Track aficionados might turn their noses up at doing an Advanced Rider Training course in a convention centre parking lot… and that would be their loss.
Welcome to the Westcoast Superbike School, run in the parking lot of the Abbotsford TradeX centre, which makes for a very small and tight course. One that could teach you more about your bike and it’s handling in one day than a larger track might.
It’s not just ripping through laps in 30 seconds, though that’s a big part of it. That corner you just took the wrong line on? Don’t sweat it, you’ll be back in just over half a minute to practice it again. There is another big perk here, a track this tight controls the your potential top speed; wide open throttle isn’t an option through the corners. You have to go slow initially and learn, really learn, the fine art of cornering; there really is no choice in the matter and that makes putting a streetbike on a track mini-bikes are more suited to really brilliant.
The emphasis here is that these are not techniques meant to make street riding safer – unfortunately it’s often hard to leave such fresh knowledge on the shelf for emergency usage only. Mostly though this school boils down to braking and cornering, and cornering… and cornering.
Of course there is a limited straight to blast down, but that ends in a tidy and twisted chicane leading you into an off-camber “sweeper” – read U-Turn. So if you do go WOT ballistic, you’ll be honing your braking at the far end, followed by ample incentive to hang off and hold your bike away and upright through that knee dragging U. Out on the course it’s a flurry of corners and sweat (at least for those of us on the bigger sport tourers), and to ensure that you’re getting the benefit of instruction everyone gets a turn on camera. Here’s your chance to get all Rossi, in your own mind at least.
The track sessions are interspersed with classroom sessions and video analysis. Head instructor Troy Burstyk takes everyone through their laps, analyzing riding position, brake points, hanging off, trail braking, and other riding techniques. It’s near impossible to come out of the video analysis without having gaining a better tune to your riding technique. Troy is a soft-spoken local racer with 27 years of riding experience, and when he makes a suggestion the onus is on you as the student to listen. This teaching style takes a bit of getting used to, but once the suggestions start to pay off you learn to pay attention.
Nothing is perfect, and a few flaws do show through. This is a course that is purposed to be for the street rider, though most of the instructors are track purists. Items like late apexing in a corner are brilliant for the track, but could put you in harm’s way on blind corners with errant traffic in the real world.
Given a claimed emphasis on creating safer riders on the road, one comes away surprised that few of the instructors are street riders. For the school’s part a greater knowledge about non-sport bikes is needed, especially when catering to a non-sportbike crowd; the behavior of BMW’s tele-lever suspension came as a surprise to the instructors. Understanding of linked braking systems and ABS was unclear, and drills failed to take these systems into account. A track-only bias leads to explanations couched in track experience leaving the student reaching for the road context.
Additionally, the environment itself introduces hazards not found on other tracks, namely slick, painted parking space lines, which change the lines available to choose from when cornering and in the wet ensure the excitement of having your rear tire stepping out. Well sometimes even in the dry; I determined the exact point where the contact patch let go ending my day a bit prematurely in the most graceful and gentle low-side we’ve had the pleasure to just miss on video.
This drove home a couple major points about West Coast Superbike School. The first is that while the safety margins may not be immediately apparent, once out on the track you realize it’s very well thought out. Troy is a stickler for safety. There are excellent provisions for runoff wherever possible, and any corners where run offs are not available are designed to be low speeds, in addition to being hay bailed. The other is that the only “yahoos” out on the track are the students, and that is one’s own choice. The Westcoast Superbike instructors maintained a great sense of control, when even during the free track time they could have truly opened up.
There are a few point of improvement still. The class sessions would be aided by a better-rehearsed delivery of materials. Additionally more exposition of the theory and reasoning behind the various riding techniques would be an improvement. To our ear the fundamentals were put forth without sufficient background information – occasionally leading to confused looks amongst the students.
This school’s strengths lie in the video analysis of the student’s riding style, teaching by example, and refinement of skills. Communication of points could be clearer or done in a firmer manner. One thing that was driven home that this is a track, and what goes on the track should not necessarily be taken to the road. WSBS is a place to hone and enhance your skills and learn new ones in relative safety.
In the end, Westcoast Superbike School reflects the attitude you approach it with. While couched as an Advanced Rider Training course this is more a warm-up to the track than a road rider’s course. This is a school run by racers teaching street riding, so every example comes back to the track. You will end up feeling more confident about cornering and your bike’s capabilities, but what needs to be driven home for the street rider is that this is not meant to increase your speed, but your margin of safety and comfort.
In the context of advanced riding training, the WCSB course may only be a partial success, but in the context of a trackday with instruction it’s brilliant. Would we recommend it? In a minute… that’s time enough for almost two more laps.
Westcoast Superbike School
Advanced Rider Training (A.R.T) Course
Cost: $300.00 CDN