Motorcycle riding is an art form. With each passing year and every mile behind in my rear-view mirror, I appreciate that observation with increasing gravitas. As a lifelong guitarist, playing both professionally and simply for fun, logging thousands of hours practicing and polishing my playing, I think I can safely say that the similarity between attempting to master a musical instrument and attempting to master riding a motorcycle has far more similarities than differences. Here’s the thing: in the best moments, playing a musical instrument or sailing through a corner on a motorcycle take you to a place where thoughts, distractions, and ego simply disappear and there is only the moment, a convergence of experience and being that meld into moments I like to call the “eternal now.” If you’ve experienced it, it needs little explanation as it is a place of total bliss in which you simply disappear into the moment. Some call it nirvana.
Getting to these moments doesn’t come for free. The universe requires your effort, your care, your love. With each hour spent in the studio or on the track, more is revealed to you, more of the secrets open up, reveal themselves to you, and then the second bliss washes over you – the exhilarating “aha!” moment when you truly “get it.” But where to learn the secrets?
Enter Reg Pridmore, three-time AMA champion, Jedi master of the art of motorcycling, and owner/operator of the legendary CLASS motorcycle school, who along with wife Gigi Pridmore and a cadre of highly experienced and talented instructors make it their mission and passion to help you become a better motorcyclist. I only wish I had found them sooner in life rather than later, I would be a much better rider today.
I first heard of CLASS when I read Melissa Holbrook Pierson’s book “The Perfect Vehicle.” I had never even thought about taking a course at a motorcycle school, that was for the aspiring Nicky Haydens, Valentino Rossis and Casey Stoners of the world. Not me. What a mistake. I took two days of CLASS instruction at a glorified go-cart track in Colorado. Long story short, I learned more in two days at CLASS than in all my prior “experience” riding on the street. I had never considered things like foot position on the pegs, using the lower body to steer a motorcycle, looking through the corners, using high RPMs to control speed, relaxing on the handlebars, and a long, long list of wonderful things I learned at CLASS. It was a revelation and I was instantly a better rider.
After a close encounter with a deer this last summer, I realized I needed more training and signed up for CLASS’s D-Day experience at the Streets of Willow Springs racetrack in Rosamond, California, a two-day camp limited to twelve riders, with a ratio of one rider to one instructor. I had high expectations for D-Day based on my previous CLASS experiences and not only were they met but exceeded. More than a few times I came off the track with a big smile only to be met by big smiles from the other participants. Many times, I was disappointed to see the lights come on Reg’s scooter indicating the session was over, I didn’t want to come off the track!
I can’t say enough about the great instructors that are part of the CLASS team. Not everyone can teach, it takes empathy and great communication skills to impart understanding in a way that a student can grasp. I think it is especially hard when the subject – like motorcycle riding or playing a musical instrument – brush up against the limits of language to describe the feel and subtleties so essential to translating words into action. Well these guys are masters at it and they obviously love what they are doing and are deeply passionate about it. They WANT you to succeed, they WANT you to get it and translate their guidance into results on the track. Not once did I feel talked down to and not once did I feel the weight of an inflated ego. Like other truly gifted and talented I’ve met, they simply don’t care what anyone thinks of them, they care about the thing they are doing. Reg likes to say the instructors are the “best.” It is hard to see it any other way having had the privilege of their instruction over the course of two days.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Gigi Pridmore, who keeps the whole thing running like a clock and does it with grace, empathy, and poise, so much so that it is easy to miss what she does. CLASS just flows from activity to activity and before you know it, the day is done, and you leave with a big smile on your face and lots of new skills in your trick bag. Gigi Pridmore is a big part of why CLASS runs like a machine.
There are many reasons to attend CLASS and if the art part of the equation doesn’t grab you, consider this: becoming a better rider, understanding the physics of a motorcycle, and learning to control the machine can literally save your life. If the only thing you learn in CLASS is how to control your lines and make good decisions going through corners, you will have spent your money well. If you get to sail through those corners and experience the eternal now, consider that ice cream on the pie.
Out from Colorado, Tim rode our rental Honda CBR500R. Thanks for the photo Etech Photo