10 Sep An Insight into the Preparation of an FIM Superbike Racer
You may be unfamiliar with the sport, but FIM Superbikes are a world class motorcycle championship that attracts a huge following across the world.
Like Formula 1, the sport requires its athletes to be fearless and provides fans with many edges-of-your-seat moments (and gasps).
A lot of FIM racers are incredibly talented, and most push the boundaries of their bodies and bikes. While fans are drawn to the high speeds and turns of the racing world, a lot of us would have no idea how much (or if any) training these riders actually do.
Do they train or just ride?
If you think it’s easy being a motorbike racer, think again. It requires daily training, strict eating habits and lots of dedication. If you asked any motorbike racer, they would tell you their physical fitness is one of the key factors to success on the track.
A typical race goes for 40 minutes where riders race between 90 and 110 kilometers, at speeds up to 185 kilometers – as you can imagine, it’s extremely physically demanding (and mentally tough).
Fatigue and aches are an issue with a lot of riders while racing, which is why strength and conditioning is now a focus for many of these athletes and the sport.
The importance of strength and conditioning
FIM racers train every single day.
The physical conditioning of racers is now paramount in the sport, making it easier to withstand the gruelling race season they participate in.
When you see riders pass or lap each other, it is evident they are becoming fatigue from working overtime because of their muscular weakness. Weak muscular endurance results in their heat and lungs working overtime too – this argues that although cardiovascular fitness is necessary, strength is equally important.
Strength training makes riding a powerful superbike less physically demanding on the rider, which will then use less oxygen and their riding performance will improve. If a rider is strong for their bodyweight, they will be able to perform and focus a lot better around the circuit than their weaker competitors.
Another key component of strength training (for any sport!) is injury prevention. It’s simple – riders and athletes who incorporate strength raining have fewer injuries.
Strength training strengthens the muscles at all ranges and increases bone density. If a rider does get injured, they also tend to heal a lot quicker and they are able to get back to training a lot sooner than the riders who do not.
A proper strength training program may well be the final piece of your training “puzzle” to quicker lap times and a step on that podium.
The next time someone tells you that strength training can slow you down on a bike, ask them to think again.
Insight from a professional
Exercise Right spoke with Accredited Sports Scientist (Level 2), Paulo Barroso. Paulo is the founder of Solid Sports and has been working for 25 years in the health and sports environment, with experience in sports coaching, sports science and exercise physiology.
His impressive career has seen him work with high-performance swimmers, and teams and individuals in a variety of other sports including fighting, motorcycle racing, triathlon, hockey, skateboarding, surfing, and sailing, among others.
Paulo provides us with an insight of how a FIM Superbike racer prepares and how important strength and conditioning is for riders nowadays.
How a FIM superbike racer prepares:
Can you give us an insight into the type of training and preparation they do to be race ready?
In the past, same as other similar sports, most of the riders would only focus on their ability and fearlessness to push the limits.
With the increased power, speed and high level of competitiveness in bike races that came with the evolution of bikes and races throughout the years, the demand for better conditioning for the riders became a necessity. Not only to maintain the performance level, but also to prevent injures, such as overuse, RSI, or even mitigate the damage in case of a crash (not to mention the recovery to get back on track after a crash).
Saying that, most of the professional riders nowadays are high-performance athletes with the same level of training as any other sports.
Most motorcycle riders need to have optimal endurance to handle the race weeks during the season, strength to handle the G-force, and power and agility to execute the pendulum or act fast when necessary.
Types of training:
Cycling is the most common modality used for riders to improve performance.
Firstly, it is possible to train all intensities zones (aerobic, VO2max, anaerobic, sprints) in a very similar position to riding a motorbike.
Secondly, cycling has a lower impact than running, which is also part of the preparation although with less volume than on the road bike.
Like any other sports, strength is a crucial element in the physical preparation of a superbike rider.
You must develop a full-body strength and conditioning program according to each rider’s individuality, aiming to develop general strength and correct any weakness identified in the previous screening.
The program must include functional exercises related to specificity of riding.
- Lats, pecs, biceps, triceps and shoulders (riding position).
- Adductors, glutes, legs, abs and lumbar muscles (leaning, standing, breakage and pendulum).
- Forearm and hand muscles for throttle, clutch and braking (essential to prevent and treat arm pump – compartmental syndrome which is common in motorcycle riders).
How much training (strength and conditioning) is involved compared to being on the track?
This will depend on the period of the season and the athlete biotype; motorbike riders are usually short, lean, and light to favour the aerodynamic and relation weight vs power. It will also vary for each individual, to give an idea we could illustrate this way:
Here is where the physical foundation is built; general strength and conditioning (S&C) is the priority:
- S&C: Cardio + Strength Development (70%) – cycling/running/swim/gym/extra (yoga/Pilates)
- Bike Riding (30%) – small amounts of riding – motocross/supermotard/minibike
Here riders will be adjusting/testing equipment, test different tunes on the bike but also preparing physically for the season approaching:
- S&C: Cardio + Functional Specific Training (50%) – focus on riding movements and principal muscles in their riding specificity + cycling and run
- Bike Riding (50%) – testing equipment, bike set-up and reconditioning to ride/speed/technics/tactics
Here the focus will be on performance; the rider will focus on track strategies for the week race (depending on the calendar, they can races have monthly or fortnightly or even back-to-back weeks):
S&C maintenance, activation, mobilisation, and recovery (30%)
- S&C to maintain cardio, strength and power without depleting the rider
- Activation and mobilisation are essential to get the rider bike ready
- Recovery – the rider will be jumping on and off the bike many times during the week – spin bikes are a good tool for that
Bike riding/practice on the track (70%)
This includes last bike adjustments, track learning and strategy development, time trials, qualifies, warm-up and racing day.
Riders might get to the circuit one or two weeks before the race day.
Usually, they have official rides on Tuesday and Wednesday – free practice on Thursdays – free practice and trials on Friday – Saturday qualify and Superpole, Sunday warm-up and race 1, warm-up and race 2.
It happens usually in two sessions a day, mornings and afternoons.
What does a general weekly program look like in the life of a racer?
- Cardio 5-6 days/week (bike, run, swimming)
- Strength 3-4 days/week
- Yoga / Pilates 2-3 days/week
- Bike riding 2-3 days/week
- Cardio 5 days/week (bike, run)
- S&C 3-4 days/week (functional and general)
- Bike riding (4-5 days / week)
- Cardio 3-5 days/week (including recovery)
- S&C 2 days/week (Monday and Tuesday maintenance – low load and intensity)
- Activation and mobilisation 6 days/week (every morning before riding)
- Bike riding 6 days/week (two or three sessions a day)
Speak with a professional
Everyone has individual traits and abilities and if you’re new to exercise and sport it can be tough to know where to start safely.
Accredited exercise professionals are university-qualified who are equipped with the knowledge and skills to improve health, fitness, well-being, performance, and assist in the prevention of chronic conditions.
To find an accredited exercise professional near you, click here.
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Written by Exercise Right. We have partnered with Nike Australia Pty Ltd for this article series. The views expressed in this article, unless otherwise cited, are exclusively those of the author, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA). ESSA is a professional organisation committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners.
Nike had no role in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data or research or the writing of this article.