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Just recently, I received a copy of MotoGP 08 for my Playstation and started hacking my way around the racetracks. Whilst trying to perfect my way around the corners I thought to myself, how do these riders (the real ones) manage to push their bikes – and also quite possibly the laws of physics – right to the limit. You’d have to be crazy or extremely skillful to be able to lean the bike at an angle that is so nearly horizontal to the road. I wonder if I could do that I asked myself. Obviously it’s not something you could learn on your way to the corner store so where would I start? Fortunately, the PressPortal office is only a few hours away from the world class Phillip Island circuit which features on the MotoGP calendar so I’d have to find a way to tackle the same corners as Rossi and Stoner.
The California Superbike School, and no it’s not in the USA - well actually they’re all over the world – is operated by Steve Brouggy down here in Oz. The school was founded in the USA in 1980 by Keith Code, former motorcycle racer and author of numerous books on motorcycle riding. Code is regarded as one of the best on-track motorcycle instructors in the world and its no wonder with an alumnus that includes the likes of Chris Vermeulen. These guys had all the right credentials so a couple of us here at PressPortal decided to give it a crack.
Its not often I have to get up at 5am however it was easy as I could hardly sleep with so much excitement, we arrived at the Phillip Island circuit at 7am and could hardly wait to start doing some laps. For those who live in Sydney, California Superbike School also operates at Eastern Creek circuit.
If you’re like us and don’t have a bike suitable for the track or just don't want to take the risk - it’s not a problem. California Superbike School hires out everything you need, from full leather race suits, helmet, gloves, boots and even Suzuki GSX-R600s. To our surprise, many students brought their own gear and bikes which was a little intimidating at first because it made me think that they’d all done this before. Attending was all breeds of motorcycles from top of the range Ducatis to SuperMotards and even an old classic Moto Guzzi.
First thing to do is fill in the registration forms and try out your Power Ranger outfit. Once you’ve got all your gear sorted it’s time for the rider briefing. The course is structured with multiple levels to bring out your best skills. To graduate from the California Superbike School, riders complete four different levels of skills which each take one day…and what a day! All riders commence at Level 1 regardless of experience and skill - so that’s where we jumped in. Level 1 is all about building confidence and understanding cornering.
To maximize the amount of track time, riders follow a strict agenda, Theory – Break – Practice – Theory – Break – Practic. This rotation is repeated five times during the day and ensured that there was always a group out on the track.
Whilst wearing our leathers, we headed up to the classroom for our first theory session. I’d imagine that like me, many of the other students attending the day weren’t too fond of sitting in classes with teachers either – memories of year 10 maths I guess. But don’t worry, you’ll soon realise that this is no ordinary class, I mean, how often did your teacher sit you down to try and explain how your lean angle affects speed in a corner and how to use the throttle to maximize exit speed out of a corner – believe me, its all stuff you’ll find interesting.
Level 1 covers the following:
• Throttle control
• Steering operation
• Entry speed
• Effective cornering lines
• Suspension physics
At no stage throughout the day will you get bored because the school’s Yoda, Steve Brouggy, delivers all the information you need very entertainingly. You’ll visit the classroom for a few short periods during the day to learn only one new technique each time, and then you’re ready to hit the track and practice the drills.
In the pits the Level 1 bikes are all lined up and itching to go. During the breaks we had plenty of time to admire the more advanced riders on the day practice knee scraping. These guys were extremely fast, and their bikes sounded startling at full throttle down main straight – if that’s how you ride at level 4 then sign me up. Continuing to wander through the pits we noticed a stack of Dunlop tyres and other spares. The company Madaz Performance Centre attends on the day offering riders a service where they can replace tyres or hire a mechanic for a quick tune-up, very handy incase your bike starts playing up or you drop it.
Finally, it was our time to hit the track and Mother Nature decided to rain on our parade before the Level 1’s practice session. The group before us was pulling into the pits and we were instructed to get on our Suzuki GSX-R600s. Each session spends four 30 minute sessions on the circuit throughout the day to put the classroom theory into practice.
Each rider is assigned an on-track riding coach; the coach rides on one of the schools GSX-R750s and manages to find you when you’re out on the circuit to demonstrate the drills right in front of you – which happens to be very helpful. For the most part, you get plenty of time and space to work on the drills by yourself so it’s important to practice executing them correctly and worry about speed later – faster laps will come in time. At the end of each session riders de-brief with their riding coaches to chat about our progress. When you have somebody actually watching you ride at a decent speed (not like the guys that do licence testing) and informing you about how to improve your technique, you’ll notice a dramatic improvement in performance and confidence because everything seems easier when you’re doing it correctly with guidance.
After lunch the heavens closed and the skies cleared resulting in the track drying out. Using the skills we had learnt we were all lapping much faster now – still not quite there with Rossi and Stoner but definitely moving in the right direction. Determined, focused and confident, you’ll find yourself pushing harder and harder to see what the bike can do for you and like Yoda said, “chances are, the bike’s capabilities are much higher than your abilities.”
I know that it’s hard to understand just how exciting the experience is so maybe an on-board video can help. It’s a full lap of the Phillip Island circuit.
Video coming soon...
As an added service, Californian Superbike School also organise for a professional photographer (Steve Duggan) to setup camp around the circuit, to capture your moments of glory, just take a look at some of the brilliant shots in our gallery. You can either buy poster size prints or just download a digital copy of the images from the SDPics website, very handy for when your bragging to mates.
At the end of a long day when everything starts to calm down and everyone’s packing up I realised, this school is not only for the motorcycle enthusiast. In fact, it would make complete sense for anyone who had received their motorcycle licence to participate in the California Superbike School to learn more about motorcycle physics and techniques that are not only applicable to the track but the road as well. If you’re looking to work on your skills or just want to experience a race track at full throttle, I highly recommend giving this course a go. California Superbike School operates 30+ times a year and track days 60+ times a year.
Click here to book in to the Californian Superbike School and learn the art of conering at either Phillip Island or Eastern Creek
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