The Importance of Practice
by Francesca Michelle of Eastside Moto Babes
Back in 2016, my best friend asked me if I wanted to ride on her team in a 24 hour endurance race. The race, put on by M1GP, runs noon-noon for 24 hours straight, with a team of 6 people keeping the bike on track at all times. I was 23, had been riding for almost three years, didn’t own leathers, and had never ridden on a track before. Obviously, I said yes.
My logic was: I was a skilled, fairly fast rider on the street. I practiced a lot in parking lots and rode canyons regularly. Track couldn’t be that different; I’d probably be fine.
Cut to the day of the race. It’s around 95 degrees in the high desert. There’s 15 teams on the track, in different classes ranging from 50 cup to mod 125. We’re the only stock Grom in the 125 class and all six of us are really excited. We’re running stints an hour long, and I’m near the end of the lineup. I get on track for my first stint, and it takes me about four seconds to realize I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. My street riding skills don’t help me here. As anyone who’s ever been on a track will tell you: it’s a completely different kind of riding than on the street, and I’m getting an up-close look at it. I’m pretty much the slowest out there. I get passed, a lot. I get lapped, a lot. It’s massively frustrating. When my hour is over, I get off track, pass off the bike, and go off by myself to be grumpy.
The night session passes pretty similarly. Things start to turn around during my morning stint. The sun is rising. The Grom is running strong. I think, this is silly. It doesn’t matter if I suck at this. If I give up on it now, I’ll always suck the same amount.
I finish my session happy. My lines are cleaning up, my body position is getting better. I find people on track I can trail behind and watch how they ride. Between my first sessions and my last, I drop six seconds on my lap time. But, more importantly, it starts to be insanely fun. OK, everyone is going to pass you. Who cares! Don’t worry about being faster. Just be smooth and make yourself harder to pass.
My team placed second in the stock class that year (completely due to my teammates, who are excellent riders and terrific people). Shortly after, I started volunteering at Socal Supermoto in Riverside and riding their TTRs whenever I could. Slowly, I got better. I practiced, and I listened, and I started to improve. I bothered Brian and Frank about everything I could think of, and every weekend at supermoto I’d pick up something else. I bought my own TTR and converted it to minimoto. The next time I raced with M1GP, it was stupidly fun and I was ten million times better than the year before.
It’s easy to look at people who are really good at something, and beat yourself up because you’re not as good as them. It’s easy to feel like they have some kind of intrinsic ability or innate skill that you just don’t have. (To be fair--those people do exist, and it’s incredibly annoying.) But often, that’s not true. All you have is a snapshot. A girl on an MX bike railing a berm. A girl on a track bike blowing by you at unrealistic speeds. That’s insane, you think to yourself. I can’t do that. This person is just better at this than me.
I’ve been there. I’ve thought that. But here’s what you don’t see: the hours of practice put in. The questions asked. The mentors and friends and coaches, pestered with questions. The hours--and I can’t emphasize this enough--of doing something a million times, failing at it over and over until you start getting better. Skill is practice. Practice is a habit, and a willingness to try again. All the skill you have at something comes from a willingness to be terrible at it first.
Take the classes. Ask the questions. Find someone who knows more than you, and bug them. Think you can’t do it? You can. Just get out there and do it. Get out there and suck at everything for awhile, screw up and fail a bunch of times and you will get better. You will! Failing is a part of it. Give yourself the grace to suck at something you love. It’s more fun than you think.
Options for further training:
Safety Refresher Course Westside Motorcycle Academy www.westsidemotorcycleacademy.com Sign up: HERE
Intermediate, advanced 1 & 2 rider courses: https://www.totalcontroltraining.net
Socal Supermoto: https://www.socalsupermoto.com
M1GP, racing and rider clinics: https://m1-grandprix.com/m1gprc/
UMRA, racing with fleet rental options: http://www.raceumra.com/faq.html