The BMW-Motorrad California Superbike School-Philippines recently marked its fourth year. As always, slots were fully booked with eager riders up at the crack of dawn, keen to improve their riding skills at Clark International Speedway in Pampanga.
This year's staging saw the continuation of the bike riding skills program with the addition of the new Code R.A.C.E. (Race and Competition Experience) classes. The standard classes offer a modules divided into four levels, ranging from introductory skills (Level 1) to professional one-on-one coaching (Level 4). Levels are broken down into five classroom and practical sessions. The school aims to provide an ideal instructor-to-student ratio of 5:1. This becomes 1:1 on Level 4.
Code RACE, on the other hand, is an advanced program recommended for riders tht have completed all four levels of standard classes. It provides training under competitive conditions, with a 2:1 student:coach ratio for more thorough personal attention and immediate feedback. Code RACE is teaches more advanced skills like race starts, late braking, and defending racing lines. The two day class is broken down into four classroom and practical sessions, with a timed race and friendly competition at the end of each day. As proof of the potency of the classes, Clark Speedway's track record for superbikes was shattered by three seconds on the second day.
Nonetheless, for those with a less competitive streak, the classes provide a solid foundation for those looking to improve their riding skills. The lessons learned aren't simply for the track, but greatly improve one's bike handling on the road as well.
California Superbike School-Philippines is an official franchise of the rider training program founded by former motorcycle racer and author Keith Code in 1980. Code wrote, The Twist of the Wrist series of books and videos, upon which many of the CSS techniques are based. CSS has trained more than 150,000 riders worldwide, a number of them now competing in prestigious motorbike racing events.
The Philippine franchise taps instructors from as far as Australia, the UK and even the US. The school is led by Australian lead instructor, Steve Brouggy.
CSS offers rider training in four levels, with each level priced at PhP45,000. In Level 1, the course addresses common rider errors and improves upon basic techniques like throttle control, turn points, countersteering and rider input. Level 2 focuses on visual drills to sharpen reaction and refine rider input. Level 3 focuses on the more technical aspects of rider position and tackling corners. Level 4 on the other hand is a one-to-one session that tackles each rider’s specific issues.
Students are required to bring their own motorcycles (not limited to BMW) and protective gear. Motorcycles and gear will have to pass safety scrutinering. There is no minimum displacement so long as the motorcycles have clutches and manual transmissions. For protective gear, the school strictly requires racing leathers, boots, long gloves and a full-face helmet.
BMW Motorrad invited members of the media to sample riding lessons. They also offered to lend motorcycles from their tempting stable to use on track, such as the BMW S1000RR and S1000XR.
The lessons themselves continue to be insightful and incredibly useful. Having tackled Level 1 an 2 in the past years, Level 3 proved to be the most exciting module thus far with the coaches demonstrating the proper way to take on corners faster, more smoothly, and far more efficiently. The lessons showed that even some of the track's sharpest corners can be taken with a shallower lean than most would expect, allowing you to take them at higher speeds with the right body position, throttle control and line.
It's easy for some to dismiss the lessons as something that you can easily pick up by reading one of Keith Code's books, yet the track time immediately after the class and immediate feedback from your riding coach are the aspects of the class that are what truly help you improve your riding by leaps and bounds.
Like many of the riders that day, I went out on the track hot, eager to take on the track's tempting turns and show off to the coach how much I already knew. This resulted in a a lowsided during the day's first on-track session from leaning too far and too soon into a corner. Thankfully, the bike only sustained superficial damage and the protective gear allowed me to keep on riding the rest of the day. Naturally, with bike and pride damaged, I took my pace down a notch and would be especially careful around the same corner where I crashed. The coaches were mindful of my hesitance on the corner where I crashed and slowly and gently encouraged me to build up my speed and quickly overcome my phobia.
I'd have to credit the post-track session debriefing that helped me understand why I crashed (leaning too far, without enough throttle) and how to avoid it. By the end of the day — armed with the knowledge of how to properly prepare for a corner, how to position the body, and the right line to take — that same corner wasn't as frightening anymore. I also found myself attacking many of the other corners that initially seemed daunting, pouring on the throttle sooner and staying on the racing line more precisely. The class certainly helps any rider quickly discover their own bad habits and realize how much farther they can push themselves.
If all these only seem useful on a racetrack, one point the instructors always repeat is, “Doesn't that make cornering so much easier?” Many of the lessons are centered around preparing for an upcoming corner far ahead of time, leaving the rider in the proper state of mind to scan for obstacles, potential dangers, and time to adjust ther bike's speed, their body position and recalculate a better line around the corner. It's a thought process that comes in handy particularly in busy corners in the city or rural roads where vehicles, other motorcycles, and pedestrians can come out of nowhere. With the right mindset and skills, they can now be easily avoided, with much less of a panic than before.
For those that missed it, CSS-Philippines will return next year for the alumni keen to take on the next level of instruction, as well as for even more neophytes that want to improve their riding. This year's event was made possible with the help of BMW Motorrad, distributor of BMW motorcycles, and Tuason Racing School. Event partners include Foilacar, AutoIndustriya.com, MotoPinas.com, C! Magazine, Clean Fuel, Motorworld, Pirelli Tires, and Euro Monkeys.