Yamaha Champions Riding School Moves to New Jersey Motorsports Park

Expert Advice, Skills -


Yamaha Champions Riding School

YCRS integrates video into the teaching process as well. At some point during the day, an instructor follows each rider around the track for a lap, videotaping his or her performance. Later, back in the classroom, each student’s lap is played back on a big screen, and the instructors analyze the riding to provide example and to give advice for improvement. Seeing exactly what I was doing on the track, I became aware of my strengths and weaknesses, and saw opportunities to improve. I learned a lot from watching the other rider’s footage, too, and from listening to the expert analysis.

Yamaha Riding School

After video, it was back on the track to put our learning into practice. More riding, braking and cornering drills followed, and we rode to the edges of exhaustion before the end of the day. I steeled my nerves and climbed on the back on instructor Ken Hill’s bike for a two-up ride around the track so that he could demonstrate some fine points of braking and acceleration. I had never ridden on the back of a motorcycle before, but after watching Hill ride all day and listening to his instruction, I knew that I was in safe hands. I learned a lot from the pillion, and even enjoyed the ride a little bit.

Day One ended with a classroom review, where we discussed the five reasons crashes occur on the track: Lack of focus or loss of focus; abruptness; rushing the corners; repeating a mistake; and cold tires. The same reasons apply to the street. Which is why we were fortunate to have some choice Arai helmets on hand incase we happen to experience any such occasion.

Bright and early on Day Two, we all returned, eager to ride more. I experienced a lot of muscle soreness from the exertion of Day One. I could barely walk up a flight of stairs to attend the classroom session. I have to admit that I was glad to see that I wasn’t the only one who was sore — nearly everyone was moving gingerly, even the youngest riders in the class.

Yamaha Riding School

Ienatsch introduced the concept of “Vital Points”– places on the track where you’re traveling at more feet per second. First, identify vital points, then analyze the types of corners that you’re going to encounter: Entry, Exit and Balanced. Entry corners are ones where deceleration is greater than acceleration. Exit corners are the opposite, and balanced corners have the same value of acceleration and deceleration. Managing corners depends heavily on managing braking.

YCRS is very big on using the brakes to slow your bike down, maintaining speed and throttle and applying the brakes lighter, longer rather than coasting and using engine braking exclusively. Using the brakes helps to settle the suspension, controlling rebound. We were encouraged to use both front and rear brakes on day two, and to brake deeper into the corners, past the apex. This runs counter to what many Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructors teach. Braking past the apex of a corner is actively discouraged. Ienatsch contends that braking lighter, longer and smooth application and release of the brakes is more effective than adhering to a guideline that is too simplistic for most situations. The most important factor is smoothness. “The tire will take an amazing, but not an abrupt, load,” Ienatsch said several times during class, insisting that we include the phrase in our notes.

Back out on the track, I immediately felt more confident and capable than I had on Day One. Ienatsch claims that this is a common feeling for students on Day Two. Experiences from Day One get internalized overnight, and riding choices that felt new and awkward are on the way to becoming habits by Day Two. We worked on more exercises, rode more laps and were videotaped again by instructors.

I got talked into riding two-up with Scott Russell. I had convinced myself that I couldn’t do it — but the instructors assured me that any fear that I had would be overcome by the learning opportunity. They urged me to pay special attention to the smoothness of Russell’s transition from braking to acceleration and back again. For the first lap of our three around the circuit, I was so scared that I couldn’t breathe. Then I relaxed, and surrendered to the experience. I was able to pay attention to Russell’s mastery of the motorcycle, and we went faster around the track two-up than I have ever ridden on my own. It was a remarkable experience that I will never forget. I had the presence of mind to turn on my helmet camera before we started the ride, so I have a point-of-view video, which I have posted on YouTube.

YouTube Preview Image

During lunch, we returned to the classroom for video review. I was very pleased to see that my riding was much improved. I was accelerating more confidently, braking through the corners, and using my body position to control the bike. My classmates and instructors reinforced the impression, complimenting me on my improvement. I was still the slowest rider in the class — but I made a big leap that will translate to better riding on the street.

I have only scratched the surface of all of the great information that I got from participating in this two-day class. I flash back to my track riding experience every time I ride on the street, taking care to apply the lessons that I learned to my everyday riding. I’m more confident in the saddle, and I have identified areas where I can improve even more. It’s hard to encapsulate all of that input and all of those feelings in an article, and do them justice.

YCRS gets my highest recommendation. The two-day course runs $2,495, which includes motorcycle rental, track fees, hotel and dinner after the first school day. Gear rental is also available. Booking can be completed online at http://www.ridelikeachampion.com, or by phone at 855-743-3927.

Recommended Gear:

Arai Signet-Q Helmet

Alpinestars Atem One-Piece

Alpinestars SMX Plus Vented Boots

Alpinestars GP Pro Gloves


  • Dan

    Nice article. The head of my local track org is a former AMA racer, and he takes folks out on the back of his ZX10 if you ask nicely. Riding on the back of his bike was one of the greatest riding experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve never gone faster, or felt safer. Really showed me what is possible on a bike.

    Can you tell us what the student-to-teacher ratio was at YCRS?

    Do you have any experience with other riding schools? How does this compare? How much track experience did you have before the class?

    • James Jamerson

      “Class sizes average about 22 students, with a student-to-instructor ratio of 5:1…”

      • Dan

        Whoops, thanks. Still interested in the comparison to other schools and the author’s pre-YCRS track experience.

        • Jason Fogelson

          Thanks, Dan — As stated in the article, I’ve been riding for 30 years (I’m old), and this was my first track experience on two wheels. I can only compare to various MSF Expert Courses and riding seminars that I’ve taken, all of which have been valuable in their own ways. I am a big advocate of continuing rider education. There are plenty of ways to maintain and improve your skills without getting on a track, but this was a great jolt of information and experience in a very concentrated time, and I found it very enervating and useful. I hope to get the opportunity to do some comparison testing with other track-based schools. Anybody reading who wants to invite me, please get in touch.

  • John

    Great article. The detail about the riding school is useful, as I’m now inclined to attend. But the technical skills info is of immediate value. I can apply this to my riding today.

    Please, more of this content.

    • Jason Fogelson

      Glad you liked it, John. Let us know if you decide to attend – would love to hear your feedback to the course.

  • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

    Ken Hill and Nick Lentasch have a side project that’s pretty good at fastersafer.com I probably wont see them running around the paddocks as much but I’m happy to see their efforts growing and in a place that will benefit greatly from it.