The Quickest Way to go Faster? Using GPS in Bike Racing
Racelogic have made their name by supplying high-end GPS testing equipment to every vehicle and tyre manufacturer you care to name. Thanks to this core business they have been able to develop products like the Video VBOX, which combines a 10Hz GPS system with synchronised video and graphics. A lot of drivers have benefitted from studying the footage and data produced during their races and test days, and it has proven to be a key factor in the winning of several championships.
This level of take up hasn’t occurred in motorcycle racing to the same extent. Whilst the Video VBOX is used by a few die-hard trackdayers, it hasn’t found favour in the racing paddock mainly due to its size and cost – it was designed for use in a car after all. Now, though, there’s a new product which suits bikes perfectly: the VBOX Sport.
The main issues with using a data logger on a motorcycle are size, weatherproofing, and weight. Racelogic have answered these concerns by creating a 20Hz GPS unit (that’s twenty samples every second) which is waterproof, battery powered for at least six hours, weighs 130g and is only 100mm in length. OK, it doesn’t contain a video recorder, but the amount of data that is generated from GPS alone is substantial.
How can it benefit the bike racer? Well firstly, you get to keep a record of all time spent on the circuit, so you know when you improve. Anyone can keep a list of lap times, but knowing exactly where the improvements have been made is the key. Direct lap-by-lap comparisons can be studied in the Circuit Tools analysis software, whether they were ridden in the same session or months apart.
Let’s look at an example of using Circuit Tools with data recorded at Guadix in Spain. The red trace is a professional rider; the blue trace is a very capable amateur. Look at the ‘Delta Time’ graph: by the end of the lap you can see that the professional has gone 1.84 seconds faster. From the speed trace you can begin to understand that the amateur is braking earlier for almost every corner, and every time he does he loses a few more tenths. In the most extreme example he loses a third of a second in the space of only 150 metres…
Two graphs in the Circuit Tools analysis software, showing speed against delta time over the course of one lap. The software is free and can be downloaded and tried out before any actual buying decision is made
This is a very basic example, but it illustrates how easy it is to understand which areas need improvement. The software can also display acceleration g-forces, distance, heading (useful for reviewing turn-in points) and obviously time. The track map, which displays the path the rider took, can help with drive-line analysis.
These parameters give a comprehensive overview of how a rider is performing – there is no need to log RPM, throttle position, lean angle and so on. Just getting these basics right will give a club racer enough to work on for a long time.
Because it is so portable the VBOX Sport can be handed to a faster rider or an instructor to log bench marking laps. Within a very short space of time any rider, of any ability, can set to work on improving their lap times.
As Rob Barff, GT racer and instructor notes: “You can learn by yourself but it will take years to do so. Using the data massively shortcuts that process.” This might be a comment from a four-wheeled professional, but the principal of accelerated learning remains.