LAST WEEK, we headed to Donington Park for our seven model superbike test. We had a ball blasting around the track, so much so that Laura decided to pop back yesterday (it’s only a 400-mile round trip after all) for a spot of California Superbike School action.
Here are her first impressions…
“If there’s one overriding thought that I had as I made my way home yesterday, it was that I wish I’d discovered California Superbike School earlier.
“It was absolutely eye-opening. Previously I’d bimbled my way around track as fast as I could, without considering the mechanical implications of my movements, but the theory sessions with Gary – a former advanced Police motorcyclist – soon put an end to that.
“Instead of just telling us which lines to take, he explained the benefits of correct riding techniques, both for on track and in real-life road riding situations.
“The school is split into four levels, with everyone – even GP racers – having to start at the beginning. Each level comprises five sessions in the classroom and five on track. And in each lesson you learn a ‘drill’ to practice and perfect during the next 25 minutes on track. You can either do the school on your own bike, or rent one of their fleet of Ducatis - I was riding a Panigale 959.
“Level One very much focuses on perfecting the basics of riding. However, that’s not to say it was in any way dull, with each element painstakingly dissected in the classroom, and our effect on the bike fully explained. The depth of the teaching was incredible – in the very first lesson of ‘throttle control’ we investigated how good control can mean the difference in grip through suspension. Rolling off the accelerator as we entered a bend shifts the weight onto the front wheel, giving it more grip as it turns.
“It all sounded so incredibly effortless, but the reality was far trickier. However, with almost half an hour on track to master each drill, we were soon getting the hang of it.
“Other drills covered included turn points, quick turning – aka counter-steering and rider input, which focussed on body positioning and getting the bike and your body to work as one (it’s harder than it sounds!).
“We finished the day on two-step turning – an introduction to the second level of visual skills. By gathering information about the corner before you reach it puts you in a better position to ride through smoothly and safely. We put this into practice during the last lesson on track, before all the levels gathered for a final debrief.
“You can see why this school is split into four levels, as each covers a few skills in so much detail. If you really want to progress your riding, CSS is the place to be.
“While I wish I could say I practiced the drills I learnt on the way home, that would be a lie. Unfortunately 200 miles of motorway doesn’t afford many opportunities to practice quick turns and two-step turning.
“But I’m planning to get back ASAP and get Level 2 under my belt.”