I have so many things running through my mind on the way to Buttonwillow Raceway Park for my Yamaha Champions Riding School ChampSchool lessons. I’m here to learn and grow as a rider, so I can’t wait to see what lies ahead! The friendly staff greeted me immediately and then led me to check in and get settled into the environment.I brought along a 2022 Suzuki GSX-R600 trials bike, a significant step up from my current bike at home – a 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300. I also had a wardrobe full of track-ready clothes from Dainese and AGVs. Note that all brands are welcome at the school and you can rent a motorbike if you are coming from outside the region or if you prefer not to drive your own motorbike. Also, since this is a school and not a track day, I didn’t need to make any modifications to the GSX-R600. Fully prepared for a few days of learning, I still felt hesitant, coming from a background of just over a year of riding and only a handful of track days in my experience. On day one, we were brought together in one YCRS ChampSchool class to discuss some riding basics, as well as an overview of the course over the next couple of days. Then we migrated outside together to learn all about 100 Points of Grip.The first demonstration is performed by lead instructor Chris Peris. He explained how important traction is in different road and tire conditions, using a front tire as a teaching tool. He refined two main points: brake pressure and lean angle. After demonstrating the importance of lean angle and brake pressure, lead instructor Eziah Davis stepped in to show the importance of brake pressure on the front and rear tires while riding to achieve a specific result. and the concept of “radius=mph”. With this information, we begin to understand the concepts, and the demonstrations help us bring these key points together. One of my favorite demonstrations was being a passenger in a van with a few classmates and an instructor. We were driven around the track and shown the brake pressure we could apply and the lines we were going to follow. I also realized how much we picked up speed and how well we could brake in a full van.Then we were separated into groups, based on experience and ability, and then assigned to an instructor. Chris was my group’s instructor, and we went to our first session to get a feel for our bikes and apply the information we had learned so far. After our first session, we returned to class to discuss our concerns on the track. With clarification from Chris and Eziah, we were back on track for more exercises. The teaching style was the same throughout the day – we came to class to discuss our next set of skills and concepts to learn. Then we got back on the track and practiced, practiced, practiced. the second day of the Yamaha Champions Riding School. The instructors dedicate their time and effort to ChampSchool, and you can feel how dedicated and passionate they are in teaching and guiding each student.That night, all the information was jostling in my head. So many new ideas were presented to me, and understanding them was simple, but the mental block was more apparent in some of the exercises we did that day. Nick told us to review the videos of ourselves that night before we went to bed and be ready to work more the next morning. The next morning we all started our day with breakfast and stretching to prepare our bodies for the day. Day two we discussed more about the track layout – the three types of corners we encounter, how to navigate them and other skills to understand our lines and increase our safety. One of my favorite exercises we went through was rolling towards the pointed end of the cones. This specific exercise showed us the possible dangers we can face on the track or on the street. All the monitors were distributed throughout the circuit. After passing them all, the instructors moved the cones around to simulate other potential hazards we might face on the street and on the track, and how quickly we need to react in those situations. As the exercise continued, I became much more aware of my surroundings, rather than just following the lines or the person in front of me.To wrap up our second day, the students got together and watched each rider’s second end-of-day riding video. It was amazing to see how each of us completed day one and how much we learned and applied by the end of day two. The feeling you get after two full days of exercising, teaching, recording, and class time is amazing. The best thing about this ChampSchool was that it applied to all levels of riding, from a rider’s first day on a race track to professional riders on a race team. Being part of each other’s successes at the end of these two days validated our experiences and reinforced our increased confidence and safety in our riding. Jumping on the GSXR-600 from my Ninja 300 was such a different experience on the trail, too. Most of the rules still apply, but a different overall feel on the bike was something that took a while to overcome. I’m more comfortable on my 300 because of its maneuverability and tighter ergonomics. However, I enjoyed learning more about the 600 to understand more concepts such as trail braking in corners and the amount of gear required for successful trail braking.In order to be able to concentrate on learning, it is essential to feel safe. I had exceptional safety equipment, from head to toe. My everyday Shoei is great, but it doesn’t compare to the comfort and aerodynamic technology of the AGV Pista GP RR Iridium/Carbon Fiber Helmet. The Dainese Misano 2 D-Air Lady suit, equipped with the D-Air airbag system, which Fortunately, I didn’t need it – I felt even more protected on the track. The Dainese Carbon D1 Long gloves reinforced this feeling. One of the features I didn’t try was the water kit which was fitted inside the Misano 2 suit and connected to the AGV helmet – it wasn’t warm enough to need it. and the break-in period was non-existent. Switching from Sedici boots to Dainese Nexus 2 Lady boots was a game changer. Even after the handful of track days I’ve had with the Sedici boots, I noticed that the Sedici boots still didn’t break in as comfortably and quickly as the Dainese boots did instantly.Prior to the Yamaha Champions Riding School in-person experience, we all got to review and learn about the upcoming topics through the ChampU: The Core Curriculum online program it offers. Studying and being asked about these topics enhances the in-person training we received. The best part of Yamaha Champions Riding School is the ongoing education of the students. YCRS is constantly updating and evolving its ChampU online program. Another class they offer two-day ChampSchool graduate students is the ChampGrad program. Being able to apply and put into practice all the skills and knowledge of ChampSchool and then transfer them to more in-depth training tailored even more specifically to your needs is something I will definitely enroll in the future. While talking to one of my fellow ChampSchool students/friends who is also a professional runner, we have already discussed planning for the ChampGrad program. The program is a semi-private 2:1 setting and tailored more to your needs after addressing the fundamentals taught at ChampSchool.With all the information provided and taught to us, I highly recommend Yamaha Champions Riding School for all levels of riders. The topics have been useful for all riders and being able to apply and continue to grow in your personal riding is something worth learning. I started riding motorcycles a little over a year ago, with no previous experience. If I had known about ChampSchool and its program, I would have registered much earlier.
Don’t miss Editor Nic de Sena’s take on the Yamaha Champions Riding School
- Helmet: AGV Pista GP RR
- Suit: Dainese Misano 2 D-Air Lady
- Gloves: Dainese Carbon D1 Long
- Boots: Dainese Nexus 2 Lady
Photograph by CaliPhotography
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