California Superbike School – Level 2 & 3 by Lucia Aucott
Few months ago I completed the Level 1 course with California Superbike School – read about that here – and it was the best thing that I’ve done in ages. I had tons of fun and learned some invaluable skills, not just for the track but to transfer to road riding too.
When I got home from Level 1 I was so excited that I booked myself for the Level 2 course straight away. But not on any track but Cadwell. Yes, Cadwell Park…. Just to remind you I’m complete newbie to track riding and this would be my second time on superbike, ever. And straight onto a Ducati Panigale 959 too. The biggest bike that I ride at the moment is a CRF450R, my flat track racer.
As soon as mentioned I was going to Cadwell Park everybody said how narrow track is and what I shouldn’t test myself on the Mountain. OK, maybe once again I was bit over enthusiastic.
On the day I was again anxious. Actually, so nervous that I put my boots on a wrong feet! Yeah I know I’m special….. I’m pretty sure team CSS team won’t forget me for little while.
The day started early with a rider briefing and then straight to the classroom for our first session. No wasting time. This system works really well for me, the classes are well explained by CSS Director and Chief Riding Coach, Gary Adshead – such a nice guy. He could answer all my weird questions without even so much as rolling his eyes. Thanks Gary.
Class done and ready for the track. In the first minute out of the pits and I realised why everybody warned me about this track. Wooh! I stupidly didn’t learn track at home so I was massively overwhelmed. I t really is tighter and narrower than it looks on TV.
My instructor for day was Duncan McLeod, the same guy from Level 1. It was really nice working with him at Oulton park so I was happy have him again.
Duncan really helped me get to grips with the track layout and broke it down into bite-size pieces. The on-track session work was great fun, once I knew my way around. You go out in groups usually around 10 people so you don’t feel crowded and bunched up. You are free to safely overtake slower riders. Your instructor joins you for lap a few times at every session and helps you to work on converting the classroom knowledge to on track drills.
Instructors communicate with easy-to-see hand signals that are simple to understand, and they really do work. I love this system! After every session you have quick debrief with your instructor using a map of the track, which I found very useful. I could point out areas that I were challenging and then understand where and how to improve. There are spotters around the track as well as the other instructors taking notes which are then fed back after each session. There’s nowhere to hide!
Level 2 is all about vision and an introduction to braking. We learned what to look for and how to use braking markers for reference points. Crucial drills helped with the all important smoothness, freeing time to get a good view of the corner exit. Also helpful for avoiding target fixation and running into the back of your on-track freind. I didn’t do this of course, but I can see how it’s easily done.
For me a brake release exercise was the “game changer”. Coming from mostly flattrack where we don’t have front brakes using onet is a bit alien, and although I ride on the road the fingers on my right wrist aren’t as instinctually reactive as they might be. These drills help me massively and I progressed a lot just in one session.
By lae afternoon I was smiling like crazy and completely exhausted, my head was buzzing with all the information that I learned throughout the day. I was just wishing I was booked for Tuesday too. Then I overheard there had been a last minute cancellation and a space was free for the next day. Yes, this is my chance!!!! After few phone calls later to change my Tuesday schedule I was booked for Level 3.
Yes, two days at Cadwell Park on Ducati Panigale 959 …. life can’t get much better than this!
Being familiar with the track I wasn’t nervous at all for day two, just really excited to learn more and build on the previous courses. I was feeling very good on track and had a new instructor, Mike Dring, another great guy. Obviously I’m biased but the California Superbike School really is full of excellent people. They inspire confidence and bring out the best in all of the students.
Level 3 classes were slightly different from previous levels. They were mostly held around a static bike, rather than in the classroom, so we could try different technics and body positioning to help us out on track. All drills were good fun, the instruction easy to understand and I have picked up one tip that will transform my riding off-road and on. But You’ll have to book for yourself to find out what that might be….
Driving back home I couldn’t stop smiling. I was buzzing and thinking how lucky I’m to be able to do this. Thanks to the CSS team and their system, I feel I’m a much more confident rider. I just wish I’d done this years ago! There’s one more level to do and although I love the Panigale, next time I’ll be on my own bike. I’m hooked and will sell my XS400 and upgrade to a 600 sportsbike.
Pics by Tim Holderness (apart from the dodgy one from Lucia’s phone)