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Featured NSW My California Superbike School Experience

Discussion in 'Racing, Motorsports, and Track Days' started by chilliman64, Sep 28, 2016.

  1. #1 chilliman64, Sep 28, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2016
    this is a long post so I apologise in advance for that. I just wanted to post up some of my thoughts and observations about my CSS experience. it has been a really positive and empowering experience for me and if one rider does Level 1 because of something they read here then I would be very happy about that as it will make them a better, safer, more confident rider.


    I started riding in the 80's. my mates had bikes so it was natural that I got one too. they taught me to ride and so I learned their good and bad habits and some stuff I just sort of worked out myself.

    fast forward a lot of years and I have a 2000 model Hayabusa. anyone who has ridden one knows how awesome these things are in a straight line - think millennium falcon if you haven't ridden one. I knew my mastery of this machine was not very good and frankly the sheer power it produced from just a minute throttle movement was a bit confronting. I needed training or a different bike - I opted for training.

    I think it was around 2006. I did some research and heard about California Superbike School, that's what I needed. I booked in for Level 1 and turned up at the track feeling pretty good but a little anxious. surely with a 'busa I'll be able to hold my own. was I sadly disappointed. down the straight I was king but the corners really proved that I was actually hopeless. I remember coming down the straight at Eastern Creek flying past a few riders like they were standing still, I hit turn 1 feeling pretty good but now I know I was on a terrible line and making numerous other errors. a guy on an SV1000 went past me in turn 1 so fast that he gave me a bit of a fright and I wobbled the bike. reality had set in. needless to say I did not totally enjoy that day. I don't feel that I had the confidence to really get into the drills .mainly due to the bike I was on and my lack of confidence on it at higher cornering speeds. owning the 'busa was great, riding it fast around corners did not make me smile, it was just too powerful for my ability and was all wrong for me. I ended up selling it.

    fast forward a few more years and my bike is a 2014 Fatboy and I love it. it's cruisy, it's relaxing to ride, it's loud and fat and what I love in a cruiser but I felt I wanted more. I wanted it to go faster. my dilemma - do I spend ten grand making it quicker only for it to still corner the same or do I buy another bike. the answer was obvious and after searching and test riding and all that fun stuff I splurged and bought my Tuono. man I am in love with that bike (don't tell fattie as he thinks he's the special one).

    I wanted to get more out of the Ape and ride with confidence and skill. I knew I needed to go back to CSS.

    in July this year I did Levels 1 + 2 on consecutive days. I had some recollection of L1 from the first time I did it and after watching the dvd and reading Twist Of The Wrist II numerous times I felt doing two levels in two days would work for me, besides I was now a theoretical expert after the reading of the book and the watching of the dvd so the practical should make more sense.

    I turned up for L1 after not much sleep and that anxious feeling again but I think most of the other participants were the same.

    Level 1 is where you learn the big stuff, I don't want to go into too much detail because I think you should do the course to get the proper instruction. there is a lot here about throttle control and the start of being smooth and deliberate with your movements. suffice to say that if you only do one training day then you should do this one. your riding will be smoother, your cornering will improve, your confidence in your ability and being able to apply the new skills will be high.

    Level 2 lessons and drills revolve around visual cues and how you use your eyes. sounds simple right? you've been using your eyes since you were born but there is more to it than that, bad habits we've picked up and don't know we have. as a rider I've always felt I am more aware on the road because I'm a rider but there is some excellent learning in level 2, plus the added benefit of applying all your level 1 stuff and having a day on the track with a lot of other enthusiastic riders trying to apply the same disciplines as you - not just a collection of crazies on their first track day.

    Level 3 (which I did yesterday) is about your body and it's impact on the handling of your motorcycle. yeah we all lean, some get their knee out/down and are good at it, some aren't. this level really helps smooth out the wiggles and the bumps. our class coach for this level was Steve Brouggy coach extraordinaire.

    after each day with CSS I was amazed at how much improvement I have noticed in my ability and my confidence.

    the class sessions are very good and fully explain/discuss the next drill and the reasoning behind why it works to improve your ride. then it's out onto the track where you apply or practice the skill. they are willing to explore any questions or doubts the students have and happy to spend time making sure you understand what they are talking about.

    on track there is a coach who will shadow you for a while observing you and how you are applying the skill and then they get in front of you and you mimic their actions using a series of hand signals that have already been explained to you. after the session it's back to the pits and a one-on-one debrief with your coach. the coaches are one per three students. this is where CSS really demonstrates a high level of skill, the interactive feedback/debrief. they will ask you what you liked / didn't like about the drill, what corners did / didn't it work on, their observations of your application, any other comments by either of you. it really is a two-way session and the coaches are very very good at this.

    there is a pretty tough qualification process to become a CSS coach. firstly prospective coaches must have completed the training curriculum, then it's series of CSS days and coach-the-coach sessions. on my L2 day I met a rider trying out for a coaching role. he was doing the same level as me. he was on a stickered up race bike. he could ride, he was fast, he was there working his way through the levels. I saw him on my L3 day which was almost exactly two months after I had done L2. I asked him if he had been successful and he told me he was still going through the qualification process - two months later! they set the standard high!

    all the CSS staff are happy and extremely helpful. everyone is smiling. the students are happy, they're all smiling. it's bikes. it's at the track. it's learning stuff. it's a great day, there is everything to smile about!

    not everyone will do CSS and get to the same level of ability. some will attend L1 and already be very capable quick riders (or racers), some will be on P-plates and not be very good at all and most of the rest, like me will be somewhere in the middle. the thing is though everyone will show improvement and acquire skills that can be applied to everyday riding.

    I have always rated myself as a bit average when it comes to cornering (still am). never been one of the quick guys. never had a lot of confidence in turns. my confidence (not to be confused with bravado) after doing these CSS training days is much higher now. I know what my bike can do and I know what I am capable of. I will not be riding at track speeds on the road but if I can take a corner on the track with confidence at high speed then corners at road legal speeds should not cause me issues providing conditions are within normal parameters. I don't think I'm a great rider now in fact I still think I'm a bit average as I need to now apply these learnings to my riding so they become a natural part of my skill set where they just happen automatically.

    will I do Level 4? you betcha, in fact I wish I had booked in to do it today. unfortunately now they're booked out until 2017 but you will see me there next year at my first opportunity.

    fwiw, I don't think you 'need' to have read the books or watched the dvd before you attend but it wouldn't hurt. get them anyway as you can always refer to them afterwards.

    there is so much more I want to write about this as I can't recommend it strongly enough. feel free to ask any questions.
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  2. Good write up!

    I think i've mentioned it before somewhere - but the key is now to make the time to practice all the learnings on your own to embed them fully.

    Although i did not do CSS and chose a different training path, i found things easy to do on the training day with coaches watching you and yourself being on a 'training day'. If you return to 'reality' it's too easy to fall back into old habits.
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  3. totally agree
  4. I'm curious about who you chose for your training, George.

    AFAIK, no other training group in Australia offers the same as Level 1 CSSS.

    That is not to say they are all wrong, just they don't teach the same stuff as L1 CSSS.

    The main thrust of L1, CSSS, is the "availability" of quicker turning in..

    Now, in my humble opinion, this IS worth spending the money to learn, and it's an area where you can't teach it except on a race track.

    I've done Level 1 and 2 at CSSS, and recommend Level 1 in the strongest possible terms.

    I'm not so convinced about Level 2, as it seemed, to me, more like "mind games" than riding.

    The higher levels, with weight transfer.... i.e. moving about and hanging off the bike.... just didn't appeal to me because I reckon the race track is the only place where you should be doing that kind of stuff.

    From my experience, the other training folk in Oz are much more focused on "sensible" riding and picking up bad habits.

    Thanks, chilliman64, for your write up.

    The one thing I found lacking in the L1 & 2 business was how one picks where the white tape crosses should be on the open road.

    It's fine having them on the track, and, if riders follow the instructions they will enter a corner nicely, but those crosses aren't there on the public road.

    They (CSSS) didn't explain the position of the crosses in L1 or 2..... dunno if they explain in later Levels, but the "cheat" is to read Pietro Tarruffi's book, the Technique of Motoracing
    where cornering lines are explained thoroughly.
  5. I have read the books but haven't done the courses but over the years I have done quite a few Skiing lesions, it is SO helpful to have a coach see and correct technique issues. And even more helpful to have a system that brakes down technics and explains them in simple exercises.Its amazing how easy stuff becomes when you master these simple exercise, it just clicks in your brain after lots of practice.
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  6. I did the advanced courses through Toprider, coupled with their 'Coach and setup' track days that normally follows the day after their advanced courses.

    If you analyse in the end, there is a big correlation between what CSS tell you and Toprider - (I'm going on what i have read and heard here - obviously did not do CSS), maybe just the way of teaching / wording /level progression differs. The Advanced two course focuses a lot on quick turn in, visual points, throttle control. If you do the following track day with them they will drill these into you again on the track and follow you around to comment / guide etc.

    Anyway - did not really intend for this thread to mention other training providers (apology chilliman64chilliman64 for the derail) since the focus should remain on CSS and the experience.
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  7. I was doing Level 3 the same day chilliman64chilliman64 did level one. His write up is spot on. I would say to anyone that the price might seem high, but it will be the best money you ever spend on improving your riding and enjoyment of riding.

    I think you missed a small but important point with level 2 and visual skills. The taped crosses are a reference point that generally works. Better for some, not as good for others. Different riders on different bikes will need to modify the reference point to suit what they feel best. You don't necessarily turn right at the taped cross, you may feel you need to turn a meter or more earlier or later. As a reference point you decide what to do with it.

    The point they were trying to make is that there is a feature that they have put on the track for you to use as a reference point. When you do a track day they won't be there, but there will be other features on the track that you assign a reference point to. On the road there are features too, posts, light posts, curbing and drains and so on. For each corner you cam a conscious decision like I'm going to turn at a particular feature on the road based on you experience and judgement.

    You have a better idea of where you are and what you need to do if you assign your own reference points than if you don't use them.

    I hope this explanation helps with reference point and visual cues. I'd be happy to discuss further.
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  8. hi Cam - I think Senator17Senator17 explained it pretty well. the idea of the crosses is to give you an idea of the preferred turning point. you ride now quite well on the road without taped crosses, how is that so?

    I think they talk plenty about lines and turning points in the class and to me I felt comfortable with that. I am not going to start racing so for the type of riding I do and will be doing I found it to be adequate for me.

    regarding the knee-down / hanging off I agree with you that has always been my feeling also and as far as road riding is concerned I don't know how much if any my attitude will change. moving my weight around on the seat will change somewhat given yesterday's class as it was quite an epiphany for me as it doesn't have to be the aggressive hooligan/boyracer road technique I initially felt it to be.

    I also felt that the first drill we did - Hook Turns - was worth the price of admission alone and everything else was just bonus material.

    again these are just my opinions based on my personal experience. thanks for the tip about Pietro Tarruffi's book I will also look into that.
  9. I forgot to mention - during the downtime between class and track sessions you have a break so it's a good time to talk to other riders. I do like a chat.

    I met two guys who were good mates. they did L1+2 at Laguna Seca! they flew to Hawaii and dropped their wives off then continued on to LA.

    needless to say they loved it and made me turn the same colour green as everyone who just read this. :sick:
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  10. A good write up mate, glad you are enjoying it.
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  11. Well done chilliman64chilliman64 it's never to late to start racing you know........ :)
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  12. Mate I was there for Level 1....what an epic day!
    My gearbox was stuck in 3rd/4th for the last 3 sessions (without opening it up, seems like a broken return spring) but I couldn't care less :D

    What really surprised me was actually how much I learnt......I've reread/rewatched Twist of the Wrist many times, so I knew the theory well.
    But being able to put that into practice on the track where you can focus 100% on each little piece of the riding puzzle was.......enlightening.

    Will definitely be signing up for Level 2 once I'm less broke :cool:
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  13. a shame you didn't say hi! did you meet TurbowoodTurbowood, he was in your group.
  14. Shame I didn't run into either of you guys....actually that was the other surprise, there was a LOT of people!
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  15. Nice post.....
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  16. Great post, I really wanted to do CSS. Its just a shame they don't run the courses in QLD anymore. Going to Sydney or Melbourne either riding and accomodation, or flying and hiring bikes drives the cost up so much.
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  17. when I did 1+2 there was a couple from Qld who had the same issue so they put their bikes on a trailer and drove down, they did both days then went back home.

    maybe you could try getting together with a couple of mates and try to share the costs and do something similar.
  18. Yeah, definitely and idea. Have to do some persuading.
  19. If you're on Facebook, Like their page and you will get notifications of when they run courses in QLD, that way you can get in Quick before they sell out because they sell out very quickly in QLD. Or you can contact them to get on the mailing list and they will send you an email.
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  20. Thanks mate, I don't have Facebook so I sent them an email.