In April of 2018, I had the pleasure of doing a track day with CLASS Motorcycle School founded by retired roadracer Reg Pridmore and his wife Gigi. They run an excellent motorcycle school program based in Southern California. I had read about this school a few years ago and purely based on the description of their courses I knew I wanted to ride with them someday. I appreciate a school that focuses on fun, skill development and riding techniques.
What you might be wondering is what kind of motorcycle school? Track? Street? Advanced? Racing? Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes.
“Still the friendliest and safest place to learn the riding skills we all need” -CLASS Motorcycle School
So I jumped at the chance when I read that Gigi was putting together an (click here for photos) ALL LADIES track day program. They were going to host it at the Streets of Willow Raceway (“SWR”) right next to the famous Willow Springs Int’l Motorcycle Motorsports Park. The SWR is a smaller, bumpier, more street like track that emulates riding through your favorite canyon/mountain roads; imperfectly paved, bumps, hops, no clear white lines. It gives you more of a real world experience so when you get back onto the streets you’ll have a stronger strategy when you get to your favorite twisty one lane road.
I haven’t done an All Ladies track day in over 5 years so I decided to fly in and met up with my amazing friend. I booked a room at the Holiday Inn Express nearby in Lancaster and stayed there for the couple of nights I was in town with my friend Brittany.
It’s always fun to ride on the track with your friends, but even if you don’t know anyone a track day is the place where everyone loves riding as much as you do (sometimes more).
I knew I wouldn’t be able to take Goldie with me (my Street Triple) so I rented one of their beautiful Honda CB500R’s.It was a fully stock bike, and the preload was probably set at the lowest point. I didn’t even think that it might be a possibility to raise the preload on this and wish I had thought of it. The bike is pretty low for a sporty and I ended up scraping the footpegs a few times :) But I had a great time on it overall.
Because this was a special All Ladies Day, we only had 2 riding groups: A (advanced) and B (novice). There wasn’t a need for a middle level group. Normally at an open track day you get a third group as an intermediate level.
I rode in the A group and I thought the group of women I rode with were awesome. Everyone was there to have fun, ride better and just have fun. There’s a different vibe when you ride with all women, it’s just different. I can’t say it’s better or worse because it’s a different experience. If you aren’t familiar with track days then riding your first one in a Ladies only group can feel much easier, less intimidating and more comfortable. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of options for women’s only track days, and but they do come up every now and then.
After you check in to let them know you’re there and ready to attend class, it’s time for bike inspection. Since I was riding their bike, I didn’t have to do anything. But you typically need to let their mechanic take a look at your bike and make sure it’s safe and ready to ride on the track.
Depending on the school, they will have different requirements. With CLASS, they really just required basic safety requirements like proper tire pressure and everything in working order. My bike wasn’t even taped up and I rode on the track with all the turn signals and headlights untaped.
Nothing advanced was required like coolant changes or safety wire, and we had several bikes that weren’t even sportbikes!
Then it’s onto the first meeting of the morning. Generally what happens thru the day is you have 20 minutes of riding then ~20-30 minutes of classroom timing to cover concepts that you can then practice on your next session. It ran this way until lunchtime ~1pm with a 1 hour break. Then we resumed until the last session around 430pm.
Me and Brittany listening to the great Reg Pridmore
Reg was injured recently riding down the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca so he was unable to ride with us that day. He provided almost all the classroom instruction instead. Reg’s message was consistent, respectful and thoughtful:
Focus on riding better on the track so that you will ride better on the street. Skills, technique, focus. Not speed, not riding faster or better than anyone else except yourself.
I have found that I am my worst critic when it comes to life in general, but more so with riding.
Sometimes, a corner is just a corner whether it’s on your favorite mountain or backroad. What’s vastly different are the risks you carry on the street (i.e. MUCH higher). On this little track, I just had to worry about how I was riding. No worries about cars, oncoming motorcycles, animals, accidents, traffic or any random obstacles.
We had ~6 sessions that day back to back with a break for lunch in between. After each session, sometimes before the end of the session even, a coach would give you some polite feedback. Because we had a smaller group that day, we had a lot of coaches available to us that day; about a 2:1 ratio. Normally you have more than a 6:1 ratio of coaches to riders on open track days, but they had brought in a few extra coaches to help out.
PSA: Never try to break in a new suit on the track. It kept me from wanting to lean forward most of the time, it was just so uncomfortable to do anything but sit up straight. :*(
In between sessions we covered additional topics such as body position, where to focus, how to choose your lines, etc. I would say the structure of the class was more relaxed and you were able to practice whatever skills you needed to from session to session. If you needed a coach there was always one available to either follow you or be followed for tips/skills/feedback.
Initially, I had a couple of coaches who thought I needed a little more assistance than I really needed but I was able to talk to them and let them know exactly what I was trying to accomplish.
At one point, my contacts were drying out (because of alll the fabulous ventilation from my bell race star) and it looked like I was riding like a crazy person. After the session was over I had to explain to him that I was fine, and I was just having trouble seeing!
But after a couple of sessions I was able to ride with Gigi Pridmore, and she gave me the best feedback and helped me with my lines and body positioning which I’m always trying to improve.
One thing I do NOT recommend is buying a new track suit 4 days earlier and then breaking it in on the track :0 This hindered my body positioning greatly. Just getting into the position below was really uncomfortable to where I couldn’t stay over the tank for more than a few minutes without sitting up straight. I was trying to work on body positioning (moving my ass off the seat more) but the suit just wouldn’t let me. (Remember to let customer know this is the worst part of wearing a new suit on the track).
Bike Night (Open to the PUBLIC) hosted by Icon Motosports and Motorcycle Service Centers LLCI'll be in SoCal that weekend for the 13th Annual Women's Sportbike Rally. The rally is going to be kicked off with a bike night that's open to the public.
Where: 330 Wood Rd Suite I, Camarillo, CA 93010; 6:30pm - 9:00pm
Cost: FREE Bring as many guests to our bike night as you like (on two, three or four wheels or no wheels)
Every motorcycle rider is welcome, regardless of what they ride. Food available for purchase (for the public; FREE for Registered Attendees), Music and more.
A great opportunity for women to meet other women who ride. Every woman rider who registers for our event will receive an incredible goodie bag with discounts and free gifts from our generous sponsors. And you can also register at the bike night!
I'm going to be giving a series of workshops next week at the Women's Motorcycle Summit in Durango, Colorado the week of June 8th. The workshops will be hosted at the local Harley Davidson Durango Dealership.
My workshops will be taking place Sunday the 9th and Monday the 10th.
Visit the website for a full schedule including various registration options for just the 2-day workshops or the full week of activities.
Tuesday, April 24, 2018 — Dainese presents Custom Works, a service for fully-customized and made-to-measure Dainese motorcycle racing suits and jackets for race and street enthusiasts.
The multi-channel experience begins online with the new 3D Configurator and continues at the store where the personalized garment is delivered to the customer. Custom Works is an engaging process that combines the practicality of digital configuration with the craftsmanship of a unique, handmade product.
With Custom Works, Dainese offers all bikers the quality and know-how it has acquired with more than 45 years of experience in the production of personalized leather suits. For nearly half a century, Dainese has grown, collaborated and shared its goals with the greatest riders of all time, from Giacomo Agostini to Valentino Rossi. Over this same period, Dainese has always pushed the boundaries of innovation.
With Custom Works, anyone can have a tailor-made garment and create his or her own unique design, choosing from a vast array of leather colors and accessories, with the option of adding words and images.
The new Custom Works is a fully updated multi-channel experience. Accessible via the Dainese website, the brand-new 3D configurator allows each motorcyclist to personalize his/her leather suit, jacket or pants in real time, with a simple, engaging and interactive digital experience. The customer can see a preview of the garment, change the colors of the various parts, select accessories (plates, sliders), and upload words and images that are immediately visible on the 3D garment.
Once the design is complete, the biker saves the model and books an appointment during which sizes are taken. The purchase is then completed at a Certified Custom Works Center - a network of stores authorized and certified by Dainese to offer the Custom Works service.
The 25 anatomical measurements needed for the personalized garment are taken with the support of a specialized consultant. Special consideration is also given to the customer's specific needs and the expected use of the product. At the Store, customers can actually touch the technology, materials, finishes and accessories that give life to the most advanced Grand Prix leather suits and that are also used to create the customized garment.
With Custom Works, every customer can wear an absolutely unique Dainese garment.
When I clicked on the configurator to see what options were available for women, I found two track suits:
Laguna Seca 4 $1299 - more aggressive race fit, more stretch panels and tighter overall
Avro - $999, relaxed fit, not a full race cut
If I chose a custom design/color, it was an additional $629. After that, I could pick a custom shoulder slider which is available in fun colors ($47.95) or the flag of your choice for an additional $94.95. These are all costs in addition to the MSRP of $1299.
Lastly, there's the additional cost for a fully custom size. Just an additional $795. Generally you'll spend anywhere from $1500-$2000 for a great custom suit anyhow.
Currently there aren't any separates option for women. But there aren't many for men either, just one jacket (Racing D1) and no pants.
If you're interested in setting up an appointment, Click Here to visit the configurator and submit a request. The closest location to Philadelphia is the Dainese New York store.
So here are some new recommendations, no matter what brand of pants you wear. A lot of knee replacement armor options also double as elbows, it just depends on the size/length/shape you're looking for.
Above is the Seeflex family from REV'IT ($39-$44/pair). I like the RV14 and RV12 options on the far right for pants with really long armor pockets. A good example of this is Dainese.
Their stock knee protector pockets are long, for their older knee guards. I find them to be too stiff, and lacking in shock absorption. The awesome thing about Seeflex is the entire piece of a shock absorber. This is far more comfortable to crash on and they're more ventilated as well. Additionally, they're CE Level 2, not Level 1 like the Dainese knee guards. More flexibility, protection, ventilation and comfort. Well worth the upgrade.
Keep in mind the shape of Seeflex is deeper, so the space in your pant needs to accommodate a deeper knee space. They also wrap around your knees more which is great for me because I have skinny knees.
Rukka D3O Air Knee
What's challenging about Seeflex is the width, if you're a woman and you're looking for replacement knee armor your pants may need a narrower piece of armor. RV10 may be too wide, depending on the brand. Keep in mind that RV12 is for exceptionally long knee armor pockets and won't work in most pants.
Another option for Dainese pants that I also recommend is the Rukka D3O Air Knee Protectors ($39/pair). Thee are also CE Level 2, but it's a flatter piece so if you need a wider piece over your knee vs a more cupped/fitted piece (for smaller knees/pants) then you'll love this option from Rukka.
Also great to match the length of Dainese knee pockets, super soft, flexible and ventilated.
Here are a couple other options to consider; I like these because they're softer to begin with. They don't need time to warm up to your body. And, they're great options if you have smaller pockets:
Knox Microlock (Level 2); if you have Knox armor now and just want to increase the level to 2. Also make good substitutes for Alpinestars armor
Armor should always fit so comfortably that you don't know it's there. If it's bugging you, it's usually because the gear isn't fitting you right (incorrect size/fitment/etc.) or it's cheap/fake armor that isn't molecular in nature (soft like these that harden on impact).
Learning to ride is something that takes more than a few days/weeks/months. It's 15 years later and I'm *still* learning.
Imagine learning to drive a car for the first time and your mom/dad offers you:
Honda Civic 2 Door
Yes, you could theoretically learn on both but which one is going to give you more confidence, self esteem and increase your driving skills? Most of the time when I've thrown a leg over a new bike (either mine or borrowed) I've gone in with some self confidence and some actual riding ability. But riding ability alone isn't enough for me to ride something I've never ridden before. I need the confidence too. I need to feel like I can do it because if I don't, I won't even try.
I've been getting a lot of questions lately from new riders or potential new ones and I wanted to repeat what I've been telling them here. I know not everyone's experience is the same, but I can guarantee you that learning to crawl before you walk makes a HUGE difference. But ask anyone who started on a small displacement motorcycle or scooter before moving up to a 600cc-1000cc-1500cc option how much they learned. Too much? Not enough? Why or why not?
Think of learning how to ride this way:
200-500cc: man, this is a lot easier than I thought. I kick ass. I'm getting the hang of this.
600-1000cc: shit, this is a lot harder than I thought. I suck at this. I never should've bought a motorcycle.
When my husband took this photo of me back in 2004, we just took our new Ninja 250 for a spin (because that was the *only* small sportbike/naked sporty you could buy in the US) and he basically taught me how to shift up to 2nd and 3rd. I rode around the parking lot a bit to see what it was like. My MSF class was the following month. I never took it on the street, I just did a few laps, nothing special.
Me in the Presidio Parking Lot, San Francisco. We didn't have iPhones back then, but we did have Motorola flip phones :0
But before all this motorcycle business, I rode my awesome 50cc 2Stroke Aprilia Scarabeo Scooter.
I rode her A LOT in my first year of riding (Sept 2003 - Sept 2004). 3,599 miles all in San Francisco to be exact.
I loved her for the short time I had her. But as soon as I threw a leg over the Ninja (it was his but I needed something to ride so....) I knew it was meant to be. And I figured out how to ride her to work (across San Francisco) in a couple days.
If you see my pic above on the Ninja, I'm on my toes. Did I care? Nope. Because I was already riding my scooter on my toes.
2006 Kawasaki Z750S
Contrary to popular belief, scooters can be a lot taller than most motorcycles. The Scarabeo had a 30" seat height. But my learning curve was far far less steep than if I forced myself to throw a leg over something like my next bike, the Kawasaki Z750S for the first time (instead of the Ninja). It was taller, heavier, taller and heavier. Did I mention how much heavier it was? Almost 500lbs wet. Ugh.
2003 Suzuki SV650S
The higher center of gravity on this thing would've been ridiculous. If I had to learn on this or even my SV, I doubt I would've had the skill to move up.
When I chose that Z750S, it set me back 3 years in my riding development. Everything was suddenly harder: parking, cornering (imagine driving a tall, heavy truck on a twisty road instead of a convertible), uturns. The only thing that was easier was accelerating on the freeway merging into traffic.
For perspective, this is how much that bike choice affected my riding. This list is in order of when I owned each one and how much I rode them::
Aprilia 50cc Scooter: 3,599 miles in 1 YEAR. woooo hooo! I'm ready to move up.
Kawasaki Ninja 250: 12,000 miles in 3 years. I learned so much and did a mix of city and highway riding/touring for the first time.
Kawasaki Z750S: a little under 8,000 miles in 3 years. Some city riding, and a couple of long distance rides to LA from San Francisco. But riding the twisties? Forget it. It was annoying, hard, not fun and I was miserable.
Suzuki SV650S: 6,000 miles in the first 8 MONTHS. YESSSSSS. Where were you all my life? Why didn't I buy you sooner? Ahhh, this is how you corner. That's what it feels like to actually lean. You were so much easier to park and maneuver in San Francisco. And you were WAY MORE FUN to ride.
Remember, riding is supposed to be FUN! Not stressful, not frustrating and not miserable. When you get off that bike you might be in a little pain from the seat time but you should be HAPPPPPPPY. Ask yourself these questions:
How do you feel when you look at your bike, or think about riding it? How do you feel after? Confident? Excited?
As soon as I bought the SV, my learning curve flattened and it was so much easier to ride. So much so that I rode it everywhere/everyday/constantly. I learned so much in that first year and felt like it should've been my second motorcycle. This is a photo of the first "curve" I ever took on the SV when my seller delivered it to my house (from 300 miles away, there are still GOOD people left in this world!). It doesn't look like much but just taking this little bend, I felt a huge difference in what I had been missing for the last 3 years. I felt confident, happy, excited, and most of all HAPPY!
All I learned on my Z750S was how to manage a taller, heavier bike. But it didn't teach me anything about advanced cornering techniques. Improper cornering is an extremely common factor in solo motorcycle accidents aside from DUI. I firmly believe that It doesn't matter how long you've been riding, it matters how well you can ride.
Your bike choice will greatly impact how well, how much, how confidently you ride for the next 6-12 months. So make the EASY choice that benefits you in the long run.
Because are you planning to ride the same bike for 50 years? Not me..... I'm 3 years in and will probably get itchy in a couple :D
A quick caveat to this post. Learning to ride isn't easy like taking a bite out of a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. But you can lighten the load a bit and bring down the level of difficulty down from a 10 to a 5. Struggling is definitely part of the experience and you will learn through your mistakes because you have to in order to learn. But when it's so hard that it starts to make you question your ability to ride or the decision to ride in the first place, then it's time to rethink some things. I hope this post does just that, helping you rethink some things. Please post a comment or two below....
If you ride a sportyish / performance motorcycle and you're looking to improve your riding skills, consider joining me and my friend Brittany Morrow at an All Women's Track Day with Reg Pridmore's CLASS Motorcycle School.
You've seen my post about Reg's class before, but this one is even more special. Gigi, his awesome other half is a coach and truly wants to help you become a better rider, no matter what you ride. But especially if you ride a sportbike.
Our bikes tend to be a bit faster, harder to control sometimes and just challenging to figure out when you've never ridden a sportbike. Or if you're transitioning from a classic/standard riding position to a more aggressive one. It's a completely different style of riding that needs more than just your basic riding course.
If you register by March 11th, you can save $50 using code WSR18, courtesy of the Women's Sportbike Rally happening July 13-15, 2018 in Camarillo or September 7-9, 2018 in Deals Gap.
If you have any questions, post a comment or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you have questions about track related gear for women, or anything regarding track days please post a comment!
Nope, I'm not on the Track. I'm on Broad Street in South Philly ;) .
I've been talking to a lot of people lately about track days. Especially advanced motorcycle training classes. Here are some common questions/comments/thoughts that I hear on a daily / weekly basis when people ask about "track days".
It's So Dangerous
Creative Commons: Photo/ epSos.de
Somewhat False. You're on a motorcycle, yes, it's dangerous. But it's also dangerous when you're speeding 85+mph on the Interstate up and down I-95. Aside from the parking lot, I would argue that the track is the least dangerous place you could possibly be with your motorcycle. Absolutely NO CARS, PEOPLE, BUILDINGS, BARRIERS, TRUCKS, ETC. Nothing in your way except You and what's in your head. The pavement is smooth, no paint/bumps/obstacles/sidewalks in your bike's way. No trees/bushes/blindcorners. No hills/mountains/animals. Nothing! Isn't that what we get excited about on the street? Have you ever discovered a new road that is perfectly paved, smooth and a dream to ride? Well imagine more of that and you can go even faster than you can almost anywhere else.
But, of course, track days aren't for people who only like to go straight. If that's your style of riding then you'll probably find the track to be even more challenging. But if you *love* twisties, then the track is where you want to be.
Okay not all tracks have stars and stripes, but looks how pristine that pavement is at COTA, Austin!
Plus you are covered head to toe in leather, body armor, toe sliders, back protector, helmet, etc. For many of you, you're wearing far more gear than you'll ever wear elsewhere. More about gear in a bit....
But I'm Not Racing
Neither was I when I did two track days last year. And same with the one I'm hoping to do this year in April (Ladies Only, with CLASS Rides). My goal and the goal of almost everyone at a track day is NOT to race. In fact, the instructors will probably kick you off the track if you try to do that with your fellow classmates. Anyone riding recklessly without regard for personal safety is usually addressed immediately. Call it proper track day etiquette. You're not there to compete with eachother, you're there to ride safe, have fun and not get hurt. And not hurt anyone else!
What's The Point?
The point is that you are probably riding a bike that was *not really* meant for the street. (ahem: gixxer, r6, daytona, s1000rr, ninja h2/zx-6r owners) You will never be able to ride it the way that it was intended fully on the street. Because while you're trying to push yourself beyond what's safe out there, you are also distracted with having to deal with potential hazards like traffic/cars/people/others (on bikes too).
Ever wish you could push 100-150mph for more than 0.5 seconds because you have to stop / slow down for traffic? And then you have to ride really slow in a straight line because now the 0.5 second of 100+mph you had is over? What if you could make it last longer and then do it over and over again but head into another corner and then another and then another? It feels SO GOOD to carry that momentum into an actual corner! And don't worry, if you don't know how to do that, a track day is the best place to learn how :)
But I Don't Know How to Ride The Track
Of course not! And no one expects you to. What most track organizations will likely expect from you (I've only taken classes from 3 organizations out of the dozens of companies across the US) is that you know how to ride on the street. You have enough control of your motorcycle to go on the freeway comfortably, maybe you've done some long weekend trips. Maybe you've logged 5-10,000 miles commuting on your motorcycle. Now you're ready to learn more about yourself and your beloved bike. Or you might be like me and switched over from an aggressive riding position to a more upright, comfortable position. And now your new bike feels different than your old one. i wanted to gain more confidence on my Triumph and figure out what I could do differently to be a better rider with it.
For me, my first track day at New Jersey was intimidating. I'd never been on that track before. It was HUGE, LONG and the corners were fast. Average speeds were well over ~50mph in some parts. I felt awkward at times and really uncomfortable because I didn't know anything about this track. I also wasn't used to that style of riding. My comfort zone has always been mountain roads, tight, twisty, blind corners. Not fast, sweeping, long turns. So figuring out where to look and how was a completely new challenge.
It was really hard figuring out how to go faster without getting lost. Many of the corners are long, sweeping like a really long freeway onramp. Sometimes, I had no idea where I was, or where I should've been. The good news is, I took a class with CSS and learned exactly where I needed to be. They showed me almost everything I would need to figure out what I was doing wrong.
I Don't Have Track Gear
I didn't either. Here I am way back in 2011 on my first real track day with Z2 Track Days' Annual Ladies First Track Day in Thunderhill Raceway in California. I wore my street leather gear, no knee pucks, no race boots. Just really good street gear.
Depending on the organization, they will only require 2 piece textile or leathers that zip together, (no mesh). I've seen riders on the track wearing 1 piece Aerostitch suits. It depends on the school, so call around and see what they say. As long as you have a full face helmet, and full coverage boots and gloves, you should be fine. if you have any questions of course, I hope you'll let me know.
I Don't Have a Track Bike
I didn't either. And I still don't. I took my street bike to the track. Back in 2011 it was my SV650s. Last year, it was my beloved Street Triple. Although the Suzuki was a better bike on the track, due to the aggressive riding position. But I've seen all different types of motorcycles on the track, and ask anyone who's been to one they'll probably tell you that they've seen more than your typical "track bike".
If you don't know how to ride within your limits, then yes, you'll probably destroy your bike in the process. Most people riding in their very first track day naturally go a lot slower and ride a bit more carefully because it's intimidating and a completely unfamiliar place. It'll take you awhile to get used to the feel / idea of being on the track too. If anything, it'll probably humble you quite a bit and really show you what you don't know how to do.
But some schools also offer rentals like CLASS, which offers Honda CBR 300 and 500s. And Yamaha Champions offers Yamahas. So you don't always have to ride your own bike. Many track day organizations offer bike rentals, you just have to ask.
Something else to consider are track days that are specifically focused on street riding like Z2's Road Rider 2.0 Course. The curriculum is totally different from a traditional track day too. There are lots of other courses like this offered from other organizations as well, like Yamaha Champions "ChampStreet" course.
Me with my track buddy :)
But I Don't Know Anyone
That's okay! The track is one of the BEST places to make friends. You will meet so many awesome people who are there to have fun and share their excitement with everyone there.
And if you do want to go with someone, get a few friends to go with you! Or, if they won't bite, ask them to just go with you and support your day at the track. Any kind of support whether it's from friends who ride or don't ride always feels great.
Take a look at this list of beyond basic riding classes I put together for you. There are so many options out there, I'm sure I missed a few.
But if you're still not ready for a track day, I hope you'll consider intermediate or advanced training to keep your skills fresh. Motorcycling is something that requires constant supervision, practice and attention to stay proficient.