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Topic: A day with STAR motorcycle school @ Chuckwalla Raceway, CA  (Read 2838 times)

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« on: May 03, 2011, 11:18:06 PM »

I took the day off  yesterday to get in my  first day on the track with Jason Pridmore’s STAR motorcycle school at Chuckwalla.  The weather was just about perfect with temps reaching the mid 80’s and the winds were low. The day started off smoothly as I arrived at 7:00am to a very relaxed atmosphere.  I walked over to register and was greeted by the instructors who gave me the run down of the morning activities.  I went back to the truck, grabbed a couple guys as spotters and unloaded. Great crowd at the school. Very mellow, with both men and women riding anything from Ninja 250's to RSV4's and MV's. Tech went smoothly as well, with the Tiger gliding through without a hitch.  Sorry for the lack of quality pics. I was solo and didn’t think $75 for a bunch of pics of my sloppy form was worth it.

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh247/tbone02001/IMG_20110502_074803.jpg

First about STAR.

The school was great, the instructors were very approachable, and I was surprised to see Greg White from SPEED as one of the a riding coaches.  I didn’t work with him during the day, but he was into it and ran quite a few laps. I really liked the class/track format.  We were split into street and advanced groups, of which I was in the street with about 25 riders.  We would sit down with Jason, and breakdown 1 - 3 skills on the board.  He had a great way of connecting what we were talking about to what we’ve all experienced on our bikes. He would ask us a lot of questions on how we deal with different inputs while we ride. We then set goals to work on for each session.  This helped me focus on one technique at a time, and cut down on the sensory overload that riding at track speeds could easily induce. Each session followed this format adding a new skill while offering time to incorporate  the previous skills, building confidence and competence with each session.

The lunch break was a good time to reflect on the morning sessions and to talk with my paddock neighbors and coaches.  After lunch we met up and went out to watch the instructors run a few laps through a couple of the corners.  The co instructor Mark pointed out the tightness of the lines, downshift points, and body positions through the kinks in and out of the front straight along with the left to right transition from corners 1 to 2.  The sessions then resumed for the afternoon and we continued our class work with Mark as Jason road two up laps with the groups on the track.  The day wrapped up with both groups under the tent, certificates, and some swag from their sponsors.  It was well worth the money, and I was very pleased with the outcome.  I would highly recommend STAR for track instruction. Many of the participants were repeat customers, and I might be one too  Thumbsup.

So how did it go?

I didn’t take to the track as easily as I thought I would.  During the warm up/sighting laps I was having a hard time not creating the following distance I’m used to keeping on public roads. By the time I worked up to the front of the line I was able to keep the close spacing of the other riders, but still searching for confidence. I wasn‘t sure what I was really trying to do besides “follow the leader“.

In the morning sessions I was definitely one of the slower riders on the track and was getting passed frequently.  This wasn’t so much of a disappointment, but more of a sign of the improvements I would look to make throughout the day.  I spent the first two sessions getting more comfortable with the track and working on the class instructions. It was going "ok", but I was still entering the corners slowly and not very confident in the front end.  Then I had my first ah ha moment working on exit markers in the third session. By the end of the session I found myself carrying more speed through the turn and getting the bike up and on the throttle much faster, finally seeing the big picture  Bigok.  

As the sessions progressed and the skills were added, I was able to find gaps on the track to work on my own. I was now getting passed by fewer riders and passing a few along the way. As confidence grew, I found my corner entry speeds increasing along with my confidence in the front end. I finally felt confident around the entire track, my lines started tightening closer to the instructors’, and the feel for traction starting to make sense.  

By the last two sessions, I was lapping much faster than the morning sessions and was able to keep pace approximately in the middle of my group. They used me as the class guinea pig for the “different” body type Embarassment rider with body position on the GSXR on the stands.  I didn’t really get to rest during this class session as I was working on the demonstrator bike.  By the end of the last session I was running what felt like my fastest laps, but feeling pretty tired.  Unfortunately, I missed out on the two up ride by not rushing over to get in line. I would’ve had to sacrifice a session to get on board, and couldn’t bring myself to not go out. All in all I came away with a huge improvements in confidence, feel, and Technique. I'd love to have seen lap times and the improvement from beginning to end. I also came away with a lot of information to disseminate and incorporated into my riding.  I’ve never felt so confident in the front of a bike before. Many of these skills will be applicable to my mountain rides, and on my next track day. Let the addiction begin! Now where was that CL ad for that SV  

About the track and the bike.

CVR is located in Desert Center, CA between Palm Springs and Blythe (middle o no where). I thought Chuckwalla was a great track for a newb like me.  It is a smooth and wide track with 16 corners and maybe 2 -3 sections that could be considered technical. The straights weren’t very long with track features that limited your ability to just open it up.  The lower entry speeds at the end of the straights kept me more comfortable and allowed me to focus on the skill for that session.  I didn’t have any run offs, but a rider in front of me did. They just rolled through the dirt and got back on track without incident. There are no buildings, class was held under a large canopy, and videos were shown in the STAR trailer. There was a lunch wagon pulled in, and a legitimate bathroom on a trailer.

The Tiger proved up for the task.  The power 2cts worked well, I wound up running 33/31 and had a +3/5psi increase after sessions. The Race Tech suspension worked well feeling both firm and smooth.  I did feel a little guilty about ringing its neck all day. One thing I noticed in the pictures I reviewed was difficulty keeping my arms down with the wide bars.

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh247/tbone02001/P1000806.jpg


I can’t believe I waited this long to go to a track school, what a blast!  

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« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2011, 11:51:44 PM »

Now the bug has bitten you.  Congrats.  


See you at Buttonwillow this saturday?
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« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2011, 12:06:06 AM »

Glad you had such a good time. No substitute for the track.  Bigok
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« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2011, 12:16:12 AM »

Thanks for sharing your experience!   Thumbsup

I plan on doing two days with them at the end of June.
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« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2011, 06:19:40 AM »

Nice write up! Track days can be a great learning experience. I need to schedule a couple weekends for this summer.
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« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2011, 08:21:46 AM »



http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh247/tbone02001/P1000806.jpg



Ain't that a pretty sight  Thumbsup
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« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2011, 03:01:16 PM »


Thanks for sharing your experience!   Thumbsup

I plan on doing two days with them at the end of June.


You'll have a great time.  I can't say enough about how relaxed and approachable the instructors were.  I did one day of the two day school. I'd love to have done the second day, but I had to be at work the next day.  I was also pretty wiped out the next day, much more so than a 500+ mile day on the road.


Now the bug has bitten you.  Congrats.  


See you at Buttonwillow this saturday?


The bug has bitten alright.  I don't think I'll be getting out as soon as next weekend, but I'll be making the rounds as soon as my schedule allows. I'm working out the time/budget for about 6 outings per year.  I'm also looking around for SV650s and 600ss already.  I have a sickness, there is no cure, I am a bike whore  Rolleyes  There I said it, I feel better now.


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« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2011, 06:25:52 PM »

1000lbs, congrats man!  Track days are a blast!  

I would highly recommend finding a track bike, nothing fancy.  If it happens (knock on wood), it is much easier to see a pos 600cc sport bike sliding down the track than your primary bike.  Also, that "what if" scenario wouldn't be in the back of your head and you can relax/concentrate on learing.
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« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2011, 03:50:40 PM »


We would sit down with Jason, and breakdown 1 - 3 skills on the board.  He had a great way of connecting what we were talking about to what we’ve all experienced on our bikes. He would ask us a lot of questions on how we deal with different inputs while we ride. We then set goals to work on for each session.  This helped me focus on one technique at a time, and cut down on the sensory overload that riding at track speeds could easily induce. Each session followed this format adding a new skill while offering time to incorporate  the previous skills, building confidence and competence with each session.

The lunch break was a good time to reflect on the morning sessions and to talk with my paddock neighbors and coaches.  After lunch we met up and went out to watch the instructors run a few laps through a couple of the corners.  The co instructor Mark pointed out the tightness of the lines, downshift points, and body positions through the kinks in and out of the front straight along with the left to right transition from corners 1 to 2. The sessions then resumed for the afternoon and we continued our class work with Mark as Jason road two up laps with the groups on the track.    The day wrapped up with both groups under the tent, certificates, and some swag from their sponsors.  It was well worth the money, and I was very pleased with the outcome.  I would highly recommend STAR for track instruction. Many of the participants were repeat customers, and I might be one too  Thumbsup.

So how did it go?

I didn’t take to the track as easily as I thought I would.  During the warm up/sighting laps I was having a hard time not creating the following distance I’m used to keeping on public roads. By the time I worked up to the front of the line I was able to keep the close spacing of the other riders, but still searching for confidence. I wasn‘t sure what I was really trying to do besides “follow the leader“.

In the morning sessions I was definitely one of the slower riders on the track and was getting passed frequently.  This wasn’t so much of a disappointment, but more of a sign of the improvements I would look to make throughout the day.  I spent the first two sessions getting more comfortable with the track and working on the class instructions. It was going "ok", but I was still entering the corners slowly and not very confident in the front end.   Then I had my first ah ha moment working on exit markers in the third session. By the end of the session I found myself carrying more speed through the turn and getting the bike up and on the throttle much faster, finally seeing the big picture  Bigok.  

As the sessions progressed and the skills were added, I was able to find gaps on the track to work on my own. I was now getting passed by fewer riders and passing a few along the way. As confidence grew, I found my corner entry speeds increasing along with my confidence in the front end. I finally felt confident around the entire track, my lines started tightening closer to the instructors’, and the feel for traction starting to make sense.  


Some of what you said really resonated with me - these are exactly my concerns/experiences so good to know you got them addressed with this class. Did you ever ask an instructor to follow you and give you feedback?

Thanks for the review!
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« Reply #9 on: May 05, 2011, 04:04:31 PM »



Did you ever ask an instructor to follow you and give you feedback?

Thanks for the review!


Aside from not getting in on the 2 up lap with Jason, that is the other element of the school, I didn't take full advantage of.  The rider coasches followed behind me (without my knowledge) during a few sessions. I didn't know they were back there until they'd pass me to go on to the next student.  They didn't pull me aside during any of the sessions, and I did talk to one of them after a sessions on bike placement. He said I was in the right place for the speeds I was carrying.  We then got on the topic of adjusting sight markers as speeds picked up, but broke for lunch and didn't pick it back up in the afternoon.

The opportunity is there any time you asked for following rides before each session. I was just so invovled in working on what I was doing, I neglected to ask.  I felt like I was making good progress, but if I ride with them again in October, I'll be sure to get some more 1 on 1 feedback next time.

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« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2011, 02:06:30 PM »

Good write up.  I'm also going to be at the class in  the end of June. The one technique at a time is a tried and true method of teaching, whether it be for fighting, mathematics, riding, etc.  I assume they did body position, braking, throttle, trail braking/throttle and braking at the same time, upshifting without the clutch, that kind of thing? Makes good sense to me.

Did you get a sense of what they were going to cover on day 2?

- Dan
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« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2011, 03:40:38 PM »

They focus on down shifting, and gear selection a lot.  There was a lot of information to absorb, nothing new but very detailed.  When I got home I typed up about a 2 page summary of notes to refer back to for my next track day.  I broke it down to what we worked on each session and my personal riding notes.  I can attatch it in a PM if you'd like (I didn't think it would be interesting reading to post on here).  

I went in with a pretty blank slate of expectations, and I think this was a good thing.  I just went with the attitude, I'd try everything they asked us to do and continue to use what fit me and made sense.  It's a good curriculum and delivery, you won't be disappointed.
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« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2011, 07:46:59 PM »

As a relative Newb to Trackdays, I just finished my third one this past weekend.

Speedy's tire looked pretty good to me!!

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« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2011, 05:54:13 PM »

Thanks for the review -- and the second link. I'm off to Supercamp this weekend, but STAR is coing to HPR right after my birthday and I'd love to take the Mutley on a track school. I was wondering about the nature of the bike, and it's as sporty or sportier than the Tiger.
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