Reg’s Memorial Day Newsletter

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Face_aboveI hope you’re starting off a fantastic Memorial Day weekend, an excellent time to stop and remember the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the U.S. military. I know I’ll keep that in mind as we celebrate here with a nice long weekend.

What a season this has kicked off to be and it’s just flying by! Next weekend is already the 7th annual Fast and Safe Seminar, happening June 2 here at our CLASS HQ at Santa Paula Airport. We’ve got some great guests coming including our good friends from SHOEI Premium Helmets as well as former USAF and NASA pilot and CLASS student: Steve Ishmael to talk a little about high flying and low flying. It’s free to 2018 CLASS students, $25 for non-students, and if you’re within riding distance, I hope you’ll join us. The raffle is fantastic with things like half off a SHOEI helmet and a full set of Dunlop tires, not to mention the hats and tee shirts from DP Brakes and more. And yes, the OMG hot dog guy will be here again and lunch is on CLASS! Pre-register today.

Never Stop Learning is my slogan again this year and I’ve had the opportunity to be reminded…  Many of you know I had a hiccup entering the Corkscrew in March and wound up hitting the ground hard. I fractured 7 ribs and my pelvis in two places. I am happy to say I’m much better now though the recovery has been a little tiresome. But I put down the walking stick a couple of weeks ago and haven’t looked back. I am extremely grateful for my excellent team who, upon my early afternoon departure from Laguna Seca, picked it up and finished the day without a hitch. I’m also thankful for my Shoei X-14 helmet which, though I was out for a couple of minutes, protected me from a concussion, not even a headache.

Left: Reg and Wes Cooley. Right: Miguel Duhamel, Ron Pierce, Ken Greene and Gigi P.

In April we had 3 consecutive days out at Streets of Willow. Our Champions Day, Motor Officers and Women’s Days out at Streets of Willow were truly for the record books. About 140 riders over those 3 days and not one single incident. Wes Cooley, Ron Pierce and Miguel Duhamel joined us on the Monday for a terrific time. Lots of great stories in addition to a fantastic CLASS with plenty of riding and learning.

Motorofficer2018.jpg#welovecops Thanks Etech Photo

On Tuesday the Motor Officers Day had us with 60 cops and every single one of them improved and had a great time. Thank you officers and deputies for continuing to make the Motor Officer Advanced Training days continue to grow. Because of the success of that Spring date, we have added a second MOAT date which is October 9, 2018.  We are approaching half full as of now but if you think you’ll make that date, we need to hear from you now. Thanks for helping us get the word out!

The Women’s Day was off the chart. It was great fun to have Gigi step up to help more than ever with classroom and coaching the ladies. The guys of course did a terrific job as well. Rider Magazine’s Jenny Smith wrote an article and put it on their “Woman Rider” website. Check it out.

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#girlpower One great group of Women CLASS riders! Etech Photo.

Many people ask about Women’s schools, and as of now we don’t have another one planned this season. But CLASS truly is a school for both genders. In fact at D-Day a couple of weeks ago, of 14 students, two were women. Because we teach control and technique in a relaxed, non-competive atmosphere, most women find our standard school to be extremely helpful. If you are or know a woman who would like to become a better, safer, more confident rider, CLASS can help. If you’d like more information, or if you have a group of women riders contemplating their own day, give us a call in the office and Gigi would be happy to talk about coming to CLASS and what to expect.

Click here for the CLASS website

We’re still bubbling from two absolutely amazing days out at Streets of Willow where we had a dozen or so students for D-Day. These schools really do just seem to keep getting better. Perfect weather and a fantastic group of students and instructors really just made it as good as it gets. We received some really exceptional feedback (read one student’s fun accounting here) on those days and my hat’s off to everybody who did such a great job — students and the CLASS team. Thank you for all you do. If you’re interested we have 3 spots remaining for our September D-Day CLASS and bike rentals available. Learn more…

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#ridered Marcus follows student Kenn on the CB500F at D-Day. Thanks Etech Photo.

320Turn2Laguna.jpgWe’ll be back on track in July up at Laguna Seca Raceway, now officially called “WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca”. But it’s still one of our very favorites and I know it is for many of you as well. The dates are July 23 and 24 and we are just about 2/3 full right now. We look forward to a full school there again this summer, so don’t delay in getting registered early for that one. For those of you who might not be “local” I still have a few of the CBR500s and CBR300s to rent for two days — talk to us. Register for CLASS.

Honda250Horiz.jpgSpeaking of rental bikes, huge thanks to Honda who once again has stepped up providing CLASS with a new motorcycles. I just received a couple of new 2018 CBR500Rs which have been a welcome addition to our rental fleet. The CBR500R or CB500F – light, nimble bikes with just the right amount of power to work on all the things we teach at CLASS. We also rent the CBR300 and CB300Fs and find that riders also really take to these lightweight, non-intimidating machines to get around the racetrack at a fun and sporty pace. If you think you’d like to join us on one of our CLASS Hondas, talk to us soon.

Gigi and I head off to Norway the middle of next month for a two week motorcycle tour of the mountains and fjords. It’s our fifth trip to that wonderful place and we’re looking forward to spending time on the bike and with many good friends. We’ll take lots of pictures!

I’ll leave you with a little fun from the Motor Officer Advanced Training Day. At the end of lunch we asked the officers to participate, and they obliged with lights and sirens. This time it was the #Hamburglar they were after…


As we head into Summer, we wish you all the best, Ride Safe, Think Fast.

Cheers,

regsiglg

Reg Pridmore
(805) 933-9936
reg@classrides.com
Click here for the CLASS website
Click here for the 2018 CLASS Calendar

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Simply Amazed – A student’s review of the CLASS D-Day Event

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.

-Tim W.

Out from Colorado, Tim rode our rental Honda CBR500R. Thanks for the photo Etech Photo

Anybody can make it go, but how’s your braking?

TIPS FOR BECOMING A BETTER RIDER
By Gigi Pridmore

“Anyone can make it go, but you have to know how to make it stop”. That was one of the first things I was told when I was learning to ride a motorcycle. Actually, braking is so important, it’s the only “drill” we do at a standard CLASS school.

Marc-Marquez-2When we teach braking at CLASS, we don’t teach riders to use both front and rear brakes every time. In fact, we begin by telling them they need to really know how well their front brake can do the job — without the rear. Since most of the stopping power for a motorcycle is in the front, and when momentum is slowing the rear gets lighter, for most riders on most bikes, the front is the one to use. And even if you’re not getting the rear wheel off the ground like Marc Marquez, once the rear wheel is light under the momentum shift, it locks up very easily.

There are exceptions like heavy tourers or cruisers with bags and a passenger weighting the rear wheel. Then the rear brake is used very well in conjunction with the front to slow and stop you most effectively in a straight up situation. But if you’re riding a sport bike or even loads of sport tourers, front brakes are the key to a great stop.

One of the main reasons we like to see people off the habitual rear brake is that if it’s an “automatic” reaction to a panic situation, locking up the rear brake can cause you to crash, especially if you’re leaned over. You have a lot of power in your right leg and hitting that brake lever hard with an adrenaline rush (like you might in a car) is just not effective at stopping the motorcycle. It’s effective at locking up the wheel and you slide.

Roll and Squeeze (not Grab and Stab)

PhilHiroshiWe do a braking drill at CLASS that helps riders get more fully acquainted with their brakes. It’s not a true ‘panic stop’, because we don’t want them to find the edge during the drill. But we try to get them to brake harder than they are used to braking. It’s usually done in a hot pit or paddock type of area where we get them to accelerate at a good clip (first gear) towards the observing instructor. At the final cone, they are to roll off the throttle and smoothly squeeze the front brake, coming to a stop while leaving the clutch out until they are just about to put their foot down.  Come quickly to a stop, but so smoothly that if there were a full glass of beer on your tank, you wouldn’t lose a drop. If you’re able to control the dive with braking smoothness, you’ll find it much easier to use your brakes in any situation, including in a curve. And if you know what you’re looking for and how to critique yourself, it’s something you can and should do on a regular basis as a refresher.

Did you notice I said leave the clutch out til the end? The habit of pulling brake and clutch in at the same time is a mindless habit for some riders. If that’s you, I hope you’ll work hard on breaking the bad habit. You want to leave the clutch out until the stop so that the engine braking continues – pulling your clutch in early allows the bike to freewheel, thus needing more brake.

CLASS Braking Drill

Reg and Phil work with students during the Braking Drill

I have heard riders say they are concerned about locking the front wheel using the brake. This is another reason for practicing hard braking while you’re straight up and down. It helps you get to know what you and the bike are capable of. Years ago I went through (CLASS instructor Phil Smith) Phil’s braking line and smoothly came to a stop using my front brake. Quite proud I was of myself until Phil asked me “what percentage of your brake do you think you’re using?” I thought about it and answered “maybe 20%”. He explained to me that 100% would be the max limit before the front wheel locked up. It made me really think about how much braking is available if I just learn to use it better. Under normal riding circumstances it’s quite possible we could go hundreds, maybe thousands of miles without needing to brake very hard. If that’s not something we have practiced, we may fail the test if necessity reared it’s ugly head. We need to make it second nature, like brushing your teeth or walking and chewing gum.

Do you ever use the rear brake? Sure, in fact during the drill we also have them use rear brake only and then front and rear together. The point is for riders to get to know each one individually as well as together. There’s a time and a place for rear brakes, including lightly stabilizing the bike with a sort of anchor effect in hard upright braking situations. And always apply the front before the rear. We want riders to understand how to be most effective at making the motorcycle slow or stop and do what you want or need it to do. Don’t continue just keeping that rear brake pedal under your toe as a matter of habit to be pressed automatically in every braking situation, including in the turns. If perching your foot over the rear brake at all times is a habit, I would suggest you make a new habit and keep your feet back with the ball of your foot resting on the peg, free of the brake lever. Use it only on purpose and when the situation warrants. There are other reasons for being on the balls of your feet as well but we won’t go into that in this article. On the other hand, (no pun intended) resting two braking fingers on the brake lever in traffic or other situations where quick braking is essential, is a really good habit to make.

What about ABS? This time the drill was to come to a stop from about 25 mph using just the rear brake. I watched the rider in Gary’s lane next to me as his ABS rear wheel locked, the bike slid, the wheel rolled, the bike slid, the wheel rolled — Even with ABS the rear brake was doing a very poor job of getting the motorcycle stopped. It was in a straight line and eventually he stopped, but it was a vivid demo to me why, even with ABS, riders should be very aware of the limits of the rear brake and never use it in any sort of panic action — especially when leaned over. Remember the front brake is where the stopping power lies — and don’t allow ABS to be an excuse for never learning good braking technique. It’s up to you to keep yourself safe.

We talked about downshifting in a previous post so I haven’t mentioned it here. But keep in mind that in addition to brakes, downshifting is very instrumental in getting the motorcycle slowed down through engine braking. Using downshifting in conjunction with braking whenever possible is the best way to have solid control and get slowed down.

Like tools in the toolbox. If you’re upright (no lean angle), maybe on that big tourer or cruiser like I mentioned before, and you’re using max front along with some rear – in thoughtful measure, I’ll leave you alone about using your rear brake. But knowing how to smoothly apply and really use the front brake in any situation, including trail braking into a turn, is an excellent skill to have. Not just another tool in the toolbox, but maybe the most important one. Because anyone can make it go, but you have to know how to make it stop.

Cheers for now,

Gigi

Come out and work on all aspects of your riding with CLASS! We have a fantastic 2018 season planned, including an All Women’s CLASS, Motor Officers, D-Days and of course our highly acclaimed CLASS standard schools for all types of street and track riders. Learn more and register at classrides.com. We hope to see you at the track!

Disclaimer: To the maximum extent permitted by law, the authors accept no liability for any direct, indirect or consequential damages resulting from the use of these techniques or reliance on the information contained in them. Motorcycle riding is an inherently dangerous activity, and you use these techniques at your own risk.

 

CLASS Motorcycle Schools adds an All Women’s Day at Streets of Willow

Santa Paula, CA 1-12-18. For immediate release: Reg Pridmore’s CLASS Motorcycle School is excited to announce they have added an All Women’s CLASS to their 2018 Calendar. Wednesday April 11th at Streets of Willow in Rosamond, CA (about 1.5 hours north of L.A.). An all day “track based” street riding school, we’ll get started at 7:30 am and finish riding at 4:30.

GigiFull72“What CLASS offers to street riders is so much more than just a track day” explains Reg’s wife and CLASS Instructor Gigi Pridmore. “The goal is to get more women who might feel a little shy about taking their street bike onto the track out to ride and learn with us. There’s lots of great instruction but there’s also a ton of track time, so lots of time to practice and improve with every lap. It’s a no pressure atmosphere, we just want the women to have a really good time and go away with a lot more skill and feeling a lot more confident. Our team is fantastic when it comes to teaching riders of either gender, and the low ego format of CLASS blends perfectly to help women of all ages and varied experience levels to be the best they can be.”

The price for the day is $275 and you may reserve a space with a $150 deposit now, the balance sometime in March. Learn more about the CLASS program and register today at classrides.com. Gigi and Reg are also in the office to answer any of your questions M-F 10 am to 4 pm. (805) 933-9936.

About CLASS Motorcycle School: Reg Pridmore has been teaching motorcyclists of all skill levels how to ride quickly, safely, and smoothly since 1972. CLASS (California’s Leading Advanced Safety School) was founded in 1986 and is conducted at racetracks in California and Virginia from March through November. CLASS is proud to be partnered with American Honda, SHOEI Premium Helmets, Dunlop Tires, DP Brakes, Held USA for Gloves & Gear, Motonation & Sidi Boots, Zooni Leathers, Baxley Pro2 and Pit Bull Stands.

About Reg Pridmore:

* 3 X AMA Superbike Champ
* AMA Hall of Fame
* 4 x Isle of Man Racer
* Battle of the Legends
* 2016 Legend of the Sport, The Quail
* Author: Smooth Riding – the Pridmore Way

 

Press Contact: Gigi Pridmore
(805) 933-9936
gigi@classrides.com

Reg’s End of Season Newsletter – Nov 2017

Hey CLASS mates,

I hope this note finds you happy and healthy as we head into the holiday season. The CLASS season has come to a close having finished up at VIR, and Gigi and I have had a couple of weeks of kick back time. Now it’s time to start thinking about next year, and a lot has happened since I last wrote you.

The past 2 months has been very busy in a 6 week run that began with Labor Day at Streets of Willow with special guest Shoei Helmets. That was followed by the Cops and D-Day, more Streets and then a fantastic week long trip to Virginia. For those of you who joined us this Fall, I think you may agree it’s hard to top the fun.

To play fast an loose with the quip by Mark Twain: “The reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated.”

Things have gone well as of late, so well in fact I have laid out a schedule for 2018 – so yes, CLASS will be back! You’ll notice I’ve cut back a little more, but as far as the places where we have the most fun, we have scheduled dates.

TurnTwoOutsideA lot has changed since last summer and we are planning on going full speed ahead at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. We have plans to be there Spring, Summer and over a long weekend next Fall — yes with standard schools — I hope you’ll plan on joining us. We’ll kick off the 2018 season there on March 26th and Gigi has set up a very nice early sign up discount, you might want to make some plans early. Thanks Etech Photo for the photos.

Register for CLASS
2018 CLASS Calendar

D-Day in September was once again two fantastic days with 12 students, 13 instructors, and we watched as skill levels sky-rocketed with the help of our talented and attentive team. Some of you even requested we do D-Day at other tracks, which perhaps is not feasible for a variety of reasons (mainly costs), but you also said a second D-Day would be a welcome addition. So we’ve added D-Day #2 for 2018. If the May dates go well, we’ll proceed with the September dates. I’d love to hear from you if one or even two D-Days 2018 are in your plans! Learn more about D-Day…

We’ll also have a few standard schools at Streets of Willow as well as one Motor Officer Advanced Training date on April 10th. As of now I have had a lot of good response for the Cop day and I expect that one will fill, so if you’re planning on joining us, don’t hold off in registering.

This year our bike rental business was very successful. Many of you had the chance to ride one of our Honda 500s or 300s at CLASS – mostly to rave reviews. As the rental program has gotten rolling, we sold out of bikes for many dates 2017. So in planning for next year, if you think you might want to join us on one of our rentals, get your reservation in early.

VIR2017AlBobI know you “VIR Faithful” may have picked up a glimmer of optimism about CLASS going back to Virginia in 2018. That final wrap meeting on Oct 17th was really one for the record books, and may I humbly add that a standing ovation from you guys for the second year in a row had something to do with it I am sure. Though I have been trying to make a graceful departure from the travel back east, members of the team, including my wife, have weighed heavily on my decision making process. We do love that track and Stuart might just be the best host ever. So with that in mind, I have accepted the dates the track has offered and have included the same October dates for 2018. I would really like your assurance that all those cheers and raised hands will mean you’ll be back too, and if you can get registered early with just the deposit, you will again save money.

NorwayShotOne last thing on the 2018 schedule, you’ll see I have scheduled a motorcycle tour of the Mountains and Fjords of Norway. This will be the 5th time Gigi and have taken a group over there – do you think we enjoy Norway? It pretty much sold out when I announced it to a group of friends, but I put it on the schedule in case we have any cancellations which sometimes happens. If this is something you would like to consider, solo or two up, talk to us and we can put you on the waiting list.

I will be in touch as the year winds down and the Spring approaches. In the meantime, feel free to contact me at any time with questions and comments. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Happy Holidays!

regsiglg

Reg Pridmore
reg@classrides.com
www.classrides.com
(805) 933-9936
Register for CLASS

P.S. a couple of things to remind you of as you head into the winter season:

  • The Gift of CLASS! The holidays will be upon us very soon – it’s never too early to consider gift certificates in any amount for the Santa season.
  • If you would like to purchase a pair of Dunlop Q3+ tires, we have a few sets on order to sell. $275 includes tax and shipping and don’t forget you get a $40 rebate on them if you attended CLASS this year. If you’ve attended CLASS and purchased tires in 2017 and have not yet applied for the rebate, get in touch with us and Gigi will get the proper info out to you.
  • 50% off DP Brake Pads: As a CLASS student this year you are entitled to half off DP Brake pads. These are my favorite pads and if you have not yet tried them, you don’t know how much stopping power you’re missing. For details on how to get the deal, drop us a line. Use their fitment guide to find your pads here.
  • Check out psr-usa.com where CLASS students get 15% off any order til the end of the year. PSR makes high end aftermarket products for dirt and street bikes – things like levers and covers and even a great easy lift dirt bike stand that Gigi likes in particular. Use the code CMSULVHSI to get your discount.

To be added to our email list, please go here and fill
out your email info in the box on the right hand column.

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Smooth Downshifting

Tips for becoming a better rider

By Gigi Pridmore

When it comes to learning to ride a motorcycle, I have to admit I have been blessed. I got to know Reg before I ever learned to ride. Our first day spent together consisted of an airplane ride in the morning, and a motorcycle ride in the afternoon. Once we were together more, it was the track. My first 500 laps were on the back of a 3X AMA Superbike Champ. To me, watching from pillion, the throttle, the clutch, the brake, the sound of the engine, the giddying acceleration and ridiculously late braking I likened to watching a concert pianist grace and make magic with the keys. What a rush! When Reg was in the classroom, I’d jump on the back with Jason. Who was better? Back in the 90’s I’m not sure there was any difference on those VFR750s.

The visual I was given was one of how a motorcycle should look, feel and sound. It was smooth and synchronized and it was perfection. For me, learning to ride, the learning curve – the trial and error was only in getting there. I didn’t have to figure out what was important.

Smooth Matters. There are a lot of phrases over the years that got my attention, but maybe the most memorable was from Nicky Hayden during a track walk at Sears Point: “How fast I get into turn 2 depends on how smooth I can make my downshift”.  How smooth

Matching Revs. When you close the throttle and pull in the clutch to downshift, the RPM drops dramatically but the rear wheel has no idea what’s going on. It’s happily humming along at speed. Kick it down a gear and dump the clutch and when the engine and rear wheel hook back up, the rear wheel locks up and it’s seriously un-coordinated. The bike is trying to tell you “stop this!” I do this on my dirt bike, usually without even using the clutch, just matching the revs. In the dirt, the tire is free to spin and it adds to the fun. But on the asphalt it’s a different story.

Now if you’re a really good rider, a racer and have perfect control while the rear wheel is wildly spinning on the asphalt, more power to you. In all those laps as a passenger, I saw a lot of downshifting and when a really good rider is late braking, the clutch, brake and throttle are moving together at a dizzying speed. But that is not where most of us are and getting it right starts with planning ahead. If you want to be a better rider, let’s put the horse back in front of the cart and get the sequence for smooth in order.

Plan Ahead. To make those downshifts smooth and seamless, I learned long ago (on the back) that planning ahead matters. For simplicity sake let’s say we’re on the track and we’re in 3rd gear going maybe 80 mph or so and we need to slow for a corner.  Before I get to the corner, I have planned my entry speed so I need to go down a gear. As I approach, while my revs and speed are still up (I have not yet closed the throttle), engine and rear wheel are in harmony, I lightly disengage the clutch, pulling it just enough to do its job. In synchrony I click the gear shift lever down one (still have not closed the throttle) and gently feed the clutch back in. This is basically one quick motion. The rear wheel and the engine now smoothly go to a higher note as my revs go up to match speed. With higher compression as I roll off the throttle now the bike responds with confidence to slow my speed for the corner. A little (or a lot of) brake, into my turn and back on the throttle. Planning that corner a little earlier just made that turn sweeter than ever. Did you notice I braked after I downshifted? Did you notice I had this all done before I began my turn? I’ve freed up my concentration on making that turn smooth and on the gas.

Blipping. In the example we’re not talking about blipping, just matching the throttle. The reason to blip the throttle is to match the revs with the speed to effectively do the same thing. It also sounds pretty cool. It’s especially useful if you have let off the throttle and your revs have dropped below rear wheel speed. It takes practice to do it smoothly and if your timing is off ie: blip before the clutch is disengaged, the bike will lurch. But practice in a large empty parking lot early on a Sunday morning or even statically imagining the timing can be a useful process.

On the Street. When you’re on city streets and running between traffic lights, style and early planning look a little different. In traffic your planning should include keeping the revs a little higher using lower gears for engine compression, and have your hand perched with fingers ready to brake. But on the open road or in the twisties, this plan ahead works well. You see the curve ahead and you smoothly downshift one (or more) to give you control for deceleration and acceleration as needed. When Reg and I are on the street two-up, if something comes into view, like an intersection with a car waiting for us to pass, or anything that might make him think he may have to brake, the first thing he does is downshift. It allows for control with the throttle and the rider and the bike are ready for what comes next.

There are many factors that will amend the process, especially where good experience and even trail braking come into play (and that’s a hack for another day). More than one downshift will also add another level of planning and skill to work on. But if your downshifting needs some help, it helps to make new habits to replace old bad ones – stop putting the cart before the horse. Plan ahead and make it smooth.

Slipper Clutches. Some of you have slipper clutches. To us, not being able to have exacting riding technique can really make bad habits feel like a comfortable old pair of slippers. Maybe they won’t get you today or even tomorrow because your bike takes skill out of the equation. If that’s you, we challenge you to add some spice to your life. Listen to your engine and transmission. Challenge yourself to be a better rider.

Using your engine in this way is a very confidence inspiring way of riding. Practice control and good technique and you will become a smoother, safer rider. Hope to see you at the track!

Disclaimer: To the maximum extent permitted by law, the authors accept no liability for any direct, indirect or consequential damages resulting from the use of these techniques or reliance on the information contained in them. Motorcycle riding is an inherently dangerous activity, and you use these techniques at your own risk.

The Same, Only Different

Or, How Reg Pridmore Taught Me to Conquer the Corkscrew

By Mark Byers

Big thanks to my friend Mark Byers for the article, and for Backroads Magazine’s backroadsusa.com Brian and Shira for allowing me to share this with CLASS students. Mark “gets it”, and I hope you enjoy his account of CLASS at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca…  Reg

Coming up the hill, wide open out of the double-apex Turn 6, you kiss the curb on the left side of the kink in the Rahal Straight and aim for the #3 braking marker atop Turn 7.  You have to aim for it: that marker is all you can see at the apex of the track’s 180-foot elevation change.  You can brake later, but get it wrong at your peril, like the guy in front of me who braked too deep and turned at the same time and folded the front.  The white scar his footpeg made across the track stood as a reminder during the rest of the school.

What school?  California’s Leading Advanced Safety School (CLASS).  Thanks to a bucket-list and a generous wife, I got a birthday gift to attend a two-day session held by Reg Pridmore at the famous Mazda Raceway, Laguna Seca.  It derives its name from Spanish for “Dry Lake” and was built almost 60 years ago, just between Monterey and Salinas.  It’s hosted every kind of race, from F1 to MotoGP to bicycle races and its most famous, defining feature is the precipitous, downhill s-turn called The Corkscrew.

I’ve been a fan of CLASS since I took my first at Virginia International Raceway (VIR).  Pridmore’s presentation is every bit that of an English gent, full of humor and anecdotes, but he’s deadly serious about restraint and concentration.  He chides you for lapses in concentration, like looking out the window as bikes go by: “That’ll kill you, mate, either out there on the track or on the highway.”  His mantra is of complete smoothness in shifting, braking, throttle control, and body position.  He reminds you of the incredibly small tire contact patch and encourages you not to abuse that miracle of friction when maneuvering a motorcycle.  “It wants to do the right thing, if you let it,” says he.

So, it was with great joy that I arrived, after a great week of enjoying the Monterey Peninsula and Pacific Coast Highway, on a cool, beautiful Monterey morning at a storied track to get a taste of CLASS, California-style.  The majority of his great instructors joined him, just like at VIR.  One thing you notice about Reg’s “family” of instructors is that they are not only older, but they’re also still alive and uninjured (but still fast and smooth).  There’s a message there.  One dedicated mentor came all the way from Michigan.

My rented CBR-500R needed only an air-pressure tweak.  Reg maintains a small fleet of Honda CBR-300 and CBR-500 rental bikes, but the supply is limited.  He also has leathers, but sizes are VERY limited.  Meanwhile, the normal parade of students bringing their machines flowed by in the efficient inspection line.  It was the same as VIR, except the sun rose later, struggling to get above the sharp hills that surround the track.  My only worries were whether I’d stay out of the way of the liter-bikes on my 47-HP steed and whether I’d be able to get out of my new 1-piece leathers unassisted to go to the porta potty…  I went light on the Gatorade.

Introductory sessions for both A and B groups were the same as at VIR: they were the same placards and instructions, but for a different map.  Peculiarities of Laguna Seca were discussed, including an area where passing was to be only on the right.  One thing I really like about CLASS is that expectations are set early and often about safety and etiquette, stressing a good attitude and restraint, lest Reg have to “put you on the trailer” and send you home.  On the first day, one of the instructors even sought me out and wanted to apologize for passing what he felt was a little too closely, something I dismissed – it was not too close at all and certainly understandable given my power deficit.  Even fellow students were mostly courteous and safe and assured me I wasn’t in their way.

About that: there’s an old adage that says it’s more fun to ride a slow bike well than a fast bike poorly and it’s so right.  The little CBR taught me the importance of carrying just the right gear through every turn, especially up the climbs from 5 to 7.  Not being able to wind on a lot of speed made me appreciate and conserve my corner speed and I still had a lot of fun: not many passed me in a corner.  Even so, I was glad I opted for the 500 over the 300 given the elevation change.  Oh, and about that “elevation change,” it goes both ways…

Get hard on the brakes at whichever mark you dare at Turn 7 (there’s only 3 of them) compressing the front end to the limits and get your shifting done, because life’s about to change.  As you look left to pick up the apex of Turn 8, that’s all you can see.  The skate-ramp nature of the drop-off to 8A completely conceals the next turn.  As you hit the first apex, point the bike toward a red marker someone placed high in a tree on the outside of the Corkscrew, because only that will ensure you arrive at the next apex where you need to be.  Unless you’re Rossi or Marquez, you really don’t want to venture across the painted curb to the storm drain on the inside.

During the drop, keep the power on and shift your weight from the left peg to the right and you’ll arrive at the next apex prepared for the rest of the drop.  If you get this far, you’ll have solved the mystery of The Corkscrew.  Drift to center track and try not to scrub your speed for the sweeping, still-downhill Rainey Turn 9.  It’s on-camber, but gravity is sucking you down and it looks like it isn’t.  I had a hard time not using a touch of brake before the apex.  You’ll still be going downhill for the setup to Turn 10, where you finally flatten out.  Wash, rinse, and repeat as many times as you can, striving for the elusive perfection.

My direction was to write a comparison piece on the differences between CLASS at VIR and at Laguna Seca.  Here’s the secret: the difference is only the track.  The instructors are largely the same folks, augmented by some super-knowledgeable locals, but they’re all as friendly and dedicated as the rest of the Pridmore “family.”  The emphasis on smoothness and proper attitude and restraint are the same, as is the absolute emphasis on safety.  After I got comfortable with my classmates, I had no worries about them passing me on the main straight with 40 MPH of closure given the restrictions of my ride.

I’m not going to say it wasn’t a thrill to ride such a legendary track under the tutelage of Reg and his folks.  It was tremendous and I’d love to ride some of the other great tracks he frequents in California, like Willow Springs and Sears Point; however, the things that make CLASS great have a lot less to do with the pavement and a lot more to do with the elements of riding, both physical and mental, that he and his cadre of uber-professionals take such great care to present.  No matter what the locale, the lessons are universal.  Whether it’s The Corkscrew, or The Dragon, or the Back Road to Work, safe, smooth riding is the Pridmore Way.

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A New CLASS is Born

When was the last time you were pursued by 40 motorcycle cops, lights on, sirens blaring —  and never got a ticket?  Well, it happened to me.

Actually it was at Streets of Willow at the first ever Motor Officers Advanced Training CLASS. Nearly a year in the works with myself and Lt. Ti Goetz of the Hawthorne (CA) PD and it turned out to be a really big one for the books. A most rewarding experience for me and for each officer in attendance.

Motorcycle Cops do a lot of training, but I have come to find out it tends to be generally low speed parking lot training. We’ve all seen how well they can turn those huge bikes in tight situations. Great control and it has a definite place in around town traffic situations.  But when the call comes in that gets the throttle twisted hard, those skills are not as useful. The HPD recently lost two Motorcycle Officers in the line of duty. For that reason they are particularly interested in more training.

Enter the CLASS advanced riding curriculum with our focus on control and technique. Having taught advanced street riding on racetracks for decades, it turns out the CLASS program is perfect for a Motor Officer’s needs.  Last year Lt. Goetz and several of his team from HPD joined us for our Labor Day CLASS at Streets. After a day on the track with my team and our standard format, they were over the moon about how much it helped their high speed riding. The planning for a school dedicated to just Motorcycle Cops was born.

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September 22, 2016: The desert morning dawned as beautiful as ever and as the cops arrived, each parked their big white steed in a long line along the pit wall and through the paddock. As they de-biked it was all business, not the usual frivolity of a school morning. Sign in and tech inspection came to a close and the riders meeting began. My instructors, myself included, each wondered what we were in for this day.

classroom375As the morning wore on, the ice thawed in the classroom, while from on track I was getting reports of some good listeners and progress being made all around. By lunchtime the officers were bubbling with how much fun they were having and more importantly to me, how much they were learning. I enjoyed watching the harmony develop between the officers and the CLASS Team.

After a fantastic barbecue meal compliments of the Hawthorne PD, the officers all played along and got on their police motors to stage a mock chase around the track. Lights on sirens full blast, it was a spectacle and I’m sure all of Rosamond wondered what the hell happened west of town! But it was a lap of solidarity —  it was a lot of noise and a lot of fun, something you don’t see every day. Afterward it was back to business and the “real riding” commenced once more.

We taught and rode all day long and I’m happy to report not one incident. My highest respect goes out to all the officers for their prior training and their ability to listen and learn. After a day on the track with them, that respect got even higher. But what was exceptionally rewarding to me was to hear how much the riders appreciated the school and how much they felt they learned over the course of the day.

With anything new it’s important to know whether or not we’re hitting the mark. My curiosity was satisfied and I was honored to receive some feedback including:

“While all of us ride for a living, riding well is a perishable skill. Your class forced all of us to remember the basics, to apply control and discipline in our riding, and to truly focus on the many skills and techniques necessary to enjoy a long career in what can often be an extremely dangerous profession. That we were able to practice these skills and techniques in the unique environment of Streets of Willow, in our own gear, with our own police bikes, truly made it a worthwhile experience. I know that no one left the track that day without a sense of accomplishment, increased confidence, and a firm belief that they had dramatically improved their riding skills. Coming from seasoned Motor Officers, that says a lot about the quality of both your CLASS as a program and your instructors in general.” Lt. Ti Goetz, Hawthorne PD Traffic Division

And this: “ You and your team were so down to earth and accommodating. I had no idea from the time I showed up, who you were or what you had done until halfway through that day.  Everyone was just so modest and kind. I can’t say enough about how pleased and happy me and my group of officers are.  I’m not kissing up, it was just that great of a day.  I only have fifteen years on a bike and most of that in enforcement.  I’ve had as many if not more pursuits than any of my partners and wish I had these skills before now.” Deputy Bruce Frazee, Orange County Sheriff’s Dept.

But you’ve got them now mate and I hope to help you continue to grow them and keep you and many more Motorcycle Officers safer in their daily work.

Several more events are in the planning stages for 2017 and we’re looking forward to continuing a CLASS schedule that includes the usual schools, as well as some specialty schools for Motorcycle Cops – the guys and gals who ride on to serve and to protect. Details on 2017 Motor Officers Advanced Training can be found here.

And next time you’re being pursued by a cop on a motorcycle in SoCal, pull over. They might have just finished my Motor Officers Advanced Riding  with CLASS.

cheers,

Reg Pridmore

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Thank you Bob and EtechPhoto.com for the riding shots!

Reg’s End of Summer Newsletter

Hey Mates,

CONFIDENCE. Maybe you’re wondering why it’s in bold print at the top of this page. That’s James leading the way and he has come such a long way since he first started coming to CLASS many years ago. He’s on a sportbike, but this kind of confidence can be had on any style motorcycle. We have a rider, George,  who comes year in and year out to VIR on a full dresser Harley that amazes all of us. Confidence is such a personal thing and so important to being a good rider. What inspires confidence? I would say it’s all about control, technique and desire. Being able to feel at one with your motorcycle. Your brain, body and throttle hand, your engine and your wheels all in sync. Making it all come together and smoothly flow as one. That’s when confidence comes. Forget about speed, it will come. It’s a good feeling and more than that, having that control is also important in keeping you safe.

But beware of false or over-confidence and bad habits which will lead you down a path you don’t want to be led. Good coaching and good practice can help your riding immensely. But beware of bad coaching too. I once had a student who told me their “racing coach” said if they weren’t crashing, they weren’t doing it right… I couldn’t disagree more. That’s why we do what we do at CLASS.

Since we’ve been back from the Isle of Man tour, Gigi and I have had an extended summer vacation. Very relaxing, but I’m missing riding the racetrack!  It’s finally kicking down a gear as we’ve been hard at work this past couple of weeks finalizing plans for some upcoming schools. I’m proud and excited to be conducting a school wholly dedicated to motorcycle cops. It happens Sept 22 out at Streets of Willow. Last year over Labor Day we had 4 officers from SoCal attend and they were hooked. With their help we’ve put together a whole day just for cops. We’ve got PD, Sheriffs and CHP all coming out to ride and learn and and extending their already vast knowledge of control. We’re really looking forward to it.

But first, we have a great fall season starting up next week. Monday is Labor Day and we, along with our mates at SHOEI Helmets, will be at Streets of Willow to ride!  They will also have several new helmets on hand to take for a demo ride — including the new X-14. I hope you’ll try them out. There are a few openings, so if you’d like to join us, register today. Oh and don’t forget, barbecue lunch is compliments of SHOEI as well. It’s definitely one not to miss.

Today is the LAST day to save if you register for VIR. As of Sept 1, the price goes to $895. Most of you guys have taken advantage of the early sign up $100 savings, but thought I’d just drop a reminder. As of today there are only 3 or 4 spots open, so if you’ve been waiting to sign up, there’s no time like now. Our VIRginia dates are Oct 17 & 18 —  you’ve still got 6 weeks to get your trip plans together, but not if it’s sold out!

D-DAY! is back and the dates are Sept 23 & 24. This is our most in depth and comprehensive class all year. It’s limited to 12 students and we’ll have 12 or more instructors on hand to work with each student extensively. As of today I have two openings and that could be on your motorcycle or on one of mine. If you’re interested in really taking it up a notch or two, consider joining us as one of the Dirty Dozen at D-Day.

We still have some bike rentals available for all our remaining Streets of Willow dates.  We have the 2016 Honda CB300 and CBR300 as well as the 2016 CB500 and CBR500. These are great bikes for that tight technical racetrack and sure to be a ton of fun. Learn more about our bike rental program here.

I am happy to announce I recently re-established a great association with a past sponsor. Many of you may remember Baxley Wheel Chocks from CLASS. These are the best front wheel stands on the market. They are seriously well made and I can highly recommend them. Unlike a rear wheel stand, you can roll the bike into these and both wheels are basically on the ground. Really a nice feature. I will most likely have a couple for sale at the track (I always sell out quickly) but meantime, you might want to check them out at baxleybyprovidence.com.

Last month I blog posted a short entry from my book, Smooth Riding the Pridmore Way. It’s fun to go back and see some of the timely things we (myself with the help of my co-author/editor Geoff Drake) wrote about. This one’s about how the concept of smoothness became all important to me, and you can read it here.  Being a smoother rider paid big dividends in solo racing but also in my Isle of Man sidecar racing in the 70’s.

I hope you’ll come out and ride with us at one of our fall dates — beginning Monday with Labor Day at Streets, and finishing up at Laguna Seca on Nov 3 & 4 (with several dates in between). Check our calendar.   Hope to see you at the track this fall. Til then, ride safe, think fast!

Cheers,

Reg’o #163

P.S. A new shipment of tires just arrived, I better go help unload them. If you need them, Dunlop Q3s are still just $250 delivered to your door. Order here…

To be added to our newsletter list, go to http://classrides.com/news.html, look to the “Join our email list” box on the right and add your info. 

The “Stone Axe” – Beginning to Master Smoothness

by Reg Pridmore

Where does smoothness come from? For many, it’s a cultivated skill, acquired for reasons of safety, speed, or maybe just to be a classier-looking rider. Certainly, these are legitimate reasons.

For me, as a racer in the ’70s, it was a matter of survival, plain and simple. Smoothness was part of my race kit, like a good set of leathers. I didn’t become smooth for highminded reasons, or to impress anyone, or for bragging rights. I did it as a means of self-preservation.

My smooth riding techniques started as far back as 1965, when I had a horrific crash (resulting in a double compound fracture, broken ribs, broken collarbone, and a fractured skull). It was then that I began to formulate my philosophy of smoothness and control. I decided I couldn’t fight the bike. I had to work with it, using the controls and body inputs in a natural manner.

Imagine, for a moment, that the year is ’77. I’m riding a Kawasaki KZ1000. The hulking 1,046cc, four-cylinder motor has been tuned to make more than 140 horsepower (measured on the famous Axtell rear-wheel dynamometer). But here is the twist: This angry lump is wrapped in an almost whimsically flexible double-down tube frame. The spindly, 34mm forks bend and sway under braking and cornering loads. The bikes quickly earn the nickname, “flexi-flyers.” There is no fairing and only a small handlebar, making speeds of 140-plus a perfect opportunity to practice great body input. (These speeds were routinely achieved at Riverside and Ontario raceways in California. I reached 150-plus at Daytona, Florida, and Pocono, Pennsylvania.) This twitchy package—propelled by an explosive motor—means that any throttle, braking, and steering inputs must be made with a deft touch. At the fastest speeds it’s near impossible to lift my hands off the bar, because before I can grasp the levers, the wind forces my fingers back.

It was a monster, plain and simple. How did I deal with it? My philosophy was to let the bike have its own head. What else could I do? If I tried to manhandle it, I’d end up on the ground. Take a track like Sears Point, for instance. In what’s known as the “Esses”—a series of quick right-left turns, with elevation loss—the big KZ had a tendency to do what it wanted. The front end would push pretty bad. If I rolled off the throttle at a corner entry, the front would just drop away. Sometimes it would move and I’d think, “It’s not coming back this time.” But it would. I had to be smooth in all my transitions, use my knee as an outrigger, and try not to tighten up or panic.

The big Kawi wasn’t the only bike that forced me to exercise a gentle touch. The BMW R90S, which I rode from ‘74 to ‘76, was another classroom for dedication and smoothness. Here was a bike that had been brought to the thin-edge of reliability with titanium connecting rods, hollow valve lifters, hollow titanium pushrods, and a host of other modifications that made it fast but fragile. The transmission was a little antiquated, and would come apart if you were rough on it. Stock rpm limit was about 7,000, but we used to coax as much as 9 grand out of the motor in order to generate peak power, with no rev limiter, of course!

People called it a grenade, ready to explode. But the trick to dealing with a grenade is to not pull the pin, or, if you must pull the pin, put it back very gently. And that was accomplished with smoothness and dedication. I had to be in touch with the motor and chassis at all times, and monitor all my inputs in the correct manner.

Those old bikes would scare the heck out of anyone accustomed to today’s great sportbikes. These days, the bikes do a lot of the work for you. Sometimes I feel lucky that I was self-trained so many years ago, when control and smoothness meant everything. Riding those old bikes was the perfect preparation for the powerful machines we have today. You still have to manage the phenomenal power of today’s bikes very carefully, but in general, they have far more capability than most riders can use.

When I think back, I realize that in every era, riders have struggled to master the capabilities of their machines. It amazes me to think that the Isle of Man TT is 100+ years old. Those first riders, on their flat-tank Nortons and Triumphs, would probably think I had it easy racing in the ’70s, in the same way that I am amazed at the capabilities of today’s sportbikes.

Where does it all end? Thankfully, it never does. We all make the best of what we have. That is the artistry and the beauty of our sport. We try, sometimes we fail or fall down, but we move on, and we learn. It’s the learning that counts, and I try never to forget that, no matter what I’m riding. Experience is the teacher.

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Excerpt from Smooth Riding – the Pridmore Way by Reg Pridmore with Geoff Drake
Smooth Riding – the Pridmore Way is available through CLASS or your favorite bookseller
Copyright Reg Pridmore