If you have been following my blog, you’ll notice that I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about some specific drills, exercises and routines that help you become a faster motorcycle racer or trackday rider. I know what you’re thinking, “That’s great Vicki, but I’m still fairly new to this sport and I just want to learn the basics!” Good news, you’re not alone, and sometimes even the pro’s have to go back to basics once in a while.
Whether you’re new to trackday riding, or you just want to hone your skills, there are a number of track riding schools in North America to suit your needs. Here are three of my favourites.
The program is taught in a three-phase approach, with the first phase involving a one-day program that covers corning, lines, counter steering, lean angle, traction, throttle control, upshifting, downshifting, braking, body position and other track riding basics. Phases 2 and 3 help riders further perfect the basics and introduce techniques that lead to more precision and confidence on the track and are also taught in a one day program each.
Having taken the first two phases of the FAST riding school, I would highly recommend this course to both beginner and advanced riders. Michel and his instructors offer a tremendous wealth of both knowledge and experience and all are very friendly and approachable. At least half of the Canadian road racers I know learned from the FAST Riding School at some point in their career. Michel and his crew are extremely passionate about the sport and Michel has forgotten more about riding motorcycles than most of us will ever learn. In my opinion, Michel Mercier is one of the best things to happen to Canadian road racing and I’m happy he continues to share his wealth of knowledge and experience through his schools.
Taught at Shannonville Motorsport Park, the track is also quite beginner friendly with no blind corners or elevation changes, and plenty of run-off room in the event of off-track excursions. Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki motorcycles are available for rent along with appropriate riding gear, or you can bring your own motorcycle and riding equipment.
I’ve recommended the FAST Riding School to several friends and not once have they been disappointed. Book early as space in the FAST Riding School tends to fill up quickly! Often courses are sold out as early as February or March. Book now as I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
The school is divided into classroom sessions and on track sessions and cover key points such as visual awareness, body position, lines and reference points, gear selection, braking and staying smooth and building confidence. In addition to the small instructor to student ratio, extra instructors also circulate the racetrack taking on board video footage of all riders. The video is then downloaded and reviewed in the classroom sessions and everyone gets a turn being critiqued on camera!
Road Atlanta is much more challenging and technical than Shannonville Motorsport Park, with plenty of elevation changes and blind corners to keep everyone honest. It is similar to Mosport in terms of the track design and remains today one of my favourite racetracks.
Originally a Suzuki-only school, riders can choose between Honda CBR600RR’s or Suzuki GSXR600’s available for rent as well as Arai helmets and Dainese riding gear. New for 2012, riders can also bring their own motorcycle of any brand (in the past your motorcycle had to be a Suzuki or Honda).
In addition to the standard 2-day program, premium 3-day packages are also available both at Road Atlanta and once a year at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
I’ve taken Kevin’s school 4 times and I really enjoy his approachable nature and attention to detail. Kevin continues to offer guidance and advice to some of the top racers in MotoGP, who better to learn from if you decide to head south!
One of the things that I like about Jason is that he operates one of the few track-riding schools where the owner himself continues to compete on the racing circuit. Jason competes in the FIM World Endurance championship and remains up-to-date with current motorcycle riding techniques; the fact that he has a number of AMA championships and a World Endurance Championship title under his belt also doesn’t hurt.
The STAR Motorcycle School is held at a number of racetracks across the United States including Thunderhill Raceway (California); High Plains Raceway (Colorado); Texas World Speedway (Texas); NOLA Motorsports Park (Louisiana); Blackhawk Farms (Illinois); Heartland Park (Kansas) and the recently opened (and very fun!) Chuckwalla Valley Raceway, in southern California.
Riders can bring their own motorcycles or choose to rent a Suzuki GSXR600 or Suzuki SV-650 motorcycle. Prices for both courses and rentals are very reasonable and I’m looking forward to hitting up one of Jason’s schools soon!
While there are plenty of other riding schools out there, these are my top three picks for motorcycle schools in North America. Honourable mention should also go to the Penguin Racing School in New Hampshire. It’s one of the oldest schools in the United States and I know lots of Canadians have made the short trip from Ontario and Quebec for the training. If you’re interested in learning how to ride on the track or if you’re looking to improve your riding or racing skills, the FAST Riding School, Schwantz School, STAR School or Penguin Racing School are three great places to start!