Since the heydays of the 1950s, motorcyclists have had a reputation of being the wild, rebellious type that is not afraid to take risks or put oneself in harm’s way.
Fortunately, there has recently been a movement afoot to change that, with riders taking advantage of the numerous riding schools that are available. This should be considered a welcome change to the stigma that is attached to motorcyclists, and we should do anything we can to be better prepared and safer — on the road or track.
These days, there are lots of riding schools around, and each is designed to meet a certain need within the market. Whether you are looking for a learn-to-ride school or an advanced racing course, you can find something to make you happy. On the upper end of the riding school equation is the Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic that was created by Lee Parks.
There is little doubt that Parks has the motorcycle credentials to put together a program to help out every rider, whether they are a relative newbie or a seasoned track rider. With a racing career that spanned 25 years and five years as the editor and primary test rider of Motorcycle Consumer News, Parks accumulated a wealth of knowledge that led to the creation of the Total Control – High Performance Street Riding Techniques book that has since turned into a series of schools that anyone can join.
Experience is not the sole criteria in creating a solid rider training program. You also have to be able to translate that experience into something that people can easily digest. Having the personality to relate to many different types of rider also helps a great deal.
While the Total Control ARC is an advanced rider training program, don’t let that fool you into thinking you can’t handle it. The clinic is performed in the safest possible conditions to let the rider focus on learning and not on falling at high speeds. It was that fact that inspired Parks to create the Total Control ARC. Parks felt that there was no way for riders to safely progress from the typical learn-to-ride programs to race schools.
Jumping straight from entry-level courses to a track day or race school can be an intimidating prospect for the average rider. As a dirt rider, I get intimidated when I am asked to push a street motorcycle to my comfort limit — there is just something about the asphalt whizzing by that unnerves a guy that is used to the dirt — so when I was given the chance to attend the first ever Total Control school in Canada, I jumped at the chance. As an added bonus, Lee Parks himself was to be one of the instructors.
Since Total Control is a US-based program, the duty of teaching the Canadian riders falls to Nancy Mayer and her Sharp Rider Motorcycle Training. Mayer and her team make everyone feel welcome as they enter the classroom at the Hersey Centre, located in Mississauga, ON. While we were fortunate enough to have Parks himself on hand for the opening weekend of classes, that was a one-off. Participants were left in the very capable hands of Mayer and the rest of her crew during the remaining courses.
Despite beautifully warm and dry weather leading up to the day that I was scheduled to take the Total Control course, the heavens opened up that morning and gave us a thorough soaking that lasted throughout the entire day. Needless to say, the idea of pushing my personal boundaries in a deluge was less than exciting. Especially when you consider that I was wet when I arrived, and the prospects of drying during the day did not look good. But I had to trust that Parks and his team would not steer me wrong.
Once all the students filed into the class, Parks introduced himself and his team to us and gave us a rundown of what the day would look like. The basic rundown of the day was this: an in-class session to learn the theory, followed by a bike session to put the theory into practice. Repeat several times throughout the day. But the absolute first thing on the agenda was to hand us all a tire gauge as soon as we arrived, so we could set our tire pressures to properly suit the bike and the conditions.
The checking of the tire pressure tied into our first topic of discussion, which was tires. The lesson revolved around the basics of tire sizes, compounds and construction and how it relates to the motorcycle. He also focused on the difference between street and track tires for those that are interested in track days or racing. In fact, a few of the class sessions were centred on the importance of bike setup and how a properly set up bike is not only safer, but it will perform much better too.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the class sessions to me was the way that Parks talked about the mental aspects of riding and the psychology of what holds a rider back. This was a departure from other classes that I have taken, and I found the way that he talked about tricking your brain and training it to help reduce the fear a great revelation and riding asset.
As informative as the class sessions were, the time on the bike was invaluable. The way the instructors gave their directions and then gave feedback after each pass of the exercise was exemplary. For each exercise there were three courses set up, with an instructor monitoring each. After we were given the instruction, we performed the drill and then received our feedback. Once that was complete we were sent on to the next instructor to perform it again to see if we improved. This system worked exceptionally well.
The Total Control experience was simply excellent and it will be beneficial to riders of all abilities. Getting a fresh perspective on what you are doing and how you can improve will serve to make you a better rider without question.
If you want to get an idea of what is covered in the course, you can pick up the Total Control book, but there is no replacement for live action learning. 2012 courses ended earlier in the year, but the Total Control Advanced Rider Clinic will be returning to Sharp Rider Motorcycle Training in Mississauga again in 2013. For more information, visit www.sharpridermotorcycletraining.com or www.totalcontroltraining.net.