2013 California Superbike School in India
Sometimes what you need is, literally, someone to watch over you. The brilliance of someone like K Rajini or Sarath Kumar lies not just in the fact that they are incredibly fast racers, but in that they grew in stature and speed without a mentor to teach them to ride fast.
My personal brilliance, on the other hand, has primarily been about how idiotic I could be on the bike while my brain believed I was Rossi's twin brother, tragically separated at the great Kumbh Mela.
CSS, three years ago, was the beginning of an addiction for me. Where else would I get the opportunity to have some of the world's best riding coaches keep an eye out for me and my on-bike shenanigans. To have them sort out my kinks and bless me with speed that at least begins to approximate the hero I am in my head?
This year, to the annual Chennai-based party, I brought friends. Bert agreed without any serious persuasion to stump up the fee and make his CSS debut, while Abhay came for the second time. I guess I'm the veteran. That both went as quick as me by the end just goes to show that a) Bert, as I've always maintained, has a natural talent for wheeled machine operation and b) Abhay is heavier than me and I've never been more thankful that it stops him from completely obliterating me on track. Abhay, another muffin for you?
Jokes aside, riding the school in the company of dear friends added another dimension to the school. Between classrooms and on-track practice you have just enough time for a bit of back slapping, a bit of note and pace comparing and it makes you try that much harder to get it right the next time.
And the simplicity of the school's curriculum and course material makes it that much easier to try harder. We did the first three levels of the school, each spread over a day, each targeting five specific skills and each requiring focused work on track to get right.
Day one is about basic skills, mostly about what you need to be doing on the motorcycle - throttle control and related subjects. Day two is all about your eyes and your brain - where you look, what you see and how you react to it. If you've ever wanted to get really, really fast on the bike, you have to sort your brain out. It's how Valentino Rossi processes a racetrack that makes him fast, not quite as much his physical fitness or magic hands. Day three, in the natural progression, is about how your body influences the motorcycle - body position, how to transition from one side to another without upsetting the bike and so forth.
Bert thoroughly enjoyed it, to the point where I can foresee him pulling rank on me when CSS comes back next year if there aren't enough seats for us all. He has always been a fast rider and that presumes a certain amount of smoothness and control. But having an instructor - each coach has just three students for the day - work with you until you nail the skill is immeasurable value.
He said, "You know, the surprise is that most of the course material we cover is actually either obvious or logical. As in you should have thought of it and applied it to your riding. But the school forces you to see these basic concepts and techniques in clear, complete detail and then focus on making your ability to apply and use them as perfect as possible. Some ideas in the classroom are wildly new, but almost all of your riding ability that gets unlocked is new to you."
Abhay was in the same group as Bert and he went in knowing what to expect. But even he reported what I was expecting. More smoothness, greater confidence and as a direct result, still more speed. Driving back from the track after the third day, he said, "I would kill to come back and learn again". I'm just hoping he doesn't mean me.
But let us stem the tide of bad jokes that seems to be taking over the story. I know from experience that CSS works for me. I've found myself more confident and fast on the track and must safer, controlled and confident off of it. And while a few people laughed (you all know who you are) when they realised I was doing the first three levels of the school for the third time, I know it has caused my riding to become smoother every single time. That alone, to me, is worth the price of admission.
CSS plans to come to the BIC next year if plans work out and in the long run, if they can find Indian riders who can coach and teach effectively, we might even see an Indian chapter of the school open, which will bring more school dates and therefore more opportunities as well as lower costs. The school is also working on a plan to nurture young riders towards a career in MotoGP.
Me? I am planning strategies to fend off competition for the CSS' limited seats when the school returns in January next year.
CSS is usually oversubscribed so register early at superbikeschoolindia.com
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