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I signed up for Penguin's Road Racing school http://www.penguinracing.com/ this fall in anticipation of doing some club racing next season on a '72 CB350. They run the school at New Hampshire International Raceway, about once a month all summer. The Labor Day crowd was pretty good, with 28 students showing up for the 'Beginner' class on Friday. The school also offers a 'beginner' race the following Saturday, after which you are qualified to purchase your racing license for the season. I didn't stay for the race, figuring I can do it next spring.

I showed up at the track with the SV, just in case they'd lost my rental reservation. Fortunately, they had me covered and I was shown a race-prepped Ducati 900SS that I'd be flogging for the day:  http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v356/GeorgeZboy/d60be587.jpg The registration process was messy but brief, and the chaotic crowd was told to meet back at the paddock in 30 minutes to divide into classroom (beginner) and track walk (advanced) groups. We shuffled from there into class for 2 hours of general track etiquette instruction, then had a break to gear up and meet on the starting grid for 'follow the leader'. Where you look, how you muscle the bike and how you accelerate / brake weren't really covered much. I think I heard 'ride at your own pace' only once all day. :(

In a conga line of instructor-with-2or3 rider groups, we did 4 laps while being shown the 'racing line'. This feels really stupid, because at 30 mph, you're following a line for a 70 mph turn. After 4 laps, we stopped at one end of the track to watch instructors whip through turns 1, 1a, 2 and 3 and be 'talked through' them by an instructor. 4 more laps of FTL, and we repeated the 'watch and hear' for turns 10, 11, 12 and 13. (4-9 are too hard to park and look at, so we just discussed them) we took a few more laps and stopped for lunch. Post-lunch was supposed to be a few laps of FTL before open track. It turned into one FTL, then total chaos. I was still trying to work on a couple things with an instructor, and the pace went through the roof. He was taking his 250 and slicing around turns when I couldn't get the pig of a 900 to respond to me at all, and other riders (including instructors) were blasting past me left and right as I under-braked, over-braked, and generally got ahead of myself. I'm amazed I didn't get pulled off the track and 'talked to'. The instructor finally just rode away as I took an easy lap to compose myself, then started working up to speed at a more reasonable rate. I never saw that instructor again - bad form on his part, IMO.

We had another break, then 2 more open track sessions before a final wrap-up classroom review before heading home. I had much better results riding alone, talking myself through every turn and being patient with the pig. The bike doesn?t respond as fast to braking and turning as the SV does. While it was a great chance to sample (and flog!) a Ducati, learning the bike was half the battle for the day. I could've learned more about riding if I had used my own bike, or at least something more responsive. This was my first time on the track with a bike, and perhaps my first track day should have been with my own machine. It sure was nice not having to load/unload and worry about my machine. All the Penguin folks were nice, though that one vanishing instructor should do a little more *instructing* in the future. They had their hands full with 28 riders, but they could be a little more organized in the future. Maybe my military experience colors my expectations of organization, I dunno. Then, while watching Monday's vintage racing, I noticed that most of the racers were NOT following Penguin's "racing line". Maybe when speeds are slower than modern bikes ride, you SHOULD follow a different line?

Next time, I think it's the SV on an open track day. (The Diablo Stradas are breaking in nicely!) That should give me a better idea of how to attack the turns. Then it's time to break in the CB and see how poorly a *real* old pig handles. :p
 

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Well it ain't called the Penguin Racing School for nothin'! :p

Basically people go there to get their racing license. Most of them know how to ride (well that's a relative term I guess) so they are learning about what the flags do, how to get on and off the track etc. etc. Friends of mine who have taken the class state there is little instruction on riding given so you may want to take Pridmore's Star school or Keith Code Superbike School. Much more actual riding instruction give there. I am also fond of the Team Promotion trackday club. I'll do 7 days with them this year when all is said and done. I pick a different instructor to work with every time out and pick their brains constantly, it's great. If u decide to go to TPM or want more info let me know. We regularly have anywhere from 5-20 riders from my local riding club attending their trackdays. Great fun and learning environment!
 

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I'll agree, the FTL is not very helpful, they should cut that down and have more actual riding technique instruction. I think that if you tried the advanced school it would be more of what you are looking for. They spend quite a bit of time walking the track with you and answering questions about form.
 

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Tony puts on excellent track days at NHIS. Lots of riding time. Eight 20 minute track sessions per day per rider class. There are a few passing rules to prevent someone from stuffing you on the inside of turns. You can also sign up for personal instruction. After going to Penguins and Tonys I feel a lot safer at Tonys. There is one left this year in Oct.

http://www.tonystrackdays.com/
 

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Thanks for the report, George. I do recommend a track day with the SV (most don't allow vintage bikes, anyway). I have been very happy with Tony's Track Days and his organization. Not much more expensive than anyone one else here in New England, and sometimes you do get what you pay for. It's great to be able to learn at your own pace with attentive instructors, and the enforced passing rules keep the chaos in check.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the suggestions, guys. I probably won't make another day this year, as I've eaten up my vacation days and I want to get in some road miles. I'll definitely look into TPM and some schools in the future, but I've got a feeling next year is going to be all about racing fees. :p Does TPM allow vintage bikes? I'll have to get out on that thing at least once before a race day!
 

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THanks for the write-up, I found it interesting. I took this school many years ago when it was run at BridgeHampton and enjoyed it very much. I will forward this to a few friends who are more involved with the school.
 

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Bster13 said:
TPM trackdays run me $150/day for a reference point. Both good outfits IMO.
TPM looks like a good deal, too bad they only visit Loudon once a year.
 
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