Can you improve your riding skills in a day?


Can a few hours at a riding school really teach you anything? Tom Highman spent a day with the California Superbike School at the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit to find out.

Founded by Twist of the Wrist author Keith Code, the California Superbike School (CSS) has been teaching riders the underlying principles of riding motorcycles for over 3 decades. The riding school has a team of dedicated professionals and “guarantee that our effective drills, and our ability to demonstrate and communicate them, will ensure that you learn and improve”.

CSS offer four different training levels, but all students start at Level 1. This applies for seasoned racers as well as those who’ve just passed their motorcycle test as each lesson builds on from the first in a step-by-step process.

There was a mixture of ages, abilities and experience about to start their first day at school. But one common factor shared by all was a willingness to learn to ride a motorcycle better.

After signing on and getting riding kit checked on a sunny morning at Brands, it was soon time for everyone to get an introduction to the CSS team in the classroom. This was followed by a safety briefing that covered flags, passing other riders safely on track and any other questions riders had.

Although the school makes use of circuits, riders are not there to chase lap times or race each other. For many riders, a Level 1 course may be the first time they’ve ever ridden on a track – initially a daunting prospect for some. But the circuit simply allows a safe environment for students to practice various drills, using a variety of corners in the process.

The Level 1 class featured 5 different lessons with classroom sessions on the day given by coach Gary Adshead. Gary would introduce each subject before getting students to think about how a bike would behave in a particular situation and the reasons why. After going over the principles he would then go on to explain about how riders should use that information to improve their riding and setting students a common goal to try on track. After each classroom session riders would head out on track to practise drills relating to their new-found knowledge.

The first lesson of the day focused on throttle control and required the use of riding around the Indy circuit in 4th gear only. A big surprise for many was that we were told to ride around the track in just 4th gear and without using any brakes. Without the use of these controls, riders had just one way to adjust their speed on track and subsequently one thing to think about - throttle control.

This opening exercise ensured everyone had to change their riding style and think about what they were doing from the get go, with subsequent lessons on turn points, quick turning, rider input and two-step turning building on from on each other as the day went on.

Whilst on track, CSS coaches would observe and follow riders, communicating via hand signals. At the end of the track sessions, riders would debrief with their coaches in the pit garages, discussing what corners on the circuit the newly learned techniques worked well and where they felt they needed improvement. Coaches would then give riders individual targets for their next on-track session. After chatting to their coaches, riders were soon discussing the lesson with each other and the gains they had discovered to their own riding.

Whilst some riders used their own bikes on track (including one rider on a Multistrada 1200 Enduro) many opted to use one of the schools hire bikes - a fleet of Ducati including the new SuperSport as well as 959 Panigale and 1299 Panigale motorcycles. For those who have not yet ridden a Ducati on track, what better way is there to explore the performance of these motorcycles in a safe environment with trained professionals, have fun and learn at the same time?

Everyone I spoke to came away with a new-found confidence in their cornering and riding ability, buoyed by the knowledge of what was happening to their bikes under them as it braked, turned and accelerated.

Once an understanding is achieved of what a motorcycle can and should do for you from the Level 1 drills, CSS then move on step-by-step to sharpen the visual skills. But that marks the start of Level 2 and another day on track…

One of the best things about a CSS course is that unlike purchasing go-faster bolt-ons that may fit a specific motorcycle only, is the fact that when you upgrade your own riding you can transfer that knowledge and the techniques learnt to every bike you ride then on - be it on the track or the road.

Students at the end of the day seemed to be unanimous in agreement that If you’re willing to learn - and want to improve your riding and confidence on road or track - then a day with CSS can definitely help you become a better rider. School has never been so much fun.

CSS provide their unique training courses across the UK and Ireland at race circuits including Brands Hatch, Donington Park, Oulton Park, Silverstone Stowe and Mondello Park. For those wishing to learn in more exotic climates they also offer schools in Europe and as far away as Dubai and Bahrain. Courses start from £350.

Find out more about the Level 1 course via the California Superbike School website.

This article is a guest written blog post by Tom Highman of Boombox London.
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