Wednesday, October 29, 2008
  Keith Code's California Superbike School

Wow, has it really been that long since I posted? Yikes. In any case I wanted to write about my experience with Keith Code's California Superbike School, which I attended last weekend as a level 1 student. I've been riding now for 4 1/2 years and prior to the class had done nine track days (I think). Keith has an impressive list of motorcycle racers that he and his staff have coached, so when some members of my riding club signed up I figured it was a good time to go.

A great thing about the school is that you can rent one of their motorcycles for the day if you don't want to haul yours or don't have one suitable for the track. You can also rent all of the necessary riding gear like leathers, gloves, boots, etc., so it's a great way to get introduced to the track without having to purchase everything that's necessary to do so. The motorcycle you can rent is the 2007 Kawasaki ZX-6R, and I understand they get a new fleet every 2 or 3 years. I'm always keen to try different bikes, so I opted to spend a little more cash and rent one of the ZX-6Rs.

That morning I woke up and drove toward Rosamond with a buddy in the pre-dawn darkness. We arrived at the Streets course at Willow Springs just as the sun had come up, around 7:00 AM. It was a chilly 38 degrees F, but at least we knew the high would eventually reach 85 or so. As we parked and walked (freezing our asses off) toward the meeting room to register, we were greeted by the school's two huge truck trailers emblazoned with the school name, pictures and sponsor logos. One transports all of the bikes, the other has the riding gear and a kitchen (food is included with tuition). We got ourselves registered and eagerly checked out the bikes we would be riding later that day.

The first thing that happens is an orientation with Keith himself, which bleeds into the first lesson of the day. Keith is an excellent speaker and is passionate about teaching the school. He's obviously worked on his presentation skills and really cares about seeing his students make progress. This was made very clear to me when he told a slightly distracted student, "Young man, I need your attention." He presents his ideas clearly and effectively while engaging everyone in the class. His son Dylan alternates with him on teaching the classroom sessions and is also a very effective communicator. I've listened to plenty of fast guys and racers try to teach racing and track riding concepts, but being good at something and being able to teach it are two different things.

The class is broken down into 5 classroom sessions, each followed by a track session. They give you one concept to work on per session, then you hit the track and work on that one thing. Each student is assigned to a track coach (about 3 students per coach when I went). The coaches find you as you're circulating the track, follow and observe you, then have you follow them as they demonstrate the techniques. Immediately after the track sessions are over, you meet with your track coach for a few minutes before heading into the next classroom session. It's a very effective format.

Of the 5 things that we worked on, 2 were big revelations for me. I won't go into detail because I'll just muddy the concepts, but I definitely feel I got my money's worth. Those 2 exercises have boosted my confidence and given me something concrete to work on. The others in my riding club all came away with similar impressions and feel that the class is well worth its cost. We all plan on returning for level 2.

As we sat in the classroom for the wrap-up, Keith was still full of energy and concerned with whether or not we thought the class was worthwhile. He had us all fill out an evaluation form (which says a lot about how seriously he takes improvement), gave us completion certificates and sent us on our way. I stood up, shook the man's hand, thanked him and headed off for crispy chicken something tacos at Chili's. It was a terrific day and well worth my hard earned dough.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007
  Willow Springs Trackday #3
I was starting to go through crackday, I mean trackday, withdrawals lately and finally got my butt and trusty R6 out to Willow Springs (the big track) for the 3rd time and my 6th track outing overall. This was also my 3rd trackday with Cal-Sportbike, whom I strongly recommend to those who enjoy a more relaxed experience.

For those of you who've never done a trackday, they run a good trackday school at no extra cost. I highly recommend it as a first trackday for anyone who feels they're ready for the challenge of the track. Most trackday organizers will break up the riders into 3 groups (novice / intermediate / advanced), but Cal-Sportbike uses only 2 groups so everyone can get more riding time in.

Good ol' turn 4

Prepping the bike took a couple of days. I had to get new tires (Dunlop Qualifiers again) and my radiator fluid hadn't been flushed in a while. I hate flushing the radiator because taking the fairings off and putting them back on just plain sucks. The rest of the prep - taping lights, removing mirrors, disconnecting the headlights and tail lights - takes just a few minutes.

Transportation was no gimme this time either. I had to borrow a friend's car (hers is set up for towing) and rent a U-Haul trailer. I was also hauling another friend's bike, so I had to get a larger trailer with enough room. I rented the 5x9 ramp trailer from U-Haul, which is excellent for hauling bikes. It has an easy ramp for loading/unloading and tie-down loops at all 4 corners.

the bikes loaded in the trailer at 5:30 am

My day started with a brutal 3:30 am wake up call, but that was because I had to:

Shockingly we had enough time to stop at Mickey D's for breakfast and still made it there in time. Our other two friends arrived a little later and we set up camp in the parking lot. The weather was perfect. We finished taping up our bikes, got them through inspection and went to the rider's meeting.

Our pit area

Finally it was time to get on the track. This was my first time riding in the fast group so I was a little curious about the speeds. To my relief I was able to hold my own but there were definitely a few really fast riders. One of those riders was Jason Curtis, AMA Superbike racer. He was insanely fast around the track and smoked me repeatedly. He hosted a Q & A session late in the morning, which I have to say was really helpful in giving me a few things to work on. More specifically, his comments about his braking points and how far into the specific turns he was trail braking really gave me something to measure against. I worked on trail braking the rest of the afternoon and really made some good progress.

Jason Curtis, AMA Superbike racer, about to spank me

By the end of the day I felt like I had improved quite a bit on the big Willow track. I was definitely braking later, deeper and smoother, and I definitely picked up a lot of speed in a couple of areas of the track that gave me a hard time before. At the very end of the day I rode my friend's Suzuki SV1000 for a few laps to capture some onboard video (she's got a really cool little video camera hooked up to the nose of the bike). I eased up to make sure I didn't crash her bike, so those of you familiar w/ Willow Springs will notice I'm downshifting and braking a little early in places. That was really fun though. :) Enjoy the video, and some more pics are below.

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Name: Ray
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