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Vulfy 05-06-2012 08:31 PM

Been practicing for a little bit now.

Just in case if you are not familiar with what it is, its basically an obstacle course, very similar to Cop's rodeos but done on any bike (light 250 are preferred ) and with A LOT more speed. I like to compare it as what go-carting is to formula one, so is gymkhana is to GP. Seems it originated in Japan. Lots of videos of it on YouTube, but your best bet is to actually translate Gymkhana into Japanese and post that into a search. Adding "Dunlop" also helps, as they are a big sponsor over there.
It seems there was an attempt to bring this sport to USA under BattleTrax but its still a bit different.

Given my nature of keeping my two wheels firmly on the pavement (for now) instead of gravel, grass and any other mother Earth's covers, I finally found something to do on my bike, other than going from point A to point B.

Gymkhana manages to combine a lot of good things, in a very Urban friendly package.
A parking lot gives me the ability to race a defined course.
Courses are not set in stone, so with my own imagination I can accommodate to the size of the parking lot, or my own needs and practice.
Its TONS of fun.
No more chicken strips. Seriously, I'm grinding foot-pegs on my Triple... on a parking lot, at parking lot speeds!
I'm developing and honing my riding abilities, such as general control of the bike, tight turns, hard acceleration and hard braking, tire slippage, proper posture on the bike, lean angles, etc.
Its relatively cheap compared to a track day.
Lower speeds compared to the track, and riders riding the course one a time, makes it much safer, so even if you dump a bike its minor damage to you and your equipment.
Even though some bikes perform better at this, there is no discrimination and you can do amazing things on heaviest of bikes.

So far so good.

Few things to be aware of.

Cops and rangers might not like what you are doing, so I explain, and if they insist on me leaving, I leave.
Private parking lot security might not like this either. If they ask me to leave after I explain that I'm not stunting or causing mayhem, I leave.
Beware of cars, even on parking lot. I honestly am amazed how some people manage to get their license and if they have a license at all.
Beware of pedestrians on parking lot; had two guys just walk through my course while I was riding it. It wasn't a "power walk" as in "fuck you, I'll walk where I want, you have no business doing what you do, here". It was just two guys chatting with each other, walking THROUGH the course, giving me thumbs up. Sigh... At least they were friendly.
Pavement is far from racetrack pavement quality. Potholes, sand, garbage, its all there. Have to clean up a bit before each session.
Parking lots are busy during the day. No way around it, so I try to get most of my practice either later at night (cops get REALLY suspicious in later hours) or early in the morning pre-dawn. Morning runs are much better, as there are virtually no cars. Cops don't care. No drunk or partying teenagers on SUVs, compared to evenings. Its pretty cool, and by the time I'm exhausted and ready to head home, parking lot starts to fill up and it gets warmer.

Gymkhana might actually get me washboard abs. I'm not joking, throwing my bike around from side to side, pushing with my knees, constant hard acceleration and hard braking puts a toll on my core muscles. I've been doing this for a very short time so far, but after each session I feel like I'm going home from a gym.

The only problem is lack of information on technique. The closest is probably Lee Park's "Total control" book and course. I have the book but didn't take the course yet. Speeds are not racetrack speeds, and there are a lot of really tight 8's and u-turns. At the same time, to get best time, you are really trying to gas it in the straights, between those tight turns, so you are constantly either accelerating, or braking, or grinding foot pegs.

Here is the sample of a good Gymkhana rider in Japan.

And here are my "lazy" turns and twists. I'm putting lazy in quotes, as it feels a lot more intense on the bike. :ricky but doesn't look nearly as dare-devilish from outside. :muutt

If anybody in my area (NYC) is interested in trying this, I'd be happy to ride with you, just let me know.

birds 05-06-2012 09:47 PM

I'm definitely interested in trying this. What days do you usually do this?

Snapper 05-07-2012 07:27 AM

I love watching this stuff it's very cool and takes an amazing amount of bike control and skill to do well.

One thing that worries me is if it becomes too "second nature" - the skills used here are reasonably opposite of what you need at only slightly higher speeds on the road. Below about 15mph, you steer into a turn rather than countersteer, and you also counterweight (push the bike down) rather than hang-off on the inside.

Vulfy 05-07-2012 07:35 AM

It translates to street pretty well IMHO. At higher speeds you are still hanging off the bike, and even going into the turn, I'm finding myself hanging off up to a moment where I need to start counterbalancing it, and its a pretty fluid motion, you just feel for what bike is doing under you. As I understand Gymkhana is based on street riding skills that they teach in Japan in their MSF equivalent classes, so its not some specific riding technique that is used JUST for Gymkhana. Also their cops do the same Gymkhana exercises and have competitions as well. So the base of the skills is still for the street riding, with a sport of beating best time on a course, thrown on top of it.

Oilybimmer 05-07-2012 11:20 AM

It looks great, heavy on skills and reasonably easy on the bike, I would really like to try it.

GoGoGavin41 05-07-2012 11:50 AM

I would like to know how these guys (on bikes and in cars) are able to remember the path you're supposed to take. It just doesn't seem like an intuitive course to me, maybe it'd look different while you're actually riding it.

MotoMind 05-07-2012 11:52 AM

This is a great course to run in a parking lot. You can set it up with one of those long hand-crank tape measures from the hardware store, plus low soccer cones (don't get the tall ones). It works well at half-size, but a very different experience.

You can get a set of cheap track timers on ebay for under $100:

(You'll need that kit plus one more beacon, since you need 180 degree coverage to cover start and finish.)

EAGuy 05-07-2012 11:56 AM

Gymkhana training...
I had the good fortune to meet a gymkhana + trials riding champ, Yoshi, from Japan who had settled in the Toronto area. Yoshi was my instructor for my riding course some years ago and taught me some low speed skills after the training day was over. We used the cones & markers from the training course, did some tight corners, tight slaloms and then tried to see who could spend the most time going from A to B in the slalom. Yoshi had me beat by a good few minutes while he just kept the bike balanced at a stop between cones for ages. I've been itching to commit more time into gymkhana riding for years since and pestering him to start running lessons!

It's wickedly fun!

ohgood 05-07-2012 11:58 AM


Originally Posted by GoGoGavin41 (Post 18632151)
I would like to know how these guys (on bikes and in cars) are able to remember the path you're supposed to take. It just doesn't seem like an intuitive course to me, maybe it'd look different while you're actually riding it.

After a few go rounds, you get it. Orange cone = right turn, blue cone= left, yellow= circle.

Gymkhana is the most fun you can have on two wheels without dirt OR a vagina.

The guys at have really put on great events.

Check it !

ohgood 05-07-2012 12:07 PM

The best things about GK is the skills built are easily used and improved on in many different situations. On road, off road, hazardous conditions, or just going for milk, you will feel more confidant and relaxed in tight turns no matter the obstacle.

Off road I've noticed several times there was better balance, better smoothness, and a sweeter line after lots of GK practice.

Its doesn't have to take 4 hours out of your day either. An empty lot, field, or trail is a perfect excuse to slip the clutch and drag some rear (brakes) to find a happier riding position and where the traction really is.

For instance:

I wouldn't suggest using bricks with street tires ;-) but it works well to reinforce balance on my drz.

Try it out. I promise you'll like it.

Vulfy 05-07-2012 12:19 PM

MotoMind: awesome, thanks for a quick/easy course. Will set it up next time. I had a more involved one, but it was a bit slow due to a lot of tight turns at close distances.
I also found this on Amazon, which I'm thinking of ordering

Pretty good price, and good reviews.

OhGood: yeah I saw their page, looks like they are on the right track with it.

Oh, one thing to keep in mind, is that these are not your typical parking lot, SLOW exercises. The point is to beat your or your oponent's best lap time, so at the end with more and more skill and confidence you are hauling ass through the course. That is the main difference that makes Gymkhana so appealing to me. I used to do slow exercises when I was just starting out, but it got boring really quickly. With this, you constanlty running against a timer, and the exercises are a lot more extreme as you accelerating and braking hard all the time, as well as try and turn as fast as possible.

It IS a lot of fun! :D

MotoMind 05-07-2012 12:50 PM

Vulfy, the race timer you posted is the exact same one that I linked, just resold by "Slip angle Racing." I doubt they have any stock, they probably just drop ship it from China anyway. IMO, I would order directly from dragonwarrier on eBay. They even worked with me on shipping arrangements, got it in no time at all.

Link again to the original listing for "Bestlap" timers:

Keep in mind that the course has you starting and finishing on opposite sides of the start cone, so you need TWO beacons set up back-to-back so your receiver has something to pick up on both sides of the cone. (The start cone needs to be set back as shown. if you put the beacons on cone 1 the timer will pick up the IR signal when you go around 4-1-5.)

Just buy one additional beacon, or even better, get two of those transmitter/timer sets so you can have fun with a friend.

Have fun, the course is a serious ball-buster. 4-1-5 will have you testing the limits of traction in a big arc, 4 (second pass) requires the right entry angle, and 3 (second pass) is just a bitch of a 270...then it's WOT to the finish.

Vulfy 05-07-2012 01:23 PM


Thank you!

MotoMind 05-07-2012 01:43 PM

You're quite welcome. If you start throwing down some times, post them here!

I did have the idea of an online leaderboard bouncing around my head for a while. All you need is a standard, easy to set up course, an inexpensive timing system, and a bunch of crazy people. Check, check...and check?

Honor system of course, though if someone puts a time down that's way out there everyone will want to video of the godlike technique.

dredman 05-07-2012 01:44 PM

At AMGRASS we focus on low-speed skills building as well as the competitive aspect. It is really shocking that 95% of the folks that come out for the 1st time to an event cannot do a simple figure-8, for whatever reason on whatever bike. The standard American highway/roadway is 24 feet wide, and most riders we see cannot make a u-turn in that distance. Try it, it is harder than you think, and yet an essential skill (the ability to maneuver your bike at low speeds) that MOST riders do not have

American Motorcycle Gymkhana emphasizes skill building and practice, and once you build your skill, you can compete with yourself and others in the timed events. Folks use the word "racing", but the importance is improving your time, and your skill, and seeing that you can ALWAYS improve.

The best thing about gymkhana, as I believe someone mentioned already, is:
As long as you have a empty lot, and some plastic cups, or tennis balls and a few minutes, you can greatly improve your skills. It is a blast running figure-8's by yourself, with a buddy, or 50 people. It is amazing how fast your riding improves.

The hardest thing we do is convince people to get out on the course - it seems they are terrified to learn they really don't know how to ride. :eek1

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