Keith Code’s California Superbike School, Level 2

Every motorcycle racer or sport rider who does track days wants to go faster.  Enter Keith Code and his California Superbike School, one of the best ways to learn the skills required for that extra speed we all want.  I returned to Superbike School for level 2 last weekend to build on what I learned in level 1 back in late 2008.  It was also a great opportunity to finally ride the BMW S1000RR, the incredible new sportbike that’s now the standard issue student ride at California Superbike School.

For those of you wondering how much experience you need before attending Superbike School, their website simply says students, “must have some riding experience — we do not train first time riders.”  Personally I would recommend that at a minimum you have unconscious familiarity with your motorcycle’s controls, i.e. you can ride a motorcycle without ever having to think about where and what the controls are.  It’s a great way for experienced track riders and even racers to improve; it’s also not a bad introduction to track riding for those who feel they’re ready to step up from the streets.

So what does level 2 involve?  Vision.  Keith plainly states that the reason most racers plateau is because of visual issues.  I won’t post his lessons here or even attempt to summarize them; suffice it to say vision plays a huge part in getting around the track and he’s definitely got some effective methods for improving your visual skills.  There was also a good deal of time spent on body positioning in level 2 which included working on the lean bike.  I struggled throughout the day adjusting to a new body positioning style they recommended for me, but the revised methods allow me to keep far less weight on my hands when leaned over.  That equates to much less unwanted steering inputs (my old style makes me put too much weight on the bars during turns), a very good thing when you’re delicately balancing traction at full lean.  They constantly corrected me when I screwed up, which was often, but that’s what any good instructor does.  They never let me off the hook until I got it right.

As for the BMW S1000RR… wow.  This is a beast of a bike, its 999cc engine putting out 193 HP at the crank and winning almost every magazine comparison this year.  Fortunately for the school it’s got several different power and traction control settings, so the power can be toned down quite a bit to keep people from launching themselves into orbit.  I got to ride it in both “rain” and “sport” modes; rain mode is like an under-powered 600cc sportbike while sport mode opens things up considerably and lets you get a taste of what it can do (the “race” and “slick” modes are the two more powerful settings).  The surprising thing is how well it handles for a liter bike, certainly much better than my 2005 Yamaha R6.  I’ll save the technical analysis as that’s been done everywhere else but suffice it to say it’s by far the best sportbike I’ve ever ridden.

The tough but welcome instruction combined with the chance to ride the new S1000RR made it a terrific day.  I’ve got a lot to work on before I come back for level 3, but I’m definitely keen to return and get myself to the next level.  And I need to work out my legs more because I’m freakin’ sore.

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