I have so much running through my mind on the way to the Buttonwillow Raceway Park for my Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool classes.
Pulling into Buttonwillow’s entry gates, an overwhelming feeling of excitement and nervousness ran through me. I am here to learn and grow as a rider, so I cannot wait for what is in store! The friendly staff immediately greeted me, then brought me in to register and settle into the environment.
I brought a 2022 Suzuki GSX-R600 test bike to ride, a significant step up from my current bike at home—a 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300. I also had a complete wardrobe of track-ready apparel from Dainese and AGV. Note that any brand is welcome at the school, and you can rent a motorcycle if you are from out of the area, or prefer to not ride your own motorcycle. Also, because it is a school and not a track day, I didn’t need to make any modifications to the GSX-R600.
Fully prepared for a great couple of days full of learning, I still felt hesitant, coming from a background of a little over a year of riding and only a handful of track days as my experience.
On the first day, we were brought together as one whole YCRS ChampSchool class to discuss some riding basics, plus an overall view of the course over the next couple of days. Next, we migrated outside together to learn all about 100 Points of Grip.
The first demonstration is by Lead Instructor Chris Peris. He explained how traction is important in different conditions of roads and tires, using a front tire as a teaching tool. He honed in two main points—brake pressure and lean angle.
After demonstrating the importance of lean angle and brake pressure, Senior Instructor Eziah Davis moved in to show the importance of brake pressure to the front and rear tires while riding to achieve a specific result and the concept of “radius=mph”.
With this information, we start to understand the concepts, and the demonstrations help us bring these key points together. One of my favorite demonstrations was being a passenger in a minivan with a few classmates and an instructor. We were driven around the track and shown how much brake pressure we could apply and the lines we would be following. I also realized how much speed we picked up and how hard we could brake in a full minivan.
Next, we were separated into groups, based on experience and abilities, then assigned an instructor. Chris was my group’s instructor, and out we went for our first session to get a feel for our bikes and apply the information we had acquired so far.
After our first session, we returned to the classroom to discuss our on-track concerns. With clarification from Chris and Eziah, we were back out on track for further drills. The teaching style was the same throughout the day—we came in as a class to discuss our next set of skills and concepts to learn. Then, we returned to the track and practice, practice, practice.
After a great first day filled with tons of information and reviewing from-behind videos of our riding, we concluded the night with a great dinner full of laughter as we wound down for the second day of the Yamaha Champions Riding School. The instructors put their time and effort into the ChampSchool, and you can feel how dedicated and passionate they are about teaching and guiding each student.
That night, all of the information was stirring through my mind. So many new ideas were introduced to me, and understanding them was simple, yet the mental block was more apparent in some of the drills we performed that day. Nick told us all to review the videos of ourselves that night before bed and be ready to work on more the following day.
The next morning, we all started our day with breakfast and stretching to get our bodies ready for the day. On the second day, we discussed more of the track’s layout—the three types of corners we encounter, how to ride them, and other skill sets to understand our lines and increase our safety.
One of my favorite drills we went over was riding to the pointy end of the cones. This specific drill showed us the possible dangers we may face on-track or on the street. All the instructors were spread out throughout the circuit. After we passed all of them, the instructors moved the cones to simulate other potential hazards we may face on the street and track, and how quickly we must react during those situations. As the exercise continued, I became much more aware of my surroundings, rather than just following the lines or person in front of me.
To conclude our second day, the students came together and watched every rider’s second end-of-day riding video. It was incredible to see how each of us ended the first day, and how much we learned and applied by the end of the second day.
The feeling you get after a successful two full days of drills, instructing, taping, and classroom time is incredible. The best thing about this ChampSchool was it applied to all levels of riding—from a rider’s first day out on a racetrack to professional racers on a racing team. Being a part of everyone’s successes at the end of those two days validated our experiences and built on our increased confidence and safety in our riding.
Jumping onto the GSXR-600 from my Ninja 300 was also such a different experience on-track. Most of the rules still apply, but just a different overall feel on the bike was something that took time to overcome. I am more comfortable on my 300 due to its maneuverability and tighter ergonomics. However, I enjoyed learning more on the 600 to understand more concepts such as trail braking into corners and the amount of speed required to successfully trail brake.
An essential part of being able to focus on learning is feeling safe. I had outstanding safety gear, from head to toe. My everyday Shoei is great, but it does not compare to the comfortability and aerodynamic technology the iridium/carbon-fiber AGV Pista GP RR helmet has.
The Dainese Misano 2 D-Air Lady suit—equipped with the D-Air airbag system, which I, fortunately, didn’t need—made me feel even more protected out on track. The Dainese Carbon D1 Long gloves enhanced that feeling. One of the features I did not try out was the water kit that was equipped inside the Misano 2 suit and connected to the AGV helmet—it wasn’t hot enough to need that.
A great feeling was the way the Dainese boots fit me, and the break-in period was non-existent. Coming from Sedici boots to the Dainese Nexus 2 Lady boots was a game-changer. Even after the handful of track days I had with the Sedici boots, I noticed the Sedici boots had still not broken in as comfortably and quickly as the Dainese boots did instantly.
Leading up to the in-person experience of Yamaha Champions Riding School, we all were able to review and learn the upcoming topics through the ChampU: The Core Curriculum online program it offers. Studying and being quizzed on these topics enhances the in-person training we received.
The best part of the Yamaha Champions Riding School is the continuing education for students. YCRS is constantly updating and evolving its ChampU online program. Another class they offer for graduating students of the two-day ChampSchool is the ChampGrad program. To be able to apply and practice all the skills and knowledge from ChampSchool and then carry them over to more in-depth training tailored even more specifically for your needs is something I will definitely be signing up for in the future. Speaking to one of my fellow ChampSchool student/friend, who also is a professional racer, we already discussed planning the ChampGrad curriculum. The program is a 2:1 semi-private setting and tailored more to your needs after addressing the fundamentals taught in ChampSchool.
With all the information we were provided and taught, I highly recommend Yamaha Champions Riding School for all levels of riders. The topics were helpful for all riders and to be able to apply and continue to grow in your personal riding is something worth learning. I started riding motorcycles a little over a year ago, with no prior experience. If I had known about ChampSchool and its curriculum, I would have signed up much sooner.
YCRS asked us to include this 10 percent off coupon code, which we make zero dollars from: UltimateU
Don’t miss Senior Editor Nic de Sena’s experienced-rider perspective on the Yamaha Champions Riding School
- Helmet: AGV Pista GP RR
- Suit: Dainese Misano 2 D-Air Lady
- Gloves: Dainese Carbon D1 Long
- Boots: Dainese Nexus 2 Lady