With the sun threatening to finally breakthrough and bring back some semblance of normality to the spring climate, now is the time that most riders come out of their enforced hibernation and return to the road. But rusty riders on defrosting roads don’t always make for the best of combinations and it’s these riders that the California Superbike School are attempting to reach with their ART (Advanced Rider Technique) programme.
And so it was that the BMW F800GT and I headed off to Silverstone on a sunny – but hellishly windy – Thursday to brush-up on technique and to see just how much fun a group of likeminded individuals can have in a car park (don’t panic, this isn’t going into Channel 4 documentary territory).
Despite the Superbike moniker and the excitement of telling everyone that it’s happening at Silverstone, this is emphatically not a track day. A fact that is immediately evident when I arrive at Copse car park, grab a coffee and register with the instructors in their Portakabin. If you’re expecting the the glamour of full-leathered racing and hitting your apex’s then this isn’t for you.
But perhaps it should be? At its heart the Superbike School is exactly that; a place for learning and stripping back your technique to its very basics. It sounds so obvious, but discussing a few mechanical facts about the behaviour of motorcycles really does help you consider just what you need to do when entering that bend ahead – be it the final corner of the track you’ve just blitzed or the local roundabout.
So after a quick thirty minutes in front of the whiteboard, talking about entry speed, throttle control and the dynamics of brakes and suspension we headed out onto the coned-track (read: car park) and put the theory into practice.
At this point it’s worth mentioning that the levels of experience were vastly different amongst those of us who’d taken up the course. Over the day I spoke to people who’d been riding for a while but had lapsed and wanted to gain confidence before riding in anger once again, retirees who had decided that now was the time for them to pick up on that desire they had always had but were never able to fulfil, sports bike enthusiasts who wanted to nail the basics before they headed back out onto that track day and people like myself; fairly new riders who were simply eager to learn at every opportunity. But the lessons learned were useful for every one of us.
“Entry speed, throttle control. Entry speed, throttle control. Entry speed, throttle control.”
This was the mantra of the day and soon we were all taking corners without needing to snatch at brakes – in fact we were encouraged to not use our brakes at all when coursing around the track. Having to force yourself to not rely on the crutch of braking – and remembering what we had learned about weight and balance changes caused by braking back in the classroom – is harder than it appears. But once you’ve mastered the technique I would challenge anyone to not feel more confident with themselves and their riding the next time they are out on the road.
The agility and handling of the BMW F800GT immediately felt better on the ride home. The bike seemed as if it was finally responding to my commands, rather than perhaps in previous rides where I had felt a certain pressure to wrestle control from it, I was now in charge of my machine naturally and comfortably.
Perhaps instead of learning to master the roads during our initial motorcycle learning sessions we should all be taught to master our machines first? It’s almost ridiculous how such a few simple instructions can make such a large difference to your riding.
You can find our more about the California Superbike School and their ART course here:
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