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CSS 2024: Reborn

What would you call the moment when you realize that you have been living your entire life in a delusion? The moment when you realize that whatever that has been taught to you, was wrong to its core? The moment when a portal opens up and sucks you in a different world altogether? The moment when nothing makes sense at all and then in a speck of a moment, everything starts making sense? I termed it rebirth because at California Superbike School’s recent India outing in February 2024, I was reborn. As a rider. Here’s what unfolded over a span of three enthralling, tiring days!

The dream

I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I say that ever since I got to know about California Superbike School, it became a dream to get inducted in this esteemed riding school. Its strong foundations were laid by the master, Keith Code back in 1980 with the sole idea of making every rider better in every way. This translates to the rider being faster, smoother and not to forget, safer as well. CSS first landed on our shores back in 2010 and ever since then, it has transformed many Indian motorcyclists and the way they ride. I knew in my carrer as an automotive journalist, pushing a motorcycle becomes second nature and for that to happen safely and the way it is supposed to happen, CSS was something which I wanted to be a part of since time immemorial. When the opportunity came knocking, I reached out for it with my arms wide open.

The realisation

MMRT, one of India’s prominent racetracks, became our home for a course of 3 days. After getting our riding gears scrutinized, we were introduced to the regime that we were supposed to follow religiously for the next few days. The entire training program is divided into different levels: Level 1, 2, 3 and 4. While level 1-3 caters to basic rider training including vision, throttle control, racing lines and body positioning, Level 4 is reserved for professional racers or for individuals who have already completed the first three levels but wish to get personalized inputs. Level 4 doesn’t have a predetermined layout because it caters to the individual aspects that the participating riders wish to work upon. 

The structure of the course turned out to be absolutely phenomenal and well curated. 15 theory sessions, 15 practical track riding sessions and 15 debrief sessions conducted by the assigned instructor. This, over a span of 3 days meant that for each day, we were a part of 5 sessions each. The classroom sessions were conducted by Martin Plunkett, a renowned face at CSS with demeanor as calm as a saint but pace? As fast as a bullet. It was clear since the first briefing that our mortal, vulnerable souls were in able hands. This belief affirmed even more when we got to know that Siddharth Trivellore will be our on-track coach, the only Indian trainer in the current CSS camaraderie.

Since the first day was reserved for Level 1, it started off with the basics. It included throttle control, which played a crucial role in making us a smoother rider. I’m not going to delve deep down into the drills and lessons we were taught because I believe, for you to reap the benefits, it is crucial to attend the school rather than just reading something online and implementing it in the real world. Throttle control was soon followed by other drills like turning points, reference points, quick steering, two-step and relax. Even for the first day, a truckload of information was thrown at us. Despite that, we weren’t feeling overwhelmed because the entire syllabus ran so smoothly. By the end of it, I could already feel that something was changing. 

Level 2 majorly included drills related to vision. Even after knowing that the motorcycle goes where the rider looks, when the time comes, the human brain-eye coordination can commit mistakes. Mistakes that can cost a lot. Of everything. We got to know the importance of vision as we made our way through the day. Having a good vision helps the rider with more time and better prediction of where the motorcycle should go. This not only assists in carrying better lines but maintaining good pace as well. Then there’s the added benefit of being safer, since your eyes are trained to look far and wide, making spotting potential dangers an easy affair. 

The final day was reserved for something that every riders wishes to be better at: body positioning. Several drills, single motive: how to be on the motorcycle and what to do while dancing with it. The core idea was to make us understand that we have to be one with the motorcycle and not fight it. A good body position guarantees stability, which is a key element for any rider as it equals power, comfort and control. Getting the butt out, how to get the knee and upper body out (hook turn) made crucial differences. So crucial that during the last few sessions when I was trying to get everything right all at once, it happened. My first knee down! 

I was ecstatic, elated at the end of the school. Not because I got my first knee down. But, I knew I was reborn. As a rider. As a person. Despite being bombarded with so much knowledge, the coaches made sure that everything inside our head was loud and clear. The debrief sessions at the end of each on-track session was undertaken by Siddharth Trivellore, who turned out to be an amazing instructor. His on-track demeanours were different. He was wild yet smooth at the same time. A sight to behold, to see him dragging knee in front of you, instructing with one hand what needs to be done. Ungodly stuff.

What also made the whole experience a lot more forgiving for me and rewarding at the same time was the TVS Apache RR 310. It had enough performance for a rider of my skills and for a tight track like MMRT but the thing which impressed me the most is how the motorcycle behaved around the racetrack. It inspired so much confidence in me that I was able to push myself to get everything right. Its forgiving nature also made sure that the stupid mistakes that I definitely committed around the track, didn’t turn out to be lethal. 

For everyone out there who wishes to be faster, smoother and safer on their motorcycle, it is hard not to recommend CSS. They’re certainly the best and there are enough reasons to prove the same. 

TopGear Magazine July 2024