Tech Tips - To Lean or Not To Lean
-as seen in The Pulse Newsletter, August 2017-
You hook up to the sled, rev your engine, and everything promises a great pull! Then, halfway down the track, your tractor suddenly has a mind of its own and veers off to the side...and no matter what you do, it just keeps going where you don’t want it to go! Bummer!
As a puller, you have total control of your tractor, but you may not be taking full advantage of your assets. A tractor can have all the power in the world, but if it isn’t balanced, or weighted optimally, you’ll probably lose more than you’ll win.
Striking the perfect balance is tricky, depending on the bite, or traction of the track...the air pressure in your tires...and the power of your engine, just to mention the few obvious things. But even more important is how you drive! Leaning, or shifting your body weight as you pull, is crucial to a good pull...and will help get those few more precious inches, putting you at the head of the pack.
So, how do you lean...and when? Some pullers just do it right automatically - by instinct. These lucky guys don’t have to think about it. Most people, however, need to learn to feel the tractor and how it responds to a shift in weight. And that just takes practice.
To utilize your body weight, there are some specific points you need to keep in mind:
· Never lift your bottom off the seat or stand on the tractor during your pull. You will be disqualified if you do so.
· Never let go of the steering wheel. You will be disqualified if you do so. At least one hand must remain on the steering wheel at all times.
· Popping a wheeling and going down the track with the nose of your tractor in the air may look cool, but you won’t win many pulls with this strategy.
· In the perfect pull, neither the nose nor the rear of the tractor should be heavy, or over-weighted. During your pull, the front wheels of your tractor should slightly graze the ground, only coming up intermittently a few inches.
· STEERING your tractor...and LEANING (shifting your weight) are the only ways of controlling where your tractor goes during a pull.
*STEERING - when the front wheels leave the ground during a pull, most pullers forget about steering, but that’s the wrong thing to do. Always steer where you want the tractor to go because sooner or later, your front wheels are going to hit the ground. Why not be ready and have the wheels in the right direction? Steering at all times will ensure your best pull.
*LEANING - there are essentially 4 obvious ways to lean: forward, back, right and left. Remember, when you lean, you are shifting weight to the direction you are leaning and this action puts more weight, thus more traction, on the part of the tractor you are leaning toward. And remember: if you don’t weigh much, lean quickly and as far as is safe. If you weigh a lot, shift your weight smoothly and slowly.
· LEANING FORWARD - most pullers have this one down pat. Practically everyone has lifted the front tractor wheels off the ground during a pull. If your wheels go up, your pull is not efficient. Your first priority should be to get the front wheels on the ground again as soon as possible. The best way to accomplish this is to lean forward, since the tractor needs more weight on its nose. Most pullers react well and don’t have a problem sensing this feel of the tractor under them.
· LEANING BACKWARD - during your pull, if you see your tractor’s nose continuously hugging the ground, you may have too much weight on the front of the tractor. You can correct this while you’re pulling...by simply leaning back. Shifting your weight back will put more weight on the back tires, while lightening the nose. When the nose just grazes the ground, stop moving your body and further adjust your leaning during the pull when necessary.
· LEANING LEFT OR RIGHT - this is probably the most difficult leaning maneuver to master. Some pullers just seem to feel the tractor and do it right, but a lot of pullers tend to lean incorrectly. Let’s say your tractor is headed to the right and you want to bring it back to the center. For whatever reason (track condition or weights on the tractor) when your tractor veers to the right, you are losing traction on your right tires, therefore, you need more weight on your right side. To correct your tractors direction - lean to the right. This puts more weight, thus more traction, on your right side tires...and don’t forget to steer. More often than not, this simple action will bring your tractor back to the center of the track.
++ Remember this simple rule: When your tractor is going where you don’t want it to - LEAN THE WAY IT IS GOING. It might sound backwards, but it isn’t. Leaning shifts traction from one side to the other, and once you have traction on the run-away side, the back tire will bring the tractor back in alignment on the track. <If your tractor is going too far right, lean right. If your tractor is going too far left, lean left.> And don’t forget to steer!
Practice leaning at home to familiarize yourself with the feel of the tractor when you shift your weight.
NOTE: Many factors, like the weight of the tractor, kind of tires, tire pressure, and free-weight distribution also plays a role in how efficiently your tractor pulls.
If you have questions, ask your fellow-pullers, the sled-operator or any track official for help.
-end of tech tip-