training

Riding with CLASS Motorcycle School at Virginia International Raceway

 Nope, we didn’t crash and have to get our bikes towed! (Kendon Motorcycle Trailer)

Nope, we didn’t crash and have to get our bikes towed! (Kendon Motorcycle Trailer)

Not Just Your Average Monday.

Earlier this week I had the honor of attending back to back track days with my friends at Reg Pridmore’s CLASS Motorcycle School.

I attended a special, unique event earlier in April just for women riders but this one was one of their regular 2 day events at VIRginia International Raceway in Alton, VA. My husband and I loaded up our bikes on the RevZilla Trailer (#IloveMyJob) and drove out Sunday, October 14th.

 Here I am dancing with our bikes?

Here I am dancing with our bikes?

We rented one of the fancy garages at the track and made our home for the next 2 days.

By the way, we didn’t bring half the stuff most people bring with them to the track. Everyone will tell you something different, but I can tell you that you’ll probably use half of what you actually bring. So this is our simplified list in order of importance:

  1. Our track gear (duh!); suits, helmets, gloves, boots, back protectors

  2. Our bikes and keys

  3. Painters tape and duct tape (painters tape goes first, then duct tape. You’ll see why in a minute)

  4. Clean clothes for 3 nights since we left Sunday and got back Wednesday

  5. Chairs (because standing around all the time is tiring)

  6. Tool box (we have this one from Sonic). Of course we didn’t use everything but it does have some nice moto specific tools that can come in handy. I mainly used the tools to remove my mirrors, reinstall them afterwards and tighten up some loose ends.

  7. Cleaners, paper towels:

    1. Mucoff products: dry chain lube & degreaser, protectant, goggle/faceshield cleaner

    2. Simple Green; general, all purpose cleaner

  8. Tire compressor (so you can adjust your tire pressure below street levels. I drop mine to 28 front and rear for a little more stick)

  9. Tie downs to tie the bikes down to the trailer

  10. A few snacks/drinks

Oh and did I mention that because we went to the South Course on Day 1 (not North as planned), we had to leave our cozy paddock behind! So we managed all day without anything with us, and relied on track friends to help us out.

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In retrospect I could’ve used extra fuel, but there was a Sunoco station on site, just on the other side of the parking lot. This was the first track day where my fuel light actually went on at the end of the last session!

We got in Sunday night a little late but stayed up to tape up our headlights and turn signals. You didn’t have to take your mirrors if you didn’t want to but I found them distracting and they were easy enough to remove.

This is why you need duct tape and painters tape, so you can make eyes! Let’s just say my husband’s creativity inspired me. Remember to never directly apply duct tape to your lights and mirrors, you want to use painters tape first and then you can go crazy with funny colors and what not.

Although Hurricane Michael hit the weekend before, we had the privilege of riding both courses at VIR; both the North and South Courses. Originally we were only supposed to ride the North Course but it just worked out that we were able to do South on Day 1 and North on Day 2.

The South Course was a shorter, slower paced track. The upside to this is that I got to do more laps than I normally would have. The schedule for CLASS was a little different than track days I’ve done in the past with other organizations.

As with every track day, the day started first thing (7:30am-8:00am) with Check In and Tech Inspection followed by a safety meeting where rules and information for the day was presented and shared by Reg’s team.

These rules were imposed on both groups, regardless of experience level or training so you know that everyone is on the same page and things will go as safely as possible.

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Reg also impressed upon us a few other thoughts that he truly believed were important to our time at VIR for the next 2 days. I find these messages are important, not only for the track but for the street too:

  1. Slowing down, maintaining control

  2. Courtesy and consideration

  3. Learning not speeding

 I can feel the instructor’s (orange shirt) eyes on the back of my head watching my pitiful form.

I can feel the instructor’s (orange shirt) eyes on the back of my head watching my pitiful form.

I found this message to be comforting, empowering and set a positive tone for the riding ahead. One of the many personal rules I have about riding motorcycles is not riding in large groups of strangers (outside the confines of an organized, training ride with a dedicated riding organization e.g. large public rallies and parades. It simply makes me nervous because out on the street, the training and riding environment is vastly different. When a group of riders are at the track together, we’re generally on the same page. We know we’ve come here because we know it’s safer, and our environment is controlled and organized in a way that cannot be matched to a track day. I always feel 100% safer on the track than I do on the street.

As the day went on, I found myself finally figuring out this track and feeling the most confident at of course, the last lap. It took me all morning and afternoon to get my lines just right.

And as much as I wanted to get my knee down, I decided to shift my focus on hitting my apexes just right and keeping my line tight, not wide because on the street that can be a very dangerous outcome. (Imagine going wide on a 2 lane, 2 way road over the double yellows!) I finally started feeling more confident to take my lines tighter and get over my fear of going wide.  

 Trying my best to hug those apexes and keep a tight, inside line per the Mantra of Reg Pridmore.

Trying my best to hug those apexes and keep a tight, inside line per the Mantra of Reg Pridmore.

There were only two groups, A and B. A was for Advanced Pace and B was for Relaxed Pace. I started out in A the first day on the South Course. Although I did fine in that group I wasn’t feeling comfortable with the pace of the other rides so halfway through day 2, I opted to ride in Group B. The group was smaller, so more room and more laps! I hardly ran into any traffic and it felt like I had the track to myself. I also had lots of opportunities for coaches to follow me and for me to follow them. Pretty much every session, there was a coach available if I needed help.

There was also a small Triumph contingent, which was also comforting.

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You might be able to see in the background, that there were quite a few non traditional sportbikes that attended too!

And yep, they also fully attended both days. SEEE?? Track Days aren’t just for Sportbikes!

It’s for everyone, anyone. It’s all about finding the right one for you, and contacting local track schools to see if their program fits in with your goals and objectives as a rider. I have a list on my website here, of advanced, nontraditional track day training around the country that I highly recommend.

http://www.gearchic.com/beyond-basic-training/

But if you do some searching online I’m sure you’ll find local schools that will be more than happy to provide you advanced street training on the racetrack.

Or, sign up for a class with Reg and Gigi and tell them I sent you!

For more information on CLASS Motorcycle Schools including dates and prices, visit their website: ClassRides.com. You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram.

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Shoutout to Shoei Helmets and Honda for sponsoring CLASS and making sure that the instructors have the best helmets and bikes as well.

My Gear:

  1. Helmet: Bell Race Star, Ace Cafe

  2. Suit: Alpinestars Womens Motegi V1 Race Suit (new version)

  3. Gloves: Racer High Racer Womens Gloves

  4. Boots: Dainese Womens Torque Out D1 Boots

  5. Back Protector: Alpinestars Nucleon KR-1, SM

And in case the men out there are wondering about my husband’s gear:

  1. Helmet: Bell Star Helmet (Pre 2015)

  2. Suit: Revit Venom Suit

  3. Gloves: Held Evo Thrux

  4. Boots: Dainese Torque Out D1 Mens Boots (same as mine)

  5. Back Protector: Alpinestars KR Adventure; he said it was more comfortable than the model I have

How Confidence Affects Women and Motorcycling

 Me, feeling supremely confident on my '12 Street Triple R. But it wasn't always that way.

Me, feeling supremely confident on my '12 Street Triple R. But it wasn't always that way.

Learning to ride a motorcycle is certainly about confidence. The majority of mine came from learning to ride the right bikes and increasing my skillset dramatically from bike to bike.

But there was always a small chunk of it that came from me telling myself that I could and "eff it". If something happens, I'll deal with it or call for help or whatever. I'm not going to be afraid of it anymore.

But keep in mind, that absolutely has to be within reason like when I decided to take the Ninja 250 to work instead of my scooter. I just went the 40 minute route to work (avoiding busy thoroughfares like Van Ness Avenue and Steep ass hills like Gough Street). I had already been commuting on my scooter to work for a year. This wasn't a huge jump from what I had already been doing. It was totally realistic given my experience and what I had been doing previously.

 Me in 2006 on my first "long" ride outside of San Francisco to Half Moon Bay, a whopping 50 minutes one way!

Me in 2006 on my first "long" ride outside of San Francisco to Half Moon Bay, a whopping 50 minutes one way!

This article says what I've witnessed and experienced personally in my 15 years of riding and helping other women learn to ride and talking to them about riding. And certainly my work life too. Why aren't we as confident from the get go? What is it about many of us (not all, I know, but more than most I'm sure) that holds us back from succeeding other than some of the most common mistakes new riders make ?

When all of our ducks are in a row, we still feel like we don't deserve it or are that good. I still feel like I'm terrible at riding at times. I'm terrible at nailing my lines every time I go riding, I'm terrible at braking. I'm terrible at cornering. I mean, okay I'm not horrific in that I crash every time I ride, but when I do go out I'm constantly critiquing myself and trying to figure out what I could've done better to take that particular corner better/faster/smoother. Is that just a regular aspect of riding? I'm guessing many of my male readers are going to argue that "of course, I think that too".

But how many of you think that way in your everyday life as many women have experienced per this article?

Riding as many of us know is 90% mental, 10% physical (that's why YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE ABLE TO PICK UP YOUR MOTORCYCLE to ride it).

I recently joined this cool interactive panel of my fellow women riders about how we got into riding and some of the barriers we ran into along the way. There are some really great tips and advice here that I think many of you can relate to:

https://www.cake.co/conversations/HKn99Mb/a-panel-of-women-who-motorcycle-what-it-s-like-in-a-sport-with-a-bad-boy-vibe

So if something is holding you back, what do you think that is?

Riding with CLASS Motorcycle School

In April of 2018, I had the pleasure of doing a track day with CLASS Motorcycle School founded by retired roadracer Reg Pridmore and his wife Gigi. They run an excellent motorcycle school program based in Southern California. I had read about this school a few years ago and purely based on the description of their courses I knew I wanted to ride with them someday. I appreciate a school that focuses on fun, skill development and riding techniques.

What you might be wondering is what kind of motorcycle school? Track? Street? Advanced? Racing? Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes.

 “Still the friendliest and safest place to learn the riding skills we all need” -CLASS Motorcycle School
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So I jumped at the chance when I read that Gigi was putting together an (click here for photos) ALL LADIES track day program. They were going to host it at the Streets of Willow Raceway (“SWR”) right next to the famous Willow Springs Int’l Motorcycle Motorsports Park. The SWR is a smaller, bumpier, more street like track that emulates riding through your favorite canyon/mountain roads; imperfectly paved, bumps, hops, no clear white lines. It gives you more of a real world experience so when you get back onto the streets you’ll have a stronger strategy when you get to your favorite twisty one lane road.

I haven’t done an All Ladies track day in over 5 years so I decided to fly in and met up with my amazing friend. I booked a room at the Holiday Inn Express nearby in Lancaster and stayed there for the couple of nights I was in town with my friend Brittany.

It’s always fun to ride on the track with your friends, but even if you don’t know anyone a track day is the place where everyone loves riding as much as you do (sometimes more).

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I knew I wouldn’t be able to take Goldie with me (my Street Triple) so I rented one of their beautiful Honda CB500R’s.It was a fully stock bike, and the preload was probably set at the lowest point. I didn’t even think that it might be a possibility to raise the preload on this and wish I had thought of it. The bike is pretty low for a sporty and I ended up scraping the footpegs a few times :) But I had a great time on it overall.

Because this was a special All Ladies Day, we only had 2 riding groups: A (advanced) and B (novice). There wasn’t a need for a middle level group. Normally at an open track day you get a third group as an intermediate level.

I rode in the A group and I thought the group of women I rode with were awesome. Everyone was there to have fun, ride better and just have fun. There’s a different vibe when you ride with all women, it’s just different. I can’t say it’s better or worse because it’s a different experience. If you aren’t familiar with track days then riding your first one in a Ladies only group can feel much easier, less intimidating and more comfortable. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of options for women’s only track days, and but they do come up every now and then.  

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After you check in to let them know you’re there and ready to attend class, it’s time for bike inspection. Since I was riding their bike, I didn’t have to do anything. But you typically need to let their mechanic take a look at your bike and make sure it’s safe and ready to ride on the track.

Depending on the school, they will have different requirements. With CLASS, they really just required basic safety requirements like proper tire pressure and everything in working order. My bike wasn’t even taped up and I rode on the track with all the turn signals and headlights untaped.

Nothing advanced was required like coolant changes or safety wire, and we had several bikes that weren’t even sportbikes!

Then it’s onto the first meeting of the morning. Generally what happens thru the day is you have 20 minutes of riding then ~20-30 minutes of classroom timing to cover concepts that you can then practice on your next session. It ran this way until lunchtime ~1pm with a 1 hour break. Then we resumed until the last session around 430pm.

 Me and Brittany listening to the great Reg Pridmore

Me and Brittany listening to the great Reg Pridmore

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Reg was injured recently riding down the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca so he was unable to ride with us that day. He provided almost all the classroom instruction instead. Reg’s message was consistent, respectful and thoughtful:

Focus on riding better on the track so that you will ride better on the street. Skills, technique, focus. Not speed, not riding faster or better than anyone else except yourself.

I have found that I am my worst critic when it comes to life in general, but more so with riding.

 

Sometimes, a corner is just a corner whether it’s on your favorite mountain or backroad. What’s vastly different are the risks you carry on the street (i.e. MUCH higher). On this little track, I just had to worry about how I was riding. No worries about cars, oncoming motorcycles, animals, accidents, traffic or any random obstacles.  

We had ~6 sessions that day back to back with a break for lunch in between. After each session, sometimes before the end of the session even, a coach would give you some polite feedback. Because we had a smaller group that day, we had a lot of coaches available to us that day; about a 2:1 ratio. Normally you have more than a 6:1 ratio of coaches to riders on open track days, but they had brought in a few extra coaches to help out.

 PSA: Never try to break in a new suit on the track. It kept me from wanting to lean forward most of the time, it was just so uncomfortable to do anything but sit up straight. :*( 

PSA: Never try to break in a new suit on the track. It kept me from wanting to lean forward most of the time, it was just so uncomfortable to do anything but sit up straight. :*( 

In between sessions we covered additional topics such as body position, where to focus, how to choose your lines, etc. I would say the structure of the class was more relaxed and you were able to practice whatever skills you needed to from session to session. If you needed a coach there was always one available to either follow you or be followed for tips/skills/feedback.

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Initially, I had a couple of coaches who thought I needed a little more assistance than I really needed but I was able to talk to them and let them know exactly what I was trying to accomplish.

At one point, my contacts were drying out (because of alll the fabulous ventilation from my bell race star) and it looked like I was riding like a crazy person. After the session was over I had to explain to him that I was fine, and I was just having trouble seeing!

But after a couple of sessions I was able to ride with Gigi Pridmore, and she gave me the best feedback and helped me with my lines and body positioning which I’m always trying to improve.

One thing I do NOT recommend is buying a new track suit 4 days earlier and then breaking it in on the track :0 This hindered my body positioning greatly. Just getting into the position below was really uncomfortable to where I couldn’t stay over the tank for more than a few minutes without sitting up straight. I was trying to work on body positioning (moving my ass off the seat more) but the suit just wouldn’t let me. (Remember to let customer know this is the worst part of wearing a new suit on the track).

 Photo:  eTechPhoto

Photo: eTechPhoto

When bikes are too low, they’re harder to lean further than you want to. But there’s no knee dragging here, just focusing on my lines, speed and consistency.

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Depending on how you learn, what feels good for you one or the other might be better.

As you research various riding schools (basic or advanced), take the time to read about each one and decide for yourself. I’m open to all track classes, no matter what the format.

No matter what track day you choose, remember that it’s not for racing, not just for sportbikes, no just for fast riders but for YOU.

For more information about CLASS including costs, schedules and more: www.classrides.com 

Check out the list of riding schools on my website here including options for OFF Road Training as well.

What Is a Track Day? Common Misconceptions

 Nope, I'm not on the Track. I'm on Broad Street in South Philly ;) . 

Nope, I'm not on the Track. I'm on Broad Street in South Philly ;) . 

I've been talking to a lot of people lately about track days. Especially advanced motorcycle training classes. Here are some common questions/comments/thoughts that I hear on a daily / weekly basis when people ask about "track days". 

It's So Dangerous

  Creative Commons: Photo/ epSos.de

Creative Commons: Photo/ epSos.de

Somewhat False. You're on a motorcycle, yes, it's dangerous. But it's also dangerous when you're speeding 85+mph on the Interstate up and down I-95. Aside from the parking lot, I would argue that the track is the least dangerous place you could possibly be with your motorcycle. Absolutely NO CARS, PEOPLE, BUILDINGS, BARRIERS, TRUCKS, ETC. Nothing in your way except You and what's in your head. The pavement is smooth, no paint/bumps/obstacles/sidewalks in your bike's way. No trees/bushes/blindcorners. No hills/mountains/animals. Nothing! Isn't that what we get excited about on the street? Have you ever discovered a new road that is perfectly paved, smooth and a dream to ride? Well imagine more of that and you can go even faster than you can almost anywhere else. 

But, of course, track days aren't for people who only like to go straight. If that's your style of riding then you'll probably find the track to be even more challenging. But if you *love* twisties, then the track is where you want to be.  

 Okay not all tracks have stars and stripes, but looks how pristine that pavement is at COTA, Austin! 

Okay not all tracks have stars and stripes, but looks how pristine that pavement is at COTA, Austin! 

Plus you are covered head to toe in leather, body armor, toe sliders, back protector, helmet, etc. For many of you, you're wearing far more gear than you'll ever wear elsewhere. More about gear in a bit....  

But I'm Not Racing

Neither was I when I did two track days last year. And same with the one I'm hoping to do this year in April (Ladies Only, with CLASS Rides). My goal and the goal of almost everyone at a track day is NOT to race. In fact, the instructors will probably kick you off the track if you try to do that with your fellow classmates. Anyone riding recklessly without regard for personal safety is usually addressed immediately. Call it proper track day etiquette. You're not there to compete with eachother, you're there to ride safe, have fun and not get hurt. And not hurt anyone else!  

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Recently, Gigi Pridmore of CLASS contacted me to let me know about a special Ladies Only track day coming up on April 11th. She really summed up their track day experience quite eloquently: 

"CLASS is all about being a better, safer street rider. Better at cornering and braking, safer because you’ve practiced on a closed circuit and riding with control becomes second nature. Much more than just a track day, we teach control and technique and make better riders. It’s a great first track day or 100th track day because we help riders of all experience levels." - Gigi Pridmore, CLASS Rides

I totally agree with what she says here. Control, especially how to control your motorcycle in corners is crucial no matter where you're riding. And they can tell if you can/can't. I'm excited to attend in April, I hope you'll join me! 

What's The Point? 

The point is that you are probably riding a bike that was *not really* meant for the street. (ahem: gixxer, r6, daytona, s1000rr, ninja h2/zx-6r owners) You will never be able to ride it the way that it was intended fully on the street. Because while you're trying to push yourself beyond what's safe out there, you are also distracted with having to deal with potential hazards like traffic/cars/people/others (on bikes too).

Ever wish you could push 100-150mph for more than 0.5 seconds because you have to stop / slow down for traffic? And then you have to ride really slow in a straight line because now the 0.5 second of 100+mph you had is over? What if you could make it last longer and then do it over and over again but head into another corner and then another and then another?  It feels SO GOOD to carry that momentum into an actual corner! And don't worry, if you don't know how to do that, a track day is the best place to learn how :) 

But I Don't Know How to Ride The Track

 Me with Coach Misty. She was great, giving me tips after every session. It felt great knowing she was watching me as I progressed. Photo:  /eTechPhoto

Me with Coach Misty. She was great, giving me tips after every session. It felt great knowing she was watching me as I progressed. Photo: /eTechPhoto

Of course not! And no one expects you to. What most track organizations will likely expect from you (I've only taken classes from 3 organizations out of the dozens of companies across the US) is that you know how to ride on the street. You have enough control of your motorcycle to go on the freeway comfortably, maybe you've done some long weekend trips. Maybe you've logged 5-10,000 miles commuting on your motorcycle.

Now you're ready to learn more about yourself and your beloved bike. Or you might be like me and switched over from an aggressive riding position to a more upright, comfortable position. And now your new bike feels different than your old one. i wanted to gain more confidence on my Triumph and figure out what I could do differently to be a better rider with it. 

For me, my first track day at New Jersey was intimidating. I'd never been on that track before. It was HUGE, LONG and the corners were fast. Average speeds were well over ~50mph in some parts. I felt awkward at times and really uncomfortable because I didn't know anything about this track. I also wasn't used to that style of riding. My comfort zone has always been mountain roads, tight, twisty, blind corners. Not fast, sweeping, long turns. So figuring out where to look and how was a completely new challenge. 

 Photo: The  SBImage , Sept 2016

Photo: The SBImage, Sept 2016

It was really hard figuring out how to go faster without getting lost. Many of the corners are long, sweeping like a really long freeway onramp. Sometimes, I had no idea  where I was, or where I should've been.  The good news is, I took a class with CSS and learned exactly where I needed to be. They showed me almost everything I would need to figure out what I was doing wrong. 

I Don't Have Track Gear

I didn't either. Here I am way back in 2011 on my first real track day with Z2 Track Days' Annual Ladies First Track Day in Thunderhill Raceway in California.  I wore my street leather gear, no knee pucks, no race boots. Just really good street gear. 

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Depending on the organization, they will only require 2 piece textile or leathers that zip together, (no mesh). I've seen riders on the track wearing 1 piece Aerostitch suits. It depends on the school, so call around and see what they say. As long as you have a full face helmet, and full coverage boots and gloves, you should be fine. if you have any questions of course, I hope you'll let me know. 

I Don't Have a Track Bike

I didn't either. And I still don't. I took my street bike to the track. Back in 2011 it was my SV650s. Last year, it was my beloved Street Triple. Although the Suzuki was a better bike on the track, due to the aggressive riding position. But I've seen all different types of motorcycles on the track, and ask anyone who's been to one they'll probably tell you that they've seen more than your typical "track bike". 

If you don't know how to ride within your limits, then yes, you'll probably destroy your bike in the process. Most people riding in their very first track day naturally go a lot slower and ride a bit more carefully because it's intimidating and a completely unfamiliar place. It'll take you awhile to get used to the feel / idea of being on the track too. If anything, it'll probably humble you quite a bit and really show you what you don't know how to do. 

But some schools also offer rentals like CLASS, which offers Honda CBR 300 and 500s. And Yamaha Champions offers Yamahas. So you don't always have to ride your own bike. Many track day organizations offer bike rentals, you just have to ask. 

Something else to consider are track days that are specifically focused on street riding like Z2's Road Rider 2.0 Course. The curriculum is totally different from a traditional track day too. There are lots of other courses like this offered from other organizations as well, like Yamaha Champions "ChampStreet" course. 

 Me with my track buddy :)

Me with my track buddy :)

But I Don't Know Anyone

That's okay! The track is one of the BEST places to make friends. You will meet so many awesome people who are there to have fun and share their excitement with everyone there. 

And if you do want to go with someone, get a few friends to go with you! Or, if they won't bite, ask them to just go with you and support your day at the track. Any kind of support whether it's from friends who ride or don't ride always feels great. 

Take a look at this list of beyond basic riding classes I put together for you. There are so many options out there, I'm sure I missed a few.

But if you're still not ready for a track day, I hope you'll consider intermediate or advanced training to keep your skills fresh. Motorcycling is something that requires constant supervision, practice and attention to stay proficient. 

Rubber Side Down. 

A List of OnRoad and OffRoad Motorcycle Training Resources

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I've updated my Resources page for you to include recommended intermediate/advanced training courses for street and offroad riding. 

These include schools that offer highly attentive, full on training (not just open track days) on and off the racetrack, on the dirt or in the woods.

I'm trying to make this list valuable for anyone riding on the street or the dirt. So you get the idea.   

http://www.gearchic.com/beyond-basic-training/

So after you've taken your Basic Motorcycle Safety Class which teaches you the *very* basic skills to get started, these classes are for after you've maybe ridden 2-3,000 miles on your own and now it's time for more training. 

Or, you've ridden for 5-10-15-20 years and you're looking to refresh your riding skills. Because you know that we tend to get a little complacent with our riding as we get older ;) If you don't retrain every so often (~3-5 years) you may find yourself falling into bad habits or losing some of your mojo. I recently did a track day and it was absolutely amazing for my street riding skills. 

Track days mean a lot of things to a lot of people, so I hope you will read my blog post about the class I took, and how it affected me on the street. As well as my list which includes really great classes to help you with street riding, NOT necessarily competition level racing. 

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Riding with California Superbike School

 I Made a Code Sandwich! (Left to Right: Keith Code, Founder of California Superbike School - Me - Dylan Code, Son of the Founder of California Superbike School and Instructor)

I Made a Code Sandwich! (Left to Right: Keith Code, Founder of California Superbike School - Me - Dylan Code, Son of the Founder of California Superbike School and Instructor)

Last month I was fortunate enough to attend my first Track Day with California Superbike School (CSS)

OMG. OMG. OMG. SO AMAZING. 

That just about sums up my experience with them. This was my 4th trackday ever, and I enjoyed my experience so much that I'm about to do my 5th in another week with CSS yet again. I've never done two track days in one year, let alone two track days in 4 weeks! Yikes! 

But I learned so much, and really had such an incredible experience that I was willing to spend another $475 to do another 1 day class again with them so soon.  

I had very different experiences with each school I've attended and up until now I honestly didn't know that a track day could be this good! Whenever I talk to people about going to do a class like this I find that many of them have misconceptions about what a track day is, and isn't. Even the name sounds intimidating "TRACK DAY". Racetrack. Speed. Racing. Isn't that what everyone thinks of when they think of a track? 

Firstly, I want to note that doing a Track Day means you *already* know how to ride your motorcycle aka have proficiency in operating your vehicle in a capacity beyond the parking lot and your introductory MSF Course. Ideally, I would say that you should have some experience riding at highway speeds and some comfort riding in the twisties. This school along with almost all the others are not there to show you how to ride your motorcycle. You should already know how to do that. What you might not know, is how to ride it better :D.

 Tech Inspection bright and early at 7AM. Thanks to their inspection, someone realized his throttle was a little loose and they promptly provided a quick fix to make sure he could ride safely for the day. 

Tech Inspection bright and early at 7AM. Thanks to their inspection, someone realized his throttle was a little loose and they promptly provided a quick fix to make sure he could ride safely for the day. 

Second of all, it's important to note that track days vary by the organization you choose to sign up with. My experience with the organizations I chose as far as what I learned and what I walked away with varied tremendously each time. And with CSS they also took care of us all day including: 

  • breakfast snacks and coffee
  • hydration station all day with unlimited water
  • assigned coaches
  • lunch
  • mechanic on site in case of emergency repairs

I would say that CSS offered another level of service you won't find at a traditional track day. Typically, it's up to you to feed and hydrate yourself. Coaches are usually floating with a larger student to coach ratio (more like 1:6) and they're not always required to follow you and give you feedback. 

 Initial introductions of the staff and coaches at CSS before our first classroom session (which was before our first riding session) 

Initial introductions of the staff and coaches at CSS before our first classroom session (which was before our first riding session) 

Looking at each 'school' gives you a slight idea of what they are trying to accomplish with you as a rider, and a student. Every school is different, as far as how much teaching and coaching they provide, and the level of oversight they give as you ride throughout the day. The biggest difference between a program like CSS and traditional track days is instruction. You simply get a lot of it. 

We opted for a 1 Day Course on our Triumphs. My goal was to learn how to ride it better and get to know it a little better on the track. When I rode on the same track 2 years ago I felt like I didn't leave feeling that much more confident about my skills. This time I felt completely different. 

Something I noticed in my group (Novice, Level 1) was the varying degrees of experience that each rider had. There were people there who'd never ridden a track, people who raced competitively and people who were somewhere in between like myself. The coaching ratios were extremely low as well, which is MUCH lower than traditional track days. 3:1! For every 3 students, there was 1 coach who would follow you *every* time you went out on a session. And you would follow your coach once every session. Feedback was always given every time, before proceeding onto the classroom. And classrooms weren't optional. You had to attend, or no go for the next session. 

 Debrief with our Coach after a session. Photo: ETechPhoto.com

Debrief with our Coach after a session. Photo: ETechPhoto.com

What I also loved in every class was a specific lesson for that session. We discussed strategies that we needed to implement so we could apply that skill to the next session. Then we'd do that all over again for the following session. Every time I went out I had a goal in mind and I did my best to achieve it. 

I'm not going to tell you what those are, so you'll just have to register for a class to find out!

I wasn't going nearly as fast as some of the more experienced riders in my group, but I did have fun passing a few people :-D. My goal wasn't to pass as many people, or to ride as fast as everyone else. My goal was to learn, learn and learn and hopefully pick up a little extra speed, consistency and confidence at the same time. I would say that all of those goals were achieved and exceeded. 

Focusing on improving specific skills for each session helped me greatly focus in on where my weaknesses and strengths were. Having a coach provide constant feedback was also helpful, so I could ask questions and get immediate answers. 

 There are two tracks at NJMP, but we rode on Thunderbolt, which is more technical and has more turns. It's a very fast track with higher average speeds. 

There are two tracks at NJMP, but we rode on Thunderbolt, which is more technical and has more turns. It's a very fast track with higher average speeds. 

 I didn't get my knee down, but that wasn't the point. 

I didn't get my knee down, but that wasn't the point. 

One goal that I achieved which I was really excited to understand was my body position as it related to my elbows. My Triumph has handlebars, so as a result my hands are much higher than a racebike would. 

I could never tell if I they were in the right position or not. It just doesn't feel as natural as an aggressive racebike would with lower bars. The weird feeling of my arms way up in the sky is normal! 

Michelin Power RS Tires

I feel like Goldie and I rode away feeling a little closer to each other. I trusted her, as well as her new Michelin Power RS Tires and she performed better than I expected. 

They warmed up quickly, and I certainly didn't need tire warmers (I never have). 

After 1-2 laps around the track, they were ready to go. After we mounted the tires at Moto Guild we headed straight to the track the day before our class. So I didn't even have time to wear them in on the street!

They were awesome, I highly recommend them as an aggressive street tire with a much softer compound than say, the Diablo Corsas which come with the bike. 

THANK YOU California Superbike School for teaching this old dog a few new tricks. 

See you in 5 days! 

Visit www.superbikeschool.com for more details about classes and schedules. 

Advanced Riding Skills with Reg Pridmore

trackday triumph speed triple street triple R  

I know what you're thinking. But I don't need a track day. And you're right, you don't. Instead, you need Reg Pridmore. 

I loved the track day that my husband and I did last September. But as a 'Training' environment, for street specific skills and riding, I didn't feel like it was the best option.

That's why I really want to do Reg Pridmore's Class School. I feel like his homepage says it all:

reg_pridmore_class_motorcycle_school 

"The friendliest and safest place to learn the riding skills we all need."

"At CLASS, Reg Pridmore focuses on teaching you how to become a smoother safer and more confident rider with instruction on more effective braking, shifting, cornering and how to avoid some pitfalls that often occur as a result of bad habits (even those you might not know you have)."

These two things are what make this kind of class totally different from a track day in my opinion. If you read through the FAQs, you'll see what the format is and how the class is set up.

My husband and I will probably shoot for the October class and by then we hop to have a different car that we can tow our bikes down to. Although, I'm still trying to convince him to ride down but, it's generally safer to drive your vehicle to a track class.. Hmmmm.

Whatever you do to increase your skills, just make sure it's a safe learning environment and not designed to outspeed eachother. There are quite a few different advanced courses out there if this is too far away for you. I've collected a few on my resources page for you.

An Open Letter to New Women Riders

 

So you just decided to get into riding motorcycles. WELCOME! We are so happy to have you. But before we get on the road, I just want to let you know a few things because I want you to know what you can expect. And I know there's a lot to learn. 

I've seen so many new women join the ranks of fellow motorcyclists. And I'm SO happy to see that! More women, the merrier! As a women's gear enthusiast, the focus of my message is more about you, not your motorcycle.

Something that I keep seeing that's really really difficult to swallow is the fact that many of you are simply wearing what you have in your regular closet. And this is especially disconcerting because it seems that you just don't know any better. Almost as if no one in your world has bothered to mention:

"Hey, you know that jacket you're wearing won't do anything to prevent you from breaking your elbow, or shoulder or getting road rash" or

"Hey, those boots are going to slip out from under you when you put your foot down on slippery pavement or an oil patch" or

"Hey, that open face helmet is still exposing your face and mouth, which are the most vulnerable parts in a crash" 

I feel like for some of us, this is definitely a no brainer. But that's easier when you've grown up around motorcycles, or you have a lot of motorcycle friends, or are really familiar with motorcycle culture. But when you're BRAND, spanking NEW and this is a totally alien planet to you, it's just not common sense yet. Because the little bit of motorcycling you've probably been exposed to is limited to movies, tv, movies and tv. And we can all agree that real life isn't portrayed quite right in the movies or tv.

So that's what me and my fellow female motorcyclists are here to tell you. The reality is that your body NEEDS gear. It NEEDS to be protected. And that you ARE vulnerable.

 My elbow post accident, and that's while wearing really good gear. Just imagine what that would've been like without any at all!

My elbow post accident, and that's while wearing really good gear. Just imagine what that would've been like without any at all!

 My Revit Jacket held up great in a 40-45mph lowside. It really doesn't take that much. I wasn't racing, just riding at the speed limit into an easy right hand curve.

My Revit Jacket held up great in a 40-45mph lowside. It really doesn't take that much. I wasn't racing, just riding at the speed limit into an easy right hand curve.

I was crossing the street this morning while walking my dog, and a care went speeding by down our residential street going at least 30mph when they really should be going 15mph. I had a quick vision of that person not seeing me and hitting me as I crossed the street. The tremendous force of that would've thrown me a good 20-30 feet from where I stood. And you can only imagine how my body would make out from something like that.

But now imagine wearing a full face, Snell approved helmet. And then head to toe protective gear with body armor covering your shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and spine. And then boots with ankle protection and reinforced soles, heels and toes. Now how would I make out?

As a brand new rider, it might seem like you could never get hurt because you're not "racing". I hear that SO much when people ask me about what gear they should buy. And it's quite the opposite! There are FAR MORE choices for casual, functional, real street motorcycle gear than what's available for the racetrack. Because there are probably more of us on the street. In some cases, you might get hurt far more on the street than you will on the track. The constant stop and go traffic patterns make us vulnerable to being struck as we're moving, and the last thing you want is for someone *else* to stop your motorcycle for you!

I also find it ironic that if you're riding around with just a tank top and nothing else, that you obviously are proud of your body. And have no trouble showing it off to everyone who sees you driving that motorcycle. But, the minute someone cuts you off, merges into you or turns left in front of you (which is a constant occurrence in Philly) then you're going to lose what you've just shown everyone that you value so very much.

But I want to assure you of one thing, you can absolutely look fantastic while being safe and protected. No, you won't have the exact same clothes as you are probably wearing right now on the motorcycle. But you can definitely get really, really close. If you're in it for the Look of riding motorcycles, and not the Feel, then you're in for a world of hurt. And a really expensive hospital bill, and a week / weeks / month / months off of work, and a bruised ego and whatever else comes out of you making an uninformed, uneducated choice.

And Last but certainly not Least, meet my friend Brittany of RockTheGear.org. She has an incredibly painful but inspiring story to tell which I think every new rider should read before they learn to ride their motorcycle. There's absolutely no way for me to tell her story since it can only really be told by her words. Read her story and then make see if you can still make the same decision.

 Me and Brittany Morrow at the Women's Sportbike Rally East, 2015

Me and Brittany Morrow at the Women's Sportbike Rally East, 2015

If after you've figured out everything that can possibly happen, and you still choose to wear very little or nothing at all then More power to you.  And I honestly applaud your ability to take those kinds of risks, where I'm just a big wimp. There's a huge difference between knowing what's coming and making your own decisions vs. having absolutely no clue and making the most uninformed, uneducated choice that can result in living with regret.

#atgatt

(all the gear all the time)

First Track Day on Our Triumphs

 Someone sort of following me... more like really good Photoshop skills.

Someone sort of following me... more like really good Photoshop skills.

After my accident in June, a track day is exactly what I needed. We signed up for a track day with Team Promotion at New Jersey Motorsports Park. 

I've been so terrible about posting these past few weeks.  Learned some new things, gained more of my confidence back and learned a lot about my bike. Team Pro Motion was great, and my husband and I had a blast!

For this track day I didn't buy a 1 piece suit, because I knew that I wouldn't use one again anytime soon but I would be able to use a pair of track leather pants again on the street. So I opted for the Revit Xena Leather Pants to zip to my jacket. 

So is a trackday right for you? I think it really depends on what you're trying to accomplish. There are many of us who are really all about street riding and touring. And we simply want to increase our skills. What's the best way to do this?