Hello Doug, Brian, Diane & Trevor May 31 2010
I just wanted to again thank you for the AWESOME experience I had yesterday. I was both surprised and very grateful that I was the only student for the entire day. It shows the incredible integrity that you all have at Doug Polen's, 1 on 1 Riders School. Most other companies would have just thought it not to be worth their while and cancelled. I really applaud you guy's for that, many Thanks!
For you riders out there considering taking Doug’s instruction. What are you waiting for? If you’re looking to improve your skills prior to taking the class you are seriously mistaken. You are going to make a lot of mistakes, pick up bad habits and wreck bikes, gear and possibly injure yourself in the process.
From the moment I arrived at the track I was made the focus of the day. Brian and Doug insisted that I pit with them. They even put tire warmers on my bike before and after every session. I was also informed as to the correct tire pressures.
The instruction was everything I expected and more. Doug's approach was incredible from the in pit questions as to what I felt I needed to learn prior our first session. Doug's method of giving real time instruction on track via head phones (placed in your helmet) raises the learning process exponentially. I went from coming in from a 20 minute riding session totally exhausted and spent to being completely at ease and confident both on and off the track. Doug very quickly shows you the quick way around the track. The instruction on and off track was spectacular. Believe me when I say that riding with Doug was an incredible experience. I never had any oops moments or felt as though I was out of control, just the opposite I had a lot of AH HA! Moments and was in complete control.
A special thanks to Diane (Doug's wife) for making my wife feel that she was also a part of the day by sharing a hand set so she could here Doug's instruction to me while I was on the track.
Keep up the Great work. I will be back again and again.
Scott M. Santa Clarita, CA
“Ducati Fast Track Participant” June 11 2010, Road America
I had so much fun this last weekend at Road America that I wanted to let you guys all know. Really fun!! and awesome people!!
The class time was very informative and very credible. I think I can say that I came away with some better understanding of aspects to tracking a bike.
The track time was great and the entire team was so helpful and made it for a great experience.
Lunch was good too!
Please let the others know that I appreciated all they did to make a great experience.
Recently, I had the privilege of working with the legendary World Champion Doug Polen via 1 on 1 track instruction sessions thru his gopolen.com website. This was at Laguna Seca amidst fantastic conditions.
Initially, I was worried that my skill level was too low to partake in these sessions, but Doug put me right at ease and said he can work with any level and everyone would improve. He also stated that I would probably drop into the high 1:40's almost immediately. This would be a minimum 5 second drop for me. He also said I would be safer and using less lean angle while going much faster.
Well, after the first session I felt like a kid in a candy store, because without much effort I immediately dropped the seconds for a 1:49 lap and had no idea this was occurring. Just an amazing feeling.
Doug uses radio communication while on the track. This was a valuable tool that enabled me, the rider to make instant changes during a lap and throughout each session.
Off the track, Doug was just awesome. Welcoming, friendly, down to earth and personable. He also had some great tech info for me such as changing my sprockets to have more drive coming out of the corners. We also discussed rake and trail and how it effects the bike and one's ability to ride well.
Another bit of info was how to read my tires(heating up properly, wear markers etc). This will enable me to choose the right compound for my riding and the conditions as well as make any suspension/pressure changes.
Overall, a fantastic experience.
I put this down to Doug's riding and communication skills coupled with the on board radio which allows him to correct you instantly.
I plan on doing future sessions with Doug and wholeheartedly recommend this to everyone.
Paolo Carrere San Carlos, CA
In the spring of 2004 I got hooked on track crack by attending a Keigwins (www.keigwin.com) beginner track riding school. Since then I have racked up about 40 track days, took a couple of intermediate schools, used up a few sets of tires and knee pucks and even destroyed a perfectly good R1. Now I find my riding stagnant right on the A/B border where if all the conditions are just right I can keep up with the slowest A riders, but to feel like a big man on campus I need to drop down to the B group. Spending hundreds of dollars on track days this year has brought much joy, but no appreciable improvement in my riding. I needed to seek some professional (riding) help to break through to the next level. There are many excellent riding schools and coaches available to us. It was just a matter of picking one that fits within my budget, philosophy and time constraints.
My friend Kyle pointed me to Doug Polen's web site, www.gopolen.com. Doug Polen, a two time World Superbike champion with notable other accomplishments in the world of moto racing now runs a track school. To be perfectly honest, I didn't know much about Doug because I was not riding nor was I interested in bikes when he was on top, but recently I did hear of him and figured with a couple of world titles under his belt he must know his way around a race track and maybe I could get some of that to rub off on me. I checked out his website and called to confirm space availability for the Columbus Day holiday I have off. After making sure that Doug himself and not some understudy would be doing the actual coaching I signed up for two days.
Polen runs his school in conjunction with TheTrackClub (www.thetrackclub.com) track days. Doug's school and TheTrackClub events were both my firsts. Before I go into depth about the school itself let me hit on some highlights of TheTrackClub event.
The event was generally run well. The tech inspection, registration and the rider meeting were not unlike those of other providers' and while I appreciated multiple reminders during the meeting about the dangers of the cold track and cold tires, I thought the meeting was a little drawn out. Perhaps the plugs of local vendors can be condensed just a little, eh. Once out on track I found the behavior of other riders to be very good. Most of the riding I saw was clean, predictable, courteous and safe. This is probably a testament to many good control riders I saw that kept a close eye on things. The yellow flag protocol was a little unusual for me because I'm used to short yellows with just enough time to tend to the fallen rider and to stow the disabled bike. Whereas TheTrackClub keeps the yellow flag out while the recovery vehicle collects the bike and the rider. This of course means you spend more time riding under slow yellow conditions, which messes with my head and breaks my rhythm. The pit board displaying the letter of the group out on track could not be trusted, but as long as I listened to the announcements and paid attention to the clock, I didn't miss my sessions. Nonetheless I can see myself attending more track days with TheTrackClub in the future.
Each Polen's student rides in one of three groups, A, B or C, depending on their skill level. This time the school was conducted at Buttonwillow, the track I don't know very well. I decided to play it safe and ride in B group. I figured the slower pace would leave me with enough free mental cycles to absorb the skill being taught. After the general rider meeting the school has another very short informal introduction where the school staff introduces themselves and all students to each other. Doug doesn't ride every session with every student. Instead he rides about every other session the student gets out on track. This amounts to approximately three sessions with Doug and about 3-4 sessions the student rides solo, practicing new skills. The schedule gets drawn up and the students get fitted with lap timers, radios and headphones that the student wears under the helmet.
The first session is used to warm up the mind, body, bike, brakes, tires, etc. During this session the student either rides alone or behind one of TheTreackClub's control riders to learn the flow of the track. One of the cool benefits of Polen's school is that a basic suspension adjustment by Race Tech is included in the cost of the school. Visiting an expert at the Race Tech tent at the end of the warm up session, once the fork oil and other suspension bits have had a chance to warm up is a perfect time to get the bike adjusted, so I did that. I didn't even know at the time that the service was free. I just needed some help to tame the bucking front end of my R6 through Cotton Corners.
Since all students' radios are tuned to the same channel, I eves dropped a little on what Doug was saying to a couple of other students with whom he rode before me and what I heard was a little unsettling. "Connect the corners", "be nice and smooth on the gas", etc. all great advice, but not the "advance" stuff I was hoping to hear when it would be my turn. I decided to help Doug out by asking him to coach me in three particular areas I saw as my weakness, my body position, fast transitions into corners and the use of reference points. As it turns out, I didn't need to worry; Doug taught me at the level I needed to be taught.
I developed a ridiculous body position where I hang my butt off so far that I'm able to drag my knees without leaning the bike very much. This results in the false perception of lean angle and speed, "crossed up" body position, poor connection with the bike, undue stress on the inside leg and poor ground clearance. Come to think of it, this is pretty basic stuff after all. Doug immediately told me to stop hanging off so far and to keep one butt cheek firmly planted on the seat. I found the new position to be more comfortable and more secure, but I could no longer drag my knees. The next thing Doug told me is that I'm not leaning my bike far enough. He said there was a lot more lean angle left that I'm not using. This is exactly what I needed to hear because I was now beginning to trust him more than I trusted myself. I was able to practice the new body position with some consistency, but the additional lean was not as easy to achieve, for this I would need to be riding faster. Here Doug helped me too.
As an exercise he had me follow him in his tire tracks within a few feet of his rear wheel. He wanted me to just focus on him and on nothing else. This I found rather difficult to do for a number of reasons. In order to follow someone this close at high speed, one would have to put a lot of faith not just in the person in front to not do anything abruptly, but also in one's own ability to react and to slow the bike hard and quickly or to swerve if necessary. Also I've been conditioned to ride "my own ride", which made it hard to ride Doug's ride. When I was able to close up on Doug's tail I could not see what was ahead because Doug was blocking my view, but now I realize this is precisely what Doug wanted. Much like a horse with blinders on to reduce distractions Doug wanted me to be focused solely on him. This exercise was meant to blind me to fear. This would allow me to match his pace and experience the new lean and the new speed without the fear of what's coming up. Easier said than done, but I was able to do it a little bit. This kind of trust takes a little time to develop and I'd love another chance to try this again.
Then there were the radios, which were simply awesome. They allowed Doug to deliver just the right instruction at just the right moment. I cannot express what it felt like to have him encouraging me to go faster and even try to pass him through the Riverside sweeper. He kept telling me "keep coming, keep coming, lean it over, come on…" and lean it over I did. On my own I lacked the confidence to go faster or to lean harder than my norm, but because Doug's instructions came at the time when he could see me either in front or behind in the mirrors, I knew he deemed it safe so I complied. Soon enough I was once again dragging my knees, but now without contorting my lower body and I could tell that the ground was closer because I was leaned over more. Doug also used the radios to correct my line through most corners. He gave me timely suggestions on where and how I could set up my passes. This worked so well that I could not help but wonder why more people don't use radios on the track or maybe they do. I'm not sure, but I've never seen or heard of it before.
The two days went by quickly. There were several key areas in my riding where I saw big improvement by the end of the second day. In my new body position I felt more comfortable and more secure on the bike. I no longer felt like I was hanging on for dear life and was about to fall off. I was not tired at all and could ride far longer than I ever could before. I knew I picked up much needed speed. This was not only evident by my lap times, but also by the way I was easily able to pass riders who were earlier passing me. Speaking of lap times, a free lap timer rental is another hidden benefit of Polen's school. It just keeps getting better and better, I tell ya. There's far more that I could write about like how Doug taught me to trail brake harder than I'm used to, the comfortable pit area, shade, chairs, great company, and all the hydration you can handle, but I've already said plenty.
I don't know how long Doug Polen has been running his school, but judging by his affordable rates and the relative obscurity of his school, I would say not that long. As the school matures and the word gets out, I expect all of that to change. If you find yourself stuck at some riding plateau like I did or just want to accelerate your learning, give Polen a chance to help you out. I doubt you'll come away disappointed.