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PhillyFlash

Superbike School at Willow - from Level 2 to Level 3 (long)

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PhillyFlash

clap.gifGreat report, Russell! Since both of us went through Levels 1 and 2 together, along with Tool, there's not much to add to Level 2.

 

I must say that Russell took very well to riding a small sport bike at incredible speeds around a very challenging track. What he may have neglected to mention, however, was that unlike Level 1, where we only rode with other Level 1 students, Level 2 rode in the same sessions as Levels 3 and 4. Some of those students do race, or are training to race, and they were excellent riders. But there were also some Level 3 and 4 riders who were fast but sloppy, a hazard on the track at times, and some of whom actually went down (one, on a RC51, that none of us were sorry to see go). But this was the company that all of us above Level 1 kept on the track, and it could be intimidating and humbling at times. Russell showed great confidence out there, and I was amazed at the speeds at which he sometimes passed me coming out of a corner. Denny also seemed to have little difficulty passing me when he wanted to. I felt that I enjoyed Level 2, and that my riding did improve, but didn't feel as good about it as many others felt. It took me longer to get used to a small sport bike, I couldn't get myself to push the bike as hard as I would have liked in the straights, and I felt I was backing off too much and too early in the corners. Once I entered the corners I generally was smooth and steady, but I definitely didn't develop as much confidence as I needed to be able to do more. My times also showed that I was holding back.

 

Saturday night I slept well, and was in no hurry to get up Sunday morning, as I was just going to watch them at the track for an hour or two, then get an early start for home. I arrived at the track at 8:00 am, just as Keith was starting the morning introductions. In a few minutes they broke off into the different Levels, and I walked with Denny to his class, shrugging off his "Hey, dude, why don't you take Level 3?" with a "Yeah, maybe." One of our other Level 2 classmates, Laura, also said to take Level 3. As I stood there waiting for their instructor, Jason, to begin their first lesson, he made it clear there there would be no free instruction that day. If I was going to register, he'd wait; otherwise... Needless to say, I was weak-willed, gave in to my own demons, and handed over my credit card. In retrospect, it was the best decision I made all weekend.

 

Level 3 had 4 of the 5 lessons taught outside, on the bike. 4 of the 5 were taught by Keith, who is an even better instructor when he has you sitting on a bike and helps you to get the drills right. Believe me, these were not easy drills, and if you think you were out of shape for Level 2, Russell, wait til you hit Level 3.

 

The first class taught us the Hook Turn. It took the body position that we developed on the lean bike a bit further, helping us to get better body position and get lower on the bike. It felt a bit awkward, but I was starting to get it on the stationary bike in class. Class over, time to hit the track. This time, it would only be Level 3 (5 of us) and Level 4 (13 of them) students, and a bunch of mad-man speed demons, commonly known as the on-track instructors. We had a couple of orientation laps with no passing, giving us a chance to get used to the track, and to warm our tires. It felt good being on the bike again. Very few aches and pains from the Saturday sessions, and I was feeling pretty comfortable, kind of like a continuation of the previous day's rides.

 

Next, they sent us out to practice our lessons. Hook Turn, 4th gear only, no braking. No braking is always a challenge, especially when your RPMs are low, you have very little engine braking, and you're going downhill. I did a couple of laps, felt pretty comfortable, and thought I was starting to get the Hook Turn correct. My instructor, who I had not yet met, pulled up in front of me, and motioned me to follow him off of the track. He introduced himself (Derek, from Australia), asked me how I felt, and told me I looked pretty good going through the corners. The main thing he noticed, though, was that I was keeping my inside elbow out too much, rather than pointing down. He sent me out again, and I knew he'd be right behind me, watching me. Wrong. He takes an inside line on turn 2, passes me, turns around to look at me, indicates that I should follow him, and points to his elbow to remind me what to do. We hit turn 3 (a long 3-apex curve) at a pretty good clip. I shift my body to the left, knee out, and drop my elbow, and whoosh, I'm in the curve. Derek keeps rolling on the gas, so I throttle up as well. As I start to go a little wide, I drop my elbow a little lower, with my chest now on the tank, and it brings me right back into my line. Oh yeah, Derek is turning around and watching me though much of this, and gives me a big thumbs up. We go into turn 4 to the right, and again I point my elbow down, and cut a nice arc. Another thumbs up, then the signal to go ahead. He called me in again a couple laps later, we talked about what I was doing and lowered center of gravity, then back out on the track for a good session 1 run. I came back at the end of the session feeling great.

 

Getting that Hook Turn correct, and finding that I could use it to take corners much faster, helped me to gain that extra confidence I needed to push myself further that day. Later in the day, if I found myself going a little wide in a corner, I would drop my body lower and point my elbow down, and it would almost always bring me back in line without having to brake or back off the throttle. I even found that dropping down lower and applying a little more throttle gave even better results.

 

Other lessons involved the Pivot Turn (I won't even try to describe that one), moving knees side to side while always keeping one touching the tank, moving the knees while also pivoting the hips from side to side (the most physically tiring), and assessing Attack Angles. Many of the skills we learned in Level 3 addressed most of what Russell reported that he learned that he needs to work on (Russell, take Level 3 ASAP!).

 

So, what were the benefits of making a spontaneous decision to take Level 3? I found that I developed much more confidence to ride the bike the way that I wanted to. I could enter a corner quicker, get my correct lean angle sooner, and keep applying more throttle in the curve, and especially just as I was about to exit the curve. I felt I had much more speed and much greater lean angles in many of the corners on Sunday, that I kept holding back on the day before. I believed that I had greater ability to safely get myself out of trouble if I made a slight slip-up. I also learned that once you pass 10k rpms on these bikes, it's no big deal to take them to 15.5k, and regularly did that on the straights. Of course, that made corners 1, 2, and 9 much more interesting! Overall, my times dropped about 10-12 seconds, from about 2:12 on Saturday, to consistent times between 2:00 and 2:04, with a couple of 1:59s and a 1:57 (my best time Saturday was 2:08). Best of all, Denny said that I looked much more comfortable on the track on Sunday. He didn't think that I thoroughly enjoyed Saturday, and said he could see it in my riding. Sunday, he followed me for a few laps, and said that my riding had noticeably improved. While he passed me several times on Saturday, our lap times were much closer on Sunday (he was still a slight bit ahead of me), and he only passed me a couple of times. I also passed some riders, which I was unable to do on Saturday. (Of course, David Baker passed both of us at will.)

 

Does any of this apply to street riding? Yes, but not always directly. As Russell and others said, if you go out and ride on the street like you're still on the track, you're being very foolish. But many of the skills I learned will give me greater confidence and skill in handling my bike in normal situations, and hopefully greater confidence in adverse situations. There is only so much lean angle to an RT. You can take corners slower to be sure you don't scrape hard parts, or you can take corners better. I believe I learned, and improved upon, skills to be a better rider, and I think most of us can continue to develop skills to be better street riders. As I was riding in my final track session of the day, thinking I was doing pretty well, my instructor called me off and got on my case for not doing a Level 1 skill, the 2-Step. This involves turning your head before you get to the corner to see where you want the bike to go, then making your turn. He told me I wasn't fulling committing to my turn. "How can you commit to your turn if you don't look at it?!" So back on the track and consciously doing 2-Step, committing to my turn, and turning in my best times of the day. Remembering to fully look where you want the bike to be in a turn, not just ahead of you, but further through the curve, finding a line and committing to it, will get you through a corner on the street quicker and safer.

 

One illustration of how the instructions we received can apply to street riding. I was following another rider down the straightaway toward a blind chicane over a rise, both of us pretty much wide open. I had found several marks to help me get lined up in advance, and if I had the angle correct, I'd always be lined up for the chicane. So I hit my marks, I see the rider just ahead of me go over the rise, I crest the hill and see that I'm in the perfect spot for the chicane with the other rider slightly ahead of me, just going through the chicane. I'm working hard on no or minimal brakes through the chicane and corner 9 (a little dog-leg left), so I go through the chicane at a pretty good clip. I line up and start to enter 9 when I see the rider ahead of me blow the curve half-way through, and go riding off into the dirt. In an instant, I flash back to the previous day's lesson about keeping my focus broad, realize that his error is not a threat to me (he's already off the track), immediately avoid looking at him, nail turn 9 and set up for turn 10, and he was already long gone from my mind. I have no idea if he went down. I didn't even think about it again until I was having dinner with Tool later that night and it just popped into my head. It's a sweet feeling knowing that in the past I may have watched him longer than I did, slowed down, and probably would have messed up my own line. Anyone who doesn't think that skills learned in the school don't transfer well to the street should think about how many times a rider goes down or off the road, and the errors that the next riders make by fixating on that rider. The broader perspective of avoiding narrowing your focus on a downed rider (or some other incident or obstacle) and instead, focusing on the broader picture of your own lines, safe passage through the area, what else is happening around you, etc., definitely can save you on the street.

 

The school is hard work, but fun, and truly a thrill when the skills all start coming together and you find yourself riding in ways that were beyond realization just a few hours earlier. Hope we can get another big group together to do this in the future. It's even more fun when you experience it with friends. thumbsup.gif

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swmckinley

Wow Howard...way to go clap.gif Great story, you already be fast buddy... now there will be no catching you. Aren't trackdays a hoot !!!! Keep up the good work

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BrianT

Nice write up. Congrats on the improvement. Now you're gonna smoke me too LOL. Guess I better hurry up and start catching up on the levels just to keep up with this crowd.

 

I already looked at the schedule for local classes. There's Willow in less than 3 weeks (I'm out of town so it's out for me), then June at Willow and then September has both Firebird and Willow. Looks like I'm aiming for June.

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russell_bynum

That's awesome, Howard!!

 

I've ridden with you many times and you always have this confidence about your riding. The only two exceptions were the last Torrey before we got new tires, and Saturday. You were riding well, but you were not comitting to the turns like you normally do. It sounds like Level 3 fixed that and you're back to your same hoon self. thumbsup.gif

 

As for Denny...doesn't he make it look so effortless? I mean...he's not a little guy, but it always looks like moving around on the bike is just no big deal to him.

 

As much as I'd like to, there's basically no possibility of me getting back to the track for at least a couple of months, so in the meantime, I'm going to work on my physical conditioning, and I'll practice what I can on the RT.

 

Then...level 3, here I come. grin.gif

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StretchMark

Nice writeup Howard! 10-12 seconds is a huge improvement.

Way to go thumbsup.gif

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JerryMather

I'm glad you guys enjoyed yourselves and shared your feelings about this with us.

Now that you've been to a class or two you might want to check with one of these track promoters to get on a track with instructors for a lot less money. These guys all run trackdays in Calif.

 

www.clubdesmo.com

www.FastrackRiders.com

DP Racing

Speedyard

CanyonStraffers

Zoom-Zoom

Pacific Track Time

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AdventurePoser

Nice write up, Howard...I guess I'll just have to add your name to the list of riders that have to wait for me at the next stop... grin.gifgrin.gif

 

Steve in So Cal

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leikam

For what it's worth, I got my falco from the guy who runs Zoom Zoom and will probably go to one of his track days this year.

 

Their site is here: http://zoomzoomtrackdays.com/

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leikam

Very cool, Howard. It sounds like it wouldn't have been nearly as good a time if you had left on Sunday.

 

For what it's worth, I got my falco from the guy who runs Zoom Zoom and will probably be going to one of his track days this year (in the fall most likely).

 

http://zoomzoomtrackdays.com/

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David

Good write-up, Howard. I was really glad that you stayed around for that second day. I sensed that you were a little disappointed at the end of the first, but that translated into a real learning mission the second day. Bravo.

 

So, let's see--we've ridden together now in Arizona, Utah, Texas, and California. You need to start planning to take some time off and join us for El Paseo some time. smile.gif The speeds are down in the Smoky Mountains, and I prefer that, but the riding is very technical and demanding. You'd enjoy it. The scenery ain't bad, either.

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JerryMather

Copyright 2004, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.

 

Jason Pridmore crashed and was injured during practice at a CCS Regional event on the Streets of Willow course at Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, California early Saturday afternoon.

 

Pridmore suffered a Grade 3+ AC joint separation of his right shoulder as well as a suspected broken foot.

 

Pridmore highsided his GSX-R1000 in what is known as the bowl turn, a banked 180-degree right-hander taken in third gear.

 

After being attended to by paramedics, Pridmore was loaded into a car and driven by a friend to well-known orthopedic surgeon Art Ting's Fremont, California clinic, about 300 miles from Willow Springs.

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