Drills, Skills and Thrills
If there’s one thing that continues to concern me in the motorcycle world, it’s the number of enthusiasts all too willing and eager to impart their knowledge about how to ride a motorcycle to their friends. Although they mean well, they often unwittingly pass along a plethora of ill advice that can lead to disaster. With the number of training and riding centers that have sprung up during the past few decades of growth in the motorcycle industry, it’s truly a disservice to succumb to your pal’s offerings and not partake in a professional school with the best professional guidance.
One of these top-flight schools is the all-new Skip Barber Superbike School that takes place on the spectacular Mazda Raceway (aka; Laguna Seca) in Monterey, California. The two-day school is sponsored by KTM and utilizes the Austrian brand’s potent street machines (from the 690 Duke and 990 Super Duke, to the superlative 1190 RC8) to tackle the sublime asphalt of this world class circuit through a number of intense riding drills, all focused on helping students¬¬-from a wide range of experience and ability levels-to perfect their skills.
Chief instructor, Jeff Haney (former factory roadracer and coach to some of roadracing’s top stars), has handpicked an impressive staff of qualified riders/racers. Their mission is to guide students through a series of exercises on track to help with bike control and riding technique, all aimed at making students more comfortable and confident, and therefore, safer, better riders.
A regimented series of drills has been created to perfect bike control in a variety of situations. The training involves a lot of stop and starts in specific areas of the track in order for the student to understand the physics of traction at various lean angles and the influence of rider inputs. These abbreviated sessions allow instructors to rapidly download feedback and imprint the proper technique on the student in order to eliminate the possibility of setting bad habits into play. A large part of the curriculum is dedicated to choosing lines and setting up the most efficient circuit of the track (these skills can be translated to not only other race circuits but can also help on the street by allowing riders to choose safe lines of sight through corners).
Perhaps one of the biggest points to address is that the course is not designed solely for race-minded individuals. It’s just a simple fact that the best place to teach pavement riding skills is on a closed circuit, devoid of traffic, dirt, animals, and all sorts of other distractions. The basic concept of the school is to first make riders safer and more comfortable. That said, if a rider’s interest is in building skill toward a racing career or to become a serious track day rider, the instructors are ready to provide guidance in equal measure. The instructors are quite good at recognizing each individual student’s needs and desires, adjusting their approach and teaching to suit. It is important to note that, regardless of skill level, there is a place for all riders at the Skip Barber school and, most importantly, every rider will walk away with a better understanding of how to ride a motorcycle.
One fantastic element to the Skip Barber Superbike School is the fact that students spend two days on the world famous Mazda Raceway/Laguna Seca roadrace circuit, home to the American round of the RedBull MotoGP. Attendees get to experience the full glamour of riding the same asphalt as Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden, right down to the sensational drop down through the famous "corkscrew."
The Skip Barber Superbike School Powered by KTM provides two days of on-track and classroom work, a variety of KTM motorcycles, and expert instruction with a decent ratio of teacher to students to ensure the most out of the course. Cost is $2,599. Damage liability reduction insurance is available, as are riding leathers, boots, gloves and helmet for an addition fee.
Go to www.skipbarbersuperbikeschool.com for class schedules and additional information.