All-In Motorcycle Instruction And Coaching

Bring your best effort or stay home: Your students’ safety depends on it

instructors teaching motorcycle class
An early morning start in Arizona, with an FZ1 standing by ready to help a motivated coaching crew deliver Champions Habits.Photo:

A few years ago—okay, it was 1996—I spent my own hard-earned money on a three-day Formula car school at Laguna Seca Raceway. The school’s cost was in addition to travel and hotel, so for an underpaid journalist, it was “not inexpensive.”

I learned some things, but my biggest takeaway was to affect me until this day: Half-assed instruction sucks.

In 1997, I helped Freddie Spencer launch his school and took with me a simple plan: I was going to give 100 percent or quit. At the Laguna car school a year earlier, I watched as the instructor dragged himself through the days, sitting laconically behind a desk as he lectured down to us mere earthlings. It was three of the most exciting days I, as a student, could imagine… But for him it was another day in the coal mines helping the less fortunate. "I'll never be that guy," I said then and repeat often.

So now I’m the boss at YCRS and all my coaches know my outlook: Bring it all or quit. Half-assed coaching doesn’t help a car driver, but it can be downright painful for a bike rider. Misinformation is painful and silence in the face of mistakes is painful. The message has to be right. And it has to be consistently constant.

The Golden Rule is in play at our school. I ask my coaches to “deliver the school you would like to take.” It’s got to be fun. It’s got to help. It’s got to be safe. And it’s got to be worth the money and time for each student. This is an old-fashioned concept called customer service; I didn’t get it at the Laguna car school and that pushes me to deliver it at Champ school. In fact, every time I receive poor customer service at any business, it re-cements my resolve to deliver a school the students will appreciate.

The reason I chose this subject this week is because the Champ school just put 1,500 students through our two-day cruiser program with only one crash over 32 days in two countries. One crash. Despite multiple models being ridden by a wide variety of riders in terms of experience, gender, and nationality. Seven months ago we put more than 200 students through a four-day touring-bike school with only one mishap.

The reason for the wild success—and that term is taken from the massively positive reactions of our students—can be laid at the feet of the Champ school instructors. To a man, they gave 100 percent for 32 days and the results reflected their efforts.

Champ School Cruiser Clinic/Touring Clinic Instructors

Mark Schellinger
Kyle Wyman
Ryan Burke
Chris Peris
Keith Culver
Louis Ferrari
Michael Heanow
Bill Sink
Don Williams
Andrew Eichelberger
Mark Thompson
Steve Ritchey
Andre Castanos
George Grass
Mark Bodecker
Damon Shuetze
Chris Carr
Jason Black
Brian Smith
Jason Redman

We stuck to a simple message directed to the challenges cruisers present, but the coaches were relentless in the delivery of that message. We adopted “See Something, Say Something” so that small mistakes didn’t grow to big crashes. We led and followed. We did two-up laps. We critiqued problems at small lean angles that would become crashes at big lean angles. We showed and described and drew pictures and did skits and pushed what we know to be true: Make safe riders by making technically excellent riders.

ycrs cruiser motorcycle clinic team
This crew brought their A game and the payoff was happy, healthy customers. This is part of the Champ school Cruiser Clinic team, left to right: Kyle Wyman, Andrew Eichelberger, Michael Heanow, Mark Schellinger, Nick Ienatsch, Ryan Burke, Louis Ferrari, and Mark Thompson. Great effort yields great results.Photo: Steve Rottman

For all of you in the rider-training industry, I thank you. And encourage you to give 100 percent when you are with students. If you’ve told a rider three times, tell him again the fourth time from a slightly different angle. Think of different ways to deliver the prime messages, whether it’s through humor or example or watching Rossi on Don’t lose your patience, and constantly remember how difficult riding well is. Never relent on the mistakes you see because there’s a simple equation I’ve learned over the years: Mistake + More Speed = Crash.

We are blessed to work in an industry we love, but we’ve got to remember that it is work, and if we don’t deliver, the student will suffer, possibly literally. I ask my coaches to bring it to every school they teach and remind them, “It might be your 400th school, but it’s the students’ first school. Bring your A game.” And when they do, the students thank them, I thank them, and the industry grows.

ycrs touring bike school motorcycle instructors
Left to right: Ryan Burke, Damon Shuetze, Nick Ienatsch, Mark Schellinger, Louis Ferrari, Chris Carr, Brian Smith, Don Williams are part of the coaching crew for the touring-bike school seven months ago. A common evening discussion with this gang centered around the approaches needed to enjoy a heavy touring bike on a closed course with no drama…and no silly speed limits or nagging safety nannies!Photo: Paul Bayers

More Next Tuesday!