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Superbike school - an excellent adventure - long


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We'd been planning this for some time now and it finally happened - Keith Code's Superbike school on Watkins Glen International Raceway. To say this was an awesome experience would be the most gross of understatements. If you want to learn cornering and want to have a total blast in the process, this is it. The 4 of us will be talking about this for some time to come.


The 4 of us include me, Gerry (Gryerson), Dan(TXS2008), and David (venturevoodo). David and I rode over Sunday. Gerry and Dan drove up Sunday late afternoon.


Our ride up was in wet damp weather, up the Delaware river east side, through part of the Catskills and other interesting roads David dug up for us. It was wet, nasty, and simply beautiful and other than getting pretty wet (so much for the get-wet-dry-out-later point of view). Guess this works better if in fact it is going to stop raining. On the other hand, it definitely helps to get the rain gear on before you get wet (note to self ). David taught me a couple of things about riding with someone about passing. He was a great guy to ride with. Little did I know that out +15-20 in the rain was tame for him. The guy simply wouldn't stop shooting past me on the track. More about that later. We had a simply wonderful 6 hour ride up.


Only one minor mishap. I think I read about being careful about stopping on the shoulder and placement of the right foot. Wish I'd though about it before I put my right foot down on the edge of the apron. I slipped off, hit the wet grass and yup, you can guess the rest of the story. She was laying seat down and fortunately a motorist stopped to help because it took 3 of us to get her up. Just scratches and a bruised ego and off we were on the start of our excellent adventure.


I'd not met David before, nice guy for a young whipper-snapper. Gerry and Dan met us at the motel. I'd not met Gerry either (had ridden with Dan a couple of times). So we all talked, shared some beer Gerry and Dan brought and got to know each other. Gerry had been to this school before so he gave us the scoop but even that was totally inadequate to describe the adventure we were about to experience. Turns out David races various cars (which I could not possibly describe), so knows the track and a good bit about racing in general.




We had great weather, topping out in the mid 70's and sunny. Don't know how it could have been better weather.


The following are some of the pics of the track area:








The following pics are of us getting ready to ride. The others rented leathers from the school. I rode in my AirFlow 2. The criteria was 1-piece or they had to zip together, so I was OK, but could not use my Cycleport gear as they don't zip.






The thing about this school is they really have their act together. They give us some basic information about the track, safety, take us our for a couple of single file pace laps to get acquainted with the track, we meet our individual instructors (3 students to 1 instructor) we then go out with only a few instructions. 4th gear, no brakes, passing allowed with 6 - 8 foot margin, and of course, rider in front has the right of way. Someone else will have to describe the bikes, but they felt like they weighed less than 300 pounds and were red lined at about 16,000.


I got on mine and pulled it up to the start line. As I eased out the clutch for the first time, and I do mean eased, the darn thing jumped and wanted to go. I got it to the start line and was now wondering what the heck I was doing out there. I'm a grandfather for heaven sake. Then we started out and I was very sure I had no business being there, but by the end of the first few laps, the fun got real.


Then we started the classes. The routine was talk about a cornering skill, go on the track and practice it. And of course one simply must pass someone if the opportunity presents itself. And the long straight away into turn 1 you really wind it out. My best lap (2.4 miles) was 2:15. By the end of the day it was simply incredible the way the track felt. Applying the things we'd been taught made all the difference in the way I felt out there even if the best time on the final segment was only :06 better at 2:09.


Monday night, David had arranged dinner at a friends restaurant, so we cleaned up, checked voice mail, called spouses and went out to dinner. Another totally excellent experience (darn this trip just gets better and better). David will have to tell you about the restaurant, but just let it be said, I don't see how it could have been better. Great company, great food, great talk about our excellent day, then to bed where we all died.


But what a difference a day makes. Sure we are getting more familiar with the track and the little powerful bikes and that's certainly a factor. More class and track with most of my laps in the 1:50's with a best time of 1:55. So overall a solid :20 improvement on the 2.4 miles. BUT, much more than that I felt confident in what I was doing. The things we learned work. Did I mention this was awesome? It's simply not an emphatic enough word to describe what we experienced.


Of course we all bought shirts, hats, pins and pictures from the guy doing the track pics. The 2 I got follow:


I didn't get to make a move on anyone the first day. And off course I saw David quite a bit as he went buy. Dan and I managed to stay on the same lap for 2 days I think. Gerry was in another group, so I didn't get to see him pass me.


The second day was another story. David, of course, kept going by me like I was cruising a HD, and a couple of other very good riders but I'd improved enough that I had the opportunity to do some of my own. The problem with this is that I was having to move out of my "sweet line" to do it, and actually that was a good thing - it made me use most of the stuff I'd learned to pull it off. This picture was an "S" curve and you really have to flick the bike the make it through - quick right, quick left, quick right into a sweeping long down-hill 180 degree turn. You can't see the exit point until you're over half way through it.




As you're coming through this long 180 degree turn, there is a long concrete patch which had me spooked into day 2. But I finally quit the mind job I was doing on myself, applied what I'd been told and BAM, it was mine. The following picture shows me going over the dreaded patch with no worry. Actually, on one lap, I had to drop low to pass a guy and ended up riding the seam of the patch for a long way. I could feel the bike wiggle beneath me and I could feel the front wheel move around in my now-acquire-loose-hold on the handle bars, but the bike did what it was built to do and simply rode up the hill.




We each got about 70-80 laps, Gerry's group did more than that, so we got almost 200 miles of track work. Is that cool or what?


Gerry and Dan drove home and David rode home Tuesday night. They had business things to do Wednesday. I stayed over and rode back Wednesday, getting home about 12:30. I let everyone know I was home and the rest of the day was spent by us swapping email about our excellent adventure and started planning the next one.


Both David and I commented about our rides home and how different they were. The level of confidence, and remember David was already an excellent and very experienced rider, ability to control the RT with more ease and more relaxed. One thing I noticed was that while I was coming down a stretch of interstate where I was close to the dividing wall and clocking 90-95, I felt like I was on a Sunday cruise compared to what it was like coming down the front straight into turn 1. While I have no idea how fast we were going, we were really moving through there. Maybe it's better I don't know and for sure it's a good idea Jackie (SO) doesn't.


Excellent adventure - YOU BET. Do it again - YOU BET, many more times. Recommend it - what do you think?


I've run on enough, the others can now post their own comments. If we are lucky Gerry may even chime in. smile.gif


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... while I was coming down a stretch of interstate where I was close to the dividing wall and clocking 90-95, I felt like I was on a Sunday cruise compared to what it was like coming down the front straight into turn 1.


Sounds like you're finally ready for a little lane splitting on the West Side Highway??? wink.gif Glad you guys had such a great time. Report well done. Great pics. I'm jealous.

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What a great experience!


Just out of curiosity...why ride the school bikes instead of your RT's? My thinking has been that when I do that, I'll ride my bike since everything will immediately apply to my daily rides. I know I won't be turning the lap times that the ZXwhatevers are, but it's MY bike.


What was the reasoning behind riding theirs?


Dang...that looks fun! smile.gif

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A couple of reasons why I chose their bike, a Kawasaki Ninja 600. My feeling in choosing their bike is 1. that they are designed for the intended purpose more than an RT and would provide the right vehicle for learning. Also 2. I had it in the back of my mind that their is a possibility that the bike might end up getting hurt in which case the damage limitation is $700 I think. This is less than the possible damage to an RT. 3. I thought it would be fun to ride a race bike and it was a blast. The ninja was a little small but you get used to it very quickly.


When I do levels 3 and 4 in the Spring I will use their bike again and just apply the knowledge to the RT. I agree that it would be fun to take the RT on a track and would like to do that too.


This might get addictive!

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I was going to do just that. Others suggested that it would be easier and more fun to use their bikes. The prep work for your bike includes new tires, so the approx $150/day additional to ride their bike is worth it from a cost point of view.


But, from a practical point of view, we are learning cornering skills and those skills transfers to any bike. And that's what we were they for, at least in the beginning. Then we found out what a total blast it was going to be. So, hey a multi-win for sure. Great company, great information, total freakin blast. Geez, I got work to do today and all I want to do in minimize all my applications so I can look at my new screen background smile.gif and plan the next one.


And, while the pictures don't seem to show it, I know darn well that I've never had my RT over as far as I did that ZX. I'd have worn off a good part of my center stand smile.gif



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In reply to:

I think I read about being careful about stopping on the shoulder and placement of the right foot. Wish I'd though about it before I put my right foot down on the edge of the apron.


Take a good look at my avatar laugh.gif


Great report Peter! I am so jealous. I hope to partake in 2003.

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Oops - that's twice for me - I'm gonna get retractable training wheels, I hate doing that smile.gif Hope you do this, Superbike that is, gee I hope everyone who is serious about improving cornering does this.


It isn't just that you get the information and get to practice it. On the track, your instructor will sneak up behind you and watch what you are doing. If the see something the need to correct, they'll pull in front of you, give the "follow me" sign and off we go. If a correction requires verbal correction you'll follow them to a safe part of the track or the pit and they'll coach you, then out you go again, with them in tow to see if you got it.


For example, I was stiff, real stiff on turn 1 and in the long sweeping 180 (across the dreaded concrete patch) smile.gif I kept drifting wide. My coach told me I was too stiff and that the next session would address this. Yep, I was keeping the bike from doing what it wanted to do with my death grip on the bars and that alone was forcing the bike to the outside. Sure enough I loosened up so I could actually feel the grips move around and only enough pressure on the throttle to turn it on and wow, the movement I felt was awesome. I'd been fighting the suspension the whole time.


It took a couple of more coachings to get me to loosen up my back - still got work to do there.


OH yeah - just do it - there is no way you'll regret it, except you'll get hooked like we all did. smile.gif And addicts like company smile.gif


And, while I'm rambling, let me tell you about the instructors. I had a different one each day and they both did the same. My first one was Debra, the next day was Glen. Great people (I need to find new adjectives). You are blasting around the track and they could run anyone down, some took more effort than others but I saw Debra run down a fool that was passing too close. Point is, they could run anyone down. THEN, they'd turn around, look at you give you a signal, look back forward to make sure they weren't going to run into something, then turn around again to get your confirmation you got the message. They were incredible (they there is another one) riders and great coaches.


I totally blew one turn on he second day and went way wide. Glen apparently had been behind me - he got in front and gave me the follow-me and we pulled into a safe part of the track. What he wanted to know is 1) did I know I blew it 2) did I know what I did wrong. I did on both counts and we were off an riding in 30 seconds. To answer the question. I'd been nailing that 90 degree left hander, but on that run got into it way too fast. In that curve you really have to lean the bike QUICKLY, I knew I should have compensated for the speed by leaning it MORE QUICKLY but didn't, thus I went wide. The training works. To correct a problem, you first have to know what the problem is, then you have to know what to do about it the next time. I'm learning.

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Excellent, excellent report.


I would really love to do this. Did anybody wad a bike? I've always wondered what the squid factor would be at a school like this, and how they control the safety of everyone else.



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Peter and Dan,

That makes good sense. I'm still leaning towards riding the RT, but what you're saying makes sense. I've got a friend with a CBR954RR and it scares the H*ll out of me on the street, but I always thought it would be fun on the track. A ZX6 is a bit more tame than the 954, but I'll bet it was still a real hoot.



Screamin' avatar, dude!!

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No one down. One personal bike had a major engine failure which closed the track on Monday right at the end of the day. There were 3 groups of riders (1 on the track at a time) and only the 3rd group, for the last ride of Monday lost the ride. That just happened to be the group Dan, David and I were in. The rules of the raceway are a specific which meant they couldn't even buy more track time, so one group lost one session.


They are tough on squids, will red flag them quickly and they are done for the day. However, there were a couple of really aggressive guys in our group who were passing too close and they only got a talking too.


I had one near incident, my fault totally, the chief instructor talked with me about after the ride. But, he knew it was a judgement error on my part, not an aggressive action. In talking with Debra at the end of the 2nd day, she said they pretty much have everyone scoped out after a few laps, so they know who to coach and who to "talk" to.


I know the question is coming so I'll get it out of the way - my error. Coming down the grand stand straight into turn 1, I was setting up to pass the guy in front of me. He was slowing. So I dropped low to pass and guess what he did - started the turn early and came down into me. I had to stand he up, hit the brakes then lean hard to make the corner without hitting him - a pucker moment for both of us. I was too busy not hitting him to get his bike number so I couldn't even apologize for it. I simply should have waited as I did NOT have time to get cleanly by him. The chief instructor brought it to my attention, I apologized to him, and that was it - they already knew how I was riding and that it I wasn't being a squid, so there was nothing more - except another lesson learned.

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Take note Peter, I'm actually making a post!

In terms of safety and the squid factor the school does an excellent job. I enjoy this particular school as they allow passing anywhere as long as you keep a safe distance - 5 ft. to 8 ft.

If someone is riding over their head and not being safe, an instructor will pull them off the track. On the other hand, you can really have some fun running with other people who ride at your level. For example, I was in a group on about 5 bikes and we were really moving along and it was clear there was some competition going on. After the session, the head instructor said to me " you guys were really going at it out there for a bit. You all seemed to be respectful and courteous of each other so I let it go. Looked like you were just having good fun."


In terms of squids, the age group tends to be a bit older, say late 30's to early 60's. I've never seen it/them as a problem.


I have done five days at two different tracks with this school and continue to highly recommend the program. The learning and fun factors are both extremely high.


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Wow, I've been tied up in meetings all day, so I haven't been able to post until now. Let's just say that everyone in my business meetings today kept asking what I was smiling about. "Nothing in particular," I replied.wink.gifwink.gif


Great report Peter, I'm real glad we nominated you!! tongue.giflaugh.gif We even motivated Gerry to make a post...WOW!!


What a fantastic few days...both on and off the track.


As far as the school goes, to say that I improved my riding skills is a gross understatement. After many years of riding and several MSF ERC courses, it was just amazing, and quite scary to me to realize how little I actually knew about riding. shocked.gifshocked.gif It's like I went from being a passenger on the bike to really riding "with" the bike.


The level of instruction truly impressed me in that although they certainly covered the physical details of riding properly, they really focused more on the "mental" aspects, which in most cases are the real differentiators. I went from having never even been on a sport bike before on Day One, to just being incredibly comfortable dropping it into a turn and powering out at the limit on Day Two. The real key there being confidence at the limit. Understanding that sliding the bike isn't the end of the world and in actuality, it's fairly controllable, is a real comforting feeling both on the track and on the street.


Russell said: Just out of curiosity...why ride the school bikes instead of your RT's?


I can really say that the school bikes were the way to go here. Those ZX-600 were race prepared and much easier on the head and wallet than my RT would have been. I took a lot of the worry factor out of the equation which frees your mind up to learn more. I'd still love to get a track day on my RT, but when I go back to the school (which I WILL do), I'm using their bikes again. Besides, I had never been on a real sport bike before, so I was looking forward to it. It's also nice to know that you're on the same bike as a lot of other riders out there so you have a better guage on how you're doing as compared to others and the instructors. (Some of the instructors were riding ZX-900's which were a little faster in the straights, but you could keep up in the corners because of the weight difference.) And, I would completely echo Peter's remarks in that it really doesn't matter since the skills you're learning translate to any bike. When I got on my bike to ride home that afternoon, I felt completely different - almost like it was a brand new bike. I was less tired, the bike just felt better, and the world moved slower as the bike moved faster.


One other point that hasn't been touched on yet, is having the ability to interact with Keith Code. To say this man is impressive is like saying Tiger Woods is a good golfer. He has really been able to identify all the different variables that go into the "art" of riding, break them down to their core elements, identify where most people mess them up, and provide a clear and concise exercise to highlight and eliminate them. It's like you're sitting there, he asks a bunch of questions, such as "What do you usually do when... and, Why do think so and so?" You come up with various responses/excuses and than he tells you the real answer and you're like, " Uhhh, of course I'm an idiot becuase that's so obvious now that I must have been blind my whole freakin' life!" This man has forgotten more about riding than I will ever know. But the real impressive part is his ability to communicate the process in such a clear manner that you "get it" real fast. Allright, enough on that already. I think you know where I stand.


As far as the reat of the long weekend went, the company was as much fun as the riding. Peter's a lot of fun for an old guy wink.giflaugh.gif and Dan and Gerry are just a blast. Hanging out on the deck at the Seneca Lodge smoking stogies and sippin' Tanqueray Ten was just perfect. The rides up and back were a pleasure, although the ride home seemed to go much faster - woohoooo! I just can't wait to do it again.




V.I.R. anyone?????


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David, thanks for bring up the "Keith Factor". I really feel bad I didn't discuss him in my post as he was certainly everything you described. I and we had a number of one-on-ones with him. He's very accessible, as everyone is. He runs a tight ship and his staff keeps everything moving to insure we are where we are supposed to be when we are supposed to be there. Slackers are dealt with quickly and firmly, but not so as to embarrass them. But everyone catches on right away and everything moves smoothly from there.


Actually, maybe, I just wanted to give you something to talk about blush.gif. yeah right blush.gif

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Start saving your money, boys! I did my first Keith Code class about 3 months after buying my RT (I started on a school bike but moved to my RT in the afternoon). It wasn't long before I had done all 4 levels of the school and then started in on open track days. If you get into this stuff (and how can you not?), it is almost inevitable that you will wind up lusting after a supplemental bike that is a little more track worthy (and cheap) than your RT. You have been warned! Even if you stay with your RT, your tire collection can get quite large. I always have stacks of tires in my garage that are still good for the street but are worn out for the track, or which have one track day left in them, so I don't want to wear them out on the street. Annoying, but they all get used eventually. You can always sell the track takeoffs to some squid who wants them so he can claim that he was the one who caused all the rubber boogers hanging off the edges. You'd be surprised but an 18 year old kid will pay for a well used tire.


Incidetntally, my feeling is that level 1 and 2 of the code school are relevant to street riding, but levels 3 and 4 (4 is just independant study with your instructor) get into skills that are really only relevant on the track. Unless you are just looking for more track time (and the Code school is a great, if expensive, way to get it since it is so controlled and safe), I would skip levels 3 and 4.


The best part is that by working on the skills I learned in those first two classes, my riding continued to improve over the next year without needing any more instruction. It was only when the lessons learned in those classes were so ingrained as to require almost no thought whatsoever that I went back for 3 and 4 and started doing open track days. If you think you feel like a much improved rider now, just wait until you've been riding with your new found skills and information for a couple of months.





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