The importance of gearing your track bike correctly cannot be overstated. It is one of the single most important things to achieving faster lap times, it really is. Not only does it allow you to access the power of your bike properly, it also has a big effect on the handling your motorcycle.
Some of the benefits of the correct gearing are:
· Improved corner speed
· Improved drive out of turns
· Better and smoother throttle response
· Less rider fatigue
· Makes your bike easier to ride
· Better tyre wear
· Easier to pass other riders
· And of course, improved lap time
Some of the key elements to consider when gearing your bike are:
· Your bike’s power curve, you need to know where you bike makes it’s usable power
· Optimum gear change points and minimising any awkward or difficult changes
· Minimising compromises
· The RPM mid turn
· The roll of the tyre into turns
So let’s explore all these things and don’t stress too much if it’s all too hard, we have also provided the recommended gearing for you bike 😉
Understanding your bikes power curve
As a rider, understanding your bike’s power curve is super important to achieve fast lap times. The best riders will do this by instinct and feel. You certainly don’t want to be looking down at your tacho or anything crazy like that. If you have got time to look at your dash you’re not going fast enough.
A good way to get a feel for your bikes power curve is to let it hit the rev limiter on purpose a few times in a practice session. This ensures you have sampled the full power range, you may be surprised how far your bike can rev! SAFETY TIP: if you are going to do this, only do it briefly OR check that there is no one close behind you.
The other key element is just to feel how the bike accelerates. You really need to develop this feel in order to be fast. It’s an important skill.
RPM is critical and partial throttle is much more important than you think
The below Yamaha R6 dyno graphs illustrate just how important RPM is. Let’s explain.
At 8,000rpm and at 100% throttle the bike makes about 55hp. Whereas at 12,000rpm and at just 40% throttle the bike make 62hp. Not much right?
But here is the real kicker! On throttle pick up it takes you some time to roll from 0% throttle to say 40%, even longer too 100%. Even if it’s only a few tenths of a second, we are talking about being fast here, so it matters! If we take the 8,000rpm example, even if you smack it to 100%, you’ll have to wait for the engine to spool up and develop power itself. By the time it does that, rider B who used 12,000 rpm will already be into next week and will have smoked your ass.
Another key is how easy extra power is to access. If you used 12,000rpm and less throttle, as soon as you roll on even a little bit more the bike responds immediately. In the below pic just look at how much extra power you access when opening just 20% more.
A very common thing for novice riders to do is use too high a gear and lower RPM to make the power less scary. If this is you, you need to change your ways and you need to do so ASAP!
Most importantly because if you use low rpm the bike is in control of you rather than the other way around. If instead you use higher RPM and manage the power yourself with the throttle, you are in control! If you are not in control of the power delivery than your risk of a high side is actually greater even if the rpm is lower.
While method B takes more effort and training to learn, this is how to become fast.
If you are on a bike that has way too much power for you (very common these days), you have 3 options if you truly want to become a good and fast rider.
Get a bike with less power and more suited to your ability. Master that before going back to a more powerful bike.
If it’s a ride by wire bike, come see us and we can load in a throttle map that will help you manage the power using the correct higher RPM method
Do the hard yards and persist with doing it correctly, not the best way to learn though.
Using low RPM to control the power will never result in you becoming a fast rider, sorry it just won’t.
The other great thing is using the higher RPM and learning how to use the throttle properly will result in the power delivery being much smoother.
We hope this makes you realise just how important a good tune for your lap time is. It’s not just 100% throttle that makes lap time, it’s the roll on. Luckily we know a race shop that focusses on this stuff when they tune bikes 😊
Ok this may be a tad technical but it’s shit you need to know, so pay attention. When you’re at lean angle the effective tyre circumference is smaller than when you’re upright. This means at lean angle the overall gearing is shorter (more revy) than when upright.
So if you keep the same speed the revs will rise as you increase lean angle. Going back to when we talked about RPM above, it makes riding the bike in the higher RPM and correct power curve on corner exit even more important. This is because as you start to stand the bike up on exit the gearing gets taller and harder for the bike to build revs. Thus if you are already too low in the revs, as you stand the bike up it will get worse and your going to be slower on exit than a snail with a hangover.
Understanding how revs behave when you lean the bike is also very important for corners where you enter with the throttle open or are accelerating into. Some really good examples of this are turn 3 (Stoner) and turn 8 (hayshed) at Phillip Island. Also turn 5 (the big sweeper) at Winton.
If we take Turn 3 at Phillip Island for example, if you click the next gear up say 4th to 5th just before your tip in, even if it may seem a bit too early to shift gear (called short shift). As soon as you hit some lean angle the revs will rise automatically and put you in the right area of the power curve. This will give you free lap time. If you instead don’t do this, the revs will be too high when you lean, limiting corner speed and costing massive lap time. Stuff that!
We see people make this mistake into the hayshed all the time. You MUST be aware of this and you need to develop a feel for it.
RPM Mid Turn
This brings us onto the RPM mid turn, it’s another critical element. Remember that if revs are too high it will limit corner speed, the engine can only rev so far. Also close to the rev limit, the bikes engine brake will be far greater and if you have a small throttle dip mid turn you will wash off heaps of your corner speed.
If the RPM is too low, then as we have already covered, your corner exit and lap time will be poo. Thus getting the bike in the sweet spot for as many corners on any given track is mega important. This may take you a little while to get the feel of but it’s a skill set and feel you need to learn.
The best riders will feel all of this by instinct without needing to think, this needs to be your goal. Getting the gearing right is so, so important for your lap time. It allows you to use the power of your bike to produce a better lap time.
This can be another area novice riders, guided by wannabe google experts can make gearing mistakes. We often hear riders gearing their bike for the right RPM at the end of Phillip Island Straight. This is completely wrong because the speed through turn 12 and the exit will dictate your straight-line speed anyway and have a much bigger impact on your lap time. So gearing the bike for all the corners is way, way more important than the end of the straight.
The only reason people gear bikes for the end of the straight is it is much simpler than doing it properly and they don’t understand all this stuff we are talking about. So if you are having a chat with someone crapping on about gearing the bike for the straight, walk away.
Unfortunately, especially with production gearboxes, at most tracks there are compromises. The RPM won’t be perfect for all corners. Another factor we must consider is avoiding awkward gear changes. You don’t want to need a gear change mid turn if you can avoid it. Top level riders can sometimes do that stuff but leave it to the pro’s because it’s hard.
You should always prioritise fast corners and corners that lead onto straights 😉
Why does the correct gearing make a motorcycle handle better?
It’s to do with the ‘chain pull affect’. In simple terms there are 3 main forces that act on your bike in a turn when applying the gas. 1. The corner load, this tries to compress the rear end. 2. The weight transfer, again this tries to compress the rear shock. 3. The chain pull affect or acceleration affect. This guy tries to extend the rear suspension and we like that on corner exit 😊. If you’re too low in the RPM the acceleration affect will be minimal, the bike will squat too much and run wide.
It’s a bit more complex than that but that will do for now. Getting the RPM in the sweet spot is mental important!
In isolation each of these factors can be simple enough, taking them all into consideration at once can be a bit more complex though. Especially at a track you don’t know so well.
Luckily we have done all the hard work for you with our gearing recommendations 😊