Experiences from Pridmore's Star School
On Feb. 24th and 25th, I was able to attend Jason Pridmore's Star School at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch. Let me first just say that I had a blast, and that I think this school is worth every penny. I ended up having several conversations with instructors and even Jason himself in the paddock by the end of the weekend. Everyone was very easy to talk to.
The experiences I had were all good. I did the advanced group, which was more focused on racing and improving in small areas. There were a few professional racers in the school as well, which made it more fun. Jason would teach in the morning, then another instructor would teach in the afternoon and Jason would give 2-up rides and ride around with us. There was so much that we worked on, I wish I had brought a notebook. Basically, every time we went out on the track, we had 2-3 things to work on. When concepts were explained, you could tell that Jason is very analytical and methodical and has a lot of experience teaching, as well as do the other instructors.
The 2-up ride is something that everyone should do. Let me explain the setup of all the bikes that were brought to the track for the school though. 20-something brand new (received on the previous Wednesday) GSX-R's, 600s, 750s, 1000s. They were all bone stock, minus a few having two-brothers exhausts. They all had Dunlop Qualifier tires on them, not the new 209's. Jason did a couple demos before he started giving 2-up rides. Particularly turn 3. To say the man is fast is a complete understatement. We also did a few track walks, where we stood out on the track to get a better feel for things.
Anyway, he did the 2-up rides on that same 1000, bone stock, with Qualifiers on it. I was a bit nervous, as I've never actually ridden on the back of a bike in my 18 or so years riding. He told me, and I soon guessed that he was joking, "Some guys just hold on to the tank, but you can grab my waist when we're accelerating". Since he had already been giving rides, his tires were warm, and he took off into turn 1 and 2. I nearly fell off the back under acceleration. I was desperately trying to hold onto the tank with my fingernails or something until I finally gave in and grabbed onto his waist with one hand. Under braking, which was the heaviest braking I had ever experienced, I was up off the seat, and felt like I was basically doing a handstand on the tank. In the turns, I've never leaned my bike over that far, let alone 2-up on street tires. Other than the pucker factor, the whole experience really makes you grasp a few things. First, Jason was able to take his left hand off the bars in nearly every turn, emphasizing that he had zero pressure on the handlebars and was solely using his legs to hold himself up. Second, I've got a lot of lean angle left to use. Third, apex speed, in most corners, doesn't increase much beyond where the advanced level riders are at, but braking up until that very point, and accelerating as soon as the apex is reached are the disciplines. Fourth, how quickly Jason stood the bike upright out of the corners to accelerate was amazing.
So here's a few of the things we worked on:
- Eliminating the habit of taking every corner entry wide. Especially on turns 3, 6, and 7, where it's unnecessary.
- Picking out markers to initiate your turn.
- Smooth downshifting... sometimes at full lean (Jason shifts from 2 to 1 between 5A and 5B, I worked on 8-9). Feeding the clutch out smoothly was something that we got drilled into us from the start.
- Use the RPM's to our advantage. Downshift soon, downshift often. This went hand in hand with the clutch exercises.
- Not hanging off the bike so much. This was a huge thing that took me a lot of work to grasp. Basically, all you do is pivot 3-4 inches around the tank, it feels like an insignificant move when you're on the demo bike and the instructors move you around. Also, you don't throw your shoulders out to the side as far, because then you have to use your arms to pull yourself up, which upsets the bike.
- Knowing what gear you're in at all times.
- Consistency of corner entry, went hand-in-hand with picking out markers.
- Using up less of the track, and finding where if you increase speed you can actually use more. Basically, work inside-to-out and figure out where your bike pushes you wide.
- Between 2 same-direction turns, not moving back to the middle of the seat, such as 3 to the right-hand chicane before 4 and between 10 and 1.
- Braking hard while off the seat, which really forces you to understand the leg positioning.
- Distributing your weight between the pegs to effect how the bike reacts, such as moving your weight to the outside peg to help pick the bike up faster out of a corner.
- Holding onto the bike with your feet and ankles using the heel guards and pegs.
- Basic suspension setup and troubleshooting.
- The "tire" talk.
I spent most of my time working on my leg positioning and trying to get all my weight off the bars. Most of the weekend was spent at riding 70% because it's impossible to try and work on new things if you're pushing your speed to begin with. It seemed the more time I spent on my legs, the more consistent I got, the more lean angle I got, and the faster I was comfortable going and still feeling like I had a lot in reserve. I sat out the last session to watch the remaining advanced group (quite a few sat out the last session) as well as the instructors through turns 1 and 2.
I might add more to this later, there's a lot I'm still trying to process in my small little brain.