Attending the California Superbike School in India 2015
If you've been reading OVERDRIVE for a while, you'll know that when it comes to riding a motorcycle on a racetrack , we're a bunch of squeaky clean school boys with neatly combed hair, completed homework and one hand constantly primed to shoot skyward in case a teacher asks a question. My hand shot up first this year so I'm the lucky pupil heading to Chennai for the first of two batches of the 2015 California Superbike School(CSS) India.
What is CSS
This world renowned race school was started by ex-motorcycle racer Keith Code in 1980 and now runs schools in 15 countries across the globe. Three courses or levels will be taught over three days of riding to help students learn the proper way to go around corners. Instructing us would be ace coaches, Gary Adshead and Glen Rothwell from the school's UK chapter along with top notch instructors from their other European chapters. Each level consists of five skills, first imparted to the class in a twenty minute theory session followed by a track session to practise each of the skills from the class. Post each riding session, you get immediate feedback on how you were riding from your coach.
The course teaches you riding techniques that help you be come a safer, more confident rider both on track and on the streets. It gears you up for any situation that you might face on the roads and empowers you with some great skills that should keep you out of trouble in any tricky situation. Don't let the word 'superbike' fool you into thinking that this is only for riders of big motorcycles. It really is for everyone and we saw anything from 150cc motors all the way up to 1300cc in our batch this year. In fact, a lot of the smaller ones were faster. There neither is any discrimination on experience levels - my batch consisted of riders with just a few months riding experience to the 2014 national R15 champion. New riders came to gain better control over their motorcycles while more experienced riders were there to polish their techniques. I was there to learn how to get faster and also to heal some mental scars that still existed from a crash at a racetrack two years ago.
New skills acquired, old ones revisited
I found this a great way to learn as I was immediately putting into practice what I was being taught and the benefits were instantly obvious. Even if it's a skill that I was already aware of, for instance, counter steering. CSS allows you to practise it in isolation so you can really tell the difference between slowly setting the bike into a corner and really pushing on the bars to make it turn faster.
Glenn Rothwell from the UK chapter of the California Superbike School gets everyone's attention in class
With three students to every instructor, you really get detailed feedback on your riding and over the course of three days, my coach Görkem, understood the kind of rider I was and what I wanted out of the experience, so he was able to give me more personalised feedback and instruction on the track. In one drill that saw us exploring unused parts of the racetrack, he noticed I was pottering around and so asked me to follow him at a higher speed on completely wrong lines for a whole lap. This little insignificant sounding activity actually gave me the confidence to enter a corner slightly faster or off line, knowing that I wouldn't go off-track, thus helping me conquer my biggest fear post the crash I spoke of earlier.
Out on track, Glenn is a little more imposing
Another thing that I really appreciated was that there was never any pressure on me to go faster. In fact, I noticed that the words 'slow' or 'fast' are rarely used at the school and with the pressure off, I found it easier to focus on learning what was taught as well as attaining my goals for the weekend. And this conducive atmosphere allowed me to become smoother and more confident on the motorcycle and eventually at the end of three days, much, much faster.
What a weekend
Day 1: As the days went by, I progressively went from almost upright to fairly leaned over
CSS serves as a brilliant motorcycle getaway. The joy of spending three days on a racetrack with a great motorcycle is compounded by the high from getting progressively faster and faster every day. My 1,400-odd kilometre commute to get there may have been a little extreme but the ride back was a complete eye opener. The benefits from the school were immediately evident in the way I was riding. I was much smoother with my throttle inputs. I was using the brakes more judiciously and for a much shorter time and making better progress as well. The biggest difference was how much more I was seeing with my peripheral vision that I'd learned to use. In fact, I thank my lucky stars that high school wasn't this good- I'd probably have aced Marketing and led a completely different life.
|If going for CSS wasn't good enough, I was actually going to attend the school on one of the best street sport motorcycles around the Triumph Street Triple. This middleweight rocket is based on the mad Speed Triple but has the heart of the track-focused Daytona 675. The otherwise supersport engine has been tuned for more midrange torque that makes for a very linear power delivery with no sudden surges that I would have had to watch out for while leaned over. Despite having 78PS of power, I never felt I had either too much or too little power to play with. The seat was really comfortable and the riding position was great, especially on the first leg of my journey that saw me cover nearly 1,000km from Mumbai to Bangalore. In fact, aside from two combined rest and food breaks, the only time I needed to stop was between tank fill-ups. At the speeds I was doing, I found that I was managing a very reasonable 250km on each tank. The rear seat is quite generous too for a pillion and also was a perfect perch for the Viaterra Claw saddlebags that held my luggage. For a sporty motorcycle, the suspension set up was also a surprise on the long ride. The ride quality was quite good and the suspension doesn't feel stiff like some sports motorcycles. On the track the handling really came into its own. The Street was beautifully neutral through corners and even though I'm a fairly heavy rider, the suspension remained perfectly composed. This was just what the doctor ordered and I was able to focus all my attention on learning what was taught rather than worrying about what the motorcycle was doing under me. Out on the highway, I found I was able to hold really high average speeds with a nice light handling chassis that allowed me to quickly weave through traffic with enough power to quickly get back to highway speeds.|
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