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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Warning - lots of words ahead - added some photos, click here to skip down to the pictures - there was a photographer present on the track from '4thriders.com' for the duration of the class.

I attended the YCRS Champ Street class last weekend on Sunday afternoon at Sonoma Raceway. I've been thinking about the experience and I think I'm ready to summarize my thoughts.

First off a little background. I think its important to have a good understanding of where I'm starting from. I have 13 years of riding experience. I started riding with my wife and we both attended the MSF basic rider course before getting our first bike. About 3 years of 'urban' commuting in a moderately large city. Lots of mountain roads, touring, and commuting in rural areas too. A few group rides. I've ridden cruisers, 70's UJMs, and now my XSR. For most of that time the odometer on my XS1100 didn't work, but based on tire & brake changes I'd guess I have ridden somewhere in the range of 75-100k miles. I've riden about 12k miles in since february of last year on my XSR 900. I'm a firm believer in continuing education and improving my safety on the bike by improving my skills. I own several riding skills books, and try to practice some of those skills on my own on a regular basis. Until I purchase by XSR I had never attended any formal instruction except of that MSF course way back in the beginning. Last year I attended both the MSF Advanced Rider Course and also the Total Control Advanced Rider Course #1. I like to believe I'm pretty good at self assessment and being honest with my self on what skills need improvement.

On to the class.....
My class included a mix of individuals & bikes:
  • A guy on brand new 2021 Speed Triple 1200RS , said he'd done 10 track days on his old R1 including 3 at this particular track. Wearing track gear. This guy both bragged about how much horsepower his bike had, I think he said 180HP, and then in the same discussion cmplained that it was really hard to keep the front wheel down and so he was having a hard time accelerating from all the stops. Also complained that the bike went into 'limp mode' twice during the class.
  • There was a Marine Corp Recruiter on a 2020 harley bagger of some sort, claimed to have several years of experience on different bikes and was interested in racing his bagger. Wearing 'kevlar' hoodie and Jeans.
  • There was a young dude on a Ducatti Monster 1100. Wearing Jeans and a Textile Jacket.
  • There was a beginer rider on some sort of sport touring bike. This guy had done the morning session and decided to buy into my afternoon session that wasn't full. I believe this guy was wearing an aerostich textile suit of some sort.
  • There was me on my XSR 900. I was wearing my motoport pants & Jacket.
Thats it - there were 5 of us. There were also 7 or 8 coaches, mostly because they'd done earlier champ street clases, as well as 1 and 2 day champ school clases all prior to mine. All those classes had wrapped up and so all the coaches were just hanging out. I do not think this is normal for a champ street class, but I'm not complaining as we got a lot of individual attention.

Topics covered were: Traction, Trail braking, Throttle control, Mental State, Vision, and Body Position. Emphasis was on the trail braking & throttle control.

Upon arival I had to sign a waiver and they did a brief bike inspection. Tires have air, brakes work, chain in good condition, throttle returns on its own, that was about it. The guy who did mine said my chain was 'too tight' - I set the slack at 1" when I put the new chain on. I didn't argue I just said 'thanks for telling me', even though the FZ09's that they rent as part of the class all seemed to have simliar or less slack.

We started with a short lecture where traction, mental state, throttle control & trail braking were all introduced and explained. This lasted about 30 minutes.
Then we were on the track doing a little practice with trail braking & throttle control riding a big square. Accelerate, brake, turn, repeat. Coaches would pull individuals aside to provide pointers. We did this for about 15 - 20 minutes.
Next we had a short discussion about body position, maybe 10 minutes long on the track.
Following that we rode the square again while focusing and getting feedback on body position. Maybe 30 minutes of this.
After a short break for water/snacks we had a discussion about Line selection & vision, then we followed and instructor around the full track for 4 or 5 laps. Switched instructors and did it again for another 5 laps or so.
At the next break someone asked about U turns - we spent a few minutes discussing and then 10 -15 minutes practicing 'leg out' u-turns.
We had a brief discussion about being smooth on brake throttle application.
After that we were turned loose to loop the track solo and then stop on each lap. At the stop we would get instruction, then accelerate hard & also brake hard with a focus on the 'first 5%'. Stop and get feedback. Do it again.
After that we were allowed to run the track on our own, but the instructors would randomly place/move cones so that we didn't know what to expect. Cones might indicate that we had to make a stop, or apex early or late, weave, etc. Instructors would wave people in to get instruction, or jump on a bike and lead/follow as they saw fit. This was by far my favorite part of the experience.

What I liked:
  • Street speeds - I even bumped the rev limiter in 3rd a couple of times - on my bike that is around 100mph on the speedo. Most of the circuit was 40-65mph.
  • Very relaxed 'we all love motorcycles' coaching style. Other clases I've taken the coaches always seem like safety nuts and 'we know better than you' types.
  • All the coaches had legit credentials - Every one of them had significant racing background, and also a lot of street riding experience.
  • Encouraged to 'enjoy the bike' - this was after floating the front wheel almost the full length of the straight between Turn 8 and Turn 9 in 3rd gear.
  • Encoraged to 'go faster', stay on the throttle longer and go to the brakes later.
  • Lots of one on one attention & feedback.
  • Coaches were super open to questions and willing to adjust the class to cater to those questions & skills. The class wasn't a scripted power-point deck with pre-defined drills.
What I didn't like:
  • Some of the demonstrations & jokes were a bit forced. Imagine a move scene where one actor is really good, and the other is terrible - the good actor seems like its a natual conversation, then the bad one responds like he's reading from a paper script hidden in his sleeve.
  • Coaches maybe spent a little to much of the talking time 'trashing' other courses & their techniques.
  • These are minor things and about all I can think of to complain about.
Other thoughts:
  • A couple of things they said seemed to really 'ring true' to me
    • 'If you aren't using a control, you are out of control' - basically you should always be using either the throttle or the brakes. This doesn't necisaraly mean that you are always accelerating or decelerating.
    • Go to the brake when you get nervous.
    • Stay on the brakes until you're comfortable with both your speed and your direction.
    • The first and last 5% are the most important - it is most important to be smooth and consistent with the first and last 5% of brake input.
  • I was surprised that I had no trouble keeping up with the guy on the Street triple despite his claimed expertise. He even waved me past at one of the stops during the final 'free' session and then disapeared into my mirrors never to be seen again.
  • I really enjoyed the final session with the random track changes and coaching. I'd actually pay to take a class that was just this for the full 4 hours or longer. IMHO this is maybe the best way to replicate the 'unknowns' of a random canyon ride in a controled and safe environment.
  • I burnt an entire tank of gas, just a hair more than 3 gallons, during this 4 hour class, that should give you an idea of how much time we spent riding.
  • You'll get as much from the class as you want - ask questions and ask for help.
  • There was almost no discussion on situational awareness, common road hazards, etc. This is stuff that is covered pretty extensivly in the MSF classes and I think is very important for someone who is going to be doing signficant ammounts of street riding.

I very much enjoyed this class and would recommend it, regardless of your skill level. I'm already trying to figure out how to pay for one of their longer 2 day classes.
For a brand new rider I'd suggest the MSF or Total control beginer classes, and then this class taken on your own bike. Skip the MSF & TC advanced classes.
 

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I did one of their 2 days schooled and it was the best school ive taken. I learned a ton and am a safer and faster rider because of it.

I was a caricature of an exit rider, lol, I will be working on using the front brake to get the bike pointed for the rest of my riding life for sure
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Forgot - this is the curcuit we rode:
166109


Red circle was an area where we had to slow down and do a very tight u-turn.
Black line is where the coaches stood during later 'free' laps and we stopped for feedback.
Blue circled area had changing cone weave, sometimes tight and slow, sometimes fast.
The 'Carousel', turn 6 was a long downhill sweeper that was pretty fun.
The section from Turn 8a down to turn 9 was my favorite. A slight rise approaching turn 8a and then down a gentle hill. On nearly every lap I could hit 3rd gear just at the top of the rise and float the front in a high speed power wheelie down the entire straight.
 

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Great report. Thanks for that.
If you care to, would you recount some of the criticisms of other schools?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
@ridetofish remember this was only a 4 hour long class.
Trail Braking:
There was an initial discussion about trail braking, how it enhances steering geometry, and how it loads the front tire prior to turn-in, which increases grip. This was maybe 20 minutes so not extensive but enough to hit the highlights and 20 minutes is basically 1/8th of the entire class. There were also a couple of demonstrations at both 'walking' speed and riding speed. Followed that with on bike practice and coaching specifically for trail braking. Trail braking was a subject of continued feedback & coaching throughout the remainder of the class.
Based on my experience I would say that if trail braking is something of specific concern to you and you mentioned that to the coaches they would be happy to 'zero in' on that skill with you. They were very happy to answer questions and focus on specific skills. During introductions I mentioned that I was hoping to improve my braking, and that I struggle to keep my eyes looking through the corners, especially when following other bikes/cars. I got a lot of coaching on those skills.

Criticisms:
"foot on pegs low speed manuvers" - there was a bit of back and forth between the coaches about how 'dumb' keeping your feet up is as slow paces, and that the only purpose it serves is to make the 'other shcools' coachs feel superior.
"slow - look - press - roll" - this came up several times about how poor this technique was, and that other shcools should never teach it.
There were other random remarks and comments thrown in that I don't recal.
I don't necissarily disagree with anything they said, I just find it unprofessional for one business to openly criticize another in this maner. It would have been totally different had it been presented as : 'you may have heard of xxxxxx, we believe that our way of doing things is better because ........'
I'll temper that statement by repeating that one aspect of the class I really enjoyed was how 'relaxed' the coaching style was - more like hanging out with 'the guys' than a formal class room, and so I'm expecting 'professionalism' and enjoying the 'unprofessionalism' at the same time. Maybe I'm the one with the problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
@ridetofish - perhaps a definition of trail braking is needed here.
Trail braking is the practice of 'trailing off' the pressure on the front brakes as you increase your lean angle into a corner.
As you approach the corner you may be on the brakes '98%' - so hard that the rear tire is nearly lifting.
As you enter the corner you start to lean the bike over 1% lean, 97% brakes.
Just beyond entry you might be at 25% lean and 70% brakes.
Mid corner you might be running 70% lean and only 1% brakes.

This continues until you are comfortable with your speed and direction - you might keep applying 5 or 10 points of brake pressure through the entire corner if it is tighter than you expected at entry. You may release all brake pressure just after corner entry if you see that the corner opens up into a gentle sweeper. There is no 'rule' here as it depends entirely upon the situation and the riders level of risk tollerance. The only point where you must have '0' brake points is if you are at the extreme limits of lean angle, because the tire is using all available grip for cornering. At any other point it is fine, and even desirable to maintain or gently add brake pressure as needed.

I bothered to type all this because I've also seen 'trail braking' described as using the rear brake throughout the corner. This was actually discussed in class and while it may have similar benefits on a heavy cruiser or touring bike, where there is a significant portion of the weight carried on the rear tire. For our bikes trail braking should focus on using the front brakes, the rear tire doesn't have enough load during braking to be very effective. Even for heavy bikes (crusers and touring bikes) trail braking should be a combination of front and rear brake pressure, never rear brakes alone.

These are some good videos to watch for anyone interested in trail braking, there is a reason why most single vehicle motorcycle accidents involve a bike running wide off a corner, the reason is that we do not teach riders that it is perfectly ok to apply brakes mid-corner.
 

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Wow, great detailed report!

I understand your comments about their criticism of other schools (and bloggers, and YouTubers, etc.). I think (and this is just speculation) that they do that to keep people engaged and paying attention, which, you have to admit, does work!

On trail braking, when I took the ChampStreet class, I loved the drill where you get going at a good clip, then at the designated spot you have to brake hard, and simultaneously make a 90° turn, where you end up coming to a complete stop next to the instructor. A lot of people were having a hard time with that one, but by the end of the drills, people were starting to nail it.

In my class there were several Phoenix motor cops - and we’ve seen some of the stuff those guys do - and even they said they learned a thing or two that day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Yes, riding at 'speed' and riding 'slow' are 2 different skill sets, there is some overlap but being good at one doesn't make you good at the other. Those Police bike 'rodeo' events are something to watch. There are a few companies that teach a truncated vesion (minus some of the stuff that doesnt apply to civilians) of the police riding course to civilians, and I hope to attend one of those classes at some point in the future.
 

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Cool review! I've considered this training at some point based on lots of positive feedback.

Do you see yourself doing track days in the future?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Cool review! I've considered this training at some point based on lots of positive feedback.

Do you see yourself doing track days in the future?
I had a lot of fun on the track, with only 5 of us there it was essentially private which was awesome. After this the answer is a solid 'maybe'.

Prior to this class I had never been on a track, and I would have answered no.
 

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Thanks for the info on the class. I actually won a free pass to the class and would likely have attended on Saturday, but the description sounded like it was mostly street biased and I don't recall that it mentioned track time so it didn't seem worth the almost 2 hour drive to Sonoma. Sounds like I missed out. Ah well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for the info on the class. I actually won a free pass to the class and would likely have attended on Saturday, but the description sounded like it was mostly street biased and I don't recall that it mentioned track time so it didn't seem worth the almost 2 hour drive to Sonoma. Sounds like I missed out. Ah well.
The Saturday and Sunday Morning champ street courses were not on the track - I assume because the 2 day champ school group was using the track. The sunday afternoon class was the sweet spot - it was a little more money but included the track time. Sorry you missed out.
 

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When I attended, I just did the morning half, which was all on the skid pad/parking area (though quite a bit of room). The 2nd half of the day was on the track (AZ Motorsports Park). I’ve had plenty of track time in my life, so I passed on it. But I would highly recommend the full-day school to anyone…. And @stuarth, I hate to say it, but I think you definitely missed out!
 

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Thanks for the in depth review! Always fun to hear about people’s experience at track days.
Also, those videos really helped me understand trail braking as that’s a new one for me!
Could you possibly elaborate what you mean here?
'If you aren't using a control, you are out of control' - basically you should always be using either the throttle or the brakes. This doesn't necisaraly mean that you are always accelerating or decelerating.
 

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If I were to do another school, I would do something like this. I read a lot of Nick's articles in Cycle World and really understand where he's coming from. Practicing his exercises, I find my riding getting smoother and more confident all the time.
 

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@ridetofish - perhaps a definition of trail braking is needed here.
Trail braking is the practice of 'trailing off' the pressure on the front brakes as you increase your lean angle into a corner.
As you approach the corner you may be on the brakes '98%' - so hard that the rear tire is nearly lifting.
As you enter the corner you start to lean the bike over 1% lean, 97% brakes.
Just beyond entry you might be at 25% lean and 70% brakes.
Mid corner you might be running 70% lean and only 1% brakes.
Exactly what I would expect from a track class.

It would probably (certainly here in the UK) be different for a street class.
 
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