A taste of an Advanced Riding Training session
Advanced riding training is something insurers are very keen on, for understandable reasons. Most offer discounts if you have some form of recognised training and Bennetts go one step further, offering their customers opportunities to train with California Superbike School to hone their control skills.
A well-trained rider is less likely to lose control of their bike or not anticipate a hazardous situation. This means fewer accidents that lead to expensive repair bills and an increase in insurance premiums.
That’s the thinking behind Bennetts’ association with California Superbike School and their training sessions held at various racetracks across the country. For just £99 (£75 if you are a Bennetts customer), you can get a taste of the full instruction available during a California course.
Although the sessions are held at race venues, and much of what you can learn is taught as though you were going on track, the sessions themselves take place in separate mini-courses next to the racing area. What you learn is directly applicable to your road riding skills and technique.
Each course is laid out as a series cornering challenges – nothing outside of the average rider’s ability – that the instructors use to hone your approach to different corner scenarios.
The focus is very much on bike control, with the ability to precisely apply the right amount of entry speed, throttle management and positioning awareness to get the most out of the bike and what the road offers you.
Placing the emphasis on control, by putting you in charge of the bike, using speed, body position and road conditions, is obviously going to give you the confidence to go quicker.
That said, speed rarely features in the training. The majority of the exercises are done in 2nd gear (or 1st if you are on a highly strung R1, as I was). Speeds probably never get beyond 50mph on the short straight and guarantee the exercises are not about speed, but control.
What can you expect?
Before you get anywhere near the track, there is a briefing session where the lead instructor takes you through the basics of bike control and a few ‘rules of the day’ about overtaking and general track positioning.
In the first session, we weren’t allowed to use the brakes. At all. This soon removes any notion that you are here to compete against the other riders – you are too busy avoiding the embarrassment of having to show someone your red lights. Instead, the focus is on controlling the bike’s speed via the throttle, into, through and out of the corner.
By the end of the 20-minute session, you’ll have pretty much nailed how to sweep through the series of bends without even thinking about going near the brake levers.
In the second session, brakes are allowed and the emphasis switches to each rider’s own foibles. In my case, I was pulled over for a quick chat about body position. In common with just about every other sports bike rider I spoke to on the day, I was sat practically on the tank itself. It was pointed out there should be at least a fist-sized hole in the space between my tank and my crotch. The advantage of this is that your weight is shifted back on the bike making it much easier to turn in. My bike has stomp grips on the tank sides and it was pointed out they can be used for gripping the tank with the knees on both sides, not just for hanging off the side for a bit of knee-down.
The result was no more sliding forward under heavy breaking. I would certainly have remembered this by the second or third session of one of the four or five track days I do each year; but the advantage of these Bennetts sessions is that even someone like me, with a bit of experience under an ample belt, can use them to either add to or reactivate existing knowledge.
In the third session, overtaking was finally allowed so that riders could practice the tips handed out by instructors at their own pace.
During the session, I was pulled over for another friendly tip.
Pointing to my stomp grip again the instructor said using it more often will making corner much easier. “Stay back in the seat but grip the side of the tank more to make it easier to pull the bike over. Get lower down to get the elbows bent and more relaxed. You’ll see the bike can turn in much quicker.” Up until this point, I had thought this technique was for the track only, not low-speed cornering.
I was wrong and the effect was instant, almost making the R1 feel like a different bike. Prior to this, I had mainly been using counter steering to effect a quick turn in for road use. Now the countersteers were joined by the ‘knee-pull’ and the bike turned in unbelievable quickly and effortlessly. The day was worth it for that one tip alone.
In the final session, the instructors took a step back, leaving riders free to get on with what they’d learned without worrying what ‘sir’ would think each time they rode past. This allowed each rider to focus on the tips and advice already received.
What will you get out of it?
The context and language the instructors use are very much coloured by their regular training sessions on track – it is the California Superbike School, after all. But the techniques and advice are absolutely valid for road use to, so you can look at this either to improve your road skills or hone your track riding if you have done a few track days.
They are also great as pre-training if you are new to track days. Like ourselves, Bennetts see track days not just as a hugely enjoyable leisure activity but as a way to really sharpen up your riding skills. So much so in fact that they now hold their own sponsored track days for Bennetts customers, including a special ladies-only day, at four race tracks.
Doing the exercises on a short circuit with tight bends instantly gives you the confidence to practice what you’ve learned on real roads and thankfully the route from my session, at the Bedford Autodrome, to the A1 had plenty of quiet twisties to get the techniques down pat after the half-day session had ended.
At just £75 to £99 the sessions are a bargain. The sessions are open to anyone with a full bike licence and if we all did a session riding standards would rise across the board. That’s got to be worth it.
Get yourself sorted:
Times and locations are available at: http://www.superbikeschool.co.uk/schedule/bennettsart
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