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California Superbike School Level 4 Review: It’s all about you

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Vikrant Singh

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Introduction

Ducati Streetfighter V2 Front View

There’s always something to learn, something to improve upon, something to take back. This especially holds true for the level four training offered at the California Superbike School (CSS). I have just returned from the latest edition of the school held at the Madras International Circuit (MIC) near Chennai, and to say it was an eye-opener, would be an understatement.

For those not in the know, CSS is one of the oldest and most scientific riding schools in the world founded — and improved upon relentlessly – by Keith Code. The school has been coming to India for many years now, courtesy of the enthusiastic father-son duo of TT Varadarajan and Siddharth Trivellore who also happen to run the household appliances company Vidiem.

Now, in most other countries where CSS is conducted, it is a one-day affair wherein students only get to experience one level of training per school. However, the California Superbike School India is run over three days and students go through all three levels. But, for those who have already attended levels one through three, there’s level four. Though it is expensive – almost twice the fees for levels one, two, and three put together – it is worth every penny.

However, there’s a catch.

Level Four

Ducati Streetfighter V2 Left Front Three Quarter

Level Four is all about you as a rider. And it doesn’t introduce any new riding concepts. Instead, it builds upon the concepts and drills that were taught in levels one through three. But, to pick and choose which drill or riding concept one must work with, the rider must know what he or she wants to improve upon. And that’s the catch because to truly exploit or make use of this level, the rider must come to the school with a plan.

It could be something as vague as, “I want a fast lap time”, to as pinpointed as “I want to improve my trail braking into corner eight.” Once you have an idea about what you want to do, the senior coaches – who work with you as part of level four – start working their magic. In the latter example, the coaches will have a clear, focused plan from the get-go. However, if the student is not sure about what he or she wants to work on, the coaches will work over the first few sessions to zero in on a clearer path.

Ducati Streetfighter V2 Front View

The way of coaching remains more or less the same as in levels one, two, and three. A coach will follow and lead you in every session on the track while reminding you of the technique you should be working on. This is then followed by a debrief by the same coach at the end of the session in the pits. Level four students, however, get an additional coach. And it is this coach that breaks down your riding via onboard videos and track maps to give you a better, more focused understanding of the aspect of your riding you need to work on and improve upon.

Like I said in the beginning, level four is all about you as a rider.

My School Days

Ducati Streetfighter V2 Left Front Three Quarter

Given that I have coached at CSS in the past, I was well aware of arriving at the school with a plan. Now, mine was a simple one. You see, I have always struggled to get a strong drive out of corners five and seven at MIC; two very similar corners. Both five and seven have late apexes; ones that are not very easy to spot. Both corners demand that you stay leaned over for longer than usual. And as I found out in the course of my school days, the two corners also demand a different line depending on what kind of motorcycle one is riding.

The thing is, I have almost always ridden at the MIC on a motorcycle that displaces around 300cc or makes under 40 horsepower. However, this time, courtesy of the good folks at Ducati, I landed myself the Streetfighter V2. It’s a nearly 1,000cc motorcycle with over 150bhp on tap. It is devastatingly fast compared to the aforementioned motorcycles. And that’s not all – it also comes with properly sticky tyres, phenomenal brakes, and a suite of electronic rider aids that make you feel invincible. Plus, it made my struggles through C5 and C7 even more obvious

Ducati Streetfighter V2 Left Rear Three Quarter

With the smaller bike, I generally turn in early, ride along the kerbs, and eventually hit my late apex before gassing out. In my book, it’s an efficient line on a small bike because it needs less track real estate, and I am quite happy with it. I was doing the same with the Ducati till my coach caught that on the onboard video. Then, a slew of questions ensued. 

Soon, it dawned on me that I had over 100bhp more this time around, which I wasn’t able to unleash early because of the line I was choosing. With the Streetfighter, I had to enter later and slower. I had to square out the corner instead of circling it, which would have me pointed towards the exit sooner. And I would be upright earlier too. This meant I could now open the throttle harder and sooner than I had done before.

Ducati Streetfighter V2 Front View

I tried it, and it was certainly the better approach. So, my coach encouraged me to try it on other corners as well. Soon this point-and-shoot – a big departure from my regular riding style – meant I was leaned over for a lesser time and I was driving harder out of corners. 

Worth Your While

Ducati Streetfighter V2 Right Front Three Quarter

I came into level four to get a stronger drive out of corners five and seven. By the end of school, I had achieved that. Additionally, I was walking away with another important tool in my riding armoury – experimentation. 

I now understand that there’s no perfect line and that different bikes need different approaches. It’s also clear that the more I experiment, the more I will continue to learn. Sure, not every experiment will yield the desired result, but some would. And that will help me become a better rider. 

This is the reason I believe level four at California Superbike School is worth every penny. It arms you with the knowledge to improve. You come up with a plan and the coaches help you achieve it. Moreover, more often than not, you will also walk away with more than what you had bargained for.

Not to mention, the fact that I feel the need to do level four all over again is a clear indicator that there’s still so much the school can help me unlock. 

Photography: Aditya Bedre

Gallery

Ducati Streetfighter V2 Left Front Three Quarter
Ducati Streetfighter V2 Left Rear Three Quarter
Ducati Streetfighter V2 Front View
Ducati Streetfighter V2 Left Front Three Quarter
Ducati Streetfighter V2 Left Front Three Quarter
Ducati Streetfighter V2 Front View
Ducati Streetfighter V2 Right Front Three Quarter
Ducati Streetfighter V2 Left Front Three Quarter
Ducati Streetfighter V2 Front View
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