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Old 12-02-2011, 11:19 AM   #1
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What makes a good instructor ?

I noticed recently that one of the trackday organizations was taking applications for trackday instructors. They listed the things that they were looking for.
As a student at trackday, what do you look for/expect from your instructor?
I am not talking about which trackday group you may or may not prefer, but what you have liked about the individual instructors you may have had, not their names, but the characteristics that they had?
This of course will vary depending on your level and what your goals are.
Not too long ago in one of his posts, Cdill35 made mention that there are some instructors out there who have no business leading folks around a track, and that is probably true, but I have been fortunate and have not had an instructor I could not learn something from, some days were better than others for sure, but those days that were not so good, were not always the fault of the individual instructor, sometimes it was just a matter of circumstances...and some days it was a matter of me having my head up my and not getting it...
For me to learn from someone they do not necessarily have to have been a racer or the fastest guy out there.
What they need is the ability to be observant and to assess what is happening and have enough experience to know what is causing what is happening and to be able to suggest what it will take to correct it.
They have to be able to communicate what they see. They have to seem to care about you as a rider.
What do you look for in an instructor?
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Old 12-02-2011, 11:44 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obed View Post
What they need is the ability to be observant and to assess what is happening and have enough experience to know what is causing what is happening and to be able to suggest what it will take to correct it.
They have to be able to communicate what they see.
That's it right there. I've been in the track scene for 6 years now, as a rider, and as an instructor. Most entry level instructors have the same issue, which is they don't know what to look for in a student. All they know is that the student isn't doing it right. Some don't even care, some are just in it for a free ride, or poser points for being an "instructor".

The famous line...
"i just followed you for a few laps, your body position looks good, try hanging off a little more and kiss the mirror"

although most of the time that's true, it's too general of a statement. also having someone hang off in the "proper" body position and going at a very slow rate of speed does absolutely NOTHING for the rider except makes them timid because they don't know why their bike feels so twitchy in the corners. too much focus goes on body position to people who can't even ride their bike. helping a student realize WHY and WHEN they need to hang off more, why their head/eyes needs to face beyond the turn, and explain why everything you do effects how your bike acts. the ability to pay attention to detail is key!

im sure if you asked all the 1st or 2nd time trackday guys what they learned, the only thing they'll really have to say is body position. they couldn't even tell you where the proper line would be, or why you should even be on the line, etc.. i'd blame that on poor instruction.

just my thoughts on the subject. we all start somewhere though, so you can always expect instructors.... unless the instructors start getting instruction by the more experienced instructors on how to instruct.
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Old 12-02-2011, 01:22 PM   #3
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There's one thing that I've seen help me, and even my lap times, that every good instuctor should be able to do IMO.


Last time I was at GSS, larry from track junkie racing was out there in the same session as me. He let me hold him up for about a lap and watched my lines, etc. When he passed me and signaled to follow, he was able to match my pace and take it up just a few notches. Not so much that he disappeared after two turns, but enough that I had to push a little harder and watch his lines to keep up. End result was a faster lap, and feeling smoother about my lines.
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Old 12-02-2011, 02:14 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by houseofpain View Post
The famous line...
"i just followed you for a few laps, your body position looks good, try hanging off a little more and kiss the mirror"

although most of the time that's true, it's too general of a statement. also having someone hang off in the "proper" body position and going at a very slow rate of speed does absolutely NOTHING for the rider except makes them timid because they don't know why their bike feels so twitchy in the corners. too much focus goes on body position to people who can't even ride their bike. helping a student realize WHY and WHEN they need to hang off more, why their head/eyes needs to face beyond the turn, and explain why everything you do effects how your bike acts. the ability to pay attention to detail is key!

im sure if you asked all the 1st or 2nd time trackday guys what they learned, the only thing they'll really have to say is body position. they couldn't even tell you where the proper line would be, or why you should even be on the line, etc.. i'd blame that on poor instruction.
Long time lurker, first time poster. I would tend to agree a lot with what was stated above. This is my first season of taking it to the track, and all in level 1 I must add. I've done 6 this year, and I will say the first 4 times I was out, I felt overwhelmed, frustrated and confused a lot of the time, because of generic advice like such and I just didn't know how to fix the problems/what I was being told? A lot of my track day patterns would be: get semi familiar with the track in the mornings, and then peak out in early afternoon. I would have no idea how to get better in late afternoon. I felt like I was fast (fast for me I mean) but then certain corners I couldn't get. The answer given to me? "oh you just have to lean more..." Even though I'm sure I wasn't leaning enough, I sure felt like I was? and so I just couldn't figure it out. The whole day I would just be focusing on Body positioning and trying to "lean" enough.

On my 2nd to last track day this year, I was fortunate enough to get more indept instruction due to just getting more time with my instructor. Furthermore, others instructors that day made me think/question the generic advice I was given before. Eg: why are you doing that? Why don't you try this and see if its more comfortable. Essentially I was taught a lot of times there is no "generic/one thing works best." You have to try and see what works best for YOU. That track day was the best experience so far this year for me. I felt more comfortable by the end of the day, and felt I was improving every sessions instead of peaking out. The last track day, I didn't get as a lot of time with my instructor again, but I took what I learned from the other one, and applied it and I had just as much fun without instruction. I felt I could self anazlyze my own problems, and I would ask people for specific advice like what to do in turn X instead of worrying about body positioning. I spent all of the morning learning the line, figuring out why I was off the line, then in the afternoon I slowly added speed and body positioning stuff. The last two track days were by far the most fun I had all year, and I think it was due to just not worrying about minor things, things that don't matter as much at my speeds, and worrying about the things that do affect me.

Sorry for the ramble

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Old 12-02-2011, 02:26 PM   #5
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Maybe some ppl are just looking for instant results, thats not going to happen no matter how good an instructor is qualified, it take lots of seat time and mechanics to get comfortable with speed and learning every track.
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Old 12-02-2011, 02:40 PM   #6
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In my opinion, a good instructor is someone who is not only passionate about riding but more importantly passionate about helping others. Who do I want instructing me and with me? Those who have a passion for instructing, those who are always willing to do whatever it takes to help the student and the school, those who place the customer and student above anything else and those who have more experience than me. The instructor should be patient and pick up on the best way to communicate a student. Some learn better by listening, some by seeing.

Of course the instructor must know about riding, motorcycles, theories, etc., but the passion and ability to communicate with the student is above all. Some of the fastest guys out there could be the worst instructors because they cannot communicate with the student.

In addition, the instructor must also want to improve their own riding by taking the numerous advanced schools available to help them become a better instructor.
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Old 12-02-2011, 02:47 PM   #7
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good points Thomas...
I think it takes a different skill set to be a good instructor than it does to be a good rider...or maybe I should say a different skill set in addition to being a good rider...and I agree some of the best riders do not make good instructors...
I have said from my first day on the track that I had no interest in racing, but I would be interested in getting good enough to be an instructor...
I would love to help others and hope I can make it easier for them than it has been for me...but most of them won't be 61 when they start...
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Old 12-02-2011, 02:49 PM   #8
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YES!! I see these things happen a lot on street rides....I have never been to a track/ track day/ or MSF in my 20+ years of riding...(not self taught either...just listen/ watch/ read and try)

But, IMO, the first things a rider should learn is how to stop/ braking/ engine braking, corner entry/ exit speed, proper line and understand to take tight corners in lower gears (and why)..



Quote:
Originally Posted by houseofpain View Post
That's it right there. I've been in the track scene for 6 years now, as a rider, and as an instructor. Most entry level instructors have the same issue, which is they don't know what to look for in a student. All they know is that the student isn't doing it right. Some don't even care, some are just in it for a free ride, or poser points for being an "instructor".

The famous line...
"i just followed you for a few laps, your body position looks good, try hanging off a little more and kiss the mirror"

although most of the time that's true, it's too general of a statement. also having someone hang off in the "proper" body position and going at a very slow rate of speed does absolutely NOTHING for the rider except makes them timid because they don't know why their bike feels so twitchy in the corners. too much focus goes on body position to people who can't even ride their bike. helping a student realize WHY and WHEN they need to hang off more, why their head/eyes needs to face beyond the turn, and explain why everything you do effects how your bike acts. the ability to pay attention to detail is key!

im sure if you asked all the 1st or 2nd time trackday guys what they learned, the only thing they'll really have to say is body position. they couldn't even tell you where the proper line would be, or why you should even be on the line, etc.. i'd blame that on poor instruction.

just my thoughts on the subject. we all start somewhere though, so you can always expect instructors.... unless the instructors start getting instruction by the more experienced instructors on how to instruct.
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Old 12-02-2011, 03:21 PM   #9
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Ive learned more following around a faster guy around the track, then ive learned from assigned instructors. Althouh, i must say there are a handfull of great instructors.out there, ive just never been assigned to them. Most times i just walk away frustrated. My last track day i didnt get an ounce of help from my instructor, even after asking for some 1on 1 multiple times. He told me he would follow me around for a session, and after i "pit in" he was no where to be found. I approached him afterwards and he said "sorry i lost you, lets do it again next session". The next session i looked for him in the paddock area and hot pit, and again no where to be found. I was extremely frustrated. So i think an instructor should be eager to teach students. He needs to be really involved with the students, as long they are asking for help. He shoukd know where his students are in the paddock. He should know their weakness and strengths. Im not knocking any of the track day organizations out there. I truely have enjoyed every track day that ive done. All the track day organizations will continue to get my business. Just a couple of small kinks to work out. I understand that nothing is perfect. Rossi is fast, that doesnt mean he is a good teacher.......hhahahaha :-)
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Old 12-02-2011, 03:45 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1FC View Post
Maybe some ppl are just looking for instant results, thats not going to happen no matter how good an instructor is qualified, it take lots of seat time and mechanics to get comfortable with speed and learning every track.
Well........

What would you say is good seat time in a year?
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Old 12-02-2011, 03:50 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obed View Post
What they need is the ability to be observant and to assess what is happening and have enough experience to know what is causing what is happening and to be able to suggest what it will take to correct it.
They have to be able to communicate what they see. They have to seem to care about you as a rider.
What do you look for in an instructor?
I think that this is the most important part. I have a lot to learn and have even been able to take what my instructors have said and practice it on the track and street.. I have even passed that knowledge to those who need the same especially those who are just getting started trying to ride with people on Wed nights...

You do no one any good...not the rider, or the school your instructing for. You may get free track time and can maybe even instruct to just try to fix this or fix that. IMO an instructor and the ones I have had have to really want to share the joy of riding... and part of that is doing it right so you can enjoy what these machines where designed to do.
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Old 12-02-2011, 03:55 PM   #12
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I'll tell you what makes a bad instructor:

One that just says "lean your body over more"

One that follows you for half a session and says "you looked good, I have nothing to add"

One that doesn't want to follow your buddy in your group to critique him because hes "gonna ride the advance group real quick"

These are real experiences that I had.

I have only been on one track day and I didn't learn anything I already knew. Maybe that's because I did a lot of hard street riding, I also did tons of my own research and practiced on my own.

I personally think in order to make a great track instructor, you have to be a great student. A student should be asking questions, and more questions, and ask even more questions. Help the instructor help you. As cliche as that sounds, its true. How can an instructor know what you need help on if you don't give him your own concerns and feedback.

It can go both ways, you can have a potentially great instructor with a bad student, and you learn nothing. You can have a great student with a bad instructor and learn nothing. When you have a great instructor and a great student, that's when the magic happens

A great track instructor is only as good in instructing as the student is learning.
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Old 12-02-2011, 04:02 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ivancuriel View Post
A great track instructor is only as good in instructing as the student is learning.
I guess that depends on how you mean that, one way.. I agree..
the other, I call bullshit on...
sometimes a student can not ask questions in the sense that he does not know what to ask... he does not know why something is happening... and he may not even know what that something is...
the more advanced a student is, the more he knows, the more he knows what to ask...
as I said earlier, the needs you have that an instructor can fill, will vary with your experience...
the needs of the novice on those first few track days are critical, and he does not know what those needs are..so in one way, in this old man's opinion, the novice need the most talented instructor, maybe not the fastest guy, maybe not the best rider, but the best INSTRUCTOR...
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Old 12-02-2011, 04:02 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThomAss View Post
want to improve their own riding by taking the numerous advanced schools available to help them become a better instructor.
If I only had the money....
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Old 12-02-2011, 04:03 PM   #15
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The student to instructor ratio plays a huge part in an instructors ability to help students. I've been assigned as many as 10 students. Keeping up with that number is very difficult. I think the ideal ratio is in the range of 1:3 to 1:5. Unfortunately that number is not profitable for school that provide a day of track for a day of instruction. Further, it's difficult to get that many instructors on board.
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Old 12-02-2011, 04:09 PM   #16
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Quote:
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I guess that depends on how you mean that, one way.. I agree..
the other, I call bullshit on...
sometimes a student can not ask questions in the sense that he does not know what to ask... he does not know why something is happening... and he may not even know what that something is...
the more advanced a student is, the more he knows, the more he knows what to ask...
as I said earlier, the needs you have that an instructor can fill, will vary with your experience...
the needs of the novice on those first few track days are critical, and he does not know what those needs are..so in one way, in this old man's opinion, the novice need the most talented instructor, maybe not the fastest guy, maybe not the best rider, but the best INSTRUCTOR...
You're right about that, the brand new riders that don't know much or anything at all need the best instructors. Instructors that give lots of information and feedback. Like maxgs said above. The instructor student ratio plays a big part in it as well.
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Old 12-02-2011, 04:24 PM   #17
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Quote:
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In addition, the instructor must also want to improve their own riding by taking the numerous advanced schools available to help them become a better instructor.
What schools are available to help instructors learn to instruct in the MC world? I've been to Porsche instructors schools but I've never seen anything like that for MC's. At a minimum instructors should be reading Keith Code or Andy Trevitt's books.
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Old 12-02-2011, 04:26 PM   #18
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The goal of reading the books is to develop the instructors ability to recognize certain habits or areas of improvement and provide them additional ideas and vocabulary to communicate the information.
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Old 12-02-2011, 04:31 PM   #19
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Unfortunately, the competition is so stiff between track organizations it seems that ones ability to promote carries more value, with schools, than their ability to teach.

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Old 12-02-2011, 04:37 PM   #20
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Quote:
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Well........

What would you say is good seat time in a year?

Not exactly sure about this but practicing proper proven riding habits even on backroad riding you can really improve your skills.


A couple yrs back I was able to knock 5 secs off my fastest previous trackday over the winter.
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