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.

 

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.

markt5laguna

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

allt8

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

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

Brushing up on panic

If you read motorcycle magazines with any regularity, especially articles on riding safety, you might begin to feel as though you know it all when it comes to getting around safely on the street. I read a lot and I see that there is a lot of  information flowing out there, and some of it is bad. I really feel that some writers tend to baffle us and I believe sometimes it’s from lack of experience.

I have been teaching riders for many. many years, and with that experience comes a lot of knowledge on some of the main things for which riders tend to be unprepared. I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I do know that most riders haven’t brushed up on “panic”. I think it’s because riders aren’t realistic enough to think it could happen to “them”, or “I’ll deal with it if it comes”. Not a good decision. Being prepared and practicing panic and the “what ifs” are the secrets to survival.

My 25 years as a road racer taught me to stay one jump ahead of the panic game. Things happen quickly on the race track and you better be ready for whatever the race throws at you, or you won’t make it as a racer.

My sincere message to all who ride is to learn the meaning of control and finesse. This is what I teach at CLASS, and though it’s not rocket science, a large percentage of my students come back to me saying that no matter how long they have been riding, learning the secrets to control and finesse, and practicing it on the race track, has opened a new world of riding to them.

But new recruits sometimes arrive with ham fisted techniques that get them into trouble quickly on the racetrack, and most certainly at some time on the street. I call them “point and shoot artists” that know how to twist a throttle, but they aren’t in touch with their emotions and soon they are led down the road to Panic. It gets expensive and it can also get deadly. But even if you’re not the type to point and shoot, riders must stop and think seriously about what it is they are doing, and what the real consequences could be of doing it wrong or of underestimating what’s around the next bend. It’s not a game, it’s survival. Planning ahead, staying in tune with what’s happening every second, that’s preparation for the unknown.

You can practice by imagining the “what ifs”. It takes hard work on your part to keep these things in mind, especially when your favorite Sunday ride is a never ending ribbon of smooth twisty roads through some beautiful countryside. The last thing you want to interrupt this paradise with is the thought of something bad happening to you.

I try to practice these bad situations on some of my neighboring twisty roads, oftentimes two up, where it’s more than just my life involved. I imagine that around the next curve is ______. You fill in the blank. Are you ready for it?

I want to be prepared. I want to be ready for that SUV sitting at the intersection with his left hand flasher ticking away, ready to go ahead and turn left in front of me. I want to be ready for that vision impaired driver at the T junction who must see my highbeam coming up the road, and pulls out in front of me just before I get there. Or the gravel laying on the line of the familiar turn in my favorite twisty road, or for that 18 wheeler to decide he likes my lane better than his own!

If you can be a step ahead of the game, plan ahead, control your emotions as well as your motorcycle, practice getting ready for the unknown, that’s what helps keep panic from rearing it’s ugly head. Believe me, it can happen at any time.

Oh and remember, don’t believe everything you read. Test it with common sense and keep your survival, not just your corner speed, in mind.

Ride Safe and hope to see you at the track!

regsiglg

Never Again

It happened to me, it could happen to you

By Gigi Pridmore

You’ve probably heard it said “All the gear, all the time.” And we think, “It’s so hot,” or “I’m not going far,” or “Really? I’m not a racer.” I know, I’m guilty of it too. At the track, I’m dressed in leathers; well made, protective, sponsor-plastered, red, white and blue Zooni race leathers. I even wear a back protector, a top-of-the-line pair of Sidi boots, a new SHOEI helmet and a pair of Held Titan gloves. When I ride in the dirt, I’m wrapped-up like the Michelin man (with respect to Dunlop, they don’t have a man). I don’t want to crash, but if I do, I don’t want to get hurt. I’m ready to ride!

But on the street I have mostly been, “Most of the gear, almost all the time.” Until that beautiful, sunny February day.

Reg and I had met friends at the Rock Store for breakfast and were having an enjoyable Sunday ride. We ran into Jay Leno there that morning and had to get the picture! Heading home, two-up on our Honda CB1000R, we came around a blind, slightly downhill right-hander on Mulholland Highway. Scattered across the road was sand. Not just a little sand, deep sand, as if someone had put it there on purpose. From my pillion position, I was looking through to the right of Reg’s helmet and my very first thought was “That’s sssss…”—and I was on the ground sliding. The front-end tucked so fast I couldn’t complete the thought! I was on my back thinking, “OK, this isn’t so bad, hopefully I’ll stop soon and not hit anything.” Thankfully I came quickly to a stop without further ado.

Cool. Reg was up, now I needed to get up to warn the other riders behind us (my ‘CLASS instructor’ mentality went into action). But it was very hard to get up, and once I did, I was having severe trouble walking. Friends behind stopped and Reg and our doctor friend Dean helped guide me to the side of the road to sit down. I was starting to go into shock.

The reason for the injury? When I came off the bike, I landed on my knees. My new blue jeans were ruined and I was bleeding. I couldn’t look, but my knees—once my best feature—now had deep divots in them full of sand and gravel. In addition, my femoral nerves had gone into shock and my knees and legs didn’t want to work at all. The bike was hardly damaged and not really realizing it, Reg said, “OK lady, let’s get back on and ride home.” I said, “You can ride, I think I’ll catch a lift.” Then Reg’s knee started to swell (the bike had landed on it and he was bleeding too). An ambulance ride was our best option.

So we created the scene, and what a scene it was. CHP and fire trucks and really cute firemen/paramedics were assisting us. Bicycles and Harleys and everything in between were slowly threading their way through the mayhem, gawking. Thankfully we had our sense of humor about us. And then we were unceremoniously pushed into the ambulance and taken to the hospital emergency room. Did I mention it really hurt? Neither one of us had anything else wrong with us; our protective gear (of which we wore all, except for the jeans) had done its job. All of this—plus several months recovering—because we had on blue jeans and not our riding pants with knee armor. Those were home in the closet.

And that’s why I’m on the soapbox. We know a lot of motorcyclists and I could tell you story after story about riders getting hurt because they weren’t dressed for the crash. And often it was just something so close and innocent as to be within a mile of their home or work. Accident statistics point out that most crashes happen close to home, so a short trip is no excuse to skip the riding gear. I talk to a lot of people who need to get gear to attend our school—because gear is a requirement. And the conversation usually goes something like this:

Student: Well, I have a jacket and a helmet.

Me: OK, great. Is it a motorcycle jacket and does it have armor in the elbows and shoulders and does it fit well? You know if you go down you want the padding the stay in place. Is it made of quality materials like good leather (not all leather is the same) or Carbolex textile? Does it have quality abrasion resistant materials like Kevlar? Now you need some good motorcycle pants, good boots, good gloves. Oh, and how’s your helmet? We recommend it be five-years old or newer and undamaged. Some other things to think about: Are the stitches well-done of quality thread? Are the seams hidden or are they right in the spot that will get worn away as you’re sliding down the road in a crash? Is the armor CE approved? Don’t just trust that if it says ‘motorcycle gear’ it’s quality. Use your brain, research, and be proactive in choosing good riding gear.

I don’t really go through that extreme interrogation, but these would be the things I would be looking for if I were buying. If the rider is super-inquisitive, I’ll give ’em all I’ve got.

Student: Well, can I rent something? I’m not a racer.

Me: Possibly, but let’s talk about your gear first. You know, I would really recommend (yes, now I’m meddling) that you get some quality clothing to ride in, even on the street. Let me tell you about riding in blue jeans…

Actually, I haven’t told that story too many times, but occasionally…

They often tend to resist and I know it’s partially from ignorance, partially from rationalization (I’m not going to crash today), and partially from wanting to get away with the lowest investment they can in gear. “A back protector? No way! I don’t race!” Let me tell you about my street riding friend who went down on the road after hitting something slippery in a sweeping turn. He slid back first into the curbing on the other side of the road and was extremely grateful that he always slipped his back protector on under his well-made textile suit. And he’s never been on a racetrack in his life.

I also mention that when it comes to gear, you get what you pay for. If you say the $59 or $79 cheaply made jacket offered by the local motorcycle chain is better than nothing, you’re right. But when it comes to your safety, do you really want to settle for “better than nothing?” Or would you rather walk away glad that you invested some hard-earned dosh in protecting yourself from the “what ifs?”

When it comes to tech inspection at CLASS, we have a wide-variety of gear that we’ll allow. But keep in mind, we also mention this in our liability release—you sign that you are comfortable that your gear will be adequate. We can’t police the world. So get yourself armed with some good information about what’s available and what’s best, and remember that you get what you pay for. Whether you go for leathers or textile gear, be proactive in choosing good-quality gear.

What about helmets? Is it a quality helmet like the Shoei that I wear? Does your helmet fit properly? After almost every crash I’ve seen, we look at the helmet and note that this guy or that gal would have had some serious facial damage without their full-face helmet. How much is your head worth? Updated standards and new technology mean that newer helmets are better and safer than old ones. And safety standards such as SNELL exist for a reason. How much is your head worth? I say mine’s worth a lot, so I pay for a really good Shoei helmet.

Boots: In a crash your feet can get flung far and wide or land under the bike or hit something else. A broken ankle will likely be a lifelong reminder of that day. I know because I’m married to an ex racer—there are a few injuries he still lives with daily. But remember, it can happen on the street as well as the track.

Gloves: I love a great pair of gauntlet gloves with armored knuckles and wrist guards and seriously good kangaroo skin, among other things. And they are not cheap—because they are well made of good-quality materials. I have seen people wearing soft deerskin work gloves at our schools, or motocross gloves that are cloth and made for dirt, not asphalt. Let me ask you this: Do you need your hands tomorrow? I need mine. I’m wearing the best gloves I can find.

Since the crash, Reg and I have only ridden on the street a few times. The reason is that I haven’t taken the time to get adequate pants to go with our good jackets (those pants in the closet now look marginal to me). Believe it or not, the times we have gone out we have worn our CLASS leathers! Oh yeah, we get some looks, especially in the restaurant 🙂 As we get further from that fateful day, it’s easy to think, ‘these jeans will work.’ STOP! Don’t do it. I learned from this experience, and I hope I can spare you some pain and aggravation with the lesson learned.

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Footnote: Reg and I are super excited this year because in May we’re heading to England and the Isle of Man for a motorcycle adventure with 15 of our closest friends. The good folks at TourMaster have lined us up with some nice protective, waterproof motorcycle clothing. Held USA has us fitted us for some excellent new waterproof gloves, Sidi has our feet warm and dry with their Gore-Tex street boots and SHOEI has us stylin’ and well protected in new X-14 helmets. Thank you very much to these fine companies.

 

The Fun and Windy Challenge

A great day with  a great CLASS Team

Say what you will about the desert, it’s beauty, it’s starkness, it’s highly contrasting and sometimes grueling weather conditions help make it exactly what it is: a challenge.

My riding days have always been and always will be the experience that points me toward fun and survival. From the days back in the streets of Hornchurch and the surrounding area, outside of London. If you didn’t like to ride in the weather, you might want to find another hobby. I imagine it’s still the same now. On the other hand, California nearly always offers my favorite type of riding conditions. Oh, it does rain here. I love riding in the rain and I love the challenge of beating a scary wind at its own game.

Streets of Willow is renowned for its testing ground and there have been pictures in most every motorcycle mag in the country showcasing the incredible beauty of the California high desert. What those pictures don’t show is the wind that can blow out there for days on end.

Monday’s school at Streets gave us those desert winds. I think the forecast was 25 mph with gusts to 40. In the afternoon you had to be careful how your parked your motorcycle because the wind was strong enough to blow it over. Dealing with this condition at speed became more of a task if you wanted to play the game. But everyone there met the challenge head on and trained to cope better than ever with challenges the desert has to offer.

The morning started off a bit cool, in fact the track stayed on the cool side most of the day so warming up those black round things was top priority all day long. But I must give props to everyone in attendance because throughout the day, there was only one slide off attributed to cold tyres.

A windy condition such as we had on Monday really steepens the learning curve and can actually build skill and confidence at a faster rate. It helps teach the importance of relaxation on the bars, all the while using the lower body and even the throttle to keep the bike from being blown about. When you take these new skills out to your favorite road and find some unexpected wind, things are going to be much more familiar to you than if you always avoid riding in inclement weather.

But even with the desert windy day challenge thrown at us, the day was as good as it gets. It was a fantastic group of excited and appreciative students. Many of them already very good riders, others new to the track and a little nervous, and of course everything in between.  I believe we had two minor slide offs that day, but as has become the norm at a CLASS event, the ambulance stayed parked in one place all day long.

Huge thanks to everyone who made Monday such a great CLASS. And speaking of everyone who makes it possible, I just want to add a few words about my instructors.

I can say this at 100% of my schools, but I’ll just add that the CLASS team on Monday was outstanding, with about 10 of us including our latest addition to the crew, FNG Troy Simmons. Troy did something at our Laguna Seca school the prior week that made me know he was going to work out just fine. I was about to leave the turn 5 area with the B group on the morning track orientation, when Troy saw from the back of the line my tail-light dim as I tried to start my bike. My battery was dead – and he was alert. Within seconds he was giving me his motorcycle to continue on my way, and he proceeded to bump start mine and catch up with us a few minutes later. I single out Troy here, but I could tell you similar stories about every one of these blokes.  I am extremely happy with the team we have at this moment in time.

What do I look for in an instructor? Sure, a skilled rider is a must. But as important as that is, their situational awareness and ability and desire to help other riders is paramount. If you’ve ridden with us you know that my guys are not the ones continuously popping wheelies past the slower riders showing everyone how good they are. Most of them are very fast, and the occasional front wheel goes in the air, but for the most part, my guys are there to help you become a better rider. To work with you at whatever level you’re at, to help you climb the ladder of skill and accomplishment on a motorcycle, regardless of your current skill level. I choose these guys with special qualities in mind, and I’m happy to say we are often complimented on our professionalism, friendliness and the quality of the people who are the CLASS Team.

Ride safe, think fast.

Cheers,

Reg Pridmore