CRing is like what?

Discussion in 'N2 Paddock Section' started by bmart, Oct 23, 2019.

  1. bmart

    bmart Control Rider

    Members ask every year what it is like to be a CR and if it is something they should aspire to, but never more than this year. So, as I promised them, here are my thoughts on being a coach, track days, and riding in general. It is my hope that other CRs will chime in and that members will ask questions. Don’t be shy.

    Let’s start off with the elephant in the proverbial room. A number of members comment that they might like to coach to get free track time. Make no mistake, coaching isn’t free track time, and it isn’t just riding around all day at your own pace, working on your own skills. One of the negatives to CRing is that you’re nearly always off pace and it is hard to find the time (and energy) to get in sufficient Advanced sessions to keep your skills sharp. One of the great treats of coaching at the pointy end of the Intermediate group is pulling a guy who is ready for Advanced. When we pit in we both have the same eyes like saucers and giant smiles.

    CRs do this mainly because they want to give something BACK to the sport that has given them so much. I certainly feel that way. I’m at 297 track days with 34 CR days with N2, 27 for Turn 1 at CMP (now defunct), and 7 with Track Tactics (now defunct). N2 has legs… I have many friends that I share meals with, text/talk/e-mail with who I’ve met through track days over the years. You won’t find more friendly/helpful people.

    The CR meeting is at 6:45 each day, so we have to be up early. This can be hard if you’re staying off site like I do. It frequently means missing breakfast as hotels serve late on the weekends. No waking up at 7:50 and rolling through tech while your umbrella girl carries your leathers! 7-8 we register and tech bikes. Discussing the things we find is a post on its own! For instance, “I took it off because I never use my rear brake!”

    Many of us have spare bikes so that we’re not “down” at any point on the weekend, as that would create more work for the other coaches. For me, that means purchasing and maintaining two bikes (decent tires, oil, etc.). For other CRs and for me, that also means loaning one out to someone who’s had a mechanical problem with theirs. A number of coaches and members have ridden “scruffy” (my spare bike) to get through their day. It is a pleasure to be able to help someone like this (they pay for consumables and any damage done!).

    Because we generally run a lot of days and a lot of laps on any given day (I average ~225 miles a day when I coach), we go through a lot more consumables (tires, oil, plugs, pads, fuel, etc.). I can kill two new rear tires in a day at CMP at pace. This also means that we are more at risk of having an incident. While math isn’t for everyone, this all adds up financially and with our relationships. That means many vacation days get used for travel and riding instead of to the beach for a week with family. And it means, for many, days away from loved ones instead of with them. (Not to mention a loss of garage space!)

    Many have asked about pace to become a CR. My $.02 is that while one has to be capable of running a certain pace at any given track (including new ones you’ve never seen before!), other important skills are being able to manage traffic at speed, identify people who are a danger or who need help and address them quickly, and be able to give accurate, useful feedback to members without offending them. Everyone thinks that they ride like (insert favorite racer here) and takes a hit to the ego when someone tells them that there are things to work on. We’ve all had to break a few hearts over the years.

    We spend a LOT of time working with members and work with a lot of folks each track day. It is hard to remember them and how they rode, especially when we watch them on a bike and in their leathers but they come up to talk between sessions looking completely different. It is difficult to provide feedback once some time passes. If I average working with five riders in a session, riding double sessions all day, that’s ~140/weekend. My memory isn’t nearly good enough to remember specifics once I roll out for the next session.

    It is such a pleasure to provide feedback to someone and see them take it, implement it, and get immediately better/faster/safer on the track. My buddy Nick is one of those (rare) people. We talk between sessions. He listens to me, does what I ask, and comes in with faster times and safer lines. His improvement over just a few track days is staggering. We don’t provide honest feedback to make people feel bad, but to improve the overall safety (and fun) for everyone.

    Another great pleasure for a CR is to bump someone who never even knew that they had eyes on them. In my experience, many people who ask for a bump are the ones who make up their time with horsepower and have some skill gaps which they may or may not want to admit to or address. This is not always true, but it is common. I always tell them that it is much more satisfying to be fast on lesser equipment. (Don’t get me started on rider aids!) Stay behind better riders in the straights and see if you can match their other skills. After that, add the HP.

    Many riders buy big HP bikes which are much harder to learn on, harder to coach, and are apparently easier to crash on. :p I can still remember hauling the mail on my 600 and getting passed by an AMA guy, two-up, on an SV650 back in 2012. I don’t want to get past him, I want to be him. Those are skills that I admire and want. You should too.

    When I started track days back when we had to avoid dinosaur missteps, way back in 1998, I was “the fast guy” on the street. I led many rides at stupid pace on public roads. Some of you may be able to relate… At my first track day, I was one of the slowest riders attending. I distinctly remember getting passed into turn 1 at Loudon by a guy who looked like Santa on a BMW R-bike WITH side cases. I had a huge skills gap.

    I’ve been running a 600cc bike for most of my track days since 2005. Even this many years later, I’m still getting new best times at various tracks every year (on the same vintage bikes and frequently with a street rear tire). Road Atlanta and NC Bike this year and all VIR configurations last year. THAT is satisfying. Due to better skills and body position, I also go home less sore, or not sore at all, even after 200+ mile days one after another.

    Coaching…I love it. See you guys in the year of perfect eyesight (2020).


    (pic from 2004 at The Beaver, now completed and called Pitt Race)
    Otto Man, Dom17, HondaGalToo and 6 others like this.
  2. vinny337

    vinny337 Vin is in...Beastmode! Control Rider

    Man do you type a lot...:D:D Great write up Brad!
  3. darth nater

    darth nater Staff Member Control Rider N2

    Great job sharing with the members Brad. I hope they chime in with questions for us.

    I haven't been coaching very long, but I can say that each session in addition to traffic management I make a point to try to work with 2-3 riders. The last rider is easy to give feedback because we pull off at the end of the session and converse. But for the others, I make a point between each session to jump on my bicycle and go find them. What this means for me is when I'm coaching, I many times miss the advanced sessions while working with members. I don't mind because I enjoy the camaraderie with the members a lot, but just sharing why coaching does not just equal free track time.

    I can also say the one surprise I've had coaching is how often I find myself pulling riders off the track just to ask them to slow down because they are very close to wrecking. My first goal as a coach is to make sure everyone has a safe event and they/their bike go home in one piece. All the riders I've done have received this well and we talk about what they can do to improve. I guess I just didn't expect it to happen as often as it has. I'm hopeful that I've saved the day for a few people.
    HondaGalToo likes this.
  4. dhaines

    dhaines Member

    I’ve personally never understood why people think you guys and gals ride free. All those consumables you mentioned aren’t cheap and add up considering I have seen CR’s come off one group and straight into another. I don’t know how some of you guys do it. I’ll say the main reason I stick with N2 is the coaching. You get people that actually want to teach you and will actively work with you on whatever you need. I also agree about the whole chasing the bump, to me it’s just ride and have fun. I did a double header on Main in June I think and on the second day I believe his name was Sloan, he was passing me and following back and forth all session. It was a blast. Came in thinking I need was messing up and he said it’s time to go to A. That first session I was so nervous because I don’t want to be that guy that crashes on his first out in a new group. So I saved it for my second day at NC bike.

    A question I do have is is their like a tow or buddy type thing when you go to a track you don’t know? I’ve looked at tons of videos and track maps but being there is different so I’m curious as to what you guys and gals think on that. Last but not least you have the best organization hands down. You all are awesome and thank you so much for sacrificing to help me get better. I appreciate it.
  5. Jester

    Jester Yamahawkins Control Rider

    If you are at a track for the first time and need someone to follow the first session to learn the lay of the land grab a CR at tech and I am sure they would be willing to go out with you, or find someone who would be able to. Sometimes we have an "A" CR to help guys out which IMO is something that should be done much more often than it is.
  6. bmart

    bmart Control Rider

    I have long been a proponent of CRs running in A keeping their shirts on if they want to. It would not change any passing rules and would allow us to help folks who wanted it, particularly people who are at a track for the first time. Selfishly, it would help us not have to take gloves/helmets off to put that orange shirt on and take it off so much! :like:

    Thank you for the N2 compliments!
    mpusch likes this.
  7. tdelegram

    tdelegram Control Rider

    If you’re new to a track or just want a session of coaching let a CR know and we’ll help or find someone to help. Same goes for the A group, when I got bumped to A I spent more sessions chasing and asking for 1 or 2 laps with Sanders and Sabatino than I did my entire time in I. We have some blisteringly fast A riders that dont coach who will also run a lap or 2 with you and give you feed back.

    One thing to note, while our coaches are fast, we are all working on going faster. I know who’s faster than me and I still ask for tows and curse them when they pass me and I lose them after a lap or 2. I try to get out in at least 2 or 3 A sessions each day but energy and timing is usually conspiring against me, early in the day the track is green and my energy high, mid day later afternoon energy is diminishing track is good and mistakes come out and are magnified. For me personally taking a weekend off to race helps really maintain and push me to get faster. Also, about one out of 4 coaching weekends I regularly pay to ride one day and coach the other and still end up helping out on paid days but then I can sit sessions out because we’ll have enough coaches.

    One annoying thing is when I ride 1/2 a session or more with someone ( I literally talk to my self in my helmet narrating what I see and making recommendations) and the person I am working with just rides past end of session. As a coach I may be trying to get to the next grid to help coach or catch an A session with friends or even coach someone in A. At that point when the rider goes straight to their pit doesn’t stop I usually lose most of my commentary after moving on. In most cases if it dangerous or something serious I’ll skip next session and find the rider, many times it’s something like, let’s tweak this clean up that and get someone else to evaluate you for a bump. I usually try to remember their number and bike for next grid up and have another coach look at them or see if anyone noticed them but some times you guys make it hard on us.

    The one thing that also usually goes unnoticed is the time we put in thinking about our approach to coaching and the psychology of coaching. Many people react differently to how feed back is delivered as well as how to explain concepts and theories on how to do something and the why. As an example I have told some novice riders twist the grip on the straights and they do, others I have to explain that getting a consistent terminal velocity into the brake zone helps with consistency, brake markers and turn in. Finally others I end up riding with make a twisting motion with my left hand getting them comfortable opening the gas. That coupled with trying to remember who did what each session and trying run some laps for me thinking about what I need to work on makes for a mentally tiring day.

    The big reward is when you say to someone, hey you did great incorporating that feedback and really look good out there, want to go ride in the next group? You can see them smile in their helmets.

    Last thing I’ll say so Vin doesn’t call me out for typing too much, many of my good friends are coaches that helped me through the ranks and it’s a pleasure and an honor to work with them and all the other selfless coaches and staff that pull this all together.
    Otto Man, Lenny ZX9R and HondaGalToo like this.
  8. vinny337

    vinny337 Vin is in...Beastmode! Control Rider

    Tom, my word count says Brad still has more than you, now you have to draft another one. :D Great feedback in this thread!
    tdelegram likes this.
  9. Slitherin

    Slitherin Control Rider Director

    Great conversation. Sometimes we will have enough staff to throw one or two CR's in the Advanced Group. PittRace, Summit Main, and sometimes NJMP TBolt is where you are more than likely to see CR's "working" the Advanced Group. Any time a CR is assigned A Group they feel like they have the day off but more often than not they come up to me at the end of the day and say they are worn out because they worked with so many A Group folks. As Tom stated, the A Group rider is still working on the same things the Novice and Intermediate folks are working on each session. Just because you got the A Bump doesn't mean you put it on cruise control and circulate the track. Within the A Group you have similar speed differentials from the fastest rider to the slowest. As you get faster the group seems to get slower. Thats not a bad thing really. It means that you have continued to progress in your abilities. As far as the shirts in A Group, some of us aren't that bright and If I'm out in A Group and see an orange shirt I immediately think I f'ed up and went out in the wrong group. I've actually pitted in only to find out someone forgot to remove their shirt before they went out for their A session. However, any event we go to there will be plenty of coaches willing to work with you in A Group for a session or two. Especially at a new to you track. We (Coaches and other A riders) have just as much interest in having you on the race line as you do so if we can go out and help speed that learning curve up it benefits us all.

    I too was one of the "Fast" guys who led street rides back in 2003-2006. Then I attended my first TD and was like WTF! How the hell......etc. Our whole group of street riders basically stopped riding on the street. Several went to other orgs and got "Bumped" much quicker than my good friend and I did but I took that as a challenge rather than going for the ego bump. The two of us stuck it out with NESBA (now N2) and proclaimed that one day we would be in the Advanced Group. To this day the Advanced Group sticker means something to any other org on the East Coast (whether they admit it or not).

    As for the "Free" days.......Yeah, lets talk about the 35,000 miles I put on my truck, the 6 vacation days, and the hours and hours planning for the upcoming weekends. Thats not even counting the consumables at the track. When I get frustrated, or tired, or both, I find myself saying "I'm just buying a season pass next year". Then I get to the track and see all my friends, see all the people who came out to enjoy the weekend and sit back and smile because it made all that time, energy, and money I spent worth it. Having people come up at the end of a day or weekend and say "I had the best weekend ever" is all I need to hear in order for me to go home and try to top that weekend so that member can come up and say "You did it again". Just like our riding.....our coaching and event planning needs to improve at each event or we will find ourselves going backwards. What worked, what didn't work, what can we try next time, are all questions that we talk about on the drive home, through text msgs, and periodic conference calls so that the next event or next year is even better than the last one.
    HondaGalToo and darth nater like this.
  10. HondaGalToo

    HondaGalToo Control Rider

    Wow, everyone has covered it really well! I love helping folks. It's so rewarding when, a couple of years later, someone will come up to me and tell me I was their CR at their very first day and it was so helpful to them. Or when I give a suggestion, and they either come in and tell me how much it helped, or I catch them next session and see for myself. My favorite thing this past season was bumping 2 riders to Intermediate. We do it for the absolute love of the sport and to give back, as we had CRs helping us along.

    The track family is like no other. So much camaraderie at N2 days! It really is my second family. Everyone has everyone else's back, always willing to lend a hand.

    To reiterate one thing stated above, when the session is over and you're pitting in, we wait to offer feedback. Wait there for just a second, even if you think no one was working with you. I can't count the number of times I was behind someone for several laps, making mental notes, only to have them head directly back to their pit. Usually I follow them. I don't really mind, but it does mean my A session will be cut even shorter. Providing feedback to help folks improve is why we do this! Take advantage! ;)

    "Free" days as a CR. :rofl: Riding double sessions, trying to get in some of my Advanced sessions, so more consumables. If we want to just ride for the day, we sign up in A instead of CR and pay like everyone else. It's so worth it, though, all the work. Very rewarding. I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing; I love this sport!!
  11. Str8_Lurkin

    Str8_Lurkin Member

    Very good read... thank you all for your commitments every year. Looking forward to 2020.
  12. virtualsolitude

    virtualsolitude Musician, physician but mostly fond of fishin'.

    What Jester said. After my 2nd session on a new track, I wasn't sure where to turn and taking a chance (or so I thought), I asked a CR how to learn the lines. Don't recall his name or bike number, but he lead me around the track. I call still recall him signalling and pointing at reference speed...while leaned over...with his hands...and also using his foot sometimes instead of his hand...and looking back at me...through the turns...nodding approvingly or indicate to me that I was on the line or not. I still think about that day sometimes when learning the racing lines elsewhere.
  13. virtualsolitude

    virtualsolitude Musician, physician but mostly fond of fishin'.

    @bmart, This is a very good read. It should be a sticky, if not already, with my comments removed of course (since they don't add to the topic).

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