Too Many Options!
Where should you go to improve your riding? There are a lot of options out there, all with value. Let's take a deeper look.
"Schools, track days, private coaching, online training...which one should I choose?" This is a question I get fairly often from riders. Mostly because it becomes a difficult decision on where to invest your time and money to get the most out of it. The options are broad in scope, as are the costs. So how do we determine the best option for us? We need to understand what we are getting from each option, and the level of value it offers.
(Disclaimer: Obviously I am biased towards certain offerings here. But I don't want this post to be about pushing those options. If you have questions about which options I would recommend here please reach out to me directly and I would be more than happy to discuss.)
There is value in all forms of learning.
Typically seen as the best possible place to learn. It is a school after all. The goal is to teach you about how to ride the motorcycle!
This is the fire hose. Lots of content in a short period of time. This is where you learn how the sport works. How the bike works. What skills you need to be working on to improve. It's a lot to digest. Don't expect to come out of it suddenly being an expert in everything 2 wheeled. What we will get is tools. Very valuable tools with which to start learning how to use properly. Take notes...LOTS of notes. As you begin to develop a better understanding of the sport, you will come back to your notes and find the next step in your learning process, or possibly augment something in a new way you hadn't thought of before.
One of the biggest aspects of this sport is understanding why you are using a specific technique on the bike. A good school will help you understand that why. However, not all schools are the same with regards to the quality of the content being delivered. Take some time to research your options. qualify the source of the curriculum. Get some references from trusted sources before making the investment. Look to riders that have actually seen an improvement with their riding...not just becoming faster riders, but safer riders too.
Advanced Rider Training Courses
What are we talking about here? Well, not quite a full school, but not an introductory course either. This would fall somewhere in the category of an organized event with a formalized curriculum designed to address specific skillsets for the riders to focus on. The rider typically has a basic understanding of how the bike works and has spent some time on the street or track learning basic bike control. You will find these being offered as a stand-alone course or even as part of an existing track day.
These programs are designed to provide the rider an opportunity to focus on a handful of fundamentals under the guidance of qualified instructors. In some cases, it can be a taste of what a more in-depth full school would provide, opening our eyes to the need for further instruction.
The attraction to these types of offerings is that they are usually a less expensive option than a full school. This lower barrier to entry can provide a lot of bang for your buck. Be prepared to want to come back for more after taking one of these courses!
We typically turn to a private coach when we are looking for some personal attention. We have reached a point in our riding where we have plateaued and don't have a good understanding of why. This type of offering can be leveraged at any time in our learning process.
Working with a private coach is all about getting trained eyes on you to see what you are doing on the bike. A good coach has an advanced understanding of the sport as well as the ability to articulate this knowledge to the rider. More importantly, a good coach will be able to determine the best possible method for helping the rider. This will be a combination of explaining what needs to be done, demonstrating it, and helping the rider understand how to make the necessary change.
Being a custom offering and usually a 1:1 interaction, the cost can be higher than some other options. However, the level of focus is also very high. Approach this engagement with a general idea of what you feel you are struggling with, but keep an open mind that the coach may identify a completely different aspect of your riding that is holding you back the most and that needs to be addressed first.
Again, investigate their credentials. Just because a rider is fast, it does not automatically make them a good coach.
This might not seem like an obvious choice at first, but when you think more about it, this becomes a great option when you consider you spend way more time off the track compared to on it. However, not all online training provides the same level of value. We need to be careful with what we choose and how we leverage it.
First and foremost, we need to properly qualify the source of the information. (Beginning to see a theme here? ;-) We live in an era where it is very easy for anyone to publish their opinion on how a motorcycle should be ridden. Not that there is any malicious intent. I would probably argue the opposite. I feel that people generally want to help their fellow riders. But unless the content is founded in proper technique, it can be not just detrimental to our progress but even dangerous.
Barrier to entry here can be fairly low. Subscription based pricing or charging on a per session basis are options. So the value can be very good here. As a rider though, you must be disciplined enough to take this newfound knowledge and build a plan to implement it once you do get time on the track.
A good coach with excellent qualifications can help you just as much off the bike as they can on it.
A typical track day can offer us a tremendous opportunity to work on our riding. Most organizations offer a 15 or 20 minute session of riding each hour. By the end of the day, this adds up to a pretty decent amount of time on the bike. The challenge here becomes deciding what to work on when we do get out on track and how to get the most out of it.
For this time to be affective, we have to be very disciplined. Each session on track needs to start with a plan. A specific thing we decide we are going to work on for that session. Then we go out an execute this plan. Take copious notes, gather data if you can, review the results of the session to set your plan up for the following session.
I'll say it again...self discipline is the key here. Without someone to guide us on what to work on or what to modify, we can very easily just spend a lot of time riding around at the same pace, doing the same thing and not making changes. If you find you have the ability to be self-disciplined, work with a coach or instructor to help you identify areas that you need to work on before the track day. This will help you form your plan. Then, execute.
What about track day coaches? They can be a great resource to help you work towards success. But remember, you are one of possibly dozens of riders they will see throughout the day. They may only see you once out there and may not have any knowledge of what you are working on. It will be up to you to take the initiative to engage with them on and off the track for help. Most of them are volunteers which means they are there because they love the sport and want to help you, which is huge!
We should always be learning.
The more we invest in ourselves the better riders we will become. All of the options reviewed here provide value in their own way to help us become better riders. Review the options, qualify the source of the content, see what makes the most sense for you and your budget, then sign up. Work with all available options that you can. Come back to a school for a refresher, get with a private coach whenever you can to help you past those hurdles, use your track days wisely to focus on specific skills and technique.
Continue to invest in yourself.