Supermoto!

If you are serious about motorcycling, you are likely to be the type of person reads your favorite moto mag for the riding techniques and safety articles, not just the latest product reviews. You may also buy an occasional book or DVD to further enhance your skills. But do you also occasionally attend some type of rider training?

There are certainly impediments to doing so, not the least of which can be cost, but throw in the logistics of transporting/renting a bike, the uncertainty about our abilities with regard to the training, and the time involved especially if travel or an overnight stay is required, and it becomes understandable that most riders haven’t attended formal training beyond initial Motorcycle Safety Foundation training. I have attended multiple track days and schools, but my favorite schools was found purely by accident.

I had been looking at Ninja 250’s on Craigslist as a potential (and cheap!) track bike. I ended up in an email exchange with Brian Murray; Brian’s email included “socalsupermoto” of which Brian turned out to be owner and operator. Long story short,  I didn’t buy the Ninja, but I scheduled my first class in 2011…

I recently finished my 8th trip to Socal Supermoto School (and I’ve already paid for a 9th!), and have had watched it evolve from three bikes (2 DRZ-400SMs and a motarded TW-200!) to a full-scale operation with over 10 DRZ-400SM’s, well thought-out and executed instruction, guest instructors, free photography, and even extras like t-shirts and lunch! Along the way, Brian has continued to keep the relaxed vibe and a price that can’t be beat. Brian also offers other services and classes such as private rider training, DMV test bike rental, and Sportbike Fundamentals training. If that weren’t enough, his training classes were recently accepted by the US Navy as a qualified motorcycle training program, levels 2 and 3.

Why would a multisurface motorcycle rider want to take a class on a supermoto bike shod with track day tires on a go-kart track? I asked Brian for his take – “ (The) Primary benefit of Supermoto is that they 1) give amazing feedback so you can find the limits without crashing. 2) amazing at teaching traction control,  3) lower speeds mean less risk, but somehow still more exciting, 4) stupid fun.” Let me add that if you are a motorcycle enthusiast, the chance to ride a supermoto bike around the tight confines of a go-kart track should be high on your list of FUN things to do. However, from a skills perspective I would wholeheartedly agree with number 2 (traction control).

It's all about the traction...

It’s all about the traction…

It took me a while to grasp this, and required hearing Brian verbalize it during a period of instruction, but supermoto (and all riding really) comes down to managing traction. In the course of one turn-packed lap, you will experience the peg-scraping capabilities of sticky track day rubber, sliding the bike through the dirt section, and varying degrees of grip throughout the lap as you transition from dirty pavement and tires to clean asphalt and rubber. For a while, I tried to treat the dirt and asphalt as discrete entities until Brian finally broke through my mental block about the dirt section. Now, this is NOT to say that I’m an expert – I have been passed regularly by young, old, male, female, expert, and novice alike – but I have been able to continuously improve.

The biggest advantage to any track day is that you get to attack the same corners over and over. That lets you focus on technique as well as evaluate something specific – like traction – because you are able to isolate other variables to a degree not possible on your weekend ride. Additionally, the track is a controlled environment, and if you happen to push the limits of your riding or the bike’s capabilities, the outcome is likely to be far less severe than on the street.

Supermoto allows students to find their limits.

Supermoto allows students to find their limits.

As I mentioned earlier, the school has evolved into something better every year, and you can find a variety of classes – from asphalt only days, to “backward” days, to sport bike riding days, as well as various guest instructors at several different tracks around Southern California. Don’t hesitate to contact Brian to determine which class might fit your schedule and your desired objectives.

Best of all, the class is only $239, which is an incredible bargain. Consider that most track days require new to fairly new tires (think 90% or better); unless you time out your track day just right, you are going to pay $200+ for new tires, as well as a track day fee ($150 or more) before you turn your first lap. At Socal Supermoto you are getting a fully prepped bike, track fees, t-shirt, lunch on the weekend, instruction, and photography. Brian is a talented photographer as well as one hell of a rider, and he offers his students high resolution copies of the photos he takes – for free. Maybe seems like a small thing, but you won’t find that deal at any other track day or school. And I will guarantee you will get more track time on the supermoto track.

Finally, Brian keeps it all safe and fun while imparting just the right level of instruction to keep students advancing throughout the day. You never feel like you are over your head or that you are being talked down to. Plus, the students and other riders are great folks; a close knit but friendly group with a lot of the same faces showing up time after time. You might recognize some of those faces too – I have been there with Max Biaggi and Melissa Paris, and other well-known racers like Nicky Haden, Josh Hayes, and recently Benny Solis have been known to show up for practice as well. Yes, Max Biaggi is extremely fast.

Do yourself and your riding skills a favor and schedule a class. Worst case, you have a turn-packed day of fun. Best case, your riding skills improve… while still having a turn-packed day of fun. By the way, winter is the best time of year to attend – the weather is generally perfect. See you at the track! For more information, check out the Socal Supermoto website and Facebook page.