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My Two Day Experience.


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I signed up for CSS levels 1 and 2 quite some time ago. I've been working up to it, and knew I was ready, and what I was weak at: cornering. I've been riding track for two years now, and haven't improved much in well over a year. More like a year and a half. I've read the books and others quite a few times and have watched videos. I watch racing and review what the riders do. I actually prepared for this school. Problem is that I had the information, and have even watched the Twist 2 video a few times already. They don't make my trackdays any better though. And that's why I signed up. My challenge to them was to correct two years of bad habits.

 

I got there early to scope things out. There were a couple people there already, and we all ended up gathering and started talking. A guy walked up to the group who looked familiar. I knew him, it was just going to take a while to place the face. Then just like that it hit me.

"It's you!" I said.

"Yeah, it's me," was his reply with a puzzled look on his face. He didn't recognize me.

It was old Jerry. We do trackdays at Firebird. He lives in Phoenix also, and I've watched him do plenty of laps. I've spoken with him a few times, mostly asking questions, and now I know his secret to being so good: he's been to the school before. Jerry and I spoke intermittently throughout the day checking on each others progress. He was doing levels 3-4. We all had breakfast then got suited up and signed up. Time to see how much this is really going to help.

 

We were doing a short turn drill, then back to the classroom. I had seen Stu before the thing started and was going to say hi when I got the chance, but while I'm waiting to go out, he walked up to me and introduced himself as my coach. He didn't know who I was from the site, but as it turns out, JohnnyD and myself both from the forum ended up being his students. I was psyched. It was starting well. Comfort level increasing.

 

The in class instructors were Keith and Dylan Code. Now I know Keith has an ego. He has to. Teaching this for nigh 30 years, and developing the techniques that have helped riders win world championships has to do something to your ego. You wouldn't be able to tell from talking to him or sitting in his class. During setup he pitched in, and was helping put everything together. During the class he gave us information with an amazing gusto, and seemed very enthusiastic about standing up in front of another class of open mouthed, head shaking, question asking students. Very charismatic guy. I'm sure living a life of motorcycles had something to do with his attitude. What a life. He was so into giving us information, answering our questions, and making sure we understood, that our "wrangler" kept coming in to let him know we needed to get on the track.

 

Dylan Code was great as well. Nothing like Keith. He's more like the professor who was able to explain everything so well that you'll remember what he taught well after college. He used very good examples and video to get his points across. While we were in class it was their personality and teaching methods that kept me from cranking my neck and looking outside wishing I was on the track instead, and I paid strict attention. It's something I can say that I've never been able to do in any class in my life to date.

 

Stu was great. Really on top of things, and I knew what I was doing right and wrong on my laps, but no need to tell Stu, because he knew as well. plus some. He was really watching my riding, and corrected things I was working on, not what I hadn't learned yet, and was able to remind me about what I was taught early in the day, or the day prior, that I needed to remember to incorporate into my riding. Stuman even walked up to me while I was getting the video review and told me exactly what the guy reviewing my video was telling me, and was able to elaborate without even seeing the video. He would follow us to see what we were doing, get past us, and use arm signals to remind us what we were doing before we went into a turn. He got in front of me and was able to keep my pace while I followed. I'm sure the rear view mirrors helped as well. He was leaving that night but it would have been great to grab a bite at the end of the day. Nice guy.

 

On a side note, I was walking back to the classroom after speaking to Stu about the previous session, and noticed exactly why he was so much faster than me: he was on a ZX10. I mentioned it, and he said he could still kick my butt on a 250, but somehow it never materialized. Hmm.

 

I spoke with a couple other people briefly. I had some questions about tire wear, and Will Eikenberry, the chief mechanic, was more than happy to take a couple of minutes to answer my questions and explain what was going on. Cobie was sick, and we only got a couple of minutes to talk. Until I got Stu I was hoping he'd be coaching. I BS'ed with another rider coach, Josh, for a couple minutes. Trevor, Course Control, was really cool, even when I got black flagged and he had to give me a warning for passing too close (they're strict on this). When I went off track (to avoid another rider, and it was on pavement) the first thing he asked was "what happened?" He wanted my take on it, and knew I understood my mistake, and sent me back on my way. "What are you working on," ran through my head when I was trying to go to sleep after day two. Going to sleep Trevor, going to sleep is what I'm working on. 3rd and 4th gear, light brakes. Now get out of my head.

 

I was somewhat comfortable on the bike because I ride the '05 ZX6R. I've never ridden anything but the Pilot Powers on the track. I keep getting those because I'm comfortable on them, and don't want to change what works. MISTAKE!!! The Dunlop Qualifiers were AWESOME!!! They changed all the tires before we rode, and I was instantly comfortable on new qualifiers, unlike the time it takes to get used to the pointiness of the Pilot Powers. Dunlop will be on my bike after I wear through these Pilot Powers. I have stomp grip on my bike, and that stuff is so wicked that I can lock in one leg braking at the end of the straight. They had something else on the tank, and rubbing the tank with dirt would have been just as effective as this stuff. I still broke with one thigh locked in, but my wrists were a little sore at the end of each day, something I haven't felt in almost a year.

 

We went through throttle control (really helpful, but I need MUCH MORE work on this, and worked on it both days) and some other things, and eventually got to quick turn. THIS IS WHY I'M HERE!!! THIS WILL ANSWER EVERYTHING!!! The class wasn't very helpful except to tell me that I need to do it, then we're off to the track. Uhh, OK.... try try try. Nothing. I got off the track, and if my helmet weren't so expensive, I would have chucked it across the parking lot. I just wanted to stop, and luckily it was lunch so I had time to dwell on it even more. After speaking with Stu about it, he told me to relax, and something was coming up that he assured me would help me improve. "OK," I thought to myself. "But I have a propensity for violence, and this is REALLY frustrating." I called my wife and complained to her how I was almost ready to leave. I sat alone during lunch and dwelled on it. Back to class, track, coach, class, dwell, dwell, dwell.

 

TWO STEP!!! THIS is what everyone is talking about on this site constantly. I had read to look into the corner, but never understood how two step was different. This is the thing Stu was talking about when he said it would get better. It was explained well, and we were sent out to the track. Oh my GOD!!! The bike was just dropping. I know I'm steering the bike, but it doesn't really feel like it. After just a few laps the thing was dropping pretty well, but I knew it could be better, and it was going to through the day. My newly invented two step leaning process that I had JUST invented was out the window. After just a few laps. I was yelling inside my helmet like I had just dragged my knee for the first time. I took 7-8 seconds off my laptimes after the two step alone. I really focused on this, and as the video would prove, need to focus on more, but the rest of what we were taught was gravy. I had to adjust my speed to get into the corner quicker because it's what the bike wanted, more speed. It's the single greatest thing I've ever learned on a motorcycle. There ends up being a third step, but again, just gravy. After a while I'm following Stu who can get through a corner, and even though that pesky throttle control had me drop behind him when exiting, I realized that I was doing what he was. And it was rather impressive. There I went again, screaming in my helmet. Watch Stu, and BANG I'M in the corner. I'd still just give myself a 6/10 on dropping quickness. Before that, after two years on a track, I said 2 when Keith asked where we thought we were on the 0-10 scale. I will even say once that day (and once the next) I had a perfect quick turn (for my level) into a corner. One a day isn't bad. I got to my turn point, BANG and my knee was down. That was the last drill of the day and we got a couple of sessions to work on what we had learned. Even then, before getting on the track, it was "what are you working on?" You know, the more I think about it, the more irritating I'd say Trevor was. I'm kidding. Trevor gave us focus before we got on the track. He is a very valuable part of the school.

 

THIS WAS THE FIRST DAY, PEOPLE!!!

 

During the day, with some of the things I was learning, I was figuring out different BP's. I was adjusting to these things, and it made day two even more effective and purposeful.

 

Day two was a lot of visual training. I took advantage of this to work on level one drills, and incorporated it into my day two drills. RP's were a review for me, vanishing points, widening view and what not. Even though I have RP's down pretty good, I listened because I knew I'd learn something. I did. There's always something you can learn. I was still just loving the two step drill. No brakes also helped a lot because of the confidence it instills. I've always got my fingers on it, and even though I don't use it, I give it a little squeeze sometimes going into a corner. Just for comfort. I know I don't need it so much anymore.

 

Then came the pick up drill. I've read about it, and worked on it, and forgotten about it. It's something I need to work on. It works, and helped me work on throttle control. I have a thing where I put tape on the tank reminding me what to work on, and you can bet your bike that it found its way onto my tank at the school. I'm so lazy about throttle control coming out of the corner, and so forgetful, that my strip said one thing: Throttle Control.

 

We finished the day with a couple of sessions to work on what we had learned, and get more input from the coaches. On the last one, I settled behind JohnnyD. I'm really not very fast, but at the beginning of day one I could get past JohnnyD with a long enough straight, and cheating with the brakes a little when we weren't supposed to use them. Even with as much as I think I progressed through the two days, on that last session, I'm sure I could have gotten by him, but it would have taken a lot of work. It made me feel good, because I could visually see how much another student had improved, and knew he probably had that feeling of relief that he'd laid down the cash, and had gotten his money worth. Well, except for an off track excursion on that last session, he was doing fantastic.

 

Would I change anything about it if I could? You betcha. We were split into two groups, and I'm sure it's a non-issue for most, but there were people who were newer riders, some with no track experience, and people who were just plain slow. Both groups were mixed with those riders, and those who weren't nervous at all about getting out on the track. With that 6 foot passing bubble, it made it hard to work on some of the drills. I backed off a little during the school (I did lay down one fast lap) but I was still getting held up. I can't work on my drills effectively while I'm riding at 25-30% of my normal speed. I get passed A LOT (although I have the feeling it will change a little now), and can still focus on my riding. The group that is more comfortable on the track could even have a 3-4 foot passing rule. It would still be safe for us.

 

I'd move some of the classes. I know you have your reasons for having the classes in the order they are, but quick turn did nothing but upset me without knowing the two step. Throttle control could be followed by the pick up drill, or vice versa. It would piece it together more. Throttle control was the first class on day one, and pick up drill was the last class on day two. They go together.

 

More video. I don't know how long you guys have been using it, but what a difference from a dry erase board it made. Demonstrate right from wrong, and there is all of that awesome footage from TOTW 2 on DVD that puts all of it together. You'd probably sell more copies after the school when you'd say "everything (or most of what) we've shown you can be found on this DVD." Dylan seemed to like using video, and did well using it.

 

Breakfast was great, but I'm not sure how many people enjoyed the Soggy Turkey Surprise they got. I certainly didn't.

 

So what did I get from this school? I got a blurry 8x10 photo I paid $50 for because my wife wanted one. The skin ripped off 2 knuckles when Keith kicked a stubborn door into my hand while I was on the other side reaching for it. A stinky helmet because I brought my own gear, and haven't cleaned it out yet after two days of riding. And most of all I got a wealth of information that, even if I don't attend another school, will make me what I consider a good track rider if I learn to apply it correctly. If I keep going through schools, particularly levels 3-4, I can become very good (I can't wait to do 3-4, then be able to do two days of level 4). I learned how to get more out of my motorcycle while still feeling completely comfortable on it. I got confidence in this school because I've seen every rider who took the class improve, regardless who coached them (although I'll still argue that I had the best of the best). The corner workers were involved in our training. They made safety one of the priorities of the day. I got a comfort in how the bike can perform if I just let it. I got everything that could be taught in two days that can be read in the books and watched on the TOTW 2 DVD clarified by the person who wrote them. I got the feeling that I've INVESTED the money, rather than spent it, and that I need to start saving for levels 3-4.

 

If anyone is on the fence about whether or not to go, I'm telling you that you WILL get better, and you WILL have a great time. Challenge met guys. You've broken 2 years of bad habit. Thanks to everyone involved in setting this up.

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I signed up for CSS levels 1 and 2 quite some time ago...

 

You certainly said it well, in my case (W #21) I hope that I didn't imped you or the other more experienced riders too often on the track, short of a controlled track day and single track session... the CSS was my first real track experience.

 

So the steps that I was exposed too as being new to the track and to the program were new experiences to me and each session lead to my improvement. So I suspect that I will step up when I can for more track days and most definitely will plan on attending CSS L3-4 in the future at a 2-Day Camp... knowing now what to expect, hopefully my track etiquette will improve and my skills all leading up to better track times.

 

Jason is so right, CSS is a very professional organization, they provided what they say they would do and the investment is well worth the price of the course. When the circumstances are right I will continue my CSS curriculm and progress. My appreciation to my fellow students for putting up with me and to the instructors, support and CSS HQ team.

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I signed up for CSS levels 1 and 2 quite some time ago...

 

You certainly said it well, in my case (W #21) I hope that I didn't imped you or the other more experienced riders too often on the track, short of a controlled track day and single track session... the CSS was my first real track experience.

 

 

You were doing well for a first time track rider. I've had a friend who's done all his riding in the canyons, and shot out like a canon. He was faster than me on his first trackday. He's really good. Did you feel like you were learning fast? My experience, especially after the 2 step, was like a lightbulb coming on. It was one of those rare feelings.

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Hi Jason, and Vegas,

 

Thank you both for the write ups, Jason really excellent detail in what you wrote, and nicely communicated. I had in mind working with you on one of the days, but knew with Stuman you were getting a top coach, figured that was a good bet, and I checked in with him on that for day 2 also.

 

Nothing to add, you guys covered it well, and glad you both made it!

 

Best,

Cobie

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Hi Jason, and Vegas,

 

Thank you both for the write ups, Jason really excellent detail in what you wrote, and nicely communicated. I had in mind working with you on one of the days, but knew with Stuman you were getting a top coach, figured that was a good bet, and I checked in with him on that for day 2 also.

 

Nothing to add, you guys covered it well, and glad you both made it!

 

Best,

Cobie

 

I didn't know you'd be riding on day 2. I got real comfortable with Stuman. When the 2010 schedule comes out, I'm going to see when I'm going to the next one. Hopefully you'll be feeling better.

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You certainly said it well, in my case (W #21) I hope that I didn't imped you or the other more experienced riders too often on the track, short of a controlled track day and single track session... the CSS was my first real track experience.

 

 

Did you feel like you were learning fast? My experience, especially after the 2 step, was like a lightbulb coming on. It was one of those rare feelings.

 

Jason: I think the first caveman who experienced fire describes the light coming on and staying on for me...each session brighter and I learned to use "fire" to my advantage. I concentrated on the technical aspects because my normal riding days are also canyons and wide open spaces...we have areas where hitting the rev limiter in top gear and top end for long periods of time exist getting to our twisties which going forward are corners to me, now getting enrty speed, turn point and 2/3step right will be the technical drills first and staying in the front pack the succeeding sessions. Nothing for me to prove on the streets.

 

Like yourself I am looking forward to my next 2-Day Camp, I'll shoot for another track outside Las Vegas. Riding with the white group and the coaches on the track gave me a greater appreciation for the "track days" bug that I have heard my buddies talk about all these years. I still like the open road, short of the "course control" - Highway Patrol style... I much prefer Trevor and his team on corners, blue flags are much better than pink tickets...both of which I want to avoid.

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