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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
http://www.fastfreddie.com/

INTRO

A dream of mine is being realized this week, and I thought I’d share it with any of you that are interested – partially because it’s one way for me to take notes on my experience to help me get the most out of it!

For several years, since getting back into riding on a more dedicated basis (with the kids grown up and out of the house), I’ve longed to attend one of the most respected riding/racing schools in the country – The Freddie Spencer School in Las Vegas. I did one day of CLASS with Reg Pridmore in Portland in 2003, and two days of STAR with Jason Pridmore in Pahrump in 2004. Both were great experiences that I have highly recommended to others. I always felt that the Spencer school would be the ultimate, but just too expensive to consider!

After buying the RC as a track bike last December, I have been doing lots of modifications over the winter, with several of the upgrades coming from RC guru Dan Kyle. In one of my conversations with Dan, I mentioned that I was thinking of going through STAR school again this year, perhaps at the new track in Utah. Dan strongly encouraged me to consider the Spencer school, saying that although pricey, it is incredibly focused, and that I would be amazed at what I would learn and the improvement I would see in my riding. I love this sport and have a strong desire to become a better rider (and avoid crashing!). I figured if the school was as great as I’ve always heard, it would be a good investment in this passion of mine.

It helped me somewhat to rationalize the expense by factoring in the fact that they provide the bikes, fuel, tires, etc., vs. a standard school where you bring your own, along with transport costs, etc. It’s kind of nice to be able to just fly into Vegas with your gear, and go to school! They even provide breakfast and lunch, so hey, there’s $15.00 per day or so right there! Suddenly it’s a bargain! :rotfl:

I signed up for the three day school, using a 10% discount obtained by being an HRC (Honda Riders Club) member. The three day school includes half a day or so riding dirt bikes, to get a better feel for how to deal with sliding.

DAY ONE

At 7:30 the nineteen students are picked up from the hotel and taken on a short drive to the facilities at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It’s where the NASCAR races were held just a couple of weeks ago. Freddie’s school is located on the property, which has several different racetracks, including the “Inside Road Course”, which is a great track in the infield area of the NASCAR track.

Despite cold weather (and hail!) just one day earlier, the weather is sunny, heading for the high 60’s, and beautiful! The forecast for the next couple of days is even better, expected to be nearly 80 on Friday.

Before heading into the classroom, we head right out onto the track in the van, doing several laps, stopping at various points along the way as instructor (and journalist) Nick Ienatsch talks to us about the track, identifying the turn numbers, preferred lines, and so on. Nick is a very personable guy, very knowledgeable and definitely wants to make sure that every student gets the maximum from their experience here.

Next the van takes us a half-mile or so to the school building, where we head for the classroom. Everyone introduces themselves, and talks about their riding experience, bikes they have, and their riding goals. The instructors are introduced as well, including Nick, Jeff Haney, Dale Kieffer, and Freddie. A VERY impressive group of instructors, that are all very accomplished pro racers.

The students are a diverse lot, from real beginners to amateur racers. A couple of women, three guys from Puerto Rico, several from Canada, one (a moto-journalist doing a story on the school) from Sweden, and the rest from all over the USA.

Freddie gets right into the teaching in the classroom in the morning, demonstrating various body positions on the RC51 parked in the classroom. There is a tremendous emphasis on all the things we do to steer the bike, especially including use of body position, peg weighting, and trail braking. Lots of trail braking! Of course, there is also a lot of thought given to the right lines to take into each corner, where the apex is and why, and especially how we set ourselves up for maximum traction, safety and speed. A mind-boggling amount of info is given, making all of our heads spin a bit, but mostly making us want to get out on the track and test out these ideas!

Next it’s time to get our bike and group assignments. All of the bikes are new or practically new CBR600RR’s, half being red and half being black. Each of us are assigned a bike by number, with the bikes already having been set up for our size, weight, etc. Mine is a black one, lucky #13, with Sato rearsets, HyperPro steering damper, and new Pilot Power tires. It immediately feels very comfortable to me. They’ve got the speedo taped over so we can’t see how fast we’re going, which is probably a good thing, certainly in my case. See photos below.

This was my first experience on the CBR600RR, and I was blown away! What a fun bike. I can see why BDA116, ND4SPD, and so many other of you like these bikes. It’s a scalpel. Really sharp-handling, confidence-inspiring, and it has a surprisingly wide powerband compared to what I expected. After my RC51 and Sprint ST, I sure had a tendency early on to think I needed to shift around 7-8,000 RPM or so, but it didn’t take long to figure out that I could wring that little sucker out to around 10-12,000 with no problem. It was fun to make that thing sing down the straightaway.

As you would expect, we split into groups and follow the instructors around the track, with them pointing out the cones that have been put in place to help us learn the apexes, as they show us the best lines to take through each of the ten turns. Our speed and confidence build with each lap.

We do various braking drills, with the goal of being smooth and learning how subtle use of the brake can dramatically affect our turning lines. I’ve never had a problem with trail-braking, and use it regularly in both motorcycling and mountain biking, but have always thought of it as a means to slow down when too hot into a corner, rather than a tool (to be used judiciously) to help actually control the lines we take through turns. It works great, and is a real revelation to me. My confidence in the bike and my skills is growing as the day goes along, for sure. And I’m having a blast. The instructors are giving lots of individual attention, and clearly explaining what we need to do.

There are various demonstrations by the instructors of the right (and wrong) way to do things at different points around the track, as the students stand and watch, in awe of their incredible abilities.

Next thing we know it’s time to head in for lunch. As we eat in the classroom, Freddie gives us more instruction. Lots of emphasis on moving the head and shoulders into the turn first, before transferring the weight on the footpegs. Also our need to not be so stiff in our arms and upper body – learning to hold on to the bike more with our legs, feet, stomach muscles and so on.

Time to head back out to the track! More braking drills, including an emergency braking drill, where we learn to use the front brake hard from high speed, but in a way that keeps the front end from diving dramatically, keeping the bike settled. We also have trailbraking drills on a couple of the turns which are really helpful. I’m given feedback from the instructors that I need to keep my head and chest down more through the turns, and need to stand the bike up more by hanging off at the apex so I can get on the gas sooner. Makes sense.

Toward the end of the afternoon session, as we’re doing laps and working on our skills, particularly the trail braking, each of the students does a lap with Jeff Haney following us with a video camera. We don’t know it at the time, but Jeff takes the exact same line around the track on his own bike, which of course happens to be the optimal line. This way when you watch the replay of the video, each student can see how far off the optimal line they were (and the consequences of that!).

Once he’s filmed each student, he films a couple of laps chasing instructor Dale Kieffer around the track. The first lap Dale deliberately makes a lot of the mistakes students typically make, and we see the problems that brings. The next lap he does it the right way. Holy crap can that guy ride!

Finally we all gather in the classroom and watch each of the student’s laps on the big screen. Each student’s riding is critiqued by Nick and Jeff, in an honest and constructive manner, using slo-mo and instant replay. It’s amazing how consistent we all are in doing certain things wrong! Especially: not getting off the seat enough, and keeping our head and shoulders over the windscreen while trying to get our knee out.

I thought I had a pretty good lap while being videoed, although I did go into turn one (a very fast turn at the end of the long straight) too hot. The critiques the instructors had for me? They said although I looked like a very good rider, they had some suggestions for improvement:
  • Too far back in the seat
  • Get head and chest down more through the turns!
  • Use brakes more to set lines
  • Bike is confused from time to time by my input
  • Drop my head so I can run less lean angle on the bike
The videotape certainly confirmed what they’d been telling me. Lots to work on, but I’m getting there. They will video tape us each day, and then send us the video in the mail later. It will be fun to see how much I can improve in the three days.

Tomorrow we run the track in reverse, which is great because my right-handers need a lot more work than my left-handers. We also get to play in the dirt a bit which should be fun too.

I’m having a blast and can’t wait for tomorrow!
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
DAY TWO

What a day! Tons of challenges, but great progress being made by all the students, including me. We’re all a bit sore and tired, physically and mentally, but also incredibly excited about our improvement and where it will lead us, both in the final day tomorrow, and in the rest of our riding careers.

Once again we’re picked up in the van at the hotel at 7:30 AM. Everyone is in a great mood, but still feeling the effects of a bit of information and sensory overload from the day before. I went to sleep about 11 PM, setting the alarm for 5:30, but at 4:30 AM it was like a switch went off in my head, and my mind starts racing with ideas on what I need to do better today. I try to go back to sleep but it’s not happening. No biggie. I’m too excited to worry about sleep at this point.

While the students are eating some breakfast in the classroom at school, Freddie speaks to us about what all we learned yesterday. Everyone agrees that the video session from the day before was extremely revealing. We all think we’re hanging way off the bike, getting our knee way out, extending our head properly through the turn. The reality for most of the students was that they were barely doing it at all! Everyone is determined to exaggerate these movements and feelings today, so that they’ll look better on the video if nothing else!

Freddie talks about the need to figure out how to best make the bike change direction, and get parallel to the turns and apexes we want to hit – through a combination of lean, head/chest, peg weighting and trail braking. He suggests we really consider our head position in relation to the windscreen in front of us. That’s helpful, because most of the students seem to be tucked in behind it in the turns, when our head should be decidedly to the right or left of it, leading us into the turn.

I mentioned to Freddie that I’ve used trail braking for years, but almost always out of necessity – coming into a turn too hot and having no choice but to gently try to slow the bike down while leaned over. At the school they have been strongly encouraging us to use trail braking to actually help the bike steer into the turning line we want, which actually works really well. I asked if getting on the front brake into a turn wasn’t actually transferring weight to the front tire, bringing about the possibility of an overload, causing the front to slide (which we obviously don’t want). Freddie replies that we need to practice turns using a variety of different pressures on the brake (very gently – not yanking it in), and to really feel the feedback the front end is giving you. Nick mentions later in the day that with modern tire technology, we can do things with trail braking that would not have been possible 10 or 20 years ago, because the tires can handle it much better. Makes sense.

The idea is to use the front brake as both a speed control and a direction control. I hadn’t really thought of it that way before, but I am amazed at how well it works after trying it a bunch of times on the track at high speeds.

Today we are to run the track in the reverse direction to yesterday. I’m excited because it’s like running a totally different track, which is cool, but I’m also very apprehensive, because yesterday most all of the turns were to the left, which I’m very comfortable and fast with, and today they’ll be to the right. :eek:

In the classroom we talk about that, and Freddie mentions the need, when turning to the right, to keep that right arm relaxed, with elbow bent, so that our throttle/brake hand can be relaxed. This has been a bit of a problem for me before, so I’m determined to work on that.

Before we head out to the track, Nick reviews the track layout on the whiteboard, and shows us the preferred lines to take, braking points, apexes, etc. These points are similar to yesterday in some of the corners, quite different in others.

We put the gear on, I grab lucky bike #13, and we head down the road a half mile or so to the track. We break into groups, with a different instructor than yesterday. This morning my group has Nick.

The first thing we do is start doing some slow laps, in the reverse direction to yesterday, taking turns behind Nick with him showing us the best lines and offering feedback on our riding with the use of hand signals. The instructors have mirrors on their bikes so they can see exactly what we’re doing or not doing as we follow them. Nick’s signals are extremely clear – in my case reminding me to get my head down, and pointing at his brake light to show me where I should be braking going into various turns.

As we start going faster and faster I must admit I am feeling really uncomfortable turning right – so often, so fast. Most of the tracks I’ve been to have far more left turns than right, and I generally just go pretty slow through the rights and make up for it on the lefts. But I’m determined to get off the seat, move forward toward the tank, get my head and chest down, and keep my throttle/brake hand relaxed. As the day goes along it gets much easier, but early on it seems like you’re just thinking about so many things at once, that sometimes you do one thing really well (I nailed that apex!) while at the same time screwing something up (get off the bike more to reduce the lean angle, dummy!). Like anything else though, with practice it becomes much easier and not so mechanical.

Next our group works with Jeff on some drills. The track is basically split into smaller portions (ours is kind of an oval with five turns). We each follow Jeff around the turns, first all to the left, and then all to the right, with him giving us feedback on how to do it better. As we go through the dreaded right-handers, suddenly I find that by doing what I’m supposed to do, it’s starting to become much easier, safer, and more comfortable. Imagine that! I really start to feel the difference in turning by using more weight on the pegs to help turn the bike.

Meanwhile, Freddie is out on the track on his VFR, giving students rides for a couple of laps each. Half the students go today, half tomorrow (I’m tomorrow). I can’t wait. Everyone who does it is blown away by how fast and smooth he is, on a basically stock bike, with street tires, with a passenger!

Next we take some laps on the other half of the track (larger, faster turns), taking turns behind Dale, with all of the laps in the direction requiring right-handers. I find my right-handers getting WAY better, safer and less strenuous. I still find it a little tough to be gentle with throttle and brake inputs when leaned way off the bike to the right, but I’m working on it. Still feels a little choppy.

While doing one of these laps with Dale, one of the guys in our group (who happens to be a TV host on the HGTV network) – a pretty good rider who wants to race – gets a little too close to the rider in front of him, brakes a little too hard in turn nine, tucks the front end, and lowsides. He’s two riders ahead of me at that point so I see it out of my peripheral vision. Although the bike is scraped up pretty good, he’s okay and soon gets a replacement bike to ride.

In the hour or so before lunch, we work on a drill involving downshifting two gears (fourth to second), while braking at the end of a long straight into a very tight corner. We’re expected to apply front brake with enough pressure to slow the bike down, while downshifting, while blipping the throttle with each downshift. Blipping hasn’t been a problem for me before, but I usually haven’t done it while braking from high speed – I was just downshifting to slow down and not really using much brake. Squeezing the brake lever with two fingers, while turning the throttle open to blip, gently letting the clutch out – and oh yeah, there’s a really tight turn coming up and you’re doing about 100+. :eek:

We do this over and over, with me sometimes doing it pretty well, and other times pretty crappy. Then you continue doing the rest of the lap, which enables me to get more and more comfortable with this reverse direction, and my right-handers. I can definitely feel improvement. During this session our feelings of improvement will be tested once more – we’re each videotaped on a lap by Jeff. I feel pretty good about the lap where he chases me, and look forward to seeing if I’m doing what I think I’m doing on the video.

Lunchtime! Freddie talks to us more about what we’ve been learning, and sets us up for what we’ll be doing this afternoon. It’s time to hit the dirt!

As I’d read about when signing up for Freddie’s three day school, half a day is spent riding in the dirt. Not really motocross style, more like flat track (with some nice big mud puddles thrown in just to make it extra slippery). The idea is they want you to see what the bike feedback feels like when you lose traction at front or rear, and what to do about it.

We put a bunch of dirt gear on, and each grab a little Honda XR100, and head for the dirt track (which is in the infield of our road course). They have knobbies on the front, but the rears are more like a street tire. Slippery! I’ve owned a few dual-sports over the years, and do lots of mountain biking, so I feel like I should have no trouble with this. Well, apparently it’s been a few years, and I really didn’t spend a whole lot of time sliding them left and right, so I’m not quite Ricky Carmichael (or some flat tracker guy).

Some of the students have never even been on a dirt bike, so it’s a whole new world for them. But since they’re such fun little bikes, pretty harmless really, and we’re all geared up with padding and stuff, pretty soon people are going around the course, bumping and sliding and roosting and crashing in the mud – just having a blast! We definitely all start getting a feel for sliding – under acceleration, front brake, rear brake and so on. I thought I sucked at turning right on road bikes – I was worse in the dirt! After a while I get the hang of it though. They tell us that virtually every road racer they know also has a dirt bike or TT bike for just this purpose. Makes sense.

Nick and Jeff are amazing on these little XR100’s! Wheelies, sliding – total control. They seem to especially enjoy roosting students who are going a little slow through the corners. Yes, they got me a couple of times!

After a few hours of playing in the mud, we head back to the classroom. We relax, enjoy a nice buffet dinner they’ve laid out for us, and start watching some video of our pre-lunchtime laps.

What a difference in the videos from yesterday! All of the students show great improvement – in cornering lines chosen, body position, braking, everything. Still not perfect by a long shot, but way better.

How’d I do on the video? Pretty darn well – especially considering the fact that it was with all those right-handers. My head position is significantly better. I was really working on it all day! Sometimes it felt like my head was down by the front wheel (not even close, but it felt that way!). The instructors tell me I still need to move forward on the seat more – up against the tank, raise up when on the brakes, and then tuck back in for the corners. But the lines I choose are very good, braking in the right places, and showing a lot of improvement from yesterday. I’m really excited about it! :hyper:

At the end of the videos they show a couple of laps where Jeff followed fellow instructor Dale. First he deliberately makes a bunch of mistakes (and we see the consequences). Next he does it perfectly. Again we see where we think we are way off the bike, getting our head to the right or left of the windscreen as Freddie says, reducing the lean angle of the bike, steering the bike with braking and peg weighting, head position, etc. – Dale does it WAY more. And the guy just flies. Makes it look so easy, fast, but while at the same time under control and safe. Very inspiring.

I hope to get a little closer to that tomorrow. :)


So far, I am so happy I came to this school. CLASS and STAR were both excellent and helped me a ton, but this thing is just a different world. All of the students I’ve talked to are so excited about what they’re learning, and we all can’t wait to take what we’ve learned to our next trackday (or even street riding).

To be continued…
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Join Me At The Freddie Spencer School [Pics Added]

Wow.

What an experience.

What a blast!

I’m physically and mentally beat, but I’m so excited about having attended this school. Excited about a faster, more fun, and more safe riding future as a result of what I’ve learned. Awesome.

DAY THREE

Last night I was pretty beat after my 4:30 AM wakeup earlier that day. I went to sleep around 10:30, and figured I’d sleep at least until the time set on the alarm clock – 5:30, being so tired and all. Ha! This time I was wide awake at 4 AM. I tried to go back to sleep but was just too excited about the upcoming day, and ready to go practice some more of what I’ve been learning.

Finally, 7:30 rolls around and we load up in the van and head to our final day at Spencer School. It’s another beautiful day in Vegas, sunny and headed for the high 70’s, and everyone is really upbeat and positive (although walking around is a little tough for most due to sore thighs!). The students have all seen on video the progress they made from day one to two, and want to see just how much better they can get for today’s video session. I’m really looking forward to making those last small adjustments the instructors have been suggesting to see what results they will bring. At the same time I’m slightly bummed because it’s the last day already and I want it to keep going!

We gather in the classroom, and Freddie casually talks with us for a while about some of his racing experiences, including his first broken bones (suffered in the last lap of his last GP race of his first GP season). It’s so cool to be hearing this legend, who is so down-to-earth and friendly, describe for us some of what it was like to be the very best in the world.

Freddie talks to us about what we can expect from today’s track time. We’re on tires that are now on their third day (and what that can mean for traction), some of us may be tired and can be prone to mistakes as a result, and we need to be sure we maintain our focus.

Freddie tells us how important it is to ALWAYS have a game plan, whether we’re in a race, a track day, or just out riding on the street. To plan ahead, thinking about the track or route we’ll be tackling, to know our environment. To sit on the bike, thinking about the controls, how it’s set up, how we’ll move, what our body position and foot position will be, and how we’ll mix the use of the various controls.

He tells us that we should all be working today at really hitting those apexes – by slowing the bike down at the right points (and understanding why it’s so important that we do hit them – to set us up for the best possible exit from that corner. The first two days largely focused on corner entry, today will be more about corner exits.

He asks the class which direction everyone wants to run the track today. Several of us, including me, say we want to run it in reverse (the way we did yesterday). I’m sure I could do faster lap times running it with more left-handers, but I really was starting to become much more comfortable with the rights yesterday, and want to continue working on that. Others agree, and so that’s what we decide to do.

Freddie then goes through the track map on the wall (see photo) in great detail, showing us the best lines, brake points, acceleration points, explaining why – and compares it to what we should do on any street or track ride.

As he’s going through this process, suddenly it all clicks for me. The light bulb finally goes off regarding this whole business of cornering, apexes, entry, exit, and so on. We want to use the whole track, with as many straight (upright) lines as possible along the way between corners, so we can stay on the gas as much as possible, lean the bike over as little as possible, which will have the combined effect of greater speed and greater safety. Before this I sort of understood why we should take the lines we do, but now it REALLY took hold in my thought and became clear. Now I was really getting excited.

Freddie tells us that as we move up to the next level of riding, it becomes very much a matter of multitasking. Doing all of the things we need to do, smoothly, while at high speeds these things obviously must be done very quickly, with good decisions being made in rapid succession.

We head back out to the track for some more laps and drills. This time our group is following Dale. We take turns following him around the track, and rotate after each lap. He gives us great feedback through hand signals along the way. I’m learning to apply the brakes firmly (while smoothly!) while the bike is more stood up approaching the turn, and then easing off as I steer the bike into the proper line at the apex. As I exit the apex, I’m improving at leaning off the bike even more, getting my head and chest down and out into the turn (it feels like my head is next to the front wheel!), so that I can stand the bike up more to get on the gas earlier. It’s working great, and I’m getting more compliments from the instructors, and my confidence is going way up.

I still need to work on getting my weight forward through the turns, as I have a tendency to be too far back in the seat. Apparently a lot of taller riders do this, but it’s not the best way to steer the bike into the turns, as your weight is back, and you’re just along for the ride, not controlling the bike the way you should. As the day goes along I really work on this, and the results are amazing. So much easier! So much faster! So much safer, with a feeling that I’m in control of what’s happening. FUN FUN FUN!

We start doing a drill involving bringing the bike to a complete stop while under hard front braking at the apex of turn six. Think about that. Coming around a corner at very high speed, leaned over, and you squeeze the front brake enough to bring the bike to a complete stop. For most of us that seems crazy, but we learn what we can do to control the turn of the bike through careful use of the front brake. It helps us both with trail braking and steering, but also shows us how we can avoid emergency situations on the street with braking and steering. A very revealing drill.

About mid-morning, Nick pulls me aside and tells me it’s my turn to take a ride on the back of Freddie’s bike. Now I’m really excited. I climb on the back of the VFR, behind one of the greatest motorcycle racers of all time. Freddie has me simply put my hands on the tank in front of him, and tells me to keep my head to the right and eyes on his throttle and front brake for the entire lap, so I can watch his inputs as we go through each section of the track, under acceleration and braking. Here we go.

Un-freaking-believable.

All I can say is that Freddie is like a concert violinist or something with his use of the controls, because although we are moving at a really fast pace around the track, you virtually don’t feel a single abrupt moment the entire way. Simply acceleration and slowing, but unbelievably smooth at every point. Freddie’s ability to understand what the bike is telling him at all times is astonishing, even with a rider on the back who is watching his right hand the whole time. In turn three we leaned over so far that my toe dragged on the ground from the passenger footpegs. That got my attention! But I was totally at ease the entire trip, because he just made it so smooth, it was like taking a ride in a luxury car or something. Everyone else I talked to had the same reaction – blown away by how smooth his riding was.

It definitely inspired all of us to be far less abrupt in our use of the controls, and our body movements as we guided our bikes through the turns the rest of the day. Very inspiring, obviously, and unforgettable.

We stand trackside and watch Freddie, now on a CBR100RR, and Jeff Haney, FLY around the track, with an emphasis on smooth acceleration out of turn one. Jeff shows us both how to do it wrong (and consequences), and how to do it right. Freddie again dazzles us with how fast and smooth he is.

Several times coming down the long straight into turn one, Jeff backs it in like no one I have ever seen. It is mind-blowing, hearing the rear tire squeal and watching him pitch it sideways for literally hundreds of feet, before perfectly NAILING turn one. We’ve all seen the pro racers do some of this on TV, but seeing him do it that well, and hearing it, is incredible. Just absolute control over the bike. And he does it again and again. Very cool.

Shortly before lunch, as we’re doing laps around the track with the instructors, Jeff does our final video session, following each rider individually. I feel pretty good about the lap I run with Jeff filming me, hitting all but one apex pretty well, and really adding some nice speed between corners. I can’t wait to see what the video looks like when we have our review and critique at lunch.

My riding now is becoming SO MUCH FUN! I feel in control of the bike, adding speed while still feeling safe, which is awesome.

Lunchtime. As we eat, Freddie talks to us some more about what we’ve been experiencing, and answers our questions. He mentions how much better everyone is doing since the first day. I ask him about something I’ve been experiencing. As I brake hard into tight right-handers, the inertia of my weight shifting forward is putting pressure on my throttle hand, making it difficult to keep it in the preferred relaxed state we want. I ask what can be done about that. He agrees that this can definitely be a problem, and suggests that I work on doing more braking while the bike is standing up, and to use my legs and stomach muscles more to keep my weight off my hands and wrists, enabling me to be more relaxed with the controls. I try this after lunch and make a lot of improvement.

Freddie’s lovely wife stops by with their four year old son, and brings us a bunch of really good homemade cookies. We all joke that if that’s what Freddie eats, we want them too so we can ride like him.

Time to watch our videos! Everyone looks WAY better. Amazing to see the improvement of every rider – from both total novices to pro racers. Before long, I see my lap. Although not exactly perfect, I’m looking 1,000% better than I did just two days ago. It’s really fun to watch. A little too much speed into 2A (which swings me wide on 2B), and I still need to move forward more! But Nick and Jeff both mention how good my body position is looking through the turns at so many points around the track. The cool thing is – these are almost all right-hand turns! I never thought I’d be able to nail them like that. Very exciting and gratifying.

Another important point the instructors have made, that I’m starting to improve upon, is to not let a mistake in one turn or section of the track affect us on future turns. Get over it! Just focus on what’s coming up next, and forget about what already happened! This really helps.

Back out to the track for the afternoon session. We go to turn six and watch Freddie and Jeff show proper and improper body shifting from turn to turn – how to make it smooth and at just the right time to help the bike move into the position we want. They also demonstrate the use of the REAR brake, by going through turn six at very high speed, using only the rear brake to slow them and help them set their line. They wave at us as they go through to show that they’re really not using that front brake – and they’re cooking! They nail the apex every time. Nick emphasizes our need to be very gentle with our inputs on the rear brake – that it can assist us, but must be used judiciously.

We do a couple of rear brake drills – going through turn six with just the use of the rear brake (gently), and then at one point on the straightaway, Nick has us all lock up the rear brake to a short skid, then release, then lock it up again. This way we can get a better sense of the amount of pressure needed to lock it up (to avoid, obviously), but to not be afraid of it, either. We also work on improving our body/weight transfers in the corners, trying to be smooth like we saw from Freddie and Jeff. We also try to fix anything we saw in our lunchtime videos.

I get to follow Freddie around for a couple of laps, which was so cool. Even though he could have probably lapped me about three times in those two laps, it was cool to think that I was right on his tail for a couple of laps anyway. I almost passed him coming out of nine into the straight (he was probably just waiting for someone behind me), but it felt like passing God or something. I just couldn’t do it. Also, while tailing him pretty close through 6, 7, 8 behind some other riders, I was hoping someone wouldn’t stop short or something. I was just imagining some huge headline about how I took out Freddie Spencer at the track. That would suck.

Time for one last session to really see what we’ve learned. We split up into two groups so everyone has lots of room. I’m in the first group with the guys who have been going pretty fast. They tell us it’s not a race – to just work on our technique and learn. That works for me for about a lap, before I start trying to catch the pretty fast kid in front of me. I finally get him at the end of the straight, but then, not wanting to jamb on the brakes in front of him I wait… wait… just a little bit more – uh-oh! Suddenly I’m running out of track. Can I make it into turn one? Probably not!

I decide to be safe and just run off the track into the infield (which is like an asphalt parking lot anyway). How embarrassing! I smack myself in the head and ride back out onto the track, determined to actually do what Nick said and actually just ride my own pace, hitting the apexes and improving at every point around the track. I take another 10 laps or so doing this, and have an absolute blast.

On one of the laps, as I add some throttle while leaned off (standing the bike up) between turns 2B and 3, I feel something I haven’t really felt before on a track – the rear wheel breaking loose and spinning a bit. I can hear it in the motor, and feel it in the grip, but it’s no big deal. The dirt riding session the day before really seems to have made a difference. I just stay smooth on the throttle, don’t panic, keep the bike on line, and ride it out. Awesome! My lines and apexes are really getting good, my lap times are better than ever, and I’m feeling completely in control of the bike – safe and fast.

At this point my knees and the bottom of my feet (where on the pegs) are getting pretty tired, but I’m having so much fun and I just don’t want the day to end. But it’s time for the other group to get out on the track, and I have a great feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.

We’re done on the track, and we had back over to the classroom for graduation. Nick and Jeff give us some goodie bags with a bunch of freebies from their sponsors, and then they have a drawing for some cool stuff including communicator radios from ChatterBox and a new set of Michelins. Everybody has lots of laughs – and I actually won the radios! They’re the same kind the instructors use on the track to communicate with each other. How cool!

Through the process we all make a bunch of great friends, and share e-mail addresses so we can keep in touch or meet at a future track day. Some really cool people that we have learned with (and from!).


OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

I am SO glad I did this (if you couldn’t tell from the above). I can’t say enough about what great people Freddie, Nick, Jeff and Dale were. So approachable, upbeat, helpful, patient, fun – with skills that are absolutely mind-blowing.

The quality of the track was better than I expected. It’s not that long, but has a great variety of turns, and the surface is excellent.

The bikes and the facilities were great. The video was a huge plus. To see specifically what we looked like, be able to go out on the track and work on it, and then see the progress made a tremendous difference.

I definitely intend to get back there for Level II, as soon as reasonably possible. The other schools I’ve attended are good and serve a purpose, but I don’t think I could go back to them after doing this. There really is no comparison. To me it was unquestionably worth the (large) expense, and I’m not a wealthy man. We spend hundreds or thousands modifying our bikes to improve the power or handling, and that’s fine. But I guarantee that none of that is going to do for me (or most riders from what I’ve seen including pros) what this kind of instruction will.

I am very grateful. :)
 

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Great thread Whipper! :clap:
:thumb: :thumb: :thumb:
 

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I'm sold! I think Freddie should give you a deep discount on your next school with him for all the marketing you've done!

Great report, bwhip! Something tells me I won't be riding in your group at Grattan! ;)
 
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That writeup is seriously one of the best moto-related bits I have ever read. Makes me want to do it even more now, and I guess the wife is gonna have her own little shopping spree later this year now to match mine.

But who is that grey-bearded bastard in that first pic? I recognize the rest. :rasp:
And did you guys never hit the banking? Judging from his track layout it looks like you skip it all.
 

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That was really exciting and informative to read, and it gave some great tips. :thumb:

Good thing you've been working on your righthanders, 'cuz Grattan only has 4 left turns!
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
BDA116 said:
That writeup is seriously one of the best moto-related bits I have ever read.
Thanks very much! :thumb:

BDA116 said:
But who is that grey-bearded bastard in that first pic? I recognize the rest. :rasp:
:twofing: That was just the lighting in the classroom, that's all! :p

BDA116 said:
And did you guys never hit the banking? Judging from his track layout it looks like you skip it all.
Yeah - it's just an infield track that is quite flat. A great track that really gives a lot of variety. At a few points during our sessions, there were open-wheeled cars racing around the oval surrounding us. That looks like some serious fun, too!
 

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Good stuff. It's like talking to you on the phone.
Too bad he doesn't have an "I raced when two-strokes were fast with 35hp school." That would be perfect for me.:D
 

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Well, I saw that thread and I said to myself..... too long, I'll wait when I have more time. Just finished reading the whole thing and all I have to say is: I WANT TO GO TOO :crying:

Thanks for sharing! We should have more thread like this one here :thumb: :thumb: :thumb:
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
ND4SPD said:
bwhip,

I don't see you mention counter steering anywhere. Did the class touch on that technique at all?
Almost zero, and then probably only because a student asked about it. I was a little surprised, but once I used the techniques they described and taught, countersteering really became an afterthought. Different schools of thought I'm sure, i.e. Spencer, Code, Pridmore, etc.

I think they reason they deemphasized it so much in Spencer School is that countersteering gets the bike leaned over in a hurry, and they weren't teaching to lean it as much as they were to keep it as upright as possible, only achieving full lean for the shortest possible period of time before getting your body way off as you're standing up the bike and getting to acceleration.
 

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bwhip said:
Almost zero, and then probably only because a student asked about it. I was a little surprised, but once I used the techniques they described and taught, countersteering really became an afterthought. Different schools of thought I'm sure, i.e. Spencer, Code, Pridmore, etc.

I think they reason they deemphasized it so much in Spencer School is that countersteering gets the bike leaned over in a hurry, and they weren't teaching to lean it as much as they were to keep it as upright as possible, only achieving full lean for the shortest possible period of time before getting your body way off as you're standing up the bike and getting to acceleration.
Ok, I've sat this out long enough. Back when Freddie was racing, most of the paddock was amazed at how much he was leaning the bike and not standing it up driving off the corners. Kenny Roberts was "Mr. Standitup and power out", while Freddie was all about entrance and mid corner speed. He also was never a big proponent of trail braking, in fact mentioned in an interview that trail braking was a waste of time. I have watched Freddie throughout his career and I would have to guess that he has , ummmm changed his technique a bit since he retired.

Someone once said that if you asked Kenny Roberts and Freddie Spencer to describe their cornering technique, it was difficult to imagine they were both talking about the same sport. I have heard several people comment about the emphasis on trail braking at the Spencer schools and have sort of wondered if they were talking about the same Freddie Spencer that won the Streets of Miami AMA race and was a former multi-world champion.

Just thought I would make this observation . . .
 

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I've never been to the school, but know many who have and loved it.

I'd like to go too, but the trailbraking emphasis really leaves me wondering...
 

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luvtolean said:
I've never been to the school, but know many who have and loved it.

I'd like to go too, but the trailbraking emphasis really leaves me wondering...
I'd like to go, too. And, all I have to say about learning trailbraking is that I'm glad you use their bikes! :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I'm not sure how it may have affected any change in Freddie's philosophy (and that of his instructors), but they definitely mentioned that changes over the past few years in tire technology have created tires much more capable of responding well to trailbraking. The tires were obviously a whole lot different back in the day.

All I know is when I tried their approach, it worked extremely well for me.

I also can't speak to whatever additional guidance they may give regarding countersteering or otherwise in more advanced classes including pro racer level. I know Trackho went through that level a year or two ago, maybe he can chime in on that.
 
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