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CULTURE
The Yamaha Champions Riding School
Everyday riders learn the skills to win a motorcycle race at this permanent New Jersey location
by Katharine Erwin
on 20 August 2014
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On a cloudy morning in Millville, New Jersey, a group of men and women—who look like superheroes in full leather suits—gather around instructor Nick Ienatsch. "Clear your mind and have fun," he shouts. Ienatsch—who is the head instructor at The Yamaha Champions Riding School—is starting off the first day of the two-day course by asking students to be open-minded and with this, he ensures, "You will achieve great results."

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Previously held in Utah, YCRS's new location at New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP), offers a much shorter travel time for East Coasters, just three hours from New York City. As one of the only permanent schools in the North East, YCRS is uniquely focused on translating race-winning skills to everyday riders. Although it has the word "Champion" in the title, the school does not subscribe to one particular racer's school of thought. "We didn't want to pick one way of riding" says Ienastsch, rather, it is an amalgamation of methods used by many successful racers. "Champion ideas" is how he refers the curriculum.

YCRS was deliberate in using the word "riders" rather than "racers." Ienatsch explains this intent is because, "It is the street riders that are causing so much grief. 'Riding' had to be in there. If we could get these ideas across to everyday riders—street and track—well, we could do a lot good."

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The two-day course caters to all riders, from absolute beginner to professional, using on-track and classroom instruction. On-track drills, demonstrations and video give the rider physical context to apply methods. While the classroom sessions give students a cerebral understanding. "It shows them how simple the sport is, not easy but logical for the beginners," says Ienatsch. And for advanced riders, "The joy starts when we show them the little things that make them not only go faster, but safer."

A favorite drill of former student Moto GP racer Bradley Smith was the "point in" exercise, during which instructors at select corners lay several cones on their sides, pointing in or out. On each lap around the track, the rider has to modify the entry or exit line in order to maneuver their bike around the cone while maintaining a racing line. What makes this drill so affective is that the instructors change the cone layout on each lap, thus encouraging the riders to look further ahead. This drill doesn't just benefit track riders, because it reflects common obstacles in street riding.

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Another awareness drill is called "pit in," when riders pretend to be racers pitting in at each lap. Then the instructor tells the rider not to use a certain piece of equipment, for example, one lap with no front brakes or two laps with your left hand on the tank. The rider would then have to adjust mentally and physically to control the bike with fewer inputs. These practices, along with many other aspects of YCRS, have led them to become recognized by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). YCRS is only the second third-party curriculum to receive this distinction by the world-renowned MSF, which is a non-profit organization that promotes safe riding through training, education and public programs.

The school runs from April through October annually, and provides Yamaha bikes ranging from models R6, FZ8, FZ9, R1 and FZ1. They will also provide proper riding gear if needed. Students are also allowed to bring their own bike, as long as it passes tech inspection. For more information contact YCRS.

Black and white images courtesy of Kate Erwin, color images courtesy of The SB Image

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