Tuning Up Our Skills At California Superbike School

Unlearning bad habits

Sharpening our skills at the California Superbike School.etechphoto.com

As motorcyclists, we're familiar with the idea of a tuneup: Replace worn parts, tend to items that have wandered out of spec, right the wrongs of time and mileage. As riders, we can benefit from the occasional tuneup as well—to address bad habits that have developed or skills that have softened. That's why I signed up for a repeat of the California Superbike School's Level 4 class. That, and I was really keen to ride Laguna Seca on Keith Code's school-issue BMW S1000RR.

Fifteen years ago, a friend gave me a copy of Code’s original Twist of the Wrist riding manual, and I found its straight­forward and logical explanations of technique ­enlightening. I’ve since gifted Twist to many new riders, and the Superbike School is essentially the book brought to life.

The curriculum at Code's California Superbike School consists of four levels of training. The first three are two-day classes, which I took over the course of a year. They imbue students with the skills and understanding to ride safely and competently. The fourth level is reserved for more personalized coaching to address students' personal goals or struggles.

For me, those struggles looked like an unhealthy appetite for knee pucks and toe sliders. Something about my riding style was burning through more plastic than my lap times warranted. While I knew the root of the problem was related to my body position, I had no idea what to do about it.

Code and his coaches peeled back the layers of bad habits, took a wrecking ball to my riding style, and rebuilt it from the footpegs up, explaining the logic and physics behind every adjustment. By the end of the class, I was barely ­skimming my knees yet turning faster lap times and riding with more control and a much larger margin for error. I won’t bore you with the details—like my position on the seat and distance from the tank, what I was doing with my arms, or how I was supporting my torso while trail braking—what’s important is that I left the school hanging off the bike properly and carrying less lean angle through corners. Not only did that help preserve my knee and toe sliders, it also enabled me to trail-brake later, get on the gas earlier, and enjoy a more stable and communicative bike.