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…

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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.

regsiglg

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