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I took the AMO Total Control intermediate class recently in Pasadena. I've taken five classes over the past year from three different Southern California schools (AMO Total Control, Westside Motorcycle Academy and the Hawthorne Police) and I was surprised at how different some of the techniques were in this class from all of the others, including AMO's own "more riding" class. For instance, in the Intermediate class, we were taught to change our body position before an emergency brake. We were told to shift our butts back in the seat and put our chests forward toward the gas tank, then apply the brakes. We practiced this at 20 mph and I found the change in body position to be distracting and added distance to the stop. When I asked about it, the instructor said it was to prevent the back end of the motorcycle from rising. They also said we should let up on the rear brake and then reapply pressure, which makes sense when you don't have ABS, but doesn't if you do (the instructor said as much, but then instructed this way even though all of us had bikes with ABS). In contrast, the Hawthorne Police's free class, Ride to Live, teaches to squeeze the gas tank with your knees and apply steady pressure to the brakes, regardless of what kind of bike you ride, just like the MSF basic class, the rider refresher course at Westside, and AMO's own "More Riding" class. In the Hawthorne class, we did the braking at 40-45mph and our speed was checked with a radar gun. After that class, I felt more secure in my braking and had a better understanding of my ABS brakes. After the Total Control Intermediate class, I thought I needed to forget what they taught and stick with what I already knew.

They also had a curious way of teaching cornering. The exercise was to go around an oval at 20 mph one and a half times and then exit, so that we'd do three corners in total. The instruction was to get into body position before the first corner and then stay in that position, even through the straight sections of the oval. This is not what any other school teaches and honestly seemed to make some of the riders worse at cornering during the duration of the exercise. It was really odd and awkward. While I've not taken Keith Code's Superbike school yet, I've watched Twist of the Wrist II a number of times, along with videos by Nick Ienatsch and the Canyon Chasers, and I've followed their advice through a number of LA-area canyons at the speed limit without an ounce of nervousness. None of these cornering experts say to stay in cornering body position when you're not cornering. I get that it's difficult to teach a road technique in a small parking lot with cones and perhaps their thinking is that you're learning how to get into body position before leaning over the bike (though it wasn't articulated this way by the instructor). But I would think that they could go over proper technique more thoroughly in the classroom and even show videos to demonstrate, rather than offer a potentially destructive exercise on an inadequate range. Perhaps small parking lots are only good for teaching slow speed techniques rather than cornering.

I think especially for new riders, consistent instruction is best. For now, I've decided that I will not take a class that covers cornering unless it's given by either Keith Code or Nick Ienatsch or someone who follows their very close systems. If you're a new rider in So Cal and looking for a class, I'd suggest Westside Motorcycle Academy. So far I've found their instruction to be the clearest and most useful, though they too are limited by relatively small parking lot ranges, and they don't offer advanced courses. If you're more experienced, the Hawthorne Police's free class could be very good. It has a macho atmosphere that I didn't appreciate and the emphasis is on slow, tight maneuvering rather than cornering, but I did like that we practiced emergency braking and swerving at realistic street speeds. That was a great opportunity.
 

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OK, so, let's put some practical street application to some of these techniques.

Having your "body positioning" with your knee out and you hanging off your bike is a recipe for disaster when riding on the street. Track riding is a different animal.

Here's why I make this statement~ Humans possess this thing incorrectly called "muscle memory." (Actually, the BRAIN memory, but I digress.)

If a rider trains, using the "hanging off" technique, WHEN NOT IN A TURN, there's a very good chance that IF something unexpected comes their way (like a ladder or coyote, for instance,) they will NOT be able to tolerate an unexpected maneuver as well as a rider that is centrally located on their bike, with their knowing the controls are what he/she is "used to."

The controls feel differently when we are "hanging off" also. Especially the clutch/throttle application. Having this familiarity is required when braking and swerving at the threshold of tire friction.

Ok, removing ridercoach hat now.
 

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Yes...

It was a lousy exercise and I've done my best to forget all of their destructive cornering advice. Very disappointed in AMO's Total Control Intermediate class.
 

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I took the AMO Total Control intermediate class recently in Pasadena. I've taken five classes over the past year from three different Southern California schools (AMO Total Control, Westside Motorcycle Academy and the Hawthorne Police) and I was surprised at how different some of the techniques were in this class from all of the others, including AMO's own "more riding" class. For instance, in the Intermediate class, we were taught to change our body position before an emergency brake. We were told to shift our butts back in the seat and put our chests forward toward the gas tank, then apply the brakes. We practiced this at 20 mph and I found the change in body position to be distracting and added distance to the stop. When I asked about it, the instructor said it was to prevent the back end of the motorcycle from rising. They also said we should let up on the rear brake and then reapply pressure, which makes sense when you don't have ABS, but doesn't if you do (the instructor said as much, but then instructed this way even though all of us had bikes with ABS). In contrast, the Hawthorne Police's free class, Ride to Live, teaches to squeeze the gas tank with your knees and apply steady pressure to the brakes, regardless of what kind of bike you ride, just like the MSF basic class, the rider refresher course at Westside, and AMO's own "More Riding" class. In the Hawthorne class, we did the braking at 40-45mph and our speed was checked with a radar gun. After that class, I felt more secure in my braking and had a better understanding of my ABS brakes. After the Total Control Intermediate class, I thought I needed to forget what they taught and stick with what I already knew.

They also had a curious way of teaching cornering. The exercise was to go around an oval at 20 mph one and a half times and then exit, so that we'd do three corners in total. The instruction was to get into body position before the first corner and then stay in that position, even through the straight sections of the oval. This is not what any other school teaches and honestly seemed to make some of the riders worse at cornering during the duration of the exercise. It was really odd and awkward. While I've not taken Keith Code's Superbike school yet, I've watched Twist of the Wrist II a number of times, along with videos by Nick Ienatsch and the Canyon Chasers, and I've followed their advice through a number of LA-area canyons at the speed limit without an ounce of nervousness. None of these cornering experts say to stay in cornering body position when you're not cornering. I get that it's difficult to teach a road technique in a small parking lot with cones and perhaps their thinking is that you're learning how to get into body position before leaning over the bike (though it wasn't articulated this way by the instructor). But I would think that they could go over proper technique more thoroughly in the classroom and even show videos to demonstrate, rather than offer a potentially destructive exercise on an inadequate range. Perhaps small parking lots are only good for teaching slow speed techniques rather than cornering.

I think especially for new riders, consistent instruction is best. For now, I've decided that I will not take a class that covers cornering unless it's given by either Keith Code or Nick Ienatsch or someone who follows their very close systems. If you're a new rider in So Cal and looking for a class, I'd suggest Westside Motorcycle Academy. So far I've found their instruction to be the clearest and most useful, though they too are limited by relatively small parking lot ranges, and they don't offer advanced courses. If you're more experienced, the Hawthorne Police's free class could be very good. It has a macho atmosphere that I didn't appreciate and the emphasis is on slow, tight maneuvering rather than cornering, but I did like that we practiced emergency braking and swerving at realistic street speeds. That was a great opportunity.
I read this post with a lot of interest as I'm a coach with the California Superbike School. I'm glad you have posted this for others to read and that you were able to try the technique but make your own assessments of what worked and what you felt didn't work.

In terms of the two techniques that you mentioned above (Moving your body back in the seat before emergency cornering and hanging off while not cornering) I'd like to quickly address each one to explain how and what we teach at the school.

1. Emergency braking: first of all is done in an emergency, where you don't have much time to react. At the California Superbike School we have a specially designed braking rig (that has outriggers sticking out that prevents the bike from crashing and enables students to lock up the front tire and FEEL what happens at max braking). We coach riders to squeeze the tank with their knees, maintain relaxed arms on the bars and to squeeze the front brake lever quickly but smoothly and progressively until just before the front tire locks to achieve max braking power and minimum stopping distance. In an emergency there wouldn't be time to move your body back in the seat first and it's not JUST the weight on the seat or forward on the seat that might cause the rear to rise but an incorrect pull on the lever. The rear tire comes off the ground when riders add a more sudden squeeze or jerk on the front brake lever instead of a steady and controlled squeeze.

2. Hanging off body position while not still cornering. This is a bit confusing the way it was explained and seems like a strange exercise the way it was taught. The only thing I can think they are trying for here is the idea of making as few movements as possible on the bike though it seems like more of a track technique than anything else. At CSS we do try and get riders to reduce the amount that they are moving from side to side (as its just a waste of energy and can create instability in the motorcycle), and have them avoid sitting in the centre of the seat when two corners in a row are in the same direction. For example, if you are exiting a left hand turn and are already hanging off to the left and the next corner is also a left then there is no point in moving back to the centre and then back over again (unless is down a long straight or something)- This can be applicable when street riding again to avoid extra movements but most street riders aren't in full hang off mode, nor do they know what direction the next corner is going anyway so it seems a silly point.

What I like most in your post is that you are being objective. You are willing to try something new but also aware that certain techniques didn't make sense to you and in my opinion you are correct in questioning the techniques as well as the method of teaching them and also in sharing them with others.

I love encouraging riders to seek advanced training AS LONG AS IT IS FROM a reputable riding school. I've been coaching with the California Superbike School for 15 years now, just in fact returned home last night from 3 days at Laguna Seca and love talking about riding technique so if you have any other comments/questions about riding skills or what is covered at our school please, don't hesitate to ask!

:smile2:
Misti
 
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