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Yamaha Champions Riding School... on a Bagger

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Yamaha Champions Riding School...
on a Bagger

I had an opportunity to sign-up for a 1-day YCRS course out at Quantico Marine Corps Base this upcoming Saturday May 20th. Quantico has a HUGE, 9-acre large, blacktop that makes for an excellent motorcycle training range. However, I waffled for too long in my indecision on whether to sign-up, and now I fear that the Saturday May 20th may be all filled-up. Bummer. I've taken a few MSF-Circuit Rider Courses on my big, wide, and heavy bagger, and they were a BLAST on that big, 9-acre large, blacktop out at Quantico. I sort of thought that the Yamaha Champions Riding School course would be the next step up, but I wasn't sure if there'd be other big, wide, and heavy bagger bikes in attendance. So I waffled... and waffled... for too long. And now that Saturday May 20th training course may be all filled-up. Perhaps I might be able to sign-up on a standby slot in the event some other rider no-shows.
Aside from waffling with indecision for too long, the weather forecast calls for a 65% chance of liquid sunshine that day. Admittedly, I'm not too keen on the idea of taking a motorcycle training course during liquid sunshine. I might melt.
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I'm signed-up and one of four, wait-listed students for the upcoming Saturday 20 May 2023 Yamaha Champions Riding School (YCRS) motorcycle training course. Let's hope that there are few cancelations and no-shows that day so I can make it into that training course. Fingers crossed.
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Seriously hoping there are some cancelations and no-shows during this upcoming Saturday 20 May 2023 Yamaha Champions Riding School (YCRS) training course. That would suck if I got up at oh-dark-thirty in the morning for a really early ride out to the training location out at Quantico Marine Corps Base only to be turned away because the course is filled to the max ( I am 1 of 4 standby students).
On the other hand, it looks as though the 65% chance of liquid sunshine isn't forecasted to start until around 5:00 PM this upcoming Saturday. If I am successful in getting into that training course as a standby student, I hope the training course concludes in time for me to make it back home before the skies open-up with a bunch of liquid sunshine. If not, and it starts to rain before I get back home, I'll have to do my best Matrix-styled "bullet-dodge" around the rain drops when the skies open-up.
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I hope you get in, because doing track work can definitely be done on a tourer/bagger, and it's fun.

I owned an XCT from new in 2012 until I sold it in 2017. Back in 2015, when I was a lot younger (67 at the time), I took that bike to a "Non-Sportbike Track Day" put on by Tony's Track Days (Tony's Track Days | No Cops, No Cars, No Limits!), a northeast track-day outfit mainly for track-prepped bikes.

But a couple of days each year, they said, "No sportbikes, but everything else, and this is a training day, not a race day." These were supervised by Ken Condon, an author (Riding in the Zone), trainer, and former safety columnist for some big-name motorcycle magazines.

The days worked like this:
  • A tech inspection at 7am, to make sure that your brakes and tires were ok, no fluid leaks, and glass taped over.
  • And then on-track, every hour from 8 to 5.
And here's how each hour worked (with three groups, with staggered times):
  • 20 minutes on track (with no passing on the inside of curves, and instructors circulating in and out, observing what you do), where you got to work on your cornering and braking all day.
  • 20 minutes of classroom time, with instruction mostly on the finer points of cornering, and sometimes instructors playing video of particularly stupid pet tricks in the session just concluded.
  • 20 minutes to take a break.
I did two of these days on the XCT (and then two on my 650 scooter).

That first time, in 2015, was at Thompson Speedway (CT). Here's Ken explaining some aspects of body positioning during a break ... on my XCT:

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And here are a couple of pics of my riding that day:

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In 2016, I did another one of these days, this time at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Loudon, NH). Here are a couple of pics from that day:

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Since then, Ken has officially split off his training group, instead of piggy-backing on Tony's track reservations: Non-Sportbike Track Day Training – Riding in the Zone Rider Training (and if you look about halfway down that page, there's another pic of me on the XCT at one of the tracks).

So my recommendation is that riding on the track, especially in this sort of teaching/training environment, is a great way to enhance your skills. Besides the classroom instruction, you get to lean over a little more each time, tighten up that corner each time, as you repeat the same corners throughout the day. While parking-lot instruction is fine and dandy -- and I'm saying this as a former MSF RiderCoach, and I also took Lee Parks' Total Control parking-lot course a long time ago -- you just can't get this kind of practical experience at lower speeds.

So I recommend all those courses, and have personal knowledge of Ken's Riding in the Zone days in the northeast. And no cross traffic, no oncoming traffic, no deer, and runoff room. And, hey, if you make a mistake: two ambulances, no waiting.
@wspollack , awesome post and awesome pics!

I, too, have done some MSF-Circuit Rider Courses and some Total Control - Advanced Rider Clinics Level 1 on my CCT, but this will be my first Yamaha Champions Riding School course. I'm looking forward to it.
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Had a very interesting and enjoyable motorcycle training course today. Yes, though I was 1 of 4 standby students, I made it into the training course.

It started at 7:30 AM, and we were done by 3:00 PM. It was 55°F this morning, but it the weather was sunny and clear with a high temp of 88°F at the end of the training course. And, yes, I made it home before the skies opened up with any liquid sunshine, thankfully.

4 Core Champions Habits

Mental Focus and ReFocus -
"What's my plan?" Have a mantra to say before rides. Have a plan before you ride. Get over mistakes immediately.

100 Points of Grip - Traction is finite. Abruptness hurts. Brake Pressure vs. Lean Angle / Throttle vs. Lean Angle.

Radius = MPH - Adjust your cornering radius by adjusting your speed; brakes are most efficient way to slow.

Umbrella of Direction - Everything we do on corner entry serves to get the bike pointed in the right direction to exit..


Initiate braking when you're nervous... about traffic, entering corners, hazards.

Use brakes until happy with speed and direction.

Neutral throttle until you can see exit and take away lean angle, then can truly accelerate.

First 5% and last 5% of brake pressure load and unload tires, must be extra smooth.

Verbs like "grabbing, stabbing, flicking" must be removed from riders' vocabulary.

Cover the Brakes
  • To save a minimum of 1/2 second reaction time - 1/2 second is 44 feet at 60 MPH.
  • Ride with your fingers outstretched to the front brake lever in crowded situations.
  • Close the throttle with fingers already outstretched.
  • Ok to cover the rear brakes, too.
  • Trail-braking is trailing off brake pressure into the corner.
  • Leave the brake light on through the corner turn-in.
  • A slowing motorcycle tightens its cornering radius... brakes slow a motorcycle best.

Read and Practice - Cycle World: A Practice Guide for Braking


Eyes up sooner, not just further. Learn to scan out and back... yes, back. Move eyes quicker. Seeing things early slows everything down; increases time and distance to react.


Brake when you get nervous. Brake until you're happy with your bike's (1) speed and (2) direction. Accelerate only when you can (1) see your exit and (2) take away lean angle.


Weighting inside peg helps initiate lean which initiate turn. Much like pressing on bar (counter-steering). Moving head to inside helps weight the footpeg.

  • Eyes up sooner to scan for obstacles.
  • Cover front brake lever.
  • Unmarked intersections are the "kill zone."
  • Be mentally prepared for immediate action.
  • Become proficient in the immediate action of threshold braking.
  • Set a maximum group ride speed limit and respect it.
  • Be a mentor.
  • See something, say something... before your fellow rider crashes.
  • Don't let alcohol or drugs dull the ride.
  • Slow down in town.
  • Get aggressive riders to the track because big speed on the street is a killer.

7 Reasons Why We Crash
  • Lack of Focus - Motorcycles can be dangerous, be mentally all-in.
  • Abruptness - Refwr to your military trigger-pull training and transfer it to motorcycle riding.
  • Rushing a Corner - The #1 spot riders are dying is running wide in turns.
  • Repeating a Mistake - Recognize mistakes and work tirelessly to improve them.
  • Cold Tires - Respect those first few miles or first few laps.
  • Not Adjusting to Change - new tire, different bike, new brake pads? Learn them gradually.
  • Overconfidence - Become a lifelong student of riding; respect your bike.
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