The Texas Tornado Boot Camp (TTBC) is located down a dusty road 40 miles from Houston in the town of Montgomery. The camp—which was started by Moto GP rider and two time Superbike World Champion Colin Edwards II (aka the Texas Tornado)—is a flat-track dirt bike school dedicated to teaching riders to "truly [find] the limit of grip." Flat-track is an American form of motorcycle racing on oval dirt tracks. The trick to speed is to slide out the back end of the bike, thus loosening the back tire's grip with the track on each turn, allowing the bike to turn faster before the next straightaway. American GP riders in the late '70s (particularly Kenny Roberts) used these skills to revolutionize road racing forever. TTBC teaches these principles and techniques to all levels of riders from pro to beginner using Yamaha TTR 125s and 230s in a relaxed, fun environment—and the fun doesn't stop when the sun sets, as the tracks are fully lit for nighttime riding. A Texas native, Edwards has been a fixture in GP racing for decades, winning fans with his witty, candid demeanor. This same attitude permeates the TTBC.
Campers are housed in a saloon-style building; rooms vary from bunks to suites with private baths. A typical day at the camp starts with one of the three daily home-cooked meals, followed by a riders meeting and brief warm-up. Groups are divided based on skill and experience, and sent to one of the various tracks on the campus (riding gear is provided, if needed). Riding drills are conducted along with individual instruction. "When a person is struggling with something, Colin or one of the instructors will jump on the bike with the rider in order to show them the correct technique," says Sheila Paul, an instructor at TTBC. The team of instructors is made up of former and current racers, and are very laid-back, in true Texan form. Their subtle direction can lead to new mastery, with many "Aha!" moments. Along with riding games and a daily Superpole (solo timed laps), TTBC holds an optional (everything is optional at the camp) shooting practice with an array of guns—as the need for good hand-eye coordination and finger dexterity directly translates to riding.
During our stay, we witnessed a brand new rider make a transformation. Diane, a 49-year-old interventional radiologist from San Diego, had almost no experience on a bike. Her medical background made her very cautious. "Motorcycles are known as 'donor cycles' in the medical world," Diane told us. But she went for it. "Even though I was the very slowest rider at camp, I improved over the three days. [Diane won the most improved award.] That's always a self-esteem boost," she said. "I cried with joy the last day of camp. It was like graduating from medical school."
Mixed in with the civilian campers are always a few pros. "I have seen it time and time again where a pro racer comes to TTBC, works on their skills and then improves in roadracing," says Paul, a roadracer herself. "My lap times on the road race tracks keep going down." But whether you come for fun or practice, it's always the same result. "I had an awesome time," American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) racer Chris Fillmore says. "I like the freedom of the camp." Fillmore—who has a dirt background and has been to many camps—wasn't there just for the motos: "I race motorcycles for a living, so it is OK to crack a beer and enjoy the food too."
One-day camps are $350 per person while two-day camps start at $650. View more options at the Texas Tornado Boot Camp website.
Photos by Katharine Erwin