Photo: Michael Marino/Helix
The Skip Barber Superbike School is ditching its KTM Super Dukes and
Dukes in favor of an all KTM RC8 and RC8 R line up. Previously, students
rotated time on the superbikes with sessions on the two nakeds. The
switch to exclusively running the 155 and 180bhp RC8s is clearly a
marketing effort – Skip Barber has yet to fully sell-out a season of the
year-old superbike classes, a frustrating departure from its enormously
popular car programs — and also a response to Keith Code’s recent
adoption of the BMW S1000RR, but the move could alienate less
experienced riders intimidated by the fire breathing v-twins. >
While I enjoyed riding the two less powerful bikes for certain drills when I attended the Laguna Seca-based school in December, neither the RC8 nor RC8 R ever felt like too much bike for the conditions. That’s not just masculine swagger talking, but rather a comment on the civility of the two bikes. Weighing less than 440lbs fully-fueled, the RC8 is both lightweight and, thanks to adjustable seat heights, pegs and bars, is spacious and comfortable to ride, especially in the athletic environment of a race track. The 1148 and 1195cc engines are also relatively friendly for being such powerful twins; the throttle response is predictable and the power is located fairly far up the rev range. In fact, neither bike is substantially more intimidating to ride than a CBR600. Just drag your back brake a little around the pit exit’s first gear hairpin and you won’t have a problem with the poor low down fueling.
To our minds, the $2,599 school is an ideal place for riders of any level to improve their skill level for both track and road riding. Skip Barber invented the idea that racing, like any other sport, could be coached when it launched its car racing school, the first ever, way back in the ’70s. Unlike many other programs, Skip doesn’t dumb down its instruction or hold any skills back because they’re too difficult to master for average riders. Instead, it relies on expert instruction both on the track and in a classroom to make advanced skills like trail braking accessible. Combined with immediate video feedback and lots of time on the track, that makes it the best school we’ve ever attended.