Well, not sure how many of you have read Lee Parks' book Total Control
, but he also teaches a full day course called the Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic
. I just took the class last week. It's a bit long, so if your bored by reading this type of stuff, just skip it. If not, I hope you enjoy the read. So, here is my review:
The class I planned on attending was based out in Aldento, CA on January 6, 2007. For those of you that are unsure where that is, it's a town right outside of Victorville, CA right off the I-15. Because I live in Las Vegas, I thought a 2-3 hour ride would be a short trip and worth the ride.
I road out the night before and stayed at a hotel in Victorville so I would be rested in the morning. We met at 7:30 am in the parking lot of a small stadium in Aldento. Lee and his girlfriend had already set up the parking lot for the exercises. Lee's two lovable pitbulls were playing and standing guard of our stuff that each of us had brought along with us from our road trips. Lee had us all lower our tire pressure. For my ZX-14 he had me set it at 30 psi, front and rear.
I introduced myself to the other students in the class and to my suprise there were only 4 students, including myself! I asked Lee why the class was so small. He said his typical class size is 15-20 students (of course he has other instructors with him in a larger class like that) but because of the time of year the turn out is always low. Honestly, it was to our advantange. Having Lee teach and instruct the four of us, was a sure fire way to get one on one attention.
We started out with some instruction from Lee about how the day would go. Namely about 70% of our time outside practicing, and 30% inside discussing concepts varying on a variety of subjects such as one's mindset during riding to basic suspension theory.
Our first exercise was a straight line where we're to accelerate, apply the breaks, re-accelerate and re-apply the breaks in one fluid motion and not "upset the suspension". He wanted to get us used to the idea of applying throttle and break together, in a smooth fashion so we could learn to use it in turns. Now, I know many of you are track riders, and the concept of "trail breaking" is familiar to you and used frequently. But to a newb like me (and most riders I would say) getting used to applying throttle AND break at the same time, in the correct amounts so as not to upset the suspension is a bit odd at first. And, I'll be honest, before that day, riding cruisers for nearly 15 years, I had NEVER applied throttle and break at the same time so as to purposefully control my suspension. Hell, I'm not even sure I ever even applied throttle and break together period. Now, I certainly became NO expert in the few minutes we practiced it. I'm sure it will take a lifetime to really master, but the feel and the concept was nice to have applied and felt in the real world.
Next, he wanted us to work on our vision. A forty foot circle with a cone in the middle. Not worrying about speed or lean angle, he wanted us to solely focus on vision. Keeping our heads up, and turn enough to see the entire circle with our peripheral vision, while focused on the cone in the middle. Needless to say, it's easier said than done. It was very easy to lift ones head up and look straight ahead, a common error made by riders in a turn, which of course blows your turn... look where you go, go where you look. It was a good exercise in that after several revolutions around the circle, I started getting comfortable with my head looking "through" the turn for LONGER periods of time than I would in a "real turn".
After that, he wanted us to put lean angle in it. So we did some non-moving excercises. One involving the other class members balancing you by yourself and leaning you all the way to the ground and up again. Simulating holding the bars and looking to our side through a turn. What Lee was after was total trust. That is, dont put any input in yourself to "hold yourself up" as you went over, and on the way back up he didn't wan't you using your own strength, just to let the classmates slowly lift you back to upright. Obviously, what he was trying to do, was to get us to have confidence that our bikes and physics would do the work for us, and we needed to trust that they would. Then he took us outside, put each of us on our bikes and practiced a similar procedure, but while on the bike being held by our classmates and do so according to his "10 Steps of Proper Cornering". Which are, according to Lee,:
1. Reposition the Foot (the inside turning foot)
2. Pre-position the Body;
3. Push on the outside grip;
4. Locate the turn point;
5. Look through the turn;
6. Relax the outside grip;
7. Push on the inside grip;
8. Roll on the throttle;
9. Push on the outside grip;
10. Move back to neutral.
He had us go "through the motions" several times, faster and faster and faster until it was at real time speed.
After the simulation, it was time to implement it. Using the same 40 foot circle, he placed a fixed turn point about 4 feet from the parameter. Using the "10 steps" he wanted us to as fast as possible obtain max lean angle needed for the turn. That is not to "gradually" acquire lean angle, but get that lean angle over and correct and fast so we can get through the turn and back to up and down as quickly as possible.
Well, for me the hardest part about this excercise was to visualize the real world application of it. Namely, imagining a real turn rather than a fake one. Which in turn kind of made it hard for me to select a "line". But after several run throughs, I started to get the hang of it. Going faster, leaning lower each time. I didn't drag my knee but I did remove most of my chicken strips from my tires (come on, cut me some slack, 2 months ago I was only on crusiers and baggers with no concept of high -or even moderate- lean angle.
We did a few more slightly different excercises that worked on cornering, mostly getting more difficult (and cumulative from the previous exercise) each time. Until he had us doing figure eights. Turning one way, then quickly while still exiting one turn having to get ready for a turn of the opposite direction. For me, these were a blast. Near the end of the day, the training we had received was really helping and paying off. I worked on going faster and faster and adding lean angle so I could come to trust my bike and my tires (and myself!) more as I road.
The knowledge carried away that I found MOST useful was, perhaps something all you already know, but it's nice to actually have it bouncing around in my head now.
- relax the outside grip and arm in a turn, let the inside grip do most of the work;
- apply throttle and break simultaneously and fluidly to ensure you dont "upset" the suspension in turns;
- when leaning off the bike, keep your hips, shoulders and eyes roughly along the same axis. Those three points should work in concert with one another not against.
- always in a turn make sure your centerline is on the inside of the bikes center line... every turn, every time. Whether it's one inch or 2 feet.
- better to blow the exit of a turn than the entrance... always.
Of course there was quite a bit more. Discussions on mindset, suspension theory, layman's physics of how bikes work, etc.
Lee was a VERY approachable and personable guy. Down to earth, and had a host of great stories that were interwoven with his teaching. I also learned that he is working on a Level II ARC class. Basically to work on even more advanced cornering. Double and triple apex turns. Decreasing radius turns, etc. It should be ready sometime this year.
I talked to Lee after the class and he informed me that he does private training days too. The ARC course was $300 and well worth it imho. But he said his private training is $1500 per day. BUT he will allow up to three guys (and/or gals) to take advantage of a personalized training day. So, if you had three people doing it, it would be $500 each... not bad for personalized training from one of the top authors in the country about motorcycling. And whats more, he will work on WHATEVER it is you want to do. Want him to come to the track and train you and a couple buddys and use video camaras to chase and record the rides for training purposes? No problem. Want to go out in the canyons to spend the day on the street and work with him? Sure. Or a day of parking lot training? Yep. Even dirtbike training and handling (he has bikes and gear at his home and would bring you there for that). He said that he can come to you or you can come to him as far as meeting up for personalized training; whatever works.
Personally, I think this would be WELL worth it. Three guys. At the track. All day. $500 each to pay him? Totally worth it. In fact, I may do it this spring sometime. In any event, I had a great day and would recommend this course to any rider except perhaps those that are absolutely new to riding or those that are absolute experts. I checked my ODO and during the day we did about 15-16 miles in the stadium parking lot. Quite a bit considering most invovled single and double 40 foot circles.
Well, my next stop is my first trackday on March 31, 2007, put on by Fastrack Riders
at the Las Vegas Motorspeedway
. Following that, I'll be doing Freddie Spencer's 3 Day Street Rider I course
on April 11, 12 and 13, 2007. I'll put my thoughts "to paper" after I do the Spencer course.
PS Here's a pic of Lee and I