Enter Cal-Sportbike TrackXperience. Motorcycle.com recently used the services of this trackday company and found the whole experience – from the important but relaxed rider’s meeting to the last lap of the last session – to be the antithesis of the negatives that can plague many trackdays.
“I make myself visible when I’m at the track, talking to riders to see how their day is going and if there’s anything they need from us or help with,” says TrackXperience co-owner and event manager, Tom Davlantis.
Indeed, the attitude from the entire staff was one of can-do with a heavy dose of customer service. No doubt, then, this is part of what brings many trackday junkies back to events run by TrackXperience. But it’s more than just smiling faces. Not only does this company operate each event like a well-oiled machine with its skilled and seasoned riding and administrative staff, it goes one step further in its care for riders by offering to anyone, free of charge, the chance to participate in its Tracstar Challenge program.
This training tool is an “optional skills-based rider certification and awards program that focuses on developing both physical and mental bike control skills and safety habits.” According to veteran rider Davlantis, Tracstar Challenge “offers a way for a rider to gauge their level of progress across different events.”
'A riding coach who works with the rider throughout the day will note the rider’s ability to demonstrate the specific skill set in each level.'
There are four levels of achievement in the Challenge. The Bronze level is essentially for trackday freshmen and is run in conjunction with Level 1 rider instruction school. Moving up the progress ladder takes us to the next level, signified by Silver, wherein a rider should be able to demonstrate smooth and predictable actions. Then it’s on to Gold where the Tracstar participant should be able to ride in a controlled and precise manner, but at a pace found typically in what most track riders consider the advanced riding group. You know, the group where all the fast guys and blabber mouths like to go. Finally, there’s the Master Rider level.
To move from one level to the next, a rider will be evaluated on a plethora of skills, such as the basic ability to pick a line through a turn and stay on that line, or the seemingly simple task of coordinating hand and foot controls. A riding coach who works with the rider throughout the day will note the rider’s ability to demonstrate the specific skill set in each level. Once all the little boxes are checked off, it’s time for a certificate of achievement, a slick patch for your leathers and a sticker for your bike to tell the trackday world that you’ve earned the right to say you’re proficient at riding within the criteria set forth for each level.
Where the challenge in Tracstar Challenge comes in, is in trying to move up through each level. If you’ve been riding for any length of time you may be aware that riding skills can develop quickly in the beginning stages, but often hit a plateau that can prove a real bear to break through. Sure, it’s conceivable that a rider can show up and in one day go from Bronze to Gold, but it usually doesn’t happen that easily for most of us mere mortals. And that is one of the reasons why so many Cal-Sportbike TrackXperience customers keep coming back. If you’re thinking that the instructors are simply there to tell you what you want to hear and rush you through the program to make you feel like a two-wheeled superhero, forget it. As of early this year, few, if any, have graduated to Master Rider level. TrackXperience riding instructors have high standards, but meeting those standards will make you a better rider.
As for the simpler matter of how the trackday runs, TrackXperience focuses on keeping a limited number of riders at each event (less than 40 riders per group), with only the busiest of days seeing a full three riding groups rather than the typical two. What does this mean? More ride time!
During our day with the club at Willow Springs, each session began on time and there were but one or two on-track incidents over the course of the entire day. Sign-in at the beginning of the day was a snap, and the staff was eager to answer any questions.
Prices range from $155 to $185 per person with a discount on two-day events. If you sign up online in advance, you’ll be able to buy a ticket for a scrumptious catered lunch (beverages are free all day), and on the right day you may even get to take advantage of free masseuse services by Gina Rossi, whose experienced hands are as adept at the helm of her Gixxer as they are on tired muscles.
If you really are concerned about circulating faster, consider what TrackXperience founder and Tracstar Challenge co-developer, Todd Robinson, has to say. “There is simply too much focus on pushing for fast laps at the expense of being a smooth or safe rider. In fact our most successful students have proven that by focusing on smoothness and control they are able to lower their lap times while becoming safer riders.”
Smooth equals fast. We can’t argue with that.