This is a fairly in-depth article so I thought I’d open with this summary statement:
Doing Motovudu with Simon Crafar is by far the best investment in my riding I’ve ever made. The difference in my speed, positioning, accuracy, confidence, and safety after even just the first couple of sessions was absolutely incredible. I can’t recommend it enough for anyone looking to improve their track riding.
Full details below!
I’ve been doing trackdays for about 6 years now (although I had a 2-year break in the middle where I didn’t do any) and I don’t do anywhere near as many as I’d like. (Who does, right?)
In 2015, I only did 2 days at Cadwell; 2016 I did the same again plus 2 days at Spa; and so far this year I’ve done 3 days at Jerez. I should be able to start doing a few more now and will get to Cadwell in July and maybe Oulton or Anglesey after that (plus another Euro event in autumn hopefully).
Consequently, my opportunities to progress and improve are pretty limited because I’m only doing a few trackdays a year. Because I’m not particularly analytical, I’m no good at self-assessment and working out what I could do better on my own. Books and track guides and instructional DVDs are wasted on me as I hate theory and would forget everything I’d read or watched before I got on a bike. I have a brain like a magna-doodle which periodically gets completely wiped! I learn best by having something explained to me and then being able to immediately go out and try it so I’ve wanted to do some one-to-one track coaching for a while.
I have spoken with a few of the instructors offering it to get some information but haven’t got round to actually booking it before now. However, I was going to Jerez in April and had used this as an excuse to treat my bike to a few bits and pieces (RCS master cylinder and Translogic quickshifter; wanted Brembo calipers too but had to put these on the “next time” list). I was also trying slicks for the first time so I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to plunge in and finally have some bespoke coaching.
Initially, I was considering booking with a well-respected UK instructor but, when I spoke with him, he needed to have confirmed bookings for the whole 3-day event to make it worth going over, which is understandable, but as I only wanted a day, that wasn’t an option.
That led me to have a look on the Motovudu website where I saw that they were due to be at Jerez on the dates I was going and had available spaces. Brilliant. A couple of quick emails to Kirsten saw me booked on a Comprehensive (half-day) one-to-one course with Simon Crafar.
Oh, and then of course I did that thing where I thought, well, if I’m doing it, I may as well make the most of it and do it properly, so I upgraded to the Ultimate course (which is a full day) shortly after…
Motovudu – what is it?
Motovudu is a coaching programme for riders of all levels and aims to share the essential techniques to make everyone a faster and safer rider. They offer one-to-one instruction on various European tracks and a series of books and DVDs which teach the methodology.
The brainchild of Simon Crafer, Motovudu is the culmination of all the experiences and lessons learned (often the hard way!) during his 20-year racing career, including 13 years’ experience racing and winning at the highest levels – 500cc Grand Prix and World Superbikes.
Although the books and DVDs follow a methodology, the one-to-one coaching is completely bespoke and tailored to your individual needs.
More info here: Motovudu
Simon needs no introduction but I’m going to give him one anyway (that sounded better in my head).
He started racing motocross in 1981 and moved to road racing in 1985, winning the Malaysian Superbike Championship in 1991. He then had a brief stint in GPs and soon realised he was too big for 250s. Simon then decided to concentrate on bigger bikes and spent four years in WSB, coming 5th in the championship twice. In 1997, Simon achieved two 2nd places, five 3rd places, a pole position and a fastest lap.
In 1998, he moved to Grand Prix and rode a Yamaha YZR500 and won his first GP at Donington, the only non-Honda win all season. He also had a 2nd and a 3rd, set fastest laps at Donington and Philip Island, and ultimately finished 7th in the Championship.
Simon’s last season in racing was 2002 in British Superbikes. He had two podiums, finished 8th overall and retired at the end of the year to spend more time with his family. From 2006, he became heavily involved in one-to-one coaching and personally taught over 600 riders, leading to him becoming the mentor and lead instructor for the European Junior Cup.
So, ummm, yeah. This dude can ride.
In addition to Simon, who is based in Andorra and covers the Euro events, Motovudu also has a strong UK presence with Glen Richards and Dean Skipper providing coaching on UK events. Both instructors have been hand-picked by Simon for their skills as riders as well as their ability to teach with the same passion and attention to detail.
Glen’s credentials include multiple BSB championship wins and he has competed in World Superbikes and the World Endurance Championship.
Dean is a successful ex-racer and also an experienced BSB crew chief and private team owner.
More info: Motovudu UK
How does it work?
Before the first session, I chatted with Simon and he asked a few questions about my ability and the times I was doing round Jerez if I knew them. I don’t have a lap-timer but I’d had a session with an instructor the day before so I had an idea from him.
Then he explained the format – he was to follow me for a while to see what I was doing and would then take the lead (obviously I was prepared to back off to let him through). Simon explained the hand gestures he’d use to show exactly when he was turning in, when he was at the apex and starting to pick the bike up, and when he was fully on the power. Another one was letting go of both bars mid-corner and raising his arms above his head to show how you don’t need to do anything when the bike is tracking on a line.
After every session, there is a quick on-bike debrief at the start of the pit garages and then after every other session is a much more detailed debrief at the Motovudu pit which includes going over the GoPro footage to help show what you’re doing.
So what kind of rider am I?
Well, I’m generally quite confident, love fast lefts (slow rights not so much!), and have reached a point where I’m at the sharp end of inters once I know the track. I’m not the sort of rider onto lunge up the inside of someone going into a corner and I’m usually fairly careful on overtakes as I’m on my road-bike so have to ride it home.
Cadwell is the only track I’ve done more than a handful of times and the last time I was there, I was doing high 1:40s. This means I should probably try fast group next time I’m there but saying that, I ride up to Cadwell so would probably be the only one in the fast group on road tyres and without warmers, taking it easy for the first 2 laps… not sure how that would go down!
My Motovudu day was on the last of the 3 days I was there. I would have preferred to have it as the middle day so I’d have had a day to get used to the track, then a day with Simon, and then another day basking in my new-found awesomeness but by the time I came to book it, someone else had booked a half-day course on day 2. This meant I had the choice of day 1 (which I didn’t want to do), day 3, or split the course into two half-days. Two half-days works out a bit more expensive than one full day, so I went with day 3.
On the first two days I was there, before the course, I really didn’t feel like I was getting to grips with the track – it didn’t feel like it was flowing as it should do. I kept going wide on a few corners (the slow rights, funnily enough) and messing up my lines for the next ones, and I was working really hard to try and keep it on line, coming off the bike after each session absolutely exhausted. To make matters worse, it was also extremely hot (like, over 30°, which made it at least a billion degrees in leathers) and I was glad to have remembered to take a towel because I was completely dripping every time I got off the bike. Sometimes, I had almost stopped sweating by the time the next session came around…
All this added up to me feeling a little bit disappointed with the event, simply because it wasn’t gelling and I was so totally wiped out after each session. I thought I would have liked Jerez more than I did as everyone goes on about what an epic track it is but for some reason I was struggling with it. I knew I should be able to go a fair bit faster but wasn’t able to get there.
Before I went, someone had told me that a quick time for Jerez is sub-2 mins. According to the one session I’d had with a No Limits instructor, I was lapping at around 2:08 and working really hard to get round in that time… which isn’t particularly quick but also isn’t embarrasingly slow I guess. I had booked in Inters and was being passed by way more riders than I was passing, usually either up the inside turning it or getting better drive out of bends. Most notable was a dude on a Repsol Blade who came past me in most sessions on corner entry and then buggered off on exit. I’d often feel like I had more corner speed but would then lose what I’d gained on the exit. Very frustrating.
My Motovudu day
After a quick briefing, Simon & I headed out for our first session and, as planned, we took turns following each other. As it turned out, he didn’t seem to have any major difficulties in passing me when he wanted to take the lead and quite often did so on the back wheel which was awesome.
When we came in at the end of the session, Simon explained in detail exactly what I was doing right and where I was doing it, and exactly what I was doing wrong and where I was doing it. We went through the GoPro footage from his bike to illustrate his points and show me exactly what he meant and then we’d go out again for the next session.
This is what I learned on the day:
Lesson 1: slower corner speed
For me, my biggest problem was that I was trying to keep my corner speed up. This meant that I had too much throttle going round the two slower right handers (corners 2 and 6) and it was this that was causing me to drift wide, either apexing too early or missing the apex completely. Missing the apex on turn 2 meant I was too far over to the left of the track for turn 3 so it turned what should be a little left kink, taken while accelerating hard, into a sharper bend requiring more lean and less speed. This meant I was entering turn 4 too slowly and was losing a good 30m on the run down to turn 5.
Turn 6 is at the end of the back straight and I was doing the same thing here – ending up far too wide on the exit to get back across to the right curb to turn in to the first of two fast lefts.
Because I was trying to keep my corner speed high, I had too much throttle on going round the bends so was then fighting to keep the bike turning and this is what was making me so knackered.
Lesson 2 – get to full power asap
In hindsight, it sounds really obvious, but Simon explained that the key to riding a 1000cc bike quickly is to take the corners slower to keep as tight to the inside curb as possible before standing it up and accelerating flat-out until it was time to brake again.
To quote him, “the winner isn’t who’s on the power first, it’s who’s at full power first.”
So basically I had to slow down. Take the corners slower. Keep a tighter line. And squeeze as long a straight as possible in between every corner to take advantage of as much acceleration as possible rather than riding big, sweeping lines like you would on a 250.
Lesson 3 – move fewer times per lap
Simon also pointed out I was making myself work harder by moving around too much and suggested I only move once between corners. As in, rather than standing the bike up, moving to the centre of the seat and the moving again to hang off for the next corner, I should keep my bum off the side of the seat until it was time to move for the next corner (or stay where I was, depending on the direction). This would mean that, on a 13-corner lap of Jerez, I’d only be moving my body 6 times rather than the 13 or so I was doing, which takes its toll. Over a day of 7 x 20-minute sessions, this works out to 378 moves versus 819. This is quite a big habit to break and Simon was careful not to overload my fragile little brain with too many changes so he suggested I just try and think about it when I can until it starts to become more natural.
Lesson 4 – turning on a closed throttle
The other thing we worked on was turning on a closed throttle. You may well be reading this going, “well, duh” because it’s so obvious but it really was a revelation for me. Looking back, I think I’ve always had this stupid thing in the back of my mind that said I need to have some throttle on at all times except when braking and tipping in so as soon as I’m leant over, I usually carry about 10% throttle all round the corner. On the slower corners, this was causing me to run wide.
I’ve never had the benefit of learning from someone of Simon’s experience before so I had him explain to me, like he would to a very simple person who had never been on a bike before, exactly what his process was leading up to a corner, turning in, cornering, and then exiting. Whereas I’ve always been a little bit like, approach the corner, brake hard, release the brakes, turn in, get on the gas a little bit, stand the bike up and accelerate out, Simon helped me to see that it wasn’t as black and white as that. It’s a much more delicate blend with more overlapping actions rather than completely finishing braking before starting to turn in.
Simon turns in earlier than I do at a slightly higher speed and keeps braking until he is at half lean and halfway towards the inside of the track. He told me that, to ride fast, I have to trust the front as much as I do the rear by pushing it a bit more on corner entry but then continuing to slow down and ensuring the bike keeps on a tight line by leaving the throttle completely closed. The bike turns best, he said, with no throttle on at all because as soon as you have the smallest amount, it squats the rear, unloads the forks and the bike wants to go straight.
This completely changed my understanding of how to ride a bike and over the next couple of sessions, I started practicing this on the corners where I was prone to going wide.
The difference was incredible. It was so much easier to get the bike to the apex just by not doing anything with the throttle. The bike turned better and tighter and I found I could keep it right up against the curb on faster corners by backing off the throttle a bit. Towards the end of the day, Simon was leading me in to turn 5 (fast right leading onto the back straight) faster than I was comfortable entering it but then, by turning in a little earlier than usual (braking as I did so) and not touching the throttle, I was able to keep right to the inside of the bend until it was time to pick it up and accelerate hard.
I didn’t get it right every time, but when I did, it was so incredibly rewarding. Before then, I’d been going in slower, trying to keep too much corner speed, going wide and then having to back off the throttle on the exit as I was on the curbs and running out of space.
Lesson 5 – gear selection
I was going round some corners in too high a gear meaning I was trying to accelerate out from too low down the rev range which also contributed to not getting enough drive out of it. Simon explained that I should have high revs going into a corner which meant lots of engine braking to keep me slowing down to the apex and then I could scream the tits off it on the way out. This worked well.
So, one day, 6 x 20-minute session and 4 x 10-minute debriefs. How much difference did it actually make?
7 seconds a lap.
By the end of the day, we were doing 2:01s and not only was I faster, I was also much safer because I was going round corners slower, and smoother as I wasn’t going on and off the throttle round bends. My lines were far better too – not inch perfect but definitely not 4ft wide at times!
The great thing was that every single session we did, we saw improvements as I got used to riding how Simon suggested. The lap times came down each time we went out, I was far more comfortable and not getting as exhausted, and I was enjoying it far more than I had on the previous days.
Oh and on the last session of the day, I blitzed past Repsol boy on the way into a corner and couldn’t even see him behind me two corners later. That was pretty satisfying!
Best thing about the day
Without a shadow of a doubt, the best thing for me all day was how enthusiastic and passionate Simon was about helping me ride my bike better. He is an absolute dude and was genuinely so excited when I listened, applied what he said and made a noticeable difference. He’d pull over as we rode towards our garages at the end of the session and clap me on the back saying “Mate! You’re getting it! YOU’RE FUCKING GETTING IT!” and was genuinely delighted for me. It was brilliant. I’ve had the odd session here and there with instructors on trackdays before and found them quite useful but no-one has ever been as passionate about it as Simon or helped me improve anywhere near as much.
Also, his level of perception is unreal. He’d notice every lap when I didn’t change down enough gears approaching a corner and because he sees everything you do, he’s able to help with every little teeny tiny thing you might not even know you’re doing.
I learned more in two sessions with Simon than in every other session I’ve ever had with an instructor combined. Last time I was at Cadwell, I had an instructor follow me and afterwards all he said was, “Yeah, you’re going pretty well, I clocked that at 1.48 with traffic through Hall Bends. The only thing I’d say is that you sometimes turned in too hard to Chris Curve and had to adjust your line before you got too close to the edge of the track.” That was it. Thankfully, I didn’t pay for that pearl of wisdom…
That’s why Motovudu was so worthwhile – with Simon, you’re getting the benefit of someone who was at the top level of the sport for a decade or more and the insight that offers him is incredible.
Ok, so what does it cost?
There’s no beating around the bush – this isn’t a cheap day. It cost me £850 for a full day of 1:1 coaching with Simon and you can do a half-day for £480. This cost didn’t include my trackday which I’d booked separately with No Limits but there are no hidden extras.
Simon has to drive to the European tracks with all his gear from his home in Andorra and doesn’t charge any extra for his travel or accommodation or anything like that. You also get the footage from the day plus some really well-made Motovudu tshirts and stickers.
When I looked into 1:1 coaching in the UK, the costs were around £600 for a day but if the track was more than a certain distance from their base, you’d also have to cover their fuel, meals & B&B. By the time you’ve done that, it’s probably around the same price as Motovudu but the difference is that, with Motovudu, you get a Grand Prix winner coaching you.
I can’t stress this enough – yes, it’s expensive, but it’s so totally worth it. I learned and improved a huge amount on the day, far more than I would have done on my own in two years at my current rate of improvement. It’s moved me forwards a huge step, not just in my laptimes, but in my understanding of what my bike’s doing and how I’m affecting it. My confidence has increased hugely and now I know what I’ve been doing to causing the running wide and why I’ve been doing it, it’s been really easy to change that and stop doing it.
Motovudu in the UK is slightly cheaper than in Europe; for example, a half-day at Brands Hatch GP with Glen Richards is £34 and a full day at Cadwell with Dean Skipper is £598.
As I said at the start of this article, Motovudu is the by far the best investment in myself as a rider I’ve ever made. Admittedly, it isn’t cheap but it is great value when you look at how much faster and safer I was by the end of it.
Simon is so incredibly down-to-earth – he’s just a dude who likes riding bikes and it just so happens that he’s won a 500cc Grand Prix while doing so. Awesome. He’s a brilliant instructor and is completely dedicated to helping people improve. He made a pretty intensive day a hell of a lot of fun and I can’t wait to do another day with him at another track (Aragon’s next on the list!).
If you want to improve your lap times, become safer and smoother on track, or have a particular issue you’re struggling with, I can’t recommend Motovudu enough. What I learned on my day isn’t specific to Jerez – they’re basic riding skills I can take with me to any track and I know I’ll be significantly quicker when I go back to Cadwell as a result of this.
Final word from Simon…
- Simon Crafar, of course, for an incredible day and learning experience and assuring me that my bike won’t just fall over if I completely shut off the throttle at full lean;
- Kirsten Crafar for all her help and patience with me umming and ahhing while trying to decide what to book;
- Cooper Crafar for taking loads of photos in the garage and pitlane; and
- Alex James Photography, as always, for the fantastic on-track photos.