes, you have already mentally set yourself up for defeat. It’s important to visualize a positive, successful race in order to achieve the best results.
Everyone has different strategies for race day preparation and you will have to determine what works best for you. I know for me, I don’t want anyone speaking to me 30 minutes before my race that is not directly involved in my crew. Sometimes I’ll throw on my iPod, crank my favourite tunes, and think about the start of the race. I’ll know my grid position and have a plan of attack as to what I’m going to do when the light goes green.
No matter what you do on raceday, you should aim to have a plan for the start of the race, narrow your focus to include only the race itself (and not preoccupy your thoughts with what’s for dinner tonight), and get psyched up for the race whether it be through music, stretching, meditation or whatever suits your style. The key is to be focused and prepared on race day in order to achieve those results you’ve been looking forward to, and most probably thinking about, all winter long.
So, start mentally preparing for that podium or personal best laptime this summer. Race season is soon here, be ready!