Bike Review sent Winston to California Superbike School (CSS), Level 2, to further his training... Words: Winston Taylor Photography: Tim Munro

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The weather on the day was great, with a good amount of time out on track during the various sessions. Having your gear and bike ready for the day is particularly important, as you don’t want to get turned back at scrutineering.

Since completing CSS Level 1 about six-months ago I’ve attended a couple of track days at SMSP, with both days boasting great weather, while I had an awesome time putting the techniques I had learnt to use during the Level 1 course into practice.

I was looking forward to learning more in Level 2 in hopes of being able to further improve my skills, so I could hang with the boys in yellow group!

We were blessed with another clear day, on the day, and my K3 GSX-R1000 street fighter was all fueled up and ready for action. Having done Level 1 previously I knew the day would start with scrutineering, where they check and ensure your bike is road (or track) worthy, and tape up your speedo and mirrors, to keep distractions at bay.

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The format of the day is classroom sessions where all the theory is covered, followed by the on-track practical sessions, followed by feedback from your coach, with a limited number of riders allocated to each coach to ensure quality feedback and plenty of one-on-one.

The day itself consisted of a series of 20-odd minute classroom sessions followed by a 20 minute track session – about eight laps – where we would practice the drill we were given in the classroom.

I struggled all day with trying to concentrate on the drill and not just riding flat out and trying and pass whoever was in front of me.

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My instructor on the day was Lyle, who helped by providing specific feedback, not just on the current exercise but on my riding in general, which included following me in some sessions to observe, and then leading at times, to demonstrate what I needed to be doing.

During the sessions my instructor (Lyle) would also follow me for a few laps and observe my riding and then get infront of me and demonstrate the particular drill we were working on.

After the session he would debrief me (and each of the other riders in my group) on what he observed and we would talk about what we could work on for the next session to improve my technique and ultimately lower lap times.

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You get sent out on track in your groups to make it easier for your coach to keep an eye on you, with the order staggered to ensure less people are on the track at once, providing you a better learning environment.

CSS Session 1 – Reference Points

Our aim during the first set of sessions was to look for reference points around the track to aid us in putting the bike where we want it to be and give us a smooth flow of information which helps to avoid target fixation.

I managed to find a few helpful points that marked my turn in points and I found a nice big black tyre mark on the turn 9 ripple strip which I used as my guide for where I thought I should be hitting the apex. As that corner seemed to be never ending at times, it was helpful to have a point to aim the bike at.

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Learning to identify reference points helps immensely on the track, as it’ll be your braking, turn in and apex points, helping for consistent lap times and lines. It’s also useful on the road to an extent as identifying those points and using one of the later exercises – wide view – helps for safer riding.

CSS Session 2 – Change Lines

Our goal  in session two was to spend an entire lap riding on the left hand side of the track and then a lap on the right hand side of the track.

This was to show us how wide the actual circuit is in order to help us actually use the entire track where and when we needed to.

This opened my eyes as to how wide the track is, as at times the track can appear to be just a few meters wide.

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Riding around the track and simply using the far left or right line may seem like a simple and obvious exercise, but it’s not something you would ever get a chance to do on a normal track day and is a great demonstration of just how much space on the track you are not using, or may be forgetting about. This space is particularly important as at times it’ll allow you to drive out wide exiting a corner – using more available track, or double apex a corner, or any number of other strategies which can help for faster lap times.

CSS Session 3 – Three-Step

This was the next step (literally) of the Level 1’s two-step drill. It now included looking at the exit of a turn as early as possible.

In this drill I concentrated on taking my eyes off the apex when I knew I was going to hit it and looking at the exit point as soon as I could.

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Getting some personalised feedback from Lyle. One of the advantages to small groups is that you’ll hear everyone’s feedback, which more often than not is also useful for you.

This really helped me to get on the throttle earlier, especially on turn 12 which I feel I was struggling with as I have on occasion been overtaken on the straight by bikes that I feel I should have been able to stay ahead of.

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Three-step turning takes the Level 1 two-step turning, where you concentrate on your entry point and apex, and puts more emphasis on the exit point, as the third point you need to look for.

CSS Session 4 – Wide screen view of the track

The solution to target fixation is the wide screen view of the track. We were taught the importance of perfecting our wide view and the effect it has on our sense of speed.

Our aim was to try not to ride with a narrow view but to be using our peripheral vision on the track.

Concentrating on this helped me in a few high speed overtaking maneuvers and also hitting a few apexes.

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Wide view incorporates a number of track and road specific benefits, with the first being better and greater awareness of what is going on around you. On the track it also helps in identifying your reference points and turn points, as you don’t need to focus on them, rather they are part of your wide view.

CSS Session 5 – Pick up

Session 5 was an introduction to Level 3 and our goal was to try and pick the bike up as quickly as possible after exiting the corner. This gets the rear tyre on the widest section aiding in traction and getting back on the power.

This one was a battle for me as I have always felt safest having my bum firmly on the seat and knees tucked in through a corner. I found this drill helpful in being able to wind on more throttle earlier when exiting a corner.

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Pick up, or picking the bike back up, is your final session and the introduction to Level 3, and involves picking the bike back up at the end of a corner, onto the middle of the tyre, where you’re able to transition back onto the power, with the greatest traction.

The Verdict

Seeing the chequered flag on the final session was a bit disappointing as I was having such a good time. It was another awesome day that ran like clockwork and was run by true professionals.

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The day as a whole is great fun, with the CSS staff providing a great experience, while you can make new friends with fellow riders. Plus you can learn in one of the most controlled and safe environments available, off the road.

I highly recommend the course, not just riders wanting to lower their lap times but to all road riders wishing to improve their riding skills.

Thank you so much to Steve, Lyle and the whole team.

For more information about California Superbike School, or to book in, visit: California Superbike School

You can also read about Winston’s Level 1 experiences HERE.

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I highly recommend the California Superbike School courses, and I’m already looking forward to Level 3!

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