Modifications can make your car stiffer, sharper, and more powerful, but they don’t replace skill. And motorcycles are exactly the same. No matter how much you upgrade your suspension, tires, or engine, it won’t matter if you can’t ride your bike properly. Fortunately, there are ways to sharpen your motorcycle riding skills. And going to a flat track racing school is one of them.
Royal Enfield has a flat track racing school where you can slide around on Himalayans
Although it doesn’t have a road-going flat tracker motorcycle (yet), Indian company Royal Enfield has been racing in American Flat Track since 2020. And with veteran racer Johnny Lewis atop an Interceptor 650-based machine, Royal Enfield won its AFT class in 2020.
But the company and Lewis aren’t only teaming up for AFT in 2021, though, RideApart explains. They’re also collaborating through Lewis’s Moto Academy on Slide School, a program set up to teach people how flat track racing works. And this educational clinic isn’t based on simulation, Gear Patrol notes. Students are riding genuine bikes on real 0.1-0.2-mile flat track racing oval circuits, dirt and all.
Admittedly, Royal Enfield’s Slide School doesn’t put students on copies of Lewis’s machine. Instead, they slide on modified Royal Enfield Himalayans, dubbed ‘FT411s.’ Like all race-prepped flat trackers, they lack front brakes. However, while the FT411s have stock Himalayan frames and 411cc single-cylinder engines, Royal Enfield modified almost everything else, RideApart says.
The former ADVs have S&S performance exhausts, carbon-fiber seat pans, as well as new seats and side panels. Also, K&N performance air filters, lighter batteries, new wheels, and different rear sprockets. And, because these are pure flat track racing bikes now, the FT411s lack any kind of street-legal gear, including lights, horns, and unnecessary gauges. As a result, they weigh about 360 lbs, or 66 lbs lighter than the standard Royal Enfield Himalayan.
Flat track racing improves your motorcycle riding skills on and off the pavement
Much like autocross racing can improve your driving skills, attending a track day can beef up your motorcycle riding skills. Or at least help you “unlearn bad habits,” Cycle World muses. But track days take place on, well, paved tracks, with surfaces similar to roads. So, at first glance, sliding around a dirt oval might seem like pointless fun unless you’re into dirt bikes.
However, that’s absolutely not the case. For one, many successful pro racers, such as Jake Gagne and Tyler O’Hara, have backgrounds in flat track racing. Secondly, learning multiple riding disciplines, aka ‘cross-training,’ genuinely makes you a better rider, RevZilla says. And when it comes to rounding out your street motorcycle riding skills, flat tracking has a lot to teach you.
Because dirt and mud are low-friction surfaces, you have to be smooth with all of your inputs. That includes accelerating, braking, and shifting as well as steering, Gear Patrol explains. And even though flat track courses are smooth ovals, there are hay bales, safety barriers, and other ‘distractions’ littering their sides. So, just like on the street, you have to avoid target fixation: don’t look at the obstacle, because you’ll crash into it.
Also, learning how to deliberately slide on dirt teaches you about weight transfer, body positioning, and traction management. All of these things are crucial on street bikes, too. And they’re no less important on the level of MotoGP, even if they use them in different ways.
So, even if you don’t plan to hit the dirt on a regular basis, you can learn a thing or two from this flat track racing school.
How can you join in?
Moto Academy’s Slide School is a roving program, so if you want to attend, you’ll have to catch it at a convenient circuit. The location also determines the price, which ranges from $250-$300. Each clinic is 3-3.5 hours long, including riding and teaching time. As of this writing, the next one is scheduled for November 27th at the Harrisburg, PA Farm Show.
If you can’t make it to Royal Enfield’s school, there are some other options. Riders in Southern California, for example, can also attend Socal Supermoto. But if you want to boost your motorcycle riding skills, it’s worth hitting the dirt.
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