Confidence Found: The next morning felt like a bus had hit me. It hurt to clench my hands. I grabbed the glass of water and bottle of ibuprofen that I’d left next to my bedside, and swallowed a handful of them. I knew Sunday was going to be a rough day.
On the second day of class, you are trying to master the track. We had learned the skills to manage the machine, but to push our limits we needed to learn how to deal with changes in elevation and how to find the perfect line.
We warmed up by taking laps on the same track configuration that we’d ended the day with. Eventually this turned into riding the track one handed. I came to the realization in these laps that I had continued to depend too heavily on my upper body, because I was too sore to continue using my bad form. I was now forced to utilize my lower body to even out the strain. Just as I began to synch into the rhythm of the course, Aaron announced that we’d be reversing the track configuration.
As I made my first lap in the reverse direction, I realized that the “okay” uphill corkscrew had turned into a terrifying downhill corkscrew. I was coasting thru the turn, trying to slow down as much as possible. I felt like I was back on US-421 on that terrifying downhill sweeper that had paralyzed me just days before. I hoped to relax into the corkscrew turn with each lap, but I let out little whimpers with each attempt. I’d hit a mental block and I didn’t know what to do.
With my eyes keenly open to today’s challenges, Aaron had another set of drills to help chisel out the difficulty. He called it the 'Three Ring Circus'. It was a set of three drills that would tackle all the difficulties of the track. He divided the track into three separate areas with drills that got progressively harder until they culminated into the ultimate drill: the downhill corkscrew (my nemesis).
By the time we’d made it through the drills, the day was already more than halfway over and we needed lunch. As we hydrated and ate, Aaron started prepping us for our final exercises – flat tracking and the “final exam.” Just as he was getting into the technique we’d use on the other course in the facility, the skies turned dark and it began to rain. Aaron continued to lecture, saying it would pass soon. It didn’t. After a half hour, the flat track course had flooded. After another ten minutes, the original course we’d been training on all weekend had also flooded. By the time the rain ended we still had half a day left, but the training courses were useless.
Aaron, however, came up with the brilliant idea to keep the class going – supermoto. As soon as the idea came up, his eyes lit up. He proclaimed that we could keep going and end the day on the wet road and gravel by the entryway.
Now I still had to ride back to Chicago, so at first I was having none of this. I’ve dropped my bike on the asphalt, and falling on the asphalt hurts. In my head I saw a catastrophic wipeout where I’d end up breaking my leg, and that would just not be good. But as Aaron’s idea gained momentum, I realized I didn’t have to go faster than I was comfortable and I could stop at any time. Reluctantly, I got on my bike with everyone else and followed the instructors to the entryway.
The instructors sent up a few cones and began trying this crazy idea out for themselves. A row of cones were set up on the asphalt. I watched as they gunned it straight down to the end of the cones, then made the tight turn around them and gunned it back down the other side of the straight. Though another instructor set up cones in the gravel to practice sliding out the back, the majority of the class was interested in seeing how our skills stacked up on the street.
Our little asphalt drill morphed into asphalt races against the instructors. Students and instructors would rev their engines in anticipation of hearing the start, and our class was notably gaining speed. Just as I was starting to feel a real rush and some serious confidence, two of our classmates clashed handlebars in their battle in the turn and wiped out. Aaron had to have a little chat with the class about not acting like a bunch of 12 year old knuckleheads (my words, not his), but also pointed out how much faster we felt comfortable going.
With Aaron’s observation, I reminded myself of my pain points upon coming to this class: fear of losing traction in a turn, traction control in general, and riding downhill twisties. Here I was, on wet pavement trying to turn myself around as fast as I could with some actual confidence in my abilities. Seriously, I felt like a miracle had been performed.
Take Away: We wrapped up the day and said our goodbyes. My cohorts and I would begin the ride back to Chicago, and I was anxious to see if I would feel a difference in my riding. We couldn’t stop talking about the past two days
There was an obvious difference in my riding on our first day heading towards home. We took a different scenic route home and stopped in Asheville to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a Monday, so we did not run into much traffic. We spent a little more time pulling over to enjoy the sights. We took the Parkway up to Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in the eastern United States, where we took in some seriously spectacular views. When we decided we were done exploring, we rode straight back to the hotel without making any stops. As I dipped into each turn, I could feel the confidence I’d gained from Cornerspin in my riding.
The greatest proof of my improved skills occurred to me when we rode the Tail of the Dragon. We planned to ride it earlier in the morning, but it had been raining. We were almost done with our trip, so I did not want to give up the opportunity to check it out. So despite the wet pavement, we gave it a run. In each corner, I felt confident and picked up my speed as much as I felt comfortable doing. The storm that blew through had left some wet leaves on the ground, and at a few points I felt my back tire squirrel around on the wet foliage. I stayed on the gas as I had learned to do, and my bike continued to handle perfectly. When we finished our first run, a rush came over me. I was so happy that I wanted to do it two more times. I felt alive and one with my motorcycle. I felt at peace. I felt like I got my money’s worth.
Cornerspin was the best money I have spent on my motorcycle training to date, and it was also the most fun I’ve had on two wheels. If you’re interested in going, I recommend taking a friend because there is a $50 friend discount if you sign up together. That $50 will cover the rental fee for the clean gear they rent. They also offer military discounts. I am so thrilled with it that I want to go back again and experience the pieces of the course that I missed. Aaron offers a much deeper discount for repeat students, so it’s even easier for me to justify going back. The class includes the use of a small dirt bike for you to beat on for the weekend. I can’t recommend the class enough; check out http://www.cornerspin.com/ for more information on how to have one of the most fun weekends of your life.
About the Rider:
Jen Tekawitha is a motorcyclist on the street, dirt, and ice. She also loves taking pictures of her adventures or motorcycle races. To check out more of her work, visit http://www.JenTekawitha.com.