California Superbike School, Level 4, Silverstone Stowe Circuit, £399 (£648 with bike hire and fuel)
What’s good: When you enter a CSS briefing room normality is suspended. For the next few hours the focus of your life becomes track reference points, hook turns and two-step vision plans. It’s intense and brilliantly nerdy -- like giving up your job and going to speed college.
They hand you a bottle of water and a welcome pack, then usher you into your classroom. There are zillions of staff, all of them energetic, beaming followers of the Keith Code system of going dead quick on a bike. You meet your coaches – one for the track work; one for the classroom -- and you emerge clear that today will be nothing to do with beating your mate or stuffing it up the inside of anyone but about thinking your way through corners quicker -- or smoother or safer, whichever you want the most.
The UK school is based at Silverstone and runs courses all over the world, but whatever the circuit the experience is the same.
A pit-based coach talks you through your syllabus -- levels 1, 2, 3 or 4 – while an all-seeing track instructor hangs around the margins of track on an R1 or R6 like a cool policeman, watching you, tailing you, leading you and urging a hook turn here or pick-up drill there via clearly explained hand signals.
The syllabus – the whole riding system they preach -- is based on the radical A Twist of the Wrist manuals penned by Code in the 80s and 90s.
Levels 1 and 2 major on drills for throttle control, turning the bike and mentally mapping the track you ride -- the use of reference points and a two-step vision exercise that keeps your eyes moving ahead of your bike are CSS fundamentals.
Level 3 focuses more on you, your body, and how to move around the bike efficiently. Level 4 is essentially a refresher and a tweaker where you can spend the day revisiting any of the 15 drills taught on the first three levels.
I did my first course way back in 1996 so spent the day with my two coaches, Gromit and Cookie, revisiting those reference point fundamentals – reinstalling the discipline that makes you learn the track before you try to go quickly round it (not always easy in the heat of a track day).
With Gromit missing nothing, I used the early sessions to map the short but technical Stowe circuit -- where to brake, where to turn, where to exit – so that I could ride with more confidence and accuracy later.
Videos recorded by Gromit and later analysed by Cookie revealed more faults and bad habits with my body position. Like I said, brilliantly nerdy.
What’s not: Not much. The morning was slow with track time limited to just two sessions, but the pace picked up later in the day. The Silverstone Stowe circuit is a great learning track but can get a bit crowded at times.