California Superbike School Levels 3 And 4 Review

We complete the Code program, this time with a few friends

Two months ago I had the opportunity to attend California Superbike School's level one and two programs. Hungry for more, I knew right away that I'd have to come up with a reason for coming back to complete the program by attending levels three and four. Fortunately, a few of my buddies had seen my article about the first school and wanted to join.

That's right, in order to get a few more days of school, I weaseled Justin, Jesse, Nick, and Albert into the program with me in the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada, in hopes that a little friendly competition would push us all forward and that their company might help keep me out of trouble in Sin City. If you follow my Instagram story, you know that it did not.

If some of the faces in this story look familiar, Nick and Justin are actors and have been in things you've more than likely seen (War of the Worlds, X-Men, Mad Max, Shameless) and Albert is in a little band called The Strokes. Jesse is one of the smartest entrepreneurs I know and me? I'm just some dude.

California Superbike School
Day one morning orientationSean MacDonald

I went through the history of the school and how it came to be in my review of the first two levels of the school, so check that out if you're curious. This review will focus exclusively on my experience with the level three and four programs.

That said, the premise behind attending the school remains the same: I consider myself to be a better than average rider—though incredibly far from excellent—but have dreams of being both faster and safer. As a staff, we here at CW feel like my experiences and interaction with schools like California Superbike School is the most relatable to our readers. Our goal is to share what it's like to attend these schools so that you know if they're worth your money, while at the same time evaluating them and the results they bring.

California Superbike School
Slowly but surely, I'm sucking lessEtech Photo

The Format

As with levels one and two, the format for California Superbike school levels three and four remains the same. Each level focuses on a different facet of riding, contains five lessons, and takes a full day to complete. Each of those days/lessons cycles through a classroom session with an instructor, a riding session where you're followed by a rider coach, and then a one-on-one debrief with your rider coach. This means each day is ultimately made up of 15 little sessions.

The school is often delivered in one or two day packages, and at some tracks they're able to get back to back packages so someone could conceivably do four days in a row (though I wouldn't recommend it).

California Superbike School
My rider coach James was an incredible rider, never getting too close to spook me but always close enough to know exactly what I was doingEtech Photo

Level one focuses on operating the bike's controls and level two focuses on the visual aspects of riding. For this time attending the school, I was doing level three, which focused on body positioning, and then level four which is custom tailored to the rider (more on this in a bit). Albert had already taken levels one and two, so we got to spend the two days partnered together in levels three and four. Justin had somehow only done level one, so he was on his own in levels two and three, while Nick and Jesse were both new to the school, so they did levels one and two together.

Going into the school, I felt like level three was probably the program I needed the most, and it ended up being the day I struggled with the most (which may seem like it proves me right, but it in fact does not). We started with a drill on the hook turn, a maneuver in which the rider drops his head down and forward as a last-second measure to decrease turning radius mid-turn. From there, we worked on how to lock into the bike with our legs, our grip on the bars, plus using our core and legs to move more efficiently from side to side on the bike.

California Superbike School
James had the punishment privilege of coaching both Albert and IEtech Photo

Level four is tailored to the rider with the exception of the first drill, which is intended to highlight the use of your peripheral vision. To do this, the staff places two gold stars in the peripheral areas of our visors. Areas on the track where you were unable to see the stars were areas that you were late with your vision or too focused on a specific area and not focused on taking in everything in front of you. With us running the track counter clockwise on day two, this was a bit tricky as we were basically learning a new track again, but was surprisingly not too difficult.

Following that first session, my rider coach James discussed how I did with the drill, and then asked further questions about things he was seeing in my riding that we could focus on which, in my case, was more work on using my peripheral vision. Keith has developed over 170 drills for the level four program that his coaches can pull from to help with the things they're seeing, and James used that arsenal well to elevate my riding.

California Superbike School
Their camera bike can film from two angles and provides data on throttle and brake position, speed, revs, gears, and your position on trackEtech Photo

After a session long tangle with a CSS staff who I was slower than in straights (I'm a sissy for hard braking) but faster than in the turns, we drilled further into using my peripheral vision to not get sucked into any bad lines that riders in front of me were using, and then some sessions on using my legs better as well as passing better. Each session was guided by both my rider coach and my level four coach who helped diagnose and talk me through different techniques.

My final session I codenamed "just f-cking grow a pair" because I'd realized I was never opening the throttle to the lock—and that needed to change. James plucked just the right strings and got me fired up, and we shaved more time and had me getting much better drives off the corners in no time. Because sometimes you just need to stop being a big baby and get after it.

California Superbike School
Las Vegas Motor Speedway is not a very pretty trackEtech Photo

School Impressions

Moving through the different levels of California Superbike School sort of felt like moving through the different years of high school. Our hands were held in the early levels but, by level four, I felt like I had more freedom and like the coaches interacted with me in a different way. And, just as that serves a purpose in high school, so does it here.

Level three was definitely the day I struggled with the most, mostly because it was the first time I was faced with both having to unlearn some bad habits and face the consequences of my poor physical training. Unfortunately both of the following are true statements I haven't fully resolved: It is better to set up for the next turn upon the exit of the previous one. It is also incredibly taxing to stay hanging off the bike under full acceleration and full braking, not to mention how it makes it harder to operate some of the foot controls.

Justin Chatwin and Nick Hoult
Justin and Nick not having any fun. At all.Sean MacDonald

The result has been that until now, when torn between wearing myself out, which in turn upsets the chassis as I flounder around, I instead choose to make extra movements...which then upsets the chassis. This is a thing I need to work on more.

The most helpful drill of the day was one focusing on locking my leg in when cornering, which increases control and stability. It's going to mean way more calf exercises in the gym, but it was immensely helpful in controlling the bike better and more smoothly as my pace increased over the weekend.

The most difficult drill was one in which we moved from side to side on the bike (as you would during quick transitions, like in a chicane) in a fluid set of movements that keeps you from bounding from side to side on the bike. It required a lot of mental thought in getting the steps right and is something that I need to continue to work on committing to physical memory before it becomes natural, but I suppose that's the name of the game with most of this stuff; build the foundation in the school, and strengthen in on your own in the track days to come.

California Superbike School
James working on my legwork on the hydraulic bikeEtech Photo

Of all the level four drills, one of the best for me was on in which James rode in front of me, sometimes taking the correct line and sometimes not. When he didn't I was to try and use it to my advantage to pass him, even if that meant breaking the "very friendly" passing rules instituted by the school. After spending two days with the guy, I felt plenty comfortable with his bike control skills and this allowed this drill to be truly helpful.

I really liked the way level four worked and now finally understand why so many people come back time and time again to re-take it. One of the things that impressed me most was the entire staff's familiarity with the massive book of drills Keith Code has written to use for instruction. James, my instructor, never needed to thumb through it to read descriptions and see which would fit. He always had a list of drills that might fit whatever we'd discussed and would reference the book only to accurately transcribe the details of what I'd be doing my next session on the track

James himself was an excellent rider coach and we got along well. He was able to be supportive and celebrate my successes, but I only took them as genuine because he was equally as able to spot and call me out on my weaknesses.

Nick Hoult
My level one coach Gerry somehow got stuck with both Nick AND JustinSean MacDonald

I was struck by how different he and Gerry, my level one and two coach were. James was a big teddy bear who worked better as your buddy and Gerry was more all business. The cool thing, coming from my background as an educator, was that neither made either a better or worse instructor. The same level of care and intelligence and expertise was applied, and the same level of care given, something that's incredibly difficult to do with different personality styles and one of the true "x factor" components this school has.

Even though the accomodations at Las Vegas Motor Speedway were less ideal than those at COTA, the California Superbike School staff was able to provide a very personalized experience with incredible amount of attention and the inclusion of lots of multimedia teaching tools.

California Superbike School
Student bike #20 was real good to me over the two day schoolEtech Photo

Better yet, the guys I brought along with me also had wonderful experiences. It was one of the very first times on track for our level one guys, and they made huge strides. Both rode crossed up and slow at the school's start and, by the end, both looked really good. Nick's body position looked better than mine at times and, when we tried to ride all together for some photos, he was too quick to keep up with at times. Jesse, who was the newest of all of us, got much faster and felt like he made incredible gains.

Justin, who was doing levels two and three, progressed the most and was getting his knee down (for the first time) by the end of the second day.

California Superbike School
Quit following me around JAMES!Etech Photo

School Critique

After completing California Superbike School's full course, it continues to be incredibly difficult to find much fault with the school's curriculum or implementation. The journalist in me still thinks it would be really interesting to do some before and after lap timing, though they did give us our lap times at the conclusion and they showed some significant improvement (which is also, in part, due to learning the course).

Running the course two directions was an interesting experience. While it's something I would love in a normal setting, it did sort of restart the perceived feelings of improvements at the start of day two (whereas I thought I was amazing that first session on day two when I did the school at COTA). However, I'd be hard pressed to make a case that those positive feelings do more good than forcing the rider to go through the process of learning a new track again, as that's an invaluable skill.

California Superbike School
Jesse leading Albert, Dylan, and I into one of the two turns I never really nailedEtech Photo

Conclusion

I was impressed with school after the first two levels but, after finishing levels three and four I can definitely say that attending will become a regular part of my life as a motorcyclist. I'll never master motorcycling, but I honestly believe that with Code's book of drills and in the care of his incredible staff, I will get much better. They're the best kind of unit; one that is no nonsense and one that still takes delight in doing their job. And the results show.

After the conclusion of day two, the boys and I sat down to talk about the school and my little band of idiots, a normally rowdy and goofy bunch, sobered up when I asked them their thoughts on the school. Justin equated it to studying from guys who have dedicated their lives to trying to figure out how to teach this stuff and Jesse said it was worth double the price of admission.

California Superbike School
Now we're getting somewhereEtech Photo

Nick made huge breakthroughs with his body positioning and eyes, while Jesse was carrying more lean angle and entry speed. Albert had suddenly become hard for me to pass and Justin was dragging knees on both sides like a boss. Me, I was keeping up with some of the CSS staff and actually using the full acceleration and stopping power of the bike and shredding tires—something you couldn't have said a month ago.

Since then, Jesse and Justin and I got to attend a track day with AGV for the new Corsa R, where all of our gains were finally and truly recognized. Many of my peers came up to ask me between sessions how I'd gotten so much faster and now both Justin and Jesse were dragging knees while simultaneously becoming much harder to pass. Better yet, the look on their faces at the end of day was that of a guy who's finally started to figure this whole riding thing out: the face of a guy who's hooked forever.

Sean MacDonald
Justin, Jesse, Albert, Lara, me, and Nick. Watch out if you see our moto gang "Jesse and the Rippers" coming, here with the best team mom a guy could ask for.Sean MacDonald

California Superbike School is a different style than others, and one that may not fit perfectly for everyone. But, if you ask me, it's the best in the business and well worth the price of admission. Time and time again.

Oh, and that roundup talk we had at the end of the second day? It's included in the tons of video footage we shot for an upcoming video on our experience there. Get ready to watch my band of idiots in full effect (here's a little teaser).

Sean MacDonald
Dainese, ICON, and Racer Gloves keeping me safeEtech Photo

Sean's Gear

California Superbike School
The briefing area where you debriefed with your rider coach after coming off the trackSean MacDonald
California Superbike School
Jesse, Albert, and I having a little fun on the lunch breakEtech Photo
California Superbike School
My only chance of catching Dylan was when he slowed to take notice of the photgrapherEtech Photo
Justin Chatwin
Gerry and JustinSean MacDonald
Albert Hammond Jr
You could always find Albert off with Keith, trying to learn more from the masterSean MacDonald
California Superbike School
Breaking it down with Dylan CodeEtech Photo
Nick Hoult
Jesse and Nick, ready to let it rip!Sean MacDonald
Justin Chatwin
There wasn't a thing in the world that was wiping the huge grin off this ding dong's face after getting that knee downSean MacDonald
Albert Hammond Jr
Albert and Keith...againSean MacDonald
California Superbike School
This picture perfectly captured the spirit of the coachesSean MacDonald
BMW S1000RR
What a beautiful bikeSean MacDonald
Sean MacDonald
Getting in one last lap before they kicked us outBrennan Towle