Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Adult Education



Now, with such a catchy title you may be wondering what I am banging on about this time around? Well, as this blog is pretty much PG - with a little MA15+ from time to time you can rest assured that it isn't anything racey........

As I get back into some motorcycling, I have been thinking that I really should do some rider (re)training to freshen up my base skills. Heck, the last training I did was back in '93 or '94 when I completed a few training days at Eastern Creek, Oran Park and Amaroo Park raceways with Stay Upright and Roadsense. I got a lot out of those sessions and blind Freddy could see that I would benefit from a freshen up.




To this end I have been in discussions with Geoff James of "Confessions Of An Ageing Motorcyclist" fame regarding the seemingly excellent I.A.M. rider training program that he is a part of. Now, these discussions have usually fizzled out as I simply haven't had enough free time to make something happen... until now.
No, I am not jumping on a jet and arcing across to N.Z. for a cram IAM course (although the thought has crossed my mind). It came to my attention that the Aussie arm of the California Superbike School would be holding two training days right here in the sunshine state at Morgan Park Raceway, so I made it my mission to get to at least one of the days.

Some nice elevation changes and off camber, decreasing radius turns at far right.

CSS has been around a long time and was founded by US rider/racer Keith Code back in 1980. With notable past students such as 500GP winner Doug Chandler and multiple 500GP world champion Wayne Rainey going through the school, Keith knows what he is talking about. Namely getting measurable improvements out of his students. While his first book, "A Twist Of The Wrist" seemed a little vague and "airy" to me when I read it back in the early '90s, his second tome, "A Twist Of The Wrist II" (also made into a cheesy movie) is chock full of demonstrable actions and techniques that will make you a safer, smoother and faster rider.
His training courses are based on this book but expanded upon greatly by the professional instructors both in the classroom and on the track.

Instructor bikes.

Our day started at 0645 with entry to the Morgan Park pits where we unloaded and pushed our bikes through scrutineering. Any well maintained, registered road bike with decent tyres will pass this tech inspection so it isn't anything to sweat over. While there, a smiling instructor will check your tyre pressures are set to 30psi. (Mine were as I had a heads-up)

The hire bike fleet - all BMW S1000Rs

Spare rubbers.

From there I headed over to the check in desk in pit lane to show my riders licence and fill in the mandatory waiver forms. Here I collected my student booklet for the classroom sessions plus my bike/student number. I was going to be in the yellow group - no doubt reflecting the bravery level I was feeling right about now.........

No pressure with that number.....!

Just after 8am we were all herded into one of the meeting rooms where the instructors introduced themselves and conducted a small "tension breaking" session. This was a great idea as no doubt there was a lot of apprehension in the room. I must admit to being a tiny bit tense but mostly just a LOT excited. I was going to be doing some training, then be observed putting said training into practice - and my livelihood didn't hinge on me getting it dead right!! How  good was this going to be?!?!

We were given a run down on how the day would work, what the flags meant (plus a bit of a grizzling at from the flag marshals), how to pass and what NOT to do - lest you be removed from the day. Yep, they were running a tight ship and wouldn't be putting up with bullshit from dickheads. Note to self - don't be that guy!!

From here we promptly split up into our Level groups. CSS runs four levels of training and all riders must begin at Level 1. While this may at first glance seem like a way for them to maximise their revenue stream, it makes sure that everyone has the base level competencies to graduate to the next level of learning. Most people are poor judges of their own ability, myself included of course! Basically you can't build greatness on shaky or no foundations.

The day consisted of five twenty minute classroom sessions followed by five twenty minute track sessions where the new drill was applied. During each session our allotted instructor (Andrew) would get us to individually follow him for a lap while he demonstrated, then he would follow while you applied the technique. At the end of the session you came in, parked the bike then made your way over to the instructor for a debrief.

Me pointing to where it was working well.

With just four guys in our group we were able to get great feedback on what we were doing correctly but more importantly, what were were doing wrong.

Me being shown where it wasn't going so well. Bring it on!!

We all listened to each other's debrief as there was much to be gained from other's mistakes. After this 40-odd minutes of pumping information into our soggy old brains we then had twenty minutes to hydrate, sit and stare into the middle distance while it all (or sort of) sunk in.


I chewed the fat with the other guys in my group and felt we were all in pretty much the same boat for age and experience. We were also all making the same mistakes and learnings, proving that you really DO need to start here in Level 1 to right the wrongs of past experience.


We also got to check out the variety of other bikes in attendance. While there were quite a few sports bikes there were quite a few non track bikes. Everyone was learning and grinning like an idiot though!

A father/daughter team doing Level 2.

At midday we broke for lunch, which was provided. After munching some apples and hydrating well I found I wasn't all that hungry though the lunch was light and tasty. You certainly don't need a huge feed sitting in your stomach for the afternoon sessions.

Mmmmmm......lamington.....

The afternoon sessions continued to build on our new/improving skills that we had acquired during the morning. As we got more laps of the track under the belt and as the drills began to sink in we were getting progressively faster, yet felt safer! I was definitely not alone in having a huge grin on my face every time I came back in.

Morgy Park - 3 kilometres of smooth goodness!

During one of our rest breaks chief instructor Dave Howitt took all four of us aside for a one-on-one steering drill in the pits car park. This tied in nicely with drill number 4.

All too soon the last session was done and dusted. I had done 142km around Morgan Park which equated to 47 laps, plus the steering drill in the car park. Interestingly my old R1 still had plenty of fuel where the other three guys had all run low on fuel and had topped up their latest/greatest sports bikes. It may be 17 years old but it is still quick AND cheap to run! Morgan Park raceway was a great little track with a bit of everything. I really enjoyed the layout and the smooth surface. The fact that most of the corners are right handers put the wind up me to start with (I have always hated right handers) but I am sooo glad that this was the case. I now have right handers dialed and feel as comfortable as left handers. The instructors seemed well impressed with it too (their first visit I believe).


Now, if you were looking for a blow by blow account of what the drills were, well, I am sorry to disappoint you but for
1. - I respect CSS's intellectual property rights,
2. - you can buy the book and read for yourself what you need to do but
3. - you really need the drills put into the correct context and perhaps individualised, so that you take as much as you can away from a day like this.


For me, I actively went into the day with a mindset where I was going to take it easy and learn the drills properley. That was what I was paying for after all - not just a track day. As a result I learnt quite a bit and was reminded of quite a bit more that I had forgotten or wasn't putting into practice. I also got to really get stuck into my R1 like never before. Holy cow she goes hard!!! The suspension upgrade seems to have been well worth it with excellent handling all day.


Was it expensive? Well, yes...a bit, however I honestly feel like a new rider. Much more confident and decisive on the bike and in my own mind. As we all know, confidence is half the battle when it come to riding motorcycles.
My only criticism is that I would have liked another 5-10 minutes on the track during each session to get the drills more down pat. I can understand that for many people this might be the sweet spot for fatigue/fitness reasons (one of the guys in my group was building a huge sweat and getting arm pump-in the no brakes drills!) but with my mountain biking background I didn't feel physically challenged all day - just mentally stretched a bit but still well within my limits.
All in all, I feel it was money well spent though and I will be lining up for Level 2 just as soon as these guys come back!





Cheers.



Celebratory cold beverages.


6 comments:

  1. Bloody awesome reading Dave, well done! There's no such thing as too much training. If you don't periodically refresh, the only way is down. On my last trackday, I had to wear a pink wristband which meant the same thing as your yellow :-)

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    1. Thanks Geoff. I got there in the end....and it may have created a monster!!
      I can't wait to do Levels 2 and 3!

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  2. Ah looks like great fun plus you are upskilling. Maybe I should go back and do one of these as well. It been a long time since i've done any training as well. No training or checks means bad habit creep back in. got me thinking now......

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    1. Yeah, wouldn’t hurt. I noticed that you are turning into right handlers too early and steering too slow on you Helliar Gorge video from your Tassie trip.

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  3. I'd love to do this. I did some track and advanced riding courses when I was first learning to ride and they were money well spent but long ago now.

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    1. It had been about 25 years for me as well. All I can say is that if you can do it in Japan, DO IT! If not, try to do it when you are back home. It is so much fun and not at all intimidating. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it.

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