After riding bikes for five years, 99% off road, a few weeks ago I had opportunity to do an on-track training day with California Superbike School. I was really excited, and scared in equal measure. I always thought that this kind of stuff is only for big guys. The biggest bike I ever rode was my Ducati Monster 600 and that bike frightened me so much that I stopped riding for two years on road, and off road. After this break and no desire to get back on a road bike I was bullied by my other half to try flat track. After a first go at it, I entered my first race week later! That kind of took over and I went for lots tuition here in the UK and the USA. Flat track is bit different as we don't run front brakes and we mostly turn left, on dirt..
Oh boy what I'm doing here.... jumping straight in at the deep end.
So D-day arrived and I was so nervous when I turned up at the infamous Oulton Park Circuit for the Californian Superbike School Level 1 course. My mood eased as soon as I met the staff from the school, funny bunch of guys and girls, and I was surprised by their warm professionalism. Phew, I knew I was in good hands. This particular day was for ladies only. I race with the guys and there is no separate ladies class in the DTRA but I know that for some women the thought of being on track with a bunch of testosterone fuelled men can be off-putting.
Then they showed me my bike for the day. Oh shit! A Ducati Panigale 959! Like seriously? I have never even stood close to bike like that. "OK, calm down, you can do this", I told myself.
We had a riders briefing were we met the whole team and I couldn't believe how many people work behind the scenes to out these days together, there were more staff than pupils.
Classroom time next. I'm not technically minded and I have zero experience of track riding and my knowledge on how to ride on one is about as minimal as it gets. A blank canvas, apparently the perfect person for this type of training as I wouldn't have developed too many bad habits. The simplistic, informative and no bullshit way they explained things in the classroom sessions meant even I understood most of it.
And then that's it, we were ready for the track. All I was thinking was "don't crash Lucia, it's not your CRF450". I sat on bike and surprisingly it was comfortable but still intimidating as hell. We went on track for couple of laps behind the instructor to get a feel for the bikes, the track surface learn the lines. Then 20 minutes of fun working on drills that we'd learned in the classroom. Woooo!! The bike and the track were fantastic!!! I was grinning like a Cheshire cat under my helmet and all the fear was gone!
Still buzzing we went back to the classroom to absorb the next piece in the jigsaw puzzle. After more invaluable insights we went back on track to practice the drills.
My instructor was Duncan McLeod, a super nice guy. He helped me on the track so as to put the tiny details into practice. It's hard to name them all but some basics were lines, body positions, corner exits etc.... Being the Level 1 course there's so much to take in but when all the pieces slotted together it felt like I had a sound foundation to build on. Groups are separated by levels and group numbers are kept really small so the instructors have eyes on you at all times. You don't feel crowded on track and there are strict rules about overtaking so everybody is safe and has as much fun as possible. Perfect for a track novice like me!
I could see progress in every session. My smile was getting bigger and bigger. Fear was a thing of the past now, I was just having lots of fun! Class and track time worked very well together and I have learned so many little tricks that I wonder how could have ridden bikes until now without them. Quick turn, why did nobody tell me about this before?!
Every session you are learning diffrent skills and by the end of the day you are combining them all together and it all clicks into place.
I had an absolutely fantastic time. So much so that I've already booked myself for the Level 2 course at Cadwell Park! And now I can't stop looking on eBay for a Panigale 959. Just need to find some funds, so if you're looking for a mostly healthy kidney, please get in touch...
On serious note this day is the real deal. If you are looking for a dedicated and professional team but mixed with super friendliness California Superbike School is for you!
Thank you guys for the best day and thank you also to The Bike Shed for opportunity - Lucia.
For another take on the Level 1 course see Ross' review here and check back in a few weeks to hear about Lucia's Level 2 experience.