CLASS Review

CLASS - California Leading Advanced Safety School

Copyright 1994 (Ed Guzman)

What: CLASS {by BMW} Motorcycle School
When: Monday, 9/5/94
Where: Second Creek Raceway, NE of Denver. 
       12 turns, 1.75 miles. "Tight and very technical" per R. Pridmore
Weather: Fair, cool (60'sF) to start. Rain and blowin' like hell by 3.

This account, of course, is written from my point of view. Naturally I will have some opinions that people will disagree with/flame/ignore. That's fine with me! If you're not interested or have done the school b-4, go ahead and pass now. {I'll never know.;-)} Hmm, where to start?

I'll skip the sign-in details and tech inspection. Suffice to say, all the instructions in the printed materials mailed out beforehand were pretty accurate. The only discrepancy was the fact that the concession stand wasn't open. This only meant that those that didn't provide for themselves had to take a 10 min. ride to the nearest bistro for lunch. {The track manager is a postal worker and Reg couldn't talk him into taking a day off to open the stand. Too bad. They do Cajun!}

After tech, everyone was gathered under a canopy and the lectures started up. For those who haven't heard him speak, Reg Pridmore not only has that wonderful 'British Accent' we Yanks find so gol'darned cute, I found him to be a very enjoyable speaker. For the first session, he spent most of his time going over signals, track rules, etc. He also spent a goodly amount of time assuring us that this was for fun not a competition. He told us, correctly, that while some folks came with the intention of "being conservative" that by the end of the day we would all be going much faster.

One thing that struck me favorably was his approach. His information was given with a general slant to things. "If this works for you, do it. If it doesn't, that's ok too. Let's try it this way." I wasn't expecting to get +hard+ info I suppose. After all, there were SO many different bikes, riders and skill levels it would be impossible for him to detail out how-to's with any sort of efficacy as to make it counter- productive if he tried.

At this point I want to insert my one major complaint: I feel there were too many people in that class. By the time the stragglers were in, there were 52(!) students riding. The track could easily support the 26 riders in each group but you didn't get enough time with an instructor. I feel some folks may not have gotten any time. I'd rather have paid more to have gotten some more 1-on-1 coaching. Like I said, that's IMHO. Onward...

While Reg lectured the morning classes, his son Jason performed the afternoon lectures. When one is teaching, the other is riding. Where Reg is a polished speaker, Jason needs just a little bit more work. He's still informative {and entertaining} but just needs a bit more practice in his presentation. Nice guy, hope he goes far.

The track. It's tight, twisty and very complex. A PITA would be a good description! The level of concentration required on a track is absol- utely amazing. If you "snooze" for just a moment, let your attention or intensity drop for just a second, you've messed up a turn {or worse} and it takes you {me!} the next two turns to recover. By lunch I was on the ropes mentally. Take riding in rush hour traffic and multiply it by a factor of 10 or so and you'll get the idea...

Most of the lecture material is really easy to grasp if not execute. They spoke at length of Throttle Management as the way to control the motorcycle's suspension. By braking to set up your entry speed then getting on the power as smoothly and as early as possible your bike would be steady and you would be in control. For me the hard parts were judging entry speed, downshifting to the proper gear and smoothly getting back on the power. Hmmm... I guess that's ALL of it huh? :-/

Actually most of my problems were due to "thinking too much about it" , as one of the instructors put it. This fellow, Ted Holman, followed me for a bit (I would guess. No mirrors.) then pulled around me and signaled for me to follow. After a lap behind him, he pulled me into to pits for a critique. I must admit he was very nice about telling me I sucked. He gave me some very constructive criticism all the while being almost apologetic. I got the impression he was waiting for me to get angry at him. These guys must run into some good sized egoes in their travels.

Anyway, his explanations of smoothness and trying to concentrate on getting "a few things right" and "not everything at once" really helped. My best sessions were right after lunch. I was much smoother and more confident in some of the really tight stuff. I even passed a couple guys. {HA! In yer face buddy!} Of course they WERE the slow guys like me but what the hey, right?

I also took a ride behind Reg on one of the school's K1100RS. BTW, these are bone stock bikes except for Fox Shocks and race compound Battle Axes. Smooth and VERY fast is the best way to put it. I couldn't feel his shifts or braking, unless of course you count the MAJOR G's pushing you forward going into a turn. In order to keep from banging into him, Reg tells his riders to put their arms around him and place their palms on the tank. You don't feel him accelerate. The only indications you get are the engine roar {Yes, Roar!} and the fact the world is going by you in a very big hurry. Turns are wonderful. Smooth and leaned WAY over. My pegs were scraping, ok? And you can feel the bike sliding. Wonderful stuff! =8-D

Then the rains came... School continues. You ride in the wet and smoothness is the watchword. Braking, and downshifts had better be smooth as glass or you wind up in the weeds. I was amazed at the speeds that I could go in the wet. I was even MORE amazed by the speeds that the instructors and other folks were maintaining! *Whew* I could REALLY slide the rear around and even pushed the front a couple of hair-raising times. {Even in the dry.}

Which brings me to another point. You listening Teej? You are correct... THESE TIRES SUCK!. Bigtime. Wet or dry they were horrible. I would've felt much safer on the K with the old fashioned, narrow, bias ply Metzelers than I did on these Death Dounts(tm). I'm already saving my pennies for either MEZs or Dragons... 'Nuff said.

If you've gotten this far, patience, I'll be winding this down.

In retrospect, I found myself early on thinking that this wasn't a good experience for a couple of silly reasons. One, because I wasn't as fast as many people. Two because I let number One discourage me. {I even entertained ideas of selling the Ducati. *Sheesh*} This type thinking would be patently unfair and really pretty dumb. Instead I find I can put lot of positive lights on the whole day:

- I didn't crash or drop the bike like a of couple other guys did.

- I don't think I was stupid.
{Didn't pass on the inside or pull stupid moves}

- I tried to use good judgement.
{Missed a shift at the end of the front straight so instead of trying
to "ride it out" and maybe crashing, I used the available run-off instead.}

- I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to and watch guys who have and still "do it right". And even get some coaching by them!

- I learned I'm not nearly as good as I think. That's probably the best lesson anybody can learn. I'm sure it will save me and my machines much grief and pain.

Would I do it again? Yes. I've not only gained a much better understanding of this sport we love but I've also gotten a much better picture of myself as a rider. It may not have been pretty, but I think I've got a pretty good feel for what I need to change and what I need to do to start "doing it right".

Miscellania: Clem from BMW of Denver was there on the new R1100GS. It's not nearly as ugly as the pictures but it is one big, fast motorcycle. He went by many folks, including me, like they were sitting still. Most impressive. {He was wearing his trademark bowtie under his leathers. Weird but fast...}

There were several Ducs there. Even an "Intellectual 907" and new 888 Ltd.

One of my most vivid impressions of the day was during lunch break. One of the instructors was out on Jason's new Yamaha YZF-750. Jason set after him on one of the K1100RS bikes. Jason reeled this guy in, chewed him up in the tight stuff and spit him out on the straight. Beemers slow? Think again.

Ride safe. Ride with "CLASS"!

  /\     | Edward Guzman {gooz} DoD #1181 |  It's not that I'm slow...
 /  \/\  | |    {Well, yeah it is...}
/    \ /\|*------------------------------*| 
COLORADO!| Of course it's just MY opinion.|   '93 900SS -- '87 K-75S

>Did they require a minimum of safety equipment (ie full leathers)?
>I am interested in the course, but dont want to invest in leathers
>just to take it.

Yup. They require a full face Snell or DOT {minimum} certified helmet, over the ankle boots {Redwings and work boots were ok} and either full-leathers or AeroStitch or BMW's Gortex suit. Considering you'll use this stuff once you have it, I'd recommend having it anyways!

Call (800) 235-7228 and they'll send you an application with all the info and answer any questions you have.

>Gooz - Whatever you do, don't tell us what kind of tires those are.
>All of us would love to make the same mistake ourselves. Could we
>just have even a little hint???

Whoops. Sorry all. I originally posted this to the Ducati list and those folks know what the 900SS comes with: Michelin A59s

These tires ride and wear like steel. After 1600 street miles and 140 track miles, they still look like new. I couldn't load these things up and enough to get them warm at all!

And slippery? Holy Sh*t. These things wouldn't stick if you GLUED them to the road.... |-/ Grrrr...


Joe sez: ok, I have a couple questions :-)
>how did your fuel hold out? do you have an idea of total miles covered?

I covered about 140 to 145 miles on the track. Many folks covered more than that. Hey, you go faster, you go farther right? ;-) At lunch I had about 70 track miles + the 20 to the track and used more than half my tank (about 2.75 gallons actually) I ran out at lunch and topped off just to be safe...

>]- I didn't crash or drop the bike like a of couple other guys did.
>what became of them? did they continue?

one guy, following an instructor, grabbed a handful of brake in a very sharp, very slow turn and wound up in the grass. he lost a turn signal and scuffed some paint but finished the session. resilient little guy on an EX-500...

the other guy was passing somebody on the outside and ran out of track. he simply fell over on the wet grass. {brand new K75RT} this same chap dropped his bike while waiting in line during the braking exercise and snapped his windshield in half. likewise he gather himself up and continued although it was the last session.

that was it. except for one injury i found on my bike last night as I was washing it: somebody backed into it with a hot pipe and slightly melted the leading edge of the fron fender! *sheesh*

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