Well I completed CSS Level 1 a couple of days ago and for those of you that are interested I thought I would post a review.
First let me tell you about my riding history to give you some perspective of where I’m coming from. I grew up on dirt bikes (like many of us) graduated to street bikes in high school and finally to sportbikes in college. I ended up selling my bike to make tuition my senior year, thinking that I would buy another bike after I graduated. Well, life happened and one day I woke up and I was 40 (still trying to figure out how that happened). So I decided to join the ranks of the born-again riders. I bought an R6, took the MSF rider course and got back on the horse. I put about 10K on that bike and decide that I wanted a less aggressive riding position which brought me to the K12R (about 5K so far). I’m also a fan of formal education so I asked the guys at the bike shop (Richmond Superbike – great guys BTW) which course they recommended. No hesitation – California Superbike School.
On to the actual review.
I decided to ride their bike for several reasons, I don’t have a trailer for mine, it hasn’t been track prepped, I wanted to ride the S1000rr, and if I went down my liability on their bike was capped at the $1250 deposit (BTW CSS requires a valid motorcycle license to use their bike). I signed up for the one day class ($450) at Virginia International Raceway, their bike ($225), and their leathers ($75) – but when I called they asked about my gear and told me that my Firstgear textile jacket and pants were acceptable since they zip together. Right off the bat they were looking out for me.
I made reservations to stay at the track in their Garage Hospitality Suites ($100 a night). They are literally on the Paddock (facing the Start-Finish line) and are above garages that you can rent as well. Very convenient, clean, and simple with a mini fridge and microwave (useful because there are limited restaurant options close by.
The morning of the school registration was at 7am where they assigned me to a group (there were three, level 1, level 2, and level 3 & 4 each with about 20 students). There was food; coffee, fruit, and pastries out for breakfast, more fruit, cookies, cracker, chips and dip throughout the morning and afternoon, and of course plenty of water all day (they also had potassium and salt supplements available). Then there was an orientation meeting at 8am where the CSS team was introduced and policies and procedures were covered.
The level 1 group was in the classroom first where Keith Code lectured on Throttle Control. His style of teaching is very interactive and casual. He asks questions, solicits opinions, and then lectures to the responses. I found it very engaging and informative even considering I had read both of the Twist books in preparation for the class. At the end of the lecture Keith explained that we would be doing a drill on track after each lecture which would be demonstrated by our riding coach who would then observe us performing the drill and provide on-track feedback (via hand signals). We would be on the track for 20-25 minutes, then meet with our rider coach immediately after parking the bikes for more in depth review of our performance. This model would be followed for all 5 skills covered in level 1.
After the lecture we had a break while another class was using the bikes. Once they were in we got on our assigned bikes and went to the Start–Finish Line where our coaches introduced themselves and explained the process again. We then did one lap single file, no passing, as an orientation, went back to Start-Finish to begin the format that would be used throughout the day. We were lined up in two single file lines and one by one Trevor (Course Control) ask us to tell him the drill, he would explain the format (for Throttle Control it was 4th gear no brakes) and he sent us out (about 5 seconds apart).
Once on the track passing was allowed but you could not get within 6 feet of the rider you were passing and there were corner workers and coaches keeping an eye out for this. I did some passing (only when I was sure of the 6 feet rule) but was passed more. Most were comfortably wide from me but there were a few closer than 6 feet (none that I thought were dangerous though). Considering this was my first track experience I felt very comfortable within the first few minutes on the track.
After leaving the track I met with my rider coach (who had two other students as well) who asked what I thought of my understanding and execution of the drill. He asked if there were any areas of the track I found particularly troublesome, noted where he saw an area I could work on, and gave me specific suggestions to address it along with the next drill.
The skills covered throughout the day were:
Throttle Control (4th gear, no brakes), lecture by Keith
Turn Points (3rd & 4th, no brakes), lecture by Dylan
Quick Turning (3rd & 4th, very light brakes), lecture by Keith
Rider Input (3rd, 4th, & 5th, light brakes), lecture by Keith
Two Step Turning (full gears & brakes), lecture by Dylan
Each skill built on the previous one very effectively and the rider coaches were very helpful. If I had one wish it would have been to have more time with the riding coaches. Fortunately (or unfortunately or my wallet) CSS has a two day camp that address that very issue.
At the end of the day we had a debrief with Keith and were free to ask him questions and discuss our opinion of the class. I was very impressed by him and his friendly and open nature to all of the students, although he was quick to tell someone if they weren’t paying attention. He takes the learning very seriously and it was obvious he expected the students to do so as well.
In summary I can honestly say I think this was the best money I have spent since getting back on a bike. There may be other classes out there that are effective as well but having not taken them I cannot do a side by side comparison. That being said I would be very surprised if any of them provided a better over all experience.
If you have any questions about my experience please let me know I would be glad to elaborate.
"You want to cripple the bastard? Send him a 130-mph cafe-racer. And include some license plates, he'll think it's a streetbike. He's queer for anything fast." Hunter S. Thompson