Casey Stoner On Adapting To The Motorcycle, Rather Than Adapting The Motorcycle To You

Casey Stoner has made a return to the paddock. He turned up at the Algarve round of MotoGP for a number of media appointments, which included a press conference in which he discussed several fascinating subjects at length. Although I will be posting the entire transcript at a later date, I want to highlight one or two of his statements to discuss.

Despite the fact that he hated talking to the media – we did not help him go any faster, so we were wasting his time – Stoner was always one of the best people to ask about technical aspects of riding, or machinery. He had both a deep understanding of bikes and riding, and the eloquence and clarity of thought to be able to explain it deeply. It helped that English is his first language, of course (at least for those of us with the same mother tongue).

So it is worth highlighting some of the things Stoner talked about, and examining it a little closer. First up is something he said about adapting to the bike, rather than adapting the bike to you. He was asked why it was so difficult for MotoGP riders to switch bikes. Jorge Lorenzo took a year and a half to adapt to the Ducati after he left Yamaha, and Andrea Dovizioso is finding it similarly challenging aboard the Yamaha, after so many years on the Ducati.

The Australian started off with a proviso: "I’m not inside that person or their mind or anything like that." But went on to explain the way he saw things. "Everybody has their way and their system of getting to grips with things. Lots of people like to do lots of laps and get their feeling. They want this feeling to sort of come to them."

Working with the bike

Stoner approached it differently. He knew that the feeling would not come to him, so he set about working out what the bike needed from him, to go from merely fast to genuinely competitive. "I knew until the last kind of half a second, I knew how to go that quickly on almost any bike," he said. "I know if I brake there, get it to that point, I can do everything with relative ease. Let’s say, maybe the last second. You can sort of get it to that point quite easily. Then it’s just the fine tuning and trying to understand what you need to change in yourself."

The biggest thing for Stoner was adapting to the bike, rather than adapting the bike to him. "I think the biggest thing that I did that maybe others don’t is I’m more happy to adapt. There’s lots of riders out there that go, the bike doesn’t suit me, doesn’t suit my style, doesn’t do what I want. Well, either you get it to do what you want or you do what it wants."

The secret was to try to understand and exploit the strength of the bike. "There’s always positives in every bike out there. They all ride differently. They all have strengths and weakness. It’s all about compromise on your setup. It’s compromise on how you want the bike verses how it wants to be ridden. There’s all kinds of things. There’s a lot of elements to it that makes it difficult to adapt to."

Follow the bike

For Stoner, he saw it as having the humility to accept that the bike was the leading element in the partnership, and it was up to the rider to extract the bike's potential, rather than the engineers' responsibility to make the bike work for the rider. "For me, the biggest thing was I didn't have pride in the fact that I wanted everything to work for me. I was always willing to work with the bike and try and figure out what it wants. My engineer was very, very good. I was always very happy with Cristian [Gabarrini]. He was good to work with like that."

This is something you see most clearly when riders move between classes. Especially when they go from Moto3 to Moto2, which remains the biggest jump in grand prix racing, going from a small, low-powered bike where corner speed and slipstreaming is all that matters, to a bike with twice the weight and power, with much fatter tires, and with the torque to get drive out of corners. Stopping the bike is totally different, corner entry is different, corner speed is different, corner exit is totally different.

Moving up

Even the approach to practice and qualifying is different. In Moto3, you can get a long way just by cruising around looking for a tow. In Moto2 and MotoGP, the key to going fast is spending time out on track riding alone. Only that way do you understand what the tires do, how to carry your own speed, rather than trying to steal it from your rivals' slipstream. Sure, you can follow a rider to figure out lines, but there is nothing to be gained from spending all your time looking for a tow.

There are plenty of examples of successful transitions, of riders who have adapted quickly from one class to the next. Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez were quickly winning races after moving between classes, either from 125 to 250, 250 to MotoGP in the case of Rossi, or 125 to Moto2, Moto2 to MotoGP for Marquez. But Joan Mir won a Moto2 race in his sole season in Moto2, after winning the Moto3 crown.

Fabio Quartararo spoke in the championship press conference of the change he made in Moto2, the moment he realized the bike was not going to come to him. "The toughest moment for me was when I was in 2016 and 2017, and also a key point that really woke me up was in Argentina," the Frenchman said looking back on his time in Moto2. "The thing is when I was qualifying on P28, I was close to the safety car. I think this moment is the moment where I just say, wake up. I was starting close to the safety car. I was scared that maybe he can overtake me too."

That was the point where he new he had to adapt to the bike, Quartararo said. "But it was a moment where we said, okay, my riding style is totally not working on Moto2, so I will totally change. We talked with the team. I said, okay, guys. Maybe the next two races I will finish really bad, but I need to change something. Since that moment, we finish all the races, all in the top ten apart from Brno. From that moment, we made a big, big step and I won in Barcelona, Assen podium, and it took me to the seat of MotoGP."

Correcting weaknesses

That lesson, that you have to adapt to the bike, is what brought Fabio Quartararo the 2021 MotoGP title. The man who stood in his way underwent a similar process. After two mediocre season where he fought with the bike, a change was needed. 2020, especially, was an eye opener: when the weather was warm, Bagnaia was fast, but when it was cold, he struggled badly.

Bagnaia spent the winter training hard to work on that. He changed his style, changed his approach to riding, to force heat into the tires right from the start, whatever the weather. That paid off this season, with three wins, five other podiums, five pole positions, and a real run at the championship.

Sleeping with the enemy

While Stoner raced two of the most important motorcycles in MotoGP, the Australian did have one bike he would have liked to try, and the reasons he gave for wanting to try it were fascinating."I’d probably have to say the Yamaha, just because it was my biggest competition through all my career," Stoner told the press conference. "Doesn’t matter what bike I rode. It was always the most difficult one to beat."

What Stoner wanted to know was why it had been so difficult to beat. "It would just be interesting to know more what I saw from racing with it versus how it actually felt, the feel versus real, kind of thing. So, I suppose the Yamaha would be the most interesting for me just to get an understanding of if it was possible to ride it differently than how my competitors rode it, or if you had to ride it as they did. It would be very interesting."


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Simon crafar came out with a classic during morning warm up i think.

He asked Casey questions for 15 minutes, then his last question. 

So Casey is there anything you would like to ask me about my career?

🤣🤣🤣

That warmup interview was great to listen to. Casey was elequant and in true Antipodean style cut through most of the BS you might hear from other riders.

...For more news from Stoner. First thought that jumped to mind after reading these few paragraphs was, "well, here is the man to train Vinales". If ever Vinales is to reach his full potential, he needs to develop exactly this kind of mentality: adopt to the bike, not the other way around. 

David, I love that you posted the "Doc pitches no hitter on LSD" on Twitter! It is a great story.

So, have some other folks here experienced hallucinogens on bikes? On track? I did a practice day with psilocybin mushrooms. My right hand sensitivity was incredible, it was like the throttle and brake got indexed more particularly. It felt fantastic! My lap times were better slightly when by myself. But there were frequent lapses of concentration and lap time drop. Sometimes because of trying to roll off to be in the gap between riders, and other times perhaps because of a pause to smile and enjoy how visceral and outright unusual it is to be riding a motorbike at all. There was no inner critic, almost no discursive dialog in the head at all. Wouldn't have been a good fit for the complexity and responsibility of a race day, but if anyone else noticed anything, it was just a wee smile and quiet wonder. Me though? The right hand was magic!

;)

Not bikes, but I shroomed with a buddy while climbing Easy Ridge at Los Brazos, NM. Did a variation off route I had eyeballed many times before. Crack system through a roof. Felt endless amounts of power while climbing. Didn't bother placing much pro either. True what you said about the judge archetype of the mind. That guy didn't exist. Wild experience. Climbing was spiritual. Especially long routes. After a couple of pitches the inner voice goes silent. Not getting any attention. Then the movement is vertical ballet in the flow. Took many years to realize that the thinker thought was quiet. Wasn't until I started practicing self-awareness, then understanding came about the attraction to climbing. Interesting!

State hospital, he was a night orderly. "Nurse Ratchet" was real. He wrote on a typewriter at night. A friend of mine was a nurse there too, desk by "Ratchet," knew them both. She was a friend of my family, encouraged me to be a therapist. Wonderful woman, Anne Dueltgen. A second Mom. She said Kesey was really odd.

Yrs later, met the son of Ken namef Zane and joined him on the bus "Further." He showed me how he was dipping stuff in paint to sell it, one good seller was toilet seats "dip tie dye." We had LSD. It was kinda fun. Summer of 2013. Look...

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/24/merry...

Nothing near as cool as motorcycle racing, clear minded or no. True story. Happened around "Oregon Country Fair" where Ken was a fixture, and The Greatful Dead added to their start in San Francisco. 

 

Marc Marquez is going to challenge the 2021 Cup with Pecco and Fabio. Next addition to the front may be a surprise. Pineal gland oracle crystal ball is clear. Sober thought. Hope you find this fun, factual reality up yonder.

;)

What's funny (coincidentally) is that these comments are taking place under a stoner article, which was the preferred mode of transport while climbing back in the day.

Track? No, but plenty of street experience on psychedelics. Rush hour traffic CB100 Honda, in Boston on LSD in the 70's! Or that time at -5 degrees F (-15C) on a Guzzi on shrooms. Ha! Those were the days. And of course NOTGATT.

Psilocybin is magic in that way. Dosage, dosage, dosage! Even with prolonged microdosing, the narrator is silenced, the mind crystal clear and perception seems to be slightly ahead of time. For example when playing guitar you might find your mind two bars ahead of your hand and shifting position becomes mindless as you're already well past that moment in history!

Someone who certainly isn't me occasionally used to "experience" the completely empty country roads, with nothing but farms at night by standing on the pegs of his F800GS, high beam on and experience free floating through time and space at 9ft tall with pitch darkness outside of the beam bubble. From what I hear it was next level ;) 

^ David Emmett, look what good stuff your Twitter bit brings up for readers. I love it! Are you rrading this? Thanks for reminding me about playing instruments too. 

Remembered another one. LSD on a CBR1000rr on the street. 130mph fully in the air over a train track "hump." It was crisp and exacting. 

Progressive psychotherapists and solid meditation/mindfulness folks alike are recommending regular microdosing. "Microdose Saturdays" has been going around. 100% agree w the people above. Egoic activity down. Neurotic processes down. Presence, flow state up. Creativity unfurls. "Sidestreets" of the mind get traffic rather than just the major highways. 

Young people, less stable and grounded minds, be very careful with quantity. Everyone be super planful with setting and mindset for full amounts, over 300 micrograms of LSD or 3 grams of psilocybin mushrooms will really be a significant experience in which there can be emergency. Experiencing death of the individual egoic self or basic sense of reality is frequently traumatic. Microdoses though, qualitatively different and easy peasy.

Wear a helmet! And some pants. Anyone else discover the oh so not smart but wonderful combo of motorbikes and reasonable doses of hallucinogens? Quite sure there are more readers aghast at the idea, I would agree from afar. It sounds nuts and horribly dangerous. Start with a hike maybe?

;)

Prepare for the Valentino goodbye barrage. Then we Test, and the new Honda will have lots of eyes. Don't forget top Rookie is down to the last and a good battle. Back to our regular programming...

If I remember correctly back when we were predicting the season I chose JM89 and you picked EB23 for rookie of the year. Best of luck to you. Win or lose we can both feel good about our pick.

Myself and the guys I rode with always were under the influence of something. Some of the moments of deepest clarity in my life were at 160 with a good buzz on. I think it was a way for me to get truly in the moment. Not much choice. Anyway, bittersweet weekend. Bitter = Vale leaving

               Sweet = The grid he's leaving behind.

Cheers, Shrink!

That's right! Thanks! Injury, 2019 bike...colorful. Next yr those two will be an interesting comparison. Both are on a rocket trajectory and with the right bike (insert gripe that Marini gets 2022 kit). Surprised there isn't more about those two here, Italy - Spain rivalry even! 

But which of them will have more points next year? I'll stay with JM89 but not comfortably. Basta was unreal the past few races, just unreal. He'll be on a well-developed bike next year while the 22s have to fettled and fiddled with so maybe he has a bit of advantage there. Jorge on latest but without full factory support. He'll probably start well but fade as the factory boys get upgrades and he has to test things that may or mayn't work. Next year is gonna be wild

First time in my life i actually took notes about an interview. Casey is fascinating to listen to. And Simon has come a long long way from his first halting steps to becoming a great interviewer. His question to Casey with the perfect pause before "Just kidding" was brilliant brilliant stuff. Can't wait for more. 

My first question to Stoner would have been "So why are you here talking to the media when you claimed you hated it so much? Are you bored?" As to the big-deal of adapting to the bike - is that really a big deal? I'm no Casey Stoner but riding a variety of machines in my brief and uncelebrated roadracing career, including Yamaha RD400's, Honda GP125 (the modified MX bike they sold briefly) and various 750/1000 Superbikes, including one with a then-newest-latest 16" front wheel, taught me pretty much the same thing - the bike's not gonna adapt to you so if you want to go fast you need to figure out how to get it to do that. Isn't that what being a racer is all about?

after his comments early in the weekend that rossi turned the media against him, and then seeing the arm in arms with rossi, I was left with a hmmmm...

 

It was relevant because so many riders refuse to do it. Rossi outright refused to ride the Ducati in the way of Stoner after seeing his data and testing the bike for the first time. Karma bit him hard right then and there after years of running his mouth and sniping about it being Casey and not the bike. 

There's plenty of princesses out there that think like this and perhaps that's why they never become a Casey or a Marc. Genuinely fast in all conditions and willing to ride around problems to compete if not outright dominate.

Casey and family have every right to be bitter towards the media. That family truly battled every step of the way and they made it, proved it, packed up and went home and went back to the real world worrying about family and community and not a circus that treated him like shit from day dot.

He didn't play their game and they hated him for it, but when he's looking over his farm with a wine and watching the girls ride their horses and bikes.. He won life. No one can say shit any more.

His colleagues, competitors and people that actually know the game universally respect him and put him in that top tier of uber talents. Even Rossi just put Stoner at the top of his competitors as the most talented and quickest. You hear it all the time.

He's a complicated guy, but his media persona was seeded by the media themselves. Why should they get any of his time outside of his contractual obligations when they relentlessly tried to bring him down? You all saw it. Give them the bare minimum and walk out, and given the depth of his current insights just look at what we missed out on because of it.

Click click. Sensationalise. Click click. What a waste. I hope we get to hear him talk in a supportive setting well into the future. It's exactly what the sport needs.

Always been a huge fan of Casey on any bike. Just to give Rossi a small break on the Ducati saga...During that first year Rossi got a lot of stick for not winning. I remember some debrief and Rossi telling the assembled peeps that the bike had problems. To which they asked; if the bike is so bad why was Casey still capable of winning races ? Rossi pointed out that in 2010 he had broken his leg, missed 4 races and still beat Casey in the points table. Yes yes....but he still won races. To which Rossi responded with something along the lines of describing Casey as being a very special talent. A spot on assessment.

I think it's also fair to say that Rossi asked for things in 2007 which he got in 2008 and backed that up by winning. 2008 and the much worshipped Laguna race highlight the differences between Casey and Rossi well i think. Casey fastest as if the main reason for him being fastest is that they remembered to put wheels on it. Rossi winning because, well it's Rossi, all the things to love and all the things to hate about him bound up in one race.

Yes, that. What a racer and what insight. That deadpan episode with Rossi's ambition outweighing talent still cracks me up. 

Right?

SO tough to hear how debilitated he has been with sickness. This means that it is not just lactose intolerance. Why? Because eliminating it entirely is as easy as anything. 

Conjecture, but the poor guy has an unusual systemic illness and is keeping the details private. Auto immune perhaps. I just feel for him. 

Appreciating his uncommon call for less electronics and run off. He is direct and unfiltered. No Championship electronics between his awareness and speech/behavior either.

Great guy

Hope Mr Yamaha is reading your article David.What a coup that would be to let Casey have run on an M1!

Would be really ineresting to see how he goes and what he has to say?smiley 

He must have been both a dream and a nightmare to work with because of his intrinsic feel for bikes. 

Goes out, sets the fastest lap of the session on his first flying lap, comes in two laps later with a list of things that could be better about the bike...but that would take months to redesign. "And I could tell most of them on just the out lap"