We return to Jason DiSalvo's riding school
Is it necessary to take a riding school twice?
This spring, we attended the first ever Speed Academy. (See our Review) This school is the pet project of pro racers Jason DiSalvo and Brian Stokes. For us, the two day course was a complete game changer. Our main disappointment at the first Speed Academy was with ourselves. So much excellent
information was being presented that we simply couldn't absorb, adapt and execute rapidly enough to take advantage of everything on offer. Imagine diving into a swimming pool filled with gold dust, having permission to take home as much as you can carry and realizing that you have only your hands to act as a container. Even as we studied, rode and took frantic notes, we could sense how much of this precious knowledge was slipping through our fingers. By the second morning of the event, we'd already vowed to return for more.
Many race schools boil down to glorified track days with the occasional pat on the back from a celebrity riding talent or two. This is not the case at Speed Academy, which we described in April as, "A boot camp of high performance riding." The curriculum includes lectures, observed drills, video sessions and individual critique. Not a moment of your time is wasted, as the students and instructors spend sixty minutes of each hour talking about, watching video of, or riding motorcycles. You soon realize that every bathroom break you must take is a learning opportunity lost! Even when the first day's track activity ends, DiSalvo and company encourage every attendee to dine together with the staff at a local restaurant, where the event continues on a more social level. The experience is so intense that your night's sleep between the two days of the event will probably be dominated by dreams about riding technique. Speed Academy is that involving.
We became believers and true DiSalvo Disciples during our first Speed Academy. The big question upon our return visit was simple: would we get as much from attending the school again as we had the first time or would we just end up watching others learn what we'd already been taught? The answer turned out to be YES! Huh?
As former students, the Speed Academy's major tenants of body position and trail braking were very familiar to us. In fact, we'd practiced them hard all year and couldn't wait to demonstrate our progress to the school's staff. As day one’s first video session made clear, we'd come a long way over the summer but still weren't 100% on track with DiSalvo's concepts of body position and how it can be used to increase traction, both front and rear. Here, being former students merely meant that we didn't have as far to go toward perfecting what we'd learned initially. The video coaching and one-on-one feedback used at Speed Academy combine to ensure that the critique, suggestions and goals supplied to each rider are customized. With only 10 students per class and each rider's video session lasting two laps, a classroom review consists of twenty critiqued laps in total. The teachers point out what each student is doing right, as well as where they need to improve. Each rider is given fresh, personal solutions to implement during the next ride. As such, every student is able to learn from the trials and triumphs of all their classmates. This is incredibly beneficial, since it is possible to learn from the video critique of other riders even if you've not yet personally encountered those problems! This format has you considering things that may never have otherwise occurred to you.
For us, second-timer status had three clear benefits. First, we weren't so overwhelmed by this school, its radical drills and the sheer volume of information provided as we were on our first visit. This allowed us to be quite a bit calmer than we'd been at the beginning of the year. Next, we were able to quickly refine the main techniques we'd taken away from our initial experience and had since been practicing all season. Finally, thanks to the custom nature of Speed Academy's coaching methods and the fact that we were now further along the school's learning curve, we were able to start exploring new areas of experimentation with riding technique. Jason began encouraging us to look at different methods of turning the bike, as well as modifying our lines to take advantage of these tips. This latest giant leap from the safe, familiar world of how we've always ridden was every bit as terrifying as the breakthroughs we'd made in body position and trail braking during our first visit. As before, DiSalvo was able to provide explanations, drills and video evidence to support what he had us working on. These are the fresh concepts that we'll be pursuing to improve our riding ability during the 2012 season.
Our "Second Helping of Speed Academy" was every bit as fulfilling an experience as the first. Once again, we marveled at both the proficiency and the downright friendliness of this school's staff. Everyone involved is clearly in love with this sport and you can sense that they're all having at least as much fun teaching as the students are learning! Even considering the intensity of the Speed Academy experience, this event is still a real pleasure to attend. As for calling ourselves Alumni, we're rethinking that. No less a racer than Kyle Wyman was acting as both coach and student during this edition of Speed Academy. During one drill, we stood trackside and watched this young professional improve as he refined his own understanding of one of the exact concepts that he was helping to teach us. The experience clearly demonstrated that no matter what level of rider you may be, there's always room for improvement. Having now been to DiSalvo's school twice, we're thinking that we'll never have learned enough to consider ourselves graduates. Because of this school’s ability to cater to the needs of each student as an individual, there will always be room at Speed Academy for previous attendees to continue their improvement as riders. The curriculum can be endlessly studied, yet never truly mastered. In truth, Isn’t this the very essence of why we are endlessly drawn back to the track?