Did a Ron Haslam race school premier class at Silverstone yesterday and I'm still buzzing. It was an amazing afternoon. After a long time at Donington, Silverstone is a massive success for Rocket Ron's fourteen year-old business. Looks like they're they to stay.
It was a pretty intense afternoon; one-on-one with a top class instructor around the butt-clenchingly fast Silverstone National circuit on Fireblades (or CBR600RR ABS). My session was made more intense by the fact that my instructor was the winner of the last round of British Superstock series at Oulton Park, Tristan Palmer. He's not slow.
The world 'school' conjours up lessons but it's not at all preachy and you can get what you want out of the afternoon. Tristan gently quizzed me about my riding experience before we went out on track and sussed out what I needed from him. I explained that I was a bit track rusty, had never been to this Silverstone circuit before and was just getting over three broken ribs.
Each of the four track sessions, he progressively upped the pace and after each session we spent fifteen minutes discussing problem areas and techniques. Initially the newly surfaced half of the circuit was holding water from a previous downpour which added a certain element of fear for me as the surface didn't only look wet but greasy, too - particularly the blindingly fast Abbey curve.
By the last session, though, the track was dry for the whole lap and Tristan wound the wick up just the right amount so I was still within my crash-averse comfort zone yet going quickly enough to be enjoying it. The fact that he was able to do this with the occasional glance in his mirrors was really impressive.
What did I learn, or re-learn? Confidence. I've done a lot of miles on the road recently and it does teach you bad habits and techniques. Track riding is all about pin-point accuracy, precision, utter smoothness and - most importantly - huge faith in your front tyre's levels of grip. The ride home was a much more relaxed, fluid and confident than the ride there in the morning. It's done my road riding a power of good.
On my first session (learning a new track, dealing with damp patches and suffering from a lack of confidence) I was knackered, arms pumped up, shallow breathing and sweaty. By the end of the day I was way more relaxed, looking much further ahead and placing much more trust in my Bridgestone front tyre. Job jobbed.
The atmosphere and the softly-softly method of coaching employed by the Ron Haslam race school is really chilled, really friendly and it works. There are no preachy sermons, no 'we know best, you know nothing' attitude that I've encountered on quite a few car track schools and the best bit, you use their new Hondas, their tyres, their fuel.
So if the idea of damaging your bike has put you off doing a track day or a race school, you don't have that excuse anymore. I guarantee that if you do one of these schools you will learn more about riding a motorbike in 40 minutes than you can in ten years of road riding. Go do it.
The Premier course costs £279 - the Elite course with datalogging costs £379. Click this bad boy to book a course.