Kevin Schwantz Suzuki School - Schooled! - Speed Secrets


It was halfway through the three-day Kevin Schwantz Suzuki School at Road Atlanta-mid-day Saturday, the rain gone, the track drying and my one-on-one session with '89 Superbike champion Jamie James in full swing-when it all finally clicked. Not only was I having a freakin' blast (especially when James went by me exiting Turn 5 with his GSX-R750's front wheel maybe 30 inches off my right ear), I was riding better and with more smoothness and confidence than I had in years-and it was crystal clear to me it was all down to the Schwantz School's superb system.

I have to admit, I wasn't expecting any of this.

Coming in, I was a touch blase about the whole school idea. For one thing, I'd known Schwantz for many years, having done my first Motorcyclist story on his first Superbike season in '85, and had ridden with him all over the world. So it felt strange to take part in his business-part of his livelihood-as an actual student. Call it a personal thing.

I also didn't think I'd learn much. Don't get me wrong; I knew there were things Schwantz and his championship-caliber instructors could teach me about getting around a racetrack quickly. But I simply wasn't sure I'd get much of that with 30 other students in the classroom and on the track.

And yeah, pride figured into the equation. I'd roadraced competitively for more than 20 years, and figured my club, endurance and vintage race wins-and top-15 finishes in AMA 600cc and 750cc Supersport nationals-gave me enough roadracing chops that any track school filled largely with street riders might not have much to teach me. Heck, I'd taught new-rider schools in the past.

So I figured I'd just come out, hang around, interview some students, get some laps and write my piece.

But operations manager Marnie Lincoln kept nudging me toward actual student status. "Just give it a try," she said. I was doubtful, and said so. But Lincoln is persuasive, so I agreed-which turned out to be the best decision I could have made.

A week later I'm driving through Road Atlanta's front gate and joining the afternoon reception the school hosts for students the evening before Day One. Of course, if you know Kevin, the get-together is exactly what you expect: Texas hospitality, good food and a loose, friendly atmosphere.

While Schwantz, Lincoln and the instructors meet and greet, I check out the goodie-filled Team Suzuki bag given to every student-a GSX-R-history book, Team Suzuki towel, water bottle, T-shirts, etc. Nice. For $2700 (the two-day school is $1000 less), which includes a GSX-R600 or SV650 to ride, I figure paying students ought to get something like this. I chat with several and find they're from all over the country, a few even hailing from Canada and the U.K. It's a diverse group, guys in their 30s and 40s, mostly, a few older, a few younger, and also a couple of ladies. Some have done several schools and track days, others none at all.

Woody Nepa, from upstate New York, seems really excited, and says he's ridden very little on the track. We trade stories about fast street riding, how dumb it can be, and I share my take that once you get on-track, you immediately slow down on the street. He seems to understand.

Then Schwantz jumps up on a picnic table, introduces his crew, and lays out what we're to expect these next three days. "Our goals here are to teach you as much as we can, to help you find your comfort zone, and to have a lot of fun," he says. Someone says there's rain in the forecast for Saturday (Day Two), which makes everyone go quiet. But Schwantz says some rain will be a good thing, and that we'll all see what he means. No one's biting, but I'm pretty sure I know what he's getting at. All in all, it sounds good. I'm even a little excited.

Friday morning dawns clear and warm-a perfect day. When I enter the classroom I spy a TV monitor playing video clips of Schwantz's career, and I'm suddenly reminded of this guy's weighty accomplishments: 25 GP victories in 109 starts, a hell of a Grand Prix record. Watching the TV, the students are mostly quiet, almost reverential.

Michael Martin, the school's primary classroom instructor, strolls in and gets things going in his easygoing manner. Martin had a stellar club- and national-level career, especially in the endurance ranks with John Ulrich's Team Suzuki Endurance team.

"What we'll mainly do," Martin says, "is cover basics. We'll talk about something, then head out onto the track and do it. Then we'll come back here and talk about it-and even watch some video of you doing it." This is a process we'll go through again and again during the weekend.

Martin keeps things basic early on, first dividing the group in half (roughly 15 each, one faster, one slower), then explaining how things will happen on-track with the instructors (three or four riders per instructor, who will usually lead) and the general idea of riding at one's comfort level and increasing track speeds incrementally, not going all-out right off the bat.

"If you ride as hard as you can right from the beginning," Martin says, pointing to a graph he's drawn on the board, "your speeds increase quickly, but then you flatten out-you stop learning. At an 80 percent pace you go slower early, but you end up learning more, and going faster than you would have."

"If you crash," he adds, "you're most likely done for the weekend." This generates some grumbling, but with a fleet of brand-new, 0-mile GSX-R600s sitting outside, it's pretty hard to imagine tossing one of these into a tire wall at speed and having the school laugh it off.

I head out onto the track for the first time with the slower group (I moved between groups all weekend long) and am reminded how impressive Road Atlanta is-and how intimidating. With several serious elevation changes and loads of blind, late-apex corners, it's a difficult track to get comfortable with. I've ridden here five or six times before, at new-bike intros, mostly, but I've never ridden particularly well here.

As I follow instructor Brad Coleman in this first slow session I'm surprised to see stuff I've never noticed before: pavement marks, paint lines, reference points, etc. Within a few minutes I conclude my inability to go fast here is down to what Martin had said earlier-the bit about going berserk right away hindering learning and thus smoothness and speed. Bike intros are like that. Going slow now makes me see the track in a whole different light, and even after a few laps it seems to make more sense. A little Obi Wan voice in my head says, "You've taken your first step into a larger world."

Back in the classroom there's a major buzz-we're all smiles and excitement. Martin asks how everyone's doing, then launches into some skill specifics, beginning with the whole idea of looking ahead and not directly in front of your bike. I'm terrible at this, so I pay attention. A few minutes later Schwantz walks in, as he'll do all weekend. (The class sessions are very informal, and Schwantz seems to want it this way.) He puts his hand out in front of his face at arm's length and asks students to focus on their palms. "You can see your palm clearly, right?" he asks us. "But how well do you see the stuff beyond your palm? It's all fuzzy, right? Now focus beyond your palm; now you can see way out in front of you, but you can also see you palm reasonably well. It's the same on the bike. By getting your vision out in front of you, things slow down, and slowing things down helps keep panic away. When things are happening quickly, as they are when you're staring at the asphalt right in front of your front wheel, it's easy to panic."

Early on there's discussion of basic lines ("Follow the instructors," Martin says, "and you'll slowly but surely see and learn the ideal line"), gear selection and body position, and it's here where Martin jumps onto the classroom's platform-mounted GSX-R750 to show us what he means.

"Get set [for corners] early," Martin says. "Be loose on the bike, with your arms bent, not rigid, so there's no steering input from being tense. Stay relaxed. Don't death-grip the bars, either; be loose on them. You'll get less tired, and the bike will appreciate it."

Schwantz jumps up on the bike to add his perspective on ideal body positioning-how to slide forward and when ("Early, so you don't upset the bike when it's carving."); on the straights (He sits up higher than most, "It helps me see things better," he says, the vision thing again.); and how to properly hang off the bike, which allows it to corner with less lean angle, and which helps maintain traction by letting the wheels and suspension work independent of the rider's total body weight. I notice Schwantz and Martin use only their legs to move them around on the bike, not their arms. I flash back to times I've gotten tired during a race and done it the wrong way because my legs got tired. No wonder these guys all ride bicycles to stay in shape.

Schwantz then tells a story about his first test of the GSX-R750 at Daytona in '85, and how his straight-arming the bars made the bike wobble on the banking. "Looser is better," he says. He then adds a story about the way he learned new tracks in the GPs. "I'd always go real slow at first. Guys would come up afterward and ask what I was doing. I was slowly but surely seeing where the track went and getting a rhythm, putting everything together so I could link all the sections up later on. Then I'd add pace. Not too soon." Just two more anecdotes Schwantz will dispense these next three days, all of which are humorous, memorable and, therefore, quite helpful.

Martin then talks about two more keys to going quickly: Riding with the balls of your feet on the pegs-always!-and the idea of weighting either peg depending on the situation: the inside peg while arcing into a corner to help get the bike turned, and the outside peg while adding power from the apex onward.

"When I was young my dad took me to a trials demonstration," Schwantz tells us, "and I watched [trials champion] Mick Andrews ride sideways on a very steep hill. He said he was able to do it because he weighted the downhill peg. It definitely translates to roadracing. It's hard to know exactly how much it helps. But even if it's only a few percentage points, it's well worth it when traction is scarce, as it sometimes is exiting a corner or in the wet."

I'd find out how right Schwantz was the following day when the rains came.

For now, though, during several on-track sessions that first day, our heads are full of such basics, which many put to good use. Most students I speak to that first day say they're learning a lot, and riding better, especially as they get used to the circuit. The comments I hear from instructors back this up.

Woody is jacked. "I think I've learned more in these last three sessions than in the last 10 years!" he tells me.

Going into the on-track sessions, I wasn't a fan of the school's follow-the-leader system. I figured the instructors would get a better feel for what students were doing right and wrong from 5 or 10 feet behind, not up front. But I'd underestimated the skills of the instructors as well as the beauty of the KSSS system itself. Because the instructors grouped like-skilled riders together and were exceptionally good at using their mirrors to see how each of us was doing behind them, the sessions turn out to be highly invigorating. Not only is the pace plenty fast, but having the instructor out front means you get a constant visual reminder of the correct line, body position, braking points, etc. The Right Stuff is directly in front of you, and you can't ignore it.

After lunch I hear instructor Ted Cobb use the words "muscle memory" while talking to a student. I listen in, and a bell goes off in my head; like swinging a baseball bat, or pitching or any other physical sport, developing muscle memory is key to the repeatability you need for maximum performance. So the school's format of talking about correct technique, doing it on-track, having the students watch it being done and then critiquing it on videotape 30 minutes later seems perfectly situated for muscle-memory development.

Another key to the KSSS system is the video footage recorded by instructor Opie Caylor, who sneaks up behind each student and shoots them in a series of corners before moving on to the next rider. This footage is downloaded after each session by Huey Stewart, then shown to the classroom 10 minutes after it's recorded. At first I'm reminded of film day during high school football, Coach Sheck pointing out my poor blocking and dropped passes for the entire team to see. Fortunately, Martin is mellower, and comments humorously on both good and bad technique as he runs through the tape.

In the afternoon sessions I ride with various groups and can sense generally higher speeds and comfort levels. Folks seem to be learning, most of them slowly but surely, with very little over-your-head riding. Not so for Woody, unfortunately, who crashes late in the day due to, in his own words, "pushing too hard ... a mental error." He walks away from the highside, seems mostly unhurt-except for his pride-and decides to drive the more than 1000 miles to his New York home the following day. Not until he visits his doctor a day later does he learn about the two broken bones in his foot, a broken ankle, a shin broken in two places, a broken finger and a dislocated collarbone. Still, he says he'll be back next year. Honesty and toughness; Woody's got 'em both!

Back in class, Schwantz relates some crash stories of his own, one that happened on the final lap of a GP while he had an 8-second lead. "'Bonehead' doesn't even come close to describing it," he says with a grin.

We quit at 3 p.m. for the track walk, which is yet another eye-opener, especially for students who've never walked a road course. We load into trucks and stop at just about every corner, Schwantz doing an increasingly humorous stand-up routine about the asphalt, the correct line-and which of the instructors might have crashed here during their racing career. We quickly learn good-natured verbal abuse is just part of the Schwantz School.

Then we move to the inside of the corner and watch as Martin, James and Harry Vanderlinden do the corner at three different speeds. James, on a GSX-R750, demonstrates the fast way through, and when he rips by us, the engine at redline and his knee on the deck, there's an audible gasp at the speed, sound and violence he generates. The experience is something none of us will ever forget.

By 5 p.m. the group is physically and mentally spent, and we're ready for the group dinner at the local Mexican eatery later that evening. The food is excellent, and though there's a no-alcohol rule in effect, there's a palpable buzz at the table despite a weather forecast calling for rain in the morning. Everyone's jacked about Day One and seems ready for more tomorrow, wet racetrack be damned.

The mood the following morning is more subdued, but the on-again/off-again rain isn't keeping anyone off the track. Still, the place is hugely spooky when wet; the cement patches look oiled-up and are big-time slippery, we hear, and the downhill sections look almost like blue-ice ski runs. Talk in the classroom and staging area is dominated by the need to be smooth with braking, throttle, steering and gear changes. By keeping speeds down and forcing riders to think about everything they do, there's considerably more concentration on the skills we learned the day before, especially body positioning, peg weighting and correct lines. It's an almost perfect scenario, one Schwantz comments on at lunchtime on Day Two. "Having some rain early or midway through a school is perfect," he tells me. "It cements some of the stuff the students learned earlier, and they end up retaining more of it. So when it dries up, as it looks like it's going to later, they ride a lot better because of it."

Schwantz is right, of course, having seen this happen many times before. When the sun comes out and the track dries after lunch, I see folks returning from their sessions with big smiles and even bigger stories. I see for myself when James punches me on the shoulder as we get ready to ride and says, "C'mon ... you and me this time!"

We take it easy at first, but heading down the front straight on lap two James gains speed, and I follow him into the blind, semi-uphill right-hand Turn One faster than I've gone so far. We're just feet apart through the uphill-then-downhill esses, and as we exit Turn 5-an uphill left with a roller-bump at the exit-I pull a power wheelie and hold it for a few seconds. James peeks behind him, sees me and shakes his head in amusement. We continue like this for a few laps, and it feels good to just ride.

Finally, James lets me lead. Exiting Turn 5 a lap or two later I'm startled by an image directly off my right ear; it's James' Suzuki's front wheel, hovering 4 feet off the deck! He holds it there for a while then accelerates past me, wiggling the front wheel like a snake, and finally drops it with a puff of tire smoke right at the turn-in point to Turn 6. I'm howling inside my helmet, and I can see by his body language he's not worried a bit about the reports of excessive wheelieing being radioed at this very moment to Ms. Lincoln back in the pits.

Watching James ride in such close proximity is an awesome experience, and it's something most students get a chance to do during a typical Schwantz school.

Later we're having a classroom discussion about Turn 7, a slow, slick, off-camber, cement-patched right-hander that's arguably the trickiest corner on the course, because it leads to the 140-mph, roller-coaster-esque back straight. Instructor Caylor appears almost on cue and give us an excellent overview-via a blackboard sketch-of the speed secrets there: a late apex (most of us are turning in too soon), a good portion of the turning right after initial turn-in, neutral throttle as early as possible to keep the chassis stable, hitting a particular spot at the inside curb just so, and smooth but forceful throttle at the exit as the bike straightens up, all while weighting the outside peg. It's almost shocking to think there are that many elements to just one corner. But there are. Which is why going really fast is such a tough nut to crack.

Schwantz, watching from the classroom's edge, pipes in with this: "Early to class is fine. Early to apex is not!"

We watch several Turn-7 scenarios on the video screen-good ones, bad ones, ugly ones. Some of us-me included-are occasionally hitching the throttle on and off as we search for the corner's reference points. "It's really important [to be smooth] if you're big," Caylor says, looking in my direction. "If you're not it upsets the chassis, and that compromises traction, which isn't good." Schwantz echoes this point. "Try to keep yourself from moving too much," he tells us. "Even picking your butt up off the seat can unsettle the bike and make the rear wheel spin and slide." By pointing out the precise steps, by breaking the corner down into digestible pieces, most of us have a better, smoother time of it later in the day.

Afterward, while suiting up for a session, I mention my latest Turn-7 discovery to James. He laughs and says, "Heck, I learn somethin' new every time I do one of these schools!"

Later still, we retread some key ground we'd covered on Day One-braking. On the board Martin jots down some factoids: Braking distances increase exponentially: 30 mph = 30 feet. 60 mph = 120 feet. 120 mph = 480 feet. "Pay attention to chassis feedback," he tells us. "Ease off the brakes smoothly as you lean the bike into a corner." Up goes an illustration showing a corner, the entry of it cut into three segments. Segment one (farthest from the apex) gets a 10 percent notation. The middle section (closer to the apex) gets 75 percent written in it. And the final segment (closest to the apex) gets marked with 15 percent. "This shows proper and smooth braking technique," Martin says, "which allows chassis pitch to be mellow, not violent."

"Get your hard braking done early, not late," Schwantz adds. "Don't wait till you see God! And don't cause late-brake panic by pushing too deep with your braking.

"A lot of my passing in the GPs," Schwantz continues, "was done late in the braking zone, by letting off the brakes sooner and carrying a bit more speed into the corner." James, sitting in the classroom, adds this: "Remember, release the brake slower than you initially grab it."

I ask Schwantz about the rear brake. "I remember all three times I used it in a race," he says with a laugh, "because I crashed every time! It's even harder to get it right in the wet. It takes a conscious effort to keep my right foot on the ball of my footpeg so I stay away from the pedal."

After a final on-track session we're done, toast, and it's time for Kevin's father Jim's renowned barbecue, which has taken him all day to prepare. Good food, good fun.

I wake up Sunday morning to find I'm really sore. My quads hurt so much it's painful just walking down the hotel steps.

Early classroom sessions on Sunday are filled with more good stuff. Martin begins with a discussion of reference points, and how they're key when you're haulin'. Paint lines, hay bales, pavement cracks, cones-they all work. On the board are the four key ones for each corner: braking point, turn-in point, apex and exit. Again, lots of info to keep running in one's RAM drive. This is well-known territory for me, as I remember reading about it in Keith Code's Twist of the Wrist back in '84. But going back over it helps keep me focused.

Those sore quads come back to haunt me in my first session. It's hard to move around on the bike, and my brain seems equally tired; my thought processes are working through pudding. I find-again-that when you're out of shape, you're at the mercy of the bike, not in control and closer than you know to a mistake and a crash.

Back in class Martin covers information that seems perfectly suited to my pitiful, just-finished session-controlling panic. He talks about panic triggers: Drifting wide in corners, something unexpected happening, exceeding one's comfortable lean angle and loss of traction. He covers the typical reactions to panic, which include target fixation, tunnel vision, chopping the throttle/grabbing the brakes, a sudden steering input or an entire freeze-up. The solutions, he says, are: Look where you want to go. Look farther into the corner. Relax and breathe. Have smooth control inputs. Realize you don't have to stop to be safe (meaning you can be OK by going through or around something). Trust your tires and realize that 90 percent of the time the bike can make it through the corner. "When/if you get into a corner hot, look up the track and will yourself to make the corner." Good advice.

We then cover corner types: constant-, increasing- and decreasing-radius, positive- and negative-cambers, momentum and drive corners. Seventy-five-mph Turn 6 is a momentum corner (in and out quickly), while tricky 7 is a good example of a drive corner-in slowly and out as fast as you dare. We then talk about proper gear selection ("You want the gear that gives the bike responsiveness at the exit-60 to 80 percent of redline," says Martin), clutchless upshifting ("Load the shift pedal with your foot and fan the clutch"), the need to match revs during downshifting, and proper crash techniques, which everyone finds funny. "First, don't go there!" Martin says with a laugh. "And if you do crash, get wide. It helps keep you from flipping."

My final session is with the world champ himself, and we have an epic time, cutting, thrusting, dicing and passing each other just as we'd done a few months before at Barber Motorsports Park for our "Dream Rides" story. Kev is riding just a hair above my fast pace so I can live my moment, of course, but even so, watching him ride so smoothly and precisely from just 10 feet back is a revelation.

Forty-five minutes later all 30 of us-and the instructors-are in the classroom watching a full-lap video of Schwantz that Caylor had taken earlier. It's literally shocking, not only because Schwantz appears to be moving in almost fast-forward mode, but because of the uncanny efficiency he shows while negotiating Road Atlanta's 15 rollercoaster-like corners. He's going so quickly none of us can imagine doing what he's doing, but he's barely moving around on the bike. It's smoothness to the nth degree, hot syrup over a tall stack.

The guy is just amazing.

At the end, Schwantz puts the pedal down and jumps away from Caylor's GSX-R750 like he's hit the lightspeed lever. "And the train," Schwantz says with a big ol' grin, "has just left the station!" There's uproarious laughter, a perfect way to end the on-track activities for the day.

Flying home the following day, several ideas circulated through my cranium:
The first one was that it's not so much what they teach you at the Schwantz School, but how they teach it. Yeah, newbies will learn a lot of stuff they'd probably never heard before. But the repetition of basics-the discussion of something, actually doing it on the track, watching an instructor do it correctly 10 feet in front of you, the rehash back in the classroom, and then the video-is key to having the lessons stick and being able to repeat them correctly later, even to salty old street and track veterans.

The second was an objective realization of my abilities, and their limits. I've always ridden motorcycles in a seat-of-the-pants way-by feel and natural ability. It worked fine on a motocrosser, but it only gets you so far on the asphalt. Eventually, you hit a wall-which I did when I was about 25-because your technique isn't perfect (in my case, far from it). Sitting there, part of me wished I'd learned this stuff when I was 20. But, of course, Schwantz was only 18 at the time, a dirtbike-riding Texas teenager learning the bits and pieces of the two-wheel puzzle that would eventually launch him to the 1993 500cc world championship.

If someone had told me before I took the Schwantz School that I'd ride behind instructors 95 percent of my on-track time for three long days, have the time of my life, learn more than I'd ever learned on a racetrack and ride better and faster than ever, I'd have said, "bullshit."

But I'd have been wrong. The Kevin Schwantz Suzuki School is that good.

I have a suspicion I'll be calling Ms. Marnie Lincoln again next spring.

Kevin Schwantz
Suzuki School
**5300 Winder Highway
Braselton, GA 30517
Phone: (800) 849-7223
Fax: (770) 967-2668
**Track Tips, Texas-Style

30-plus KSSS-approved things to do at your next track day
1.Increase your speed incrementally.
2.Find and use reference points for braking, turn-in and apex.
3. Focus your vision way out front.
4. Select a gear that uses 60-80 percent of redline at the exit.
5. Be loose on the bike and bars, not rigid.
6. Get body position set for corners early.
7. Hang off slightly-and comfortably-in corners.
8. Use your legs to move you around the bike, not your arms.
9. Go slow when learning a new track. Get the flow first.
10. In the wet, be super-smooth with all control inputs.
11. Ride with the balls of your feet on the pegs at all times.
12. Weight the inside peg entering corners.
13. Weight the outside peg at the apex and exiting corners.
14. Perfect practice makes perfect-helps muscle memory.
15. Ignore the rear brake.
16. Walk the track if possible.
17. Don't apex early; late apex whenever possible.
18. Get to neutral throttle ASAP approaching the apex.
19. Apply smooth but forceful throttle exiting a corner.
20. Keep body movements small or smooth while cornering.
21. Braking distances increase exponentially with speed.
22. Monitor chassis feedback through hands, feet and butt when braking.
23. Ease off the brakes smoothly as you lean the bike into a corner.
24. Brake in segments: first 10 percent (to settle chassis), then 75 percent (hard braking), then 15 percent (releasing smooth toward apex).
25. Get hard braking done early; don't wait till you see God!
26. Passing tip: Let off the brakes sooner and carry a bit more speed into the corner.
27. Release the brake more slowly than you initially grab it.
28. Ride a bicycle for leg strength and cardiovascular training; it'll make you a better rider!
29. Control panic by being in control at all times; resist the temptation to go beyond your personal comfort envelope.
30. If you get in too hot, look where you want to go, relax and will yourself to make the corner.
31. Resist the temptation to tuck completely behind the bubble; sitting higher allows you to see more, which helps nail your braking and turn-in points.
32. If you crash, get wide. It resists flipping.

Students Say ...
What actual paying customers think of the KSSS
I could write volumes about how much I enjoyed the atmosphere, training, food, friendship and energy. Can't wait to do it again. -Dennis Santos

There were moments when I was laughing out loud in my helmet because I didn't know I could actually do what I was doing! -Richard T. Brandley

I am a 50-year-old motorcycle addict and love to ride fast. This was far and away the best school I've been to. (I've been to Freddie Spencer's, also very good.) -Frank Stanford

My basics were incomplete and I got out of my zone. Big lesson learned, a humbling experience. I'm disappointed, but am planning to attend the same session next year a whole lot smarter. I've done a lot of cool things, but this was one of the best experiences I've had. -Woody Nepa

Even as a KSSS frequent flier, it never ceases to amaze me how much additional technique, consistency, confidence and, most importantly, reliable speed I can take away from Kevin and his instructors. -Trip Goolsby

I started riding in '03, bought a Kawasaki ZX-10R, wrecked going 130 mph and am fortunate to be alive. This was my fourth KSSS school; they've been truly life-saving experiences. -Cliff Brown

The way the instructors started us off slow and then gradually increased the pace was great. The track walk was immensely helpful, too. I've walked 'em before, and it's helpful. But it's an entirely different thing to watch Jamie James fly through there while you're 5 feet off the track. That was priceless. -Dane Westby

My KSSS experience made up the best three days I can remember. (Don't tell my wife!) Now I'm smoother, more relaxed, faster and more confident [on the street]. -Dave Bardwick

What a thrilling opportunity for a 57-year-old woman who's only had her motorcycle license since '02! I will never race and may never go to track days, but I have brought home skills that will be with me on the road for years to come. -Ann English

Who doesn't want to ride and hang out with Kev Schwantz? Whatever the advice, it has the weight of a hundred gods speaking when Kevin says it. I felt the curriculum could have been a bit better, and the classroom delivery was at times unfocused-though I appreciated the open nature of the classroom discussions. The on-track instructors were great, by far the most experienced I've ridden with. Value? It's pretty expensive. If I hadn't crashed it would have been worth it. I wish they'd offer a credit or something for the time missed due to a crash, though. Everybody makes mistakes. -Dan Projansky

I was the only female in the advanced group, and the slowest. But instead of getting lost when my group left me, I was always picked up by a spare instructor who'd either lead me to another group or stick with me for the rest of the session. Off-track I was literally bombarded with feedback. The thing that impressed me the most was the desire of the instructors to teach me at my level and my pace. -Kim Bernstein

Being a Schwantz fan I just had to do the course. It was a good value. I went there to get my confidence back after a crash at Brands Hatch. -Stu Holloway, U.K.

Beside great instruction, an exciting track and the Suzuki GSX-R600, the best thing about the Schwantz School is the Southern-flavored camaraderie. -Tom Bowers

I really like the fact that Kevin is so active in his school, and that he was so down to earth and approachable. I also love Road Atlanta. -Eric Johnston