The School started as an initiative from Notts County Council Motorcycle Forum in 2010, (sadly now abandoned with the cuts) to look at providing circuit tuition in motorcycle handling to help reduce Road Traffic Collisions. ‘Loss of Control’ still is the major cause of collisions (50% higher than any other cause for bikes over 500cc – one in five), and is also a significant contributing factor in many other accidents.
I had qualified as a RoSPA Instructor in 2009, and a DVSA Post-test Trainer in 2010, having previously club raced 2-strokes for a number of years. I’d been to most of the race schools over the years, and thought a different industrial ‘skills training’ approach might work.
With restrictions in public funding, there was no alternative to either abandoning it – or going alone. It would not have been possible without the generous support and encouragement from Richard and Jane Usher who own the Blyton Park Circuit, and the great band of coaches and helpers. We would not got off the ground without the South Yorkshire Police Motorcycle Section (recently sadly decimated) and Sgt Graham Saynor, who provided us with coaches Kev Harper, Mark Roxborough and Andy Fyfe, and also two racing DVSA Trainers Ade Thomas and Nigel Entwistle. ACU Coaches Pete Boast and Jeff Baldock helped us to set up properly, and some great mates including Martin Armstrong, Alan Goran, Rob Magill, Brian Horne and Symon Woodward continue to support the school.
The intention in starting the British Superbike School as a ‘not for profit’ organisation was therefore to provide the best professional motorcycle coaches for road riders in the best setting in which to master bike control away from road hazards, by introducing the physics of how motorcycles stop, turn and accelerate, so riders can understand how bikes react to rider inputs, to improve rider technique and skills and help develop that vital confidence. We use not only Police Motorcycle Roadcraft, but also Vittore Cossalters ‘Motorcycle Dynamics’ with permission, as my background is Automotive Engineering, having originally been an apprentice with Ford Competitions at Boreham.
The trick has been to apply this and other proven theory (complete with all the maths), and make it of use to riders to apply.
We then found considerable interest from trackday riders, some of whom were already very quick, so looked at finding some more experienced track/race coaches. The School was initially composed of well known riders and experienced local coaches including Pete Boast from Bike, Geoff Baldock (a former ‘King of Cadwell’), 120 mph TT rider Dave Hewson, as well as the track experienced Police, and DSA qualified motorcycle trainers. It is not enough just to be a great rider, you also need empathy and know how to train others. We assess and train all our coaches and have a ‘Coaching Manual’ which we update every year as we find out what works and what doesn’t and as we react to rider feedback which overall has been extremely encouraging.
The courses and groups of riders were subsequently split into ‘Road’ which is designed to comply with Police Motorcycle Roadcraft, and ‘Track’ for riders which from 2016 complied with ACU guidelines as we now have 9 ACU race coaches, for rider either doing or looking to do trackdays, or race. This separates riders to everyone’s benefit, and makes training easier (and panders to a very small vocal minority who regard any track training as encouraging reckless riding).
Over the first 3 years we have also attracted Rob Frost ex WSS, Dan Linfoot from BSB, Martin Powell a successful Manx competitor and RoSPA Examiner, Vince Con another very experienced Police, RoSPA and track rider, and our first ‘home grown’ coach Rich Evans whom I’ve known for the last few years.
The basic problem training on track days and for other schools is the sheer number of riders on the track (sometimes 50 or more) of varying abilities. This makes working on your riding very difficult, as you’d be lucky to get many clear laps during the day, when the secret is finding a good consistent pace on which to build. The cause is the sheer cost of track hire on the major circuits, so you have to pack them in to get the price right down. Or use the short in-field circuits, like Silverstone’s Stow Circuit, or have two ‘half days’ or ‘shifts’.
For a track coach, ‘riding shot gun’ on track days trying to train riders can be very frustrating, for the above reasons.
We have tried to get the best balance between cost and the number of riders, have settled for no more than 12 riders with 4 coaches, which gives riders all the space and time they need. The wide experience of the coaches, should represent good value to riders wishing to learn and practise riding skills.
You’ll see a few photos on the site of a Panigale with CHISP Mike Dring of Humberside Police on board, who was ACPO’s lead on motorcycle safety, and who had been very supportive, promoting the school at all the BSB rounds along with BikeSafe, with whom we were originally a partner.
In 2016 we were recognised and accredited by the ACU, being found to be ‘excellent‘ on our first audit in May 2017, and now have 9 professional ACU coaches.
Mike Abbott MBA RoADAR (Dip), RPMT 00626, ACU 61220
27th December 2017