A number of years ago, when Simon Crafar’s Motovudu brand was relatively new, I paid for a day of tuition with him at Aragon. I was a track day rider then and was looking for some tips on how to improve my technique which, up to that point, was primarily self-taught.
Simon has had experience of racing at the very top levels in World Superbike (10 podium finishes between 1994-1997) and in 500cc Moto GP (1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishes) so his CV stands up to scrutiny. But I know some very successful racers who couldn’t instruct themselves out of bed, so race wins by no means guarantee effective coaching.
Having spent my day with Simon at Aragon, I was blown away by the enthusiasm he has for improving even the most average rider. Regardless of your ability at the start of the coaching session, for the period of time Simon spends with you he is 100% devoted to helping you ride safer and therefore faster.
This is why I again invested in a full day with Simon at our recent trip to Cartagena. In fact we split the one day of tuition over two days which made it all the more effective.
I will try to break down the most important aspects of Simon’s approach to coaching.
1 – Riding Technique
Many of you will have watched or read Simon’s MotoVudu books, DVDs or online videos. He breaks down riding into easy to absorb functions and spends a lot of time explaining why he believes his technique is the most effective. This continues through his one-to-one lessons, always falling back to some fundamental rules of braking, turning and accelerating to build in additional safety margins – thereby allowing a rider to push past what were previously the limits.
2 – Observation
Simon’s observation skills are a little unnerving at times. How he knows what I was doing with the brake lever when he is 15 feet behind is incredible. But his ability to observe and interpret what a rider is doing is superb. Other coaches can tell me what my bike is doing, but not always why. Simon can tell me exactly why and how to change it. Time on track is split between Simon riding behind, using both first hand observation and later – in the debrief – dissecting camera footage and then Simon taking the lead. When taking the lead he establishes a rhythm and a steady lap time until we are synced and I can comfortably follow at a constant distance, then Simon will almost imperceptibly up the pace until we discover where my riding is weak at a faster pace. It never becomes uncomfortable.
3 – Instruction
The one thing you’ll always get in the pits when working with Simon is other riders asking what he is doing on track. He has a unique signalling system which involves him riding with one hand for a lot of the session. He will indicate whether to be on or off throttle, where to have full gas, where the apex is, where he changes gear, brake markers – anything you need to know. Most people are fascinated with how he can be hooning round a right hand corner at full lean and be touching the paint with a free right hand. When you know his techniques, you understand not only what he is doing but also how he can so it. With the signals as clear and concise as they are, it is very easy to drop into the rhythm being set.
4 – Debrief
After each track session we spend 20 minutes talking through what went well and where the weaknesses were. Simon will always give immediate feedback in the pit lane on the most important aspects of a track session, but then later we sit in front of the monitor and go through a deep-dive. This involves talking through the areas for improvement – help with issues and discussion on any problems. The video footage is critical to showing where the problems are and I always come away with a very clear idea on what needs attention next. But just as importantly, Simon also goes into detail on what went well and how to build on that.
5 – Enthusiasm
I have had a few coaches in my time – not many but enough to know there are few good ones and many bad ones. The one aspect of Simon’s approach which stands head and shoulders above anyone else’s is the level and sincerity of his enthusiasm. You can come in from a terrible track session when nothing clicked and in his two-minute pit lane debrief he can transform depression into elation. Genuine improvement sees fist-pumping and man-hugs, I kid you not. I’m a sensitive soul – I’m the first in the queue to doubt my ability. I don’t need other people putting the boot in too, so this aspect of Simon’s approach is key to me. But this doesn’t stop when the coaching stops – Simon is very sociable and is a genuine people person, helping out where he can and having apparently endless patience for his students and their friends.
Hiring Simon isn’t cheap by any means, but you need to consider what you are getting. This is a man with WSBK and Moto-GP success under his belt driving from Andorra with all his kit to coach you at your choice of Euro circuit. His teaching skills are exemplary and his techniques are very easy to understand and replicate. He will leave you feeling genuinely good about yourself and most probably give you the tools to dramatically improve your lap times.
In my case, within one session we found a significant technique flaw in my riding which, when addressed, solved all my worst riding issues in one hit. Within half a day my times were dropping significantly, at the start of the second day I already achieved my aspirational lap time and had no doubt that I was capable of finding another second without any risk. To demonstrate the change in style we developed, we ended up taking my front suspension which had been unchanged for two years and winding preload up until we ran out of adjustment and then had to uprate the springs, such was the improvement in my use of the front end. I had a number of people stop me and comment that I looked like a different rider after Simon’s coaching – these are people I have raced with for two years (thanks Stocky, Liam, Danny et al for your comments!!).
Cartagena was a hateful little circuit for me before I had Simon’s help, by the end of the week I could happily have ridden it for another five days. I am buzzing about the potential improvements he has unlocked and it has really got me excited about the race season ahead.
If you can afford it, do take the opportunity to work with Simon – it is rare in life that you will come across anyone so genuinely committed to helping you.