Dec 13, 2011
Loading Up The Inside Rail...A Visual Tutorial
George called the other evening, and we ended up talking about mat surfing...will wonders ever cease!
One of the areas we wondered off on is how important it is for mat riders to position themselves towards the inside rail to minimize the wetted surface area. It's better to load up the inside pontoons rather than distribute your weight evenly across the entire width. Of course, there are exceptions to this "rule," but it's a general truth, nonetheless.
This was one of the key elements of George's amazing riding technique, which he developed the 50's and 60's, that unlocked the potential of mat riding. You can see from the older photos of him posted above (riding striped Hodgmans and the yellow Merrin) how far he pushed this concept.
In terms of the design of 4GF mats, one of the things we've always worked on is getting the I-Beam "stagger" correct for each model...the stagger being the difference between the height of the small I-Beams that separate the pontoons and the overall thickness. When the small I-Beams are too short, the mat becomes overly sensitive to the lateral weight shifts of the rider, and makes it hard to find the sweet spot in terms of positioning. If the small I-Beams are too tall, then the rider's side-to-side weight shift produces a lessened positive effect. Which is why George's positioning on the Hodgman's was so extreme. The I-Beams were too tall, making those mats too "stiff" width-wise. Smaller I-beams would have loosened them up a bit and made them easier to ride. (This is one of the many areas of design we were able to address with the 4GF.)
The ideal stagger can only be determined by feel when test riding prototypes. No mathematical formula seems to work...each model calls for a different stagger. Mat designs with the right stagger just want to move across the wall without any fussing around on the part of the rider. You pull yourself up on the mat after catching the wave, and naturally fall into the right spot.
Anyway, I was thinking about our phone conversation from the other evening, and figured it might be a good topic to toss out there.