The 2016 edition of the California Superbike School (CSS) saw over 100 riders participate over two weekends to hone their riding skills on track. Bike India was there, of course, to experience things first-hand.
Story: Jim Gorde
Photography: Aditya Bedre
Three years I’d been waiting to attend the California Superbike School. When my boss told me I was going, it was like receiving my letter from Hogwarts. It’s something that has been growing around the world with more and more riders across diverse groups magnetically being drawn to the school simply because everyone who genuinely wants to learn the finer, deeper aspects of riding have the opportunity not just to learn some techniques from the masters, but also apply them in the best way possible: on track.
Founder Keith Code enlisted the support of several ace riders from around the world, including Gary Adshead and Glenn ‘Lord R’ Rothwell, my classroom coaches, and Richard ‘Badger’ Brown, my riding coach for the duration of the school. Held over three days, all of them track-side, with five drills followed by their respective 20-minute track sessions, there was much to look forward to.
The essence of the school is simply to get comfortable with your bike and how it behaves with you doing what you do on it. It isn’t about racing, or even going as fast as possible. It’s about riding well within your limits and fine-tuning every conscious action, while recognising and re-aligning or applying conscious effort to otherwise involuntary actions.
Day One, Level One: Input
Safety is paramount, and the first thing we were made to do on day one was ensure our leathers were up to the mark. Suit, gloves, boots and lid inspected (and marked safe with an elusive sticker), we got set for the first safety briefing. Safety, as always, is enforced and strictly. Passing too close and not heeding the warning flags, in particular, are a one-way ticket to the pit-lane.
There are several facts we know and are aware of in theory, but understanding where that comes into play on the move makes a lot of difference. Understanding the implications of every input the motorcycle gets from you, whether voluntary or involuntary, can affect the whole balance of the bike and its behaviour.
Essentially, we have six controls: front brake, rear brake, throttle, clutch, gears and handlebars. Five of those control speed, and only one, the handlebars, controls direction. Stabilising the bike to behave as you want it to is key to not just enjoying the ride, but also getting the bike to go where you want to and at the best possible pace. Modulating the throttle is thus a critical aspect. You simply can’t whack it open or close it suddenly without facing the consequences. Understanding how important throttle control is leads into the next aspect. When do you turn in?
Finding the optimum turn point and how quickly you turn the bike in decides how much speed you can carry through and how stable the bike remains. Learning to relax is also equally important. Riding too stiffly can hamper the bike’s abilities. Loosen up, but stay focused and involved. Finally, locating the apex, or the closest to the inside of the corner you can get while maintaining a smooth curve, is key to getting in and out at your best pace.
Day One Drills
- Throttle Control – One gear, no brakes
- Turn Points – Two gears, no brakes
- Quick Turning – Two gears, light brakes
- Rider Input – Three gears, light brakes
- Two-step Turning – All gears, normal brakes