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Start Gate Response Time

Figure 1 shows a motorcycle, a Race Gate starting gate, and a tripod-mounted Firefly IR Transmitter. This setup is used to measure the elapsed time from the moment the gate pin is released until the rear wheel just begins to spin. We call this measurement "Start Gate Response Time" and we found throughout our testing that fast response times directly correlated to better holeshots.

start gate test

Figure 1. Components Necessary To Measure Start Gate Response Time.

The Start Gate Response Time measurement requires the Holeshot starting gate from Risk Racing. This gate uses a small remote control box velcroed around the tripple clamp bar pad. The test begins when the rider presses the button on the remote control box. After the remote button is pressed a green LED will illuminate on the gate. This lets the rider know the gate has recieved the signal and gives the rider 2 seconds to get his or her hands back on the bars. The LED will then turn red and start blinking. When it starts blinking it is like the 30 second board turning sideways. The gate will now drop randomly between 1-5 seconds. The Holeshot also has an “Instant Drop” feature. If you are using a trainer, you can remove the remote control box from the bike and plug the 6 foot long cable supplied with the gate directly into the remote control box and the other end of the cable into the Holeshot gate. The gate will drop as soon as the remote control box button is pressed.

When the Holeshot gate's internal mechanism pulls the start gate pin, a signal is passed on to the Firefly IR Transmitter. This signal triggers the Firefly and causes it to switch on its IR light beam. The VIP Data Logger detects the IR light beam and records the time. The measurement continues as the rider engages the drive train by releasing the clutch. The VIP then records the time when the rear-wheel sensor detects the start of tire rotation.

The plot in Figure 2 shows an event where Start Gate Response Time was measured. Be sure the "Show Sample Points" option is checked under the "Chart Options" menu selection. This will cause large dots to appear on the plots where the VIP Data Logger sampled the data.

Reaction Time 2

FIGURE 2. Start Gate Response Time Measurement.

Look at Figure 2 and note where the blue cursor is placed to mark the start of wheel spin. This is the first data sample where wheel rotation was detected.

Reaction Time, A Short Study

This look at reaction time and how it relates to motocross racing can be applied to improving your starts as well as making good decisions throughout the race. Definitions of reaction time, movement time and response time are presented and we will identify the factors affecting response time.

Reaction Time. Psychologists study decision-making by measuring the time between a participant seeing a stimulus and responding to it. This is known as the reaction time. Reaction time in motocross is very important because it is a big factor in determining who gets the holeshot. The study of reaction time is also important because it tells us a lot about the process of making decisions as the race progresses. Reaction time is the time between the presentation of a stimulus and the very start of the movement made in response to it – for example the time taken between the gate drop and the rider starting to engage the clutch.  It is the time taken to process stimulus information.

Movement Time. The time between starting and finishing a movement – how long it takes to appropriately engage the clutch and apply the desired amount of throttle.

Response Time. The time between the presentation of a stimulus and the completion of the movement.

Response Time

Important Points:

  • Reaction time is not about movement, it is about how quick the brain processes the information.  It is information processing time, the time for us to make a decision.
  • Movement time is the time it takes to move. It is the driving off the blocks, the first part of movement to finishing the race.
  • Response time is reaction time plus movement time. How quickly we respond depends on how quickly we react and how quickly we move.

Factors Affecting Reaction Time. Reaction time is an innate ability; it varies between individuals. In other words, reaction time itself is to a large extent genetically determined. Research suggests that the following characteristics are likely to affect reaction time:

  • Age and sex
  • Health – poor health slows reaction time
  • body temperature – the colder, the slower the reaction
  • personality – extroverts tend to have faster reactions than introverts
  • length of neural pathways – the further information has to travel, the slower the reaction and also the slower the response time
  • state and alertness, arousal and / or motivation
  • physical/mental ability
  • ability for selective attention

Factors Affecting Response Time. The following points have been shown to be effective methods of improving overall response time.

  • Concentration and focusing. Focus on the start gate. Clear your mind of all background noise and negative thoughts. Hicks Law governing response times says this: Reaction time is linearly related to the amount of information that must be processed to resolve the uncertainty about the various possible stimulus response alternatives. This being said, it is critical to clear your mind of all competing thoughts when at the starting line.
  • Detect relavant cues. Be aware of your periferral and forward vision. Take note of repeating patterns that the gate operator may display. Take a few minutes before your moto to watch the gate drop and become familiar with its behavior. Learning to identify certain cues will make you more able to anticipate successfully.
  • Practice drills. Spend as much time as you can practicing your starts. Repetition brings experience, and research shows experience reduces response times.
  • Controlling anxiety. Anxiety slows reaction times by adding competing neural activity to the information-processing system.
  • Mental Rehersal. Different riders prepare their minds in different ways. Some use music, some quiet solitude, but a common thread to success in sport is picturing victory in one's own mind before the event.
  • Warm up. Ensure sense organs and nervous system are ready to transmit information and the muscles to act upon it.
  • Knowledge. Response time is influenced by the uncertainty of the stimulus to the rider, i.e. his / her lack of knowledge. More practice gives more knowledge, which in turn reduces uncertainty and hence response time.

The VIP Data Logger... A Tool To Improve Response Time

The following products from Durtronix are effective tools in improving your response time at the starting gate:

  • VIP Data Logger
  • Rear-Wheel Speed sensor
  • Firefly IR Transmitter-Race Gate Ready

Be sure to purchase the Holeshot Race Gate from Risk Racing at www.riskracing.com. These products can be used in practice drills to perfect your skills as they relate to the factors that affect improved response time. You can record and track response time improvement as you develop your holeshot expertise and advance your success on the track.

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