Track Time: California Superbike School, Part II

Back For Our Bachelor's Degree

By Ari Henning, Photography by Etech Photo, Bob Hartman

My first stint at the California Superbike School (Track Time, MC, July 2009) left me with a head full of valuable riding skills. Taking Levels I and II proved to be an edifying experience, and I was keen to return and see what Keith Code and his staff had to offer in Levels III and IV. A two-day school at Laguna Seca sandwiching Thanksgiving coincided with pre-existing plans to spend the holiday in the Monterey area, so I signed up.

Day One began with a brief refresher course, after which we started in on new material. The primary focus of Level III is the rider/bike relationship. The day's lessons-Hook Turn, Power Steering, Knee-to-Knee, Hip Flick and Attack Angles-all centered around how best to interact with the machine and efficiently influence it to go where you want. Keith had some mechanical aids to help drive the lessons home, so we got a chance to practice the Hip Flick in the paddock before employing it at speed in the Corkscrew.

Laguna Seca is unique in that most of the turns are separate, not interconnected, making it an excellent course for learning and practicing riding techniques. Many of the methods presented were somewhat familiar-I'd been using them intuitively for years. But bringing them to the forefront of my mind and studying how and why they work allowed me to use them much more effectively, and with consistent results. It's like figuring out how to mount a tire as opposed to having someone show you how. Once you know the proper method, it's a whole lot easier.

The school's well-practiced lessons and on-track drills drive each skill home, but like learning a new dance, putting all the steps together can be difficult. That's what Level IV is for. But Day Two's weather was windy and wet, so the coaches first seized the opportunity to introduce some rain-specific riding strategies. The conditions necessitated a slower pace, which helped me absorb and process my reference points and perfect my lines. The legendary Slide Bike is usually part of the Level IV curriculum, but the paddock was too wet to utilize it. Too bad.

Dragging appendages through the Andretti Hairpin, holding the throttle wide-open going up the hill toward Turn 6 and bombing down the Corkscrew are certainly exciting, but not as exhilarating as realizing you are a smoother, faster, more controlled rider than you were that morning. Tuition is high ($2250 for the two-day, all-inclusive camps), but if you're hungry for knowledge and eager to improve, Keith and his faculty have the technology and teaching experience to elevate your game.

Even better, the California Superbike School (www.superbikeschool.com) is about to live up to its name. By the time you read this, their tired fleet of Kawasaki ZX-6Rs will have been replaced by brand-new BMW S1000RRs with ABS and traction control.

Now I've just got to convince the boss to let me do a Part III...

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