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Css Two Day Camp Review (Lvls 3&4)


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I recently completed Levels 3 & 4 at the CSS Two Day Camp at VIR and thought I would write a review for those that might be interested. I realize that for most of you on this forum this level of detail is unnecessary however I thought there might be a few visitors or potential students that would benefit from a detailed review.

 

First the back story:

 

Early last year I was looking to improve my riding skills. I had gotten back into riding about a year before and I felt I was reasonably comfortable on the bike again. I had taken the MSF rider safety course, and while it had value I wanted more information. A quick inquiry with the shop that works on my bike and Keith Code's California Superbike School was recommended. I was casually familiar with the name, even remembered it from my days riding sportbikes in college (think Regan and Bush the First). Clearly they had been doing this for a while so I signed up for the Level 1 one day class last May (review here). I was so impressed that I immediately signed up for Level 2 in August (review here). Once again CSS did not fail to impress and I even tried to get out west for a late fall class but work interfered (damn the bad luck). So I decided to wait until May again and spring for the two day camp.

 

On to the review:

 

One Day Class vs. Two Day Camp

 

I decided to spend the additional coin on the Two Day Camp for several reasons. First the coach to student ratio at the two day camp is 1:2 as opposed to 1:3 at the one day class. I felt the additional time with an expert reviewing what I am doing would be invaluable. Second while the cost is higher, considering the additional track time (7 sessions a day compared to 5) it is not exponentially so. And the lower coach/student ratio means there are at least a third less people on the track less traffic meant more time working on my riding instead of dealing with slower or faster riders (yes dear reader, I was passed…a lot…but thanks to Trevor and Missy running Course Control everyone was very well mannered). Finally, the two day camp is more of an experience, with fewer people you get more attention, less stress, and a better overall time and after all, this was my vacation.

 

Daily Structure

 

Structurally the camp runs much the same as a One Day Class. Registration began at 7 and we were grouped into two color coded riding groups (as opposed to 3 at the one day) while the staff cooked scrambled eggs and sausage, set out fruit, pastries, bagels, and (good) coffee. At 8 we began the day with an all hands briefing where Keith introduced the team, went over how the day would flow, and explained the flags and Course Control rules.

 

My riding group (yellow) included riders of all levels so we split off to our respective lectures while the other hit the track (this alternated all day, except for lunchtime). After the first lecture we then hit the track, lining up at start finish where our coach for the day introduced themselves. Then as you pulled up to the start line Course Control would ask you (by name) to verify what drill you were working on (they have it noted on their log) and what the gear and brake format is. (A note on this: the day starts out with 4th gear and no brakes then progresses to full gears and full brakes through the day. At first I found this awkward but after doing it a few times now it makes sense and I even found myself limiting the gears and brakes when I was free to use any and all as it helped me focus on the drills.)

 

We then did a sighting lap single file, no passing and were turned lose to practice our first drill. 20-25 minute track sessions were immediately followed by a debrief with your coach, a few minutes to hydrate and get something to eat (fruit, crackers, chips & dip, etc are available all day) then it was on to the next lecture (rinse, repeat). There are 5 lessons (just as in the one day classes) so the final two track sessions are yours to work on what you and your coach feel is appropriate.

 

In addition, the off track bikes (steering bike, braking bike, lean/slide bike) are available to the students throughout the day to work on those specific skills; and each student did one lap on the video bike each day. The video bike was very useful for me as it highlighted several issues that we could focus on in addition to the normal curriculum.

 

Level 3 Content

 

The level three content is as follows:

 

1. Hook Turns - format - 3rd and 4th gear, no brakes

 

This would have been worth the price of admission for me right here. The hook turn allows you to tighten up your turn without increasing lean angle. When I got it down I was amazed and can see this being an excellent tool on the road as well as the track.

 

2. Pivot Steering - format - 2 gears very light braking

 

This method of locking onto the bike is something I had been working on since Level 2 and it showed. I had good form and finally felt comfortable with the concept of weighting the outside peg something that had felt rather nebulous for a long time.

 

3. Knee to Knee - format - 3 gears light braking

 

Maintaining a firm lock on the bike is critical to stability and transitioning from one side of the bike to the other requires you to plant one "pivot" knee before removing the other. This is not something I found natural and will have to work on it but when I got it down I eliminated the head shake (due to unwanted rider input on the handlebars) I was getting in the chicanes.

 

4. Hip Flick - format - full gears and brakes

 

Part two of transitioning from one side of the bike to the other. This was awkward for me as well and I had to focus on it (as with any new skill) but again when I managed it the benefits were obvious. (I can add here that I used muscles in my inner thighs that had been dormant for many moons and the spoke their displeasure most vocally in the days that followed the camp).

 

5. Attack Angle - format full gears and brakes

 

After the first track session the CSS staff tapes Turn In point for each corner on the track. This give the students a solid target but also takes the thought out of picking their attack angle for the turn. This drill addresses that and moves the student along to picking their own attack angle based on what they want to accomplish in the corner (ie fastest line, passing, delayed apex, etc)

 

Day Two

 

Day Two's structure was the same, except for a start time of 7:30 since there was no registration. As I was working on level 4 this is where the program becomes specific to the student. In the first lecture session you fill out a survey where you describe your riding and what you want to work on.

 

Based on the review of the Camera Bike footage my coach felt I needed to work on my vision skills. My improvements from Levels 1 and 2 had allowed me to increase my pace however my visual skills hadn't caught up. The coaches were able to break down what I was (and wasn't doing) and throughout the day I worked on Two-Step, Three-Step, and reference Points. By the end of the day I had dropped 10 seconds off of my lap times and felt much more comfortable with where I was going.

 

Conclusion

 

I made the statement in my earlier reviews that CSS was the best money I had spent on motorcycling and I continue to feel that way. The program is logistically well run (this type of event could easily go Charlie Foxtrot with poor management), the focus on customer service is outstanding (for most of us this is disposable income so we should enjoy spending it), and the education is priceless (I had a near miss on the road last year that I am sure would have ended badly without the skills I picked up from CSS).

 

Thank you to Keith and the CSS Team for a great program, and a very special thanks to Cobie, JT, and Darren who worked directly with me and made my experience a huge success.

 

Ride safe,

 

Carey

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Great write-up, I'd love to do a 2-day camp at some point, especially if I could afford to fly over and do the likes of Laguna Seca. As it is, I've yet to break the news about the level 2 course to my fiance ph34r.gif.

 

I think that will have to be my limit this year, although 3 and 4 will be on my radar for next year.

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Carey,

 

With only two groups to go to the track, did you find yourself rushing to try the off-track bikes? I guess that you can really only do the off-track drills during Level 4, when you don't have classroom lectures to attend.

 

Kai

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Kai,

 

I actually had classroom work with Cobie on my level 4 day and it was so useful I didn't get to the off track bikes that day (although since I didn't have to sit through everyone else's classroom I could have had more free time that day but I stayed and listened - I need all the coaching I can get tongue.gif). I had done the Steering and Lean Bikes in levels 1 & 2 and did the Brake Bike at lunch on the level 3 day. Looking back I wish I had done the slide bike but there is always next time...

 

I could see where the pace could be a discouragement to getting to the off track bikes but if you timed it right (ie heading to the off track bike right after being on track) you shouldn't miss too much (if any) of your next track session because there we such small numbers headed to the off track bikes (when I did the Brake Bike it was only me and one other), plus the times weren't scheduled, you just found the off track coach and set up a time.

 

Also, since there were 7 track sessions a day and only 5 lectures you should have time each afternoon. And it's a lot of on track time so if you missed a few laps of a session it wasn't too bad (blasphemy, I know). Surprisingly there were quite a few people who passed on the last track session of day 2. I was not one of them mind you, I had to be physically removed from the bike by 4 large lads with rather imposing sticks (ok so maybe those were crutches....I was damn sore after two days of riding hardohmy.gif).

 

 

Best,

Carey

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One Day Class vs. Two Day Camp

 

I decided to spend the additional coin on the Two Day Camp for several reasons. First the coach to student ratio at the two day camp is 1:2 as opposed to 1:3 at the one day class. I felt the additional time with an expert reviewing what I am doing would be invaluable. Second while the cost is higher, considering the additional track time (7 sessions a day compared to 5) it is not exponentially so. And the lower coach/student ratio means there are at least a third less people on the track less traffic meant more time working on my riding instead of dealing with slower or faster riders (yes dear reader, I was passed…a lot…but thanks to Trevor and Missy running Course Control everyone was very well mannered). Finally, the two day camp is more of an experience, with fewer people you get more attention, less stress, and a better overall time and after all, this was my vacation.

 

Agreed, the two-day camp really is an experience, many advantages.

 

One point I (respectfully) disagree with is the "less stress", the two-day camp is quite busy especially for level 1-3 students with riding sessions, lectures, off-track bikes, video bike, etc. Not much time for rest. Probably depends somewhat on the track since time constraints differ. Add to that weather conditions, travel, etc. and the last few sessions of the second day might not be that productive. Then again, could be. In a nutshell, I'd say which is better is very individual.

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Agreed, the two-day camp really is an experience, many advantages.

 

One point I (respectfully) disagree with is the "less stress", the two-day camp is quite busy especially for level 1-3 students with riding sessions, lectures, off-track bikes, video bike, etc. Not much time for rest. Probably depends somewhat on the track since time constraints differ. Add to that weather conditions, travel, etc. and the last few sessions of the second day might not be that productive. Then again, could be. In a nutshell, I'd say which is better is very individual.

 

 

Excellent point Matt. It was busy and that could be a stressor for some. I personally found it less hectic, probably due to the lower number of people, so the pace didn't bother me. And I had the benefit of knowing what the basic format was since I had already done levels 1 and 2 at one day classes. If you were take the two day camp as your first CSS experience I could easily see what you are saying.

 

Hopefully this string will help some students decide which is best for them :).

 

Best,

Carey

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One Day Class vs. Two Day Camp

 

I decided to spend the additional coin on the Two Day Camp for several reasons. First the coach to student ratio at the two day camp is 1:2 as opposed to 1:3 at the one day class. I felt the additional time with an expert reviewing what I am doing would be invaluable. Second while the cost is higher, considering the additional track time (7 sessions a day compared to 5) it is not exponentially so. And the lower coach/student ratio means there are at least a third less people on the track less traffic meant more time working on my riding instead of dealing with slower or faster riders (yes dear reader, I was passed…a lot…but thanks to Trevor and Missy running Course Control everyone was very well mannered). Finally, the two day camp is more of an experience, with fewer people you get more attention, less stress, and a better overall time and after all, this was my vacation.

 

Agreed, the two-day camp really is an experience, many advantages.

 

One point I (respectfully) disagree with is the "less stress", the two-day camp is quite busy especially for level 1-3 students with riding sessions, lectures, off-track bikes, video bike, etc. Not much time for rest. Probably depends somewhat on the track since time constraints differ. Add to that weather conditions, travel, etc. and the last few sessions of the second day might not be that productive. Then again, could be. In a nutshell, I'd say which is better is very individual.

I agree with your disagreement :) . I found the two-day format much more hectic, with a constant feeling of being rushed from one event to the next, although I still learned a ton and had lots of fun. The one-day format was far more relaxed, since you have more time between sessions, which for me meant more time to absorb new info, relax, eat, drink, and pee (those last two being quite important on a hot day :) ). I'm hoping to get back on track this summer and do a one-day at VIR in Aug.

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...I'm hoping to get back on track this summer and do a one-day at VIR in Aug.

 

Brad,

 

Let me know if you if you do end up scheduling VIR in August as I'm hoping to do another level 4 then as well. If we're there the same day I'll buy you a cold beverage of your choice. :D

 

Carey

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  • 4 weeks later...

I am double glad for this post, since it is a good reminder of things to come, and especially now that I finally signed up for VIR in Aug. I was originally thinking I would do just a 1-day, but I was able to instead sign up for the 2-day, so I will be doing level 3 & 4. I really wanted to go with the 2-day format so I could get more track time and more attention from the coaches.

 

To be honest though, I am still a bit apprehensive about this. I crashed last year at VIR while doing level 3, and I am still today struggling with problems in my neck which were a result of the crash landing (on my head). I really want to ?beat the track" so to speak, but it is hard to put the crash out of my mind.

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I am double glad for this post, since it is a good reminder of things to come, and especially now that I finally signed up for VIR in Aug. I was originally thinking I would do just a 1-day, but I was able to instead sign up for the 2-day, so I will be doing level 3 & 4. I really wanted to go with the 2-day format so I could get more track time and more attention from the coaches.

 

To be honest though, I am still a bit apprehensive about this. I crashed last year at VIR while doing level 3, and I am still today struggling with problems in my neck which were a result of the crash landing (on my head). I really want to ?beat the track" so to speak, but it is hard to put the crash out of my mind.

 

I know what you mean. I had a lowside two days before my 2-day camp. I hit an oil slick (that was only slightly smaller than the one laid down by the Exxon Valdez) in the middle of a turn - low speed, minor damage. Surprisingly I went to the track two days later and went faster than I ever had but on the street now I am extremely apprehensive about road grip. I'm hoping more saddle time will take care of that.

 

With all the track time you will get at the 2-day you can ease back into the track. One thing I have really appreciated in the CSS classes I have attended is that there has been no pressure (aside from internal) to go faster than you are comfortable going. My level 1 class was my first track experience and while I wasn't the slowest guy out there I would guess was in the bottom third and no one had anything but positive things to say and no one gave me any grief for slowing them down.

 

Good luck, have fun, and let us know how it goes.

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One thing I have really appreciated in the CSS classes I have attended is that there has been no pressure (aside from internal) to go faster than you are comfortable going. My level 1 class was my first track experience and while I wasn't the slowest guy out there I would guess was in the bottom third and no one had anything but positive things to say and no one gave me any grief for slowing them down.

I know what you mean with this point. During my Level I/II 2-day camp last year, I'm sure I was one of the slowest riders on the track, and I found everyone, staff and student alike, was very encouraging (rather than treating me, and others, as somehow unworthy).

 

I do recall one particular post-ride critique had me chuckling. Cobie was coaching me that day, and he said something to the effect of, "you went into turn X a bit faster than I would have expected, but I thought I'd see how you'd handle it, and you did fine." I was chuckling because I'd scared myself silly in that turn, even though I did "fine" :)

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  • 3 weeks later...

Carey,

 

Another silly question - video bike: did you find it useful? And do you get to keep the footage to remind yourself how ###### you once were?

 

max

I find the video footage is very useful. You can pretty easily spot mistakes, and this serves as a reminder of what not to do next time. Two very specific examples I can find in my footage are: 1) an early turn-in which resulted in a mid-corner steering correction and much delayed throttle roll-on (very obvious on the video), and 2) no deliberate "two-step" to look through the corner (you can see the head turning too late). I can also see where I did those things correctly, so it is valuable for comparison. You get a copy of the footage burned to a DVD/CD when you are done on day two, so you can review at your leisure.

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Carey,

 

Another silly question - video bike: did you find it useful? And do you get to keep the footage to remind yourself how ###### you once were?

 

max

I find the video footage is very useful. You can pretty easily spot mistakes, and this serves as a reminder of what not to do next time. Two very specific examples I can find in my footage are: 1) an early turn-in which resulted in a mid-corner steering correction and much delayed throttle roll-on (very obvious on the video), and 2) no deliberate "two-step" to look through the corner (you can see the head turning too late). I can also see where I did those things correctly, so it is valuable for comparison. You get a copy of the footage burned to a DVD/CD when you are done on day two, so you can review at your leisure.

 

Max,

 

That's actually a great question as I know some folks at the 2 day camp I did were thinking the track time lost to the camera bike was wasted. I completely agree with Brad that it is very useful, it is much easier to see the mistakes from the video compared to when you are actually making the mistakes biggrin.gif. For me the major observation in the video was with the vision 3 step. I was looking to the apex too late or worse, looking to the apex and then back to the entry point. By the end of my level 4 day I had seen good improvement but I have a feeling that vision is something I will be working on very hard next month at VIR!

 

And yes I got my video as well and I have reviewed it several times this summer to remind me to 3 step!

 

Best,

Carey

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