Friday, July 30, 2010

Flat Track School

Sunday, July 25, I attended a Flat Track School from to learn how to slide a bike around. It was supposed to be held in June, but due to massive rain it was rescheduled. With a ZARS day on Saturday, my legs were very sore. Fortunately, flat tracking uses some different muscles. I signed up for the class wanting to learn how to control a sliding motorcycle. I think this will come in handy for my dirt biking and on the street when traction is less than desirable.
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The class was held at the Stockholm Motorsport Park in Cokato, MN which is about 60 miles west of Minneapolis along US-12. I thought better of trying to ride out there thinking of my last dirt bike class and how exhausted I was after it. I convinced my awesome wife to drive me out there and take some photos of the action. The track was just a small dirt oval, but was setup perfectly for learning to slide. Track resurfacing took place regularly which was really just dragging a big hunk of metal behind a van to flatten out the ruts. It worked well.
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The price of the class included rental of a great little Yamaha 125. I really enjoyed that little bike and for the right price, would buy one. It was really easy to kick start, and oh so light. Since falling is part of learning, being easy to pickup and restart is very important!

We met in the tent and learned some of the basic techniques of flat tracking. There are a number of things that make it different than street riding. Holding the handlebars is different. High elbows and thumbs pointing in along the bars rather than wrapped around the grips. This makes it easier to control the throttle under bumpy conditions and with the high elbows makes it very hard to put weight or death grip the bars.
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Keeping the bars light lets the bike find its own way on uncertain terrain. Death gripping the bars will cause a fall. Sitting on the bike the instructors kept repeating a phrase over and over “crack to crack.” The idea is the crack of your ass on the crack of the seat sitting on top of the bike rather than under it. This is also another huge difference with flat track vs pavement riding. On the pavement, you try to keep the bike as vertical as possible by leaning under the bike to shift weight. This is possible because of the traction on a sealed surface. It does not work in the dirt. On the dirt, you have to push the bike underneath you while keeping your weight centered above the bike – crack to crack.
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Throughout the five hour class, I did get some good slides in. I also had some good falls.
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Everyone fell, including all of the instructors. Fortunately, dirt is quite soft compared to concrete!
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I did take quite a spill on one of my falls and managed to twist my knee as my foot augured into the dirt while the bike rotated around me and tossed me off like a rag doll. I got up and rode a few more times, but eventually stiffened up too much to continue. My wife captured the entire thing in HD video! I ended up limping around for a few days with a twisted knee and bruised back. (videos coming soon) I am near 100% now and should be good for our Big River trip next week! I will be taking this class again. It was a lot of fun.

Full Flickr set here (1000+ photos!)


  1. I think it's a great idea to learn more about how to control your motorcycle. Hope you're feeling better after your mishap. On the good side, it wasn't your motorcycle going horizontal. Take care and have a great trip. Cheers, SonjaM

  2. SongjaM: Thanks. I am mostly feeling better. I think I bruised my tailbone which is taking a while. I also have some neat green/yellow bruises still too! :) Yes, it was a rental, but I've dropped my dirtbike more times than I can count too.