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

Reg Approved: The Shoei X-Fourteen

The New Shoei X-14: In January I had the privilege of being invited to the Shoei X-Fourteen Launch Event at Chuckwalla Raceway. The morning press meeting was as you would expect, full of info and testing results that show how vastly improved – aerodynamic, visual, cool and lightweight the new helmet is.
       But when I was able to put it on and take it for a ride, that’s when I realized it truly lives up to the hype. My personal findings were that the helmet is exceptional. All the major areas: the visual is improved, the fit was perfect, the ventilation is remarkable and the streamlining made the helmet exceptionally steady at speed.
       Shoei has done their homework in the wind tunnel and I am confident that this new helmet is a vast improvement over last year’s model. I’ve never been a complainer but I’ve listened to some comments about heads buffeting at speeds such as are found on the straightaway at VIR. I figured it was just part of riding fast. And helmets are warm when the temperature gets in the 90’s, that’s how it is. The new X-14 aerodynamics along with the ventilation system promises to keep my head comfortably steady and cool all year long.
-Reg

Holding You Close: Some Advice on Two-up Riding

    What makes a good two-up rider? First is a sense of caution and respect for
your companion. You need to assess your passenger. For some people, a ride
on the back is very exhilarating. They enjoy the speed factor. For others, it
can be very scary. It’s your job to gauge this before getting under way, by asking
your rider about their experiences and preferences.
    One of your most important responsibilities is to keep your ego in check.
Never try to impress your passenger or condition them to your accustomed
speed. Not only is this dangerous, but they may never want to ride with you
again (or with anyone else, for that matter). Being a responsible two-up rider
also means accounting for the added weight and its effects on turning and
stopping. Since the total package has more mass, you’ll need to apply the
brakes harder and allow more stopping distance. You’ll also need to educate
your passenger about the various methods of holding on. If you’re carrying an
unfamiliar passenger, make sure you get used to their movements and effects
on the bike. Fatigue is another issue to be aware of because two-up riding can
really wear you out due to the added weight, so moderate distance and saddle
time accordingly.
    You should get the bike off the side stand or center stand and be comfortably
seated with both feet down and the front brake on before allowing anyone to
get aboard. Settle in and give the word OK to board. A tall passenger may be
able to swing the right leg over the bike and put both feet on the passenger
pegs simultaneously. A shorter rider will need to stand on the left peg and
swing his or her right leg over, and for this you need to be well braced with
the left foot down and the bike straight upright. The passenger should put a
hand on your back or shoulder for balance while climbing on. Both of you
should give a thumbs up or verbal OK when ready to get underway.
    On the track or for sport riding, pillion riders should:
Reach around and place the hands on the tank.  This way passengers can support themselves under any braking conditions rather than forcing you to support them
with your arms. If they cannot comfortably reach around to the tank, they should
push on the small of your back during hard braking. Gigi also squeezes with her
knees to hold her back under braking. Don’t have them push on your upper body,
which requires that you support them with your arms and affects your use of the
controls.
    Squeeze with the elbows, squeeze with the knees.   Those passengers who are
able to place their hands on the tank should squeeze the operator’s torso with
their elbows under acceleration. This will help keep them planted in the middle
of the saddle under hard acceleration. Those riders who can’t reach around to
the tank should simply grasp the operator’s waist under acceleration.
    Use proper foot position.  Passengers should keep the toes up (not pointed
down) and the balls of the feet on the pegs. This ensures that their boots
don’t touch the ground in corners (for aggressive sport riding), and provides
a good foundation for weight shifts and moving around in the saddle. (Riders
aboard cruisers or big touring bikes with footboards needn’t pay attention to
this.)
    Look through the corner.  Passengers should keep their eyes level with the
roadway, turn their heads, and look through the corner–just as the operator
does. This is critically important, as it directly influences body position,
ensuring that the operator and passenger move in unison. It all starts with
the eyes and head! Work together.
     Don’t be a wet sack. Being a passenger at a sporting pace isn’t a passive
role. No daydreaming, please. The passenger needs to be an active part of the
rider/machine combo, and not daydream.  Many passengers on Honda Gold
Wings and other large touring bikes might contest that last point. In fact, some
pillion riders see nothing wrong with taking a nap back there in that big old
armchair. In my opinion this is a dangerous practice. Snoozing riders on the
back will negatively affect handling–especially at a sporting pace. They may
also endanger  themselves in the event of a quick stop or evasive maneuver.
This doesn’t mean they can’t relax and enjoy the scenery. But at all times,
passengers have a responsibility to be an integral part of the package. This
also includes traffic and road awareness.
    Passengers should also take care not to distract the pilot with a constant
refrain of “Look at that!” This type of distraction could cause an accident.
    As we Spring forward in 2016, I hope these tips help to encourage pilots and
passengers to enjoy the ride together. Ride safe, think fast.
Cheers,
Reg