The Granary

Reg Pridmore's CLASS School

by Craig Echols

    At the age of 24 life is so perfectly clear. Limits don’t exist, and it
really is possible to engage in a pursuit like motorcycling with No Fear.
Countless perfect afternoons on Angeles Crest Hwy, the Commando’s headers
ground away to nothing, those really were the days. But for most of us it’s
impossible to maintain that clarity of purpose. For me it was gone by 26. I
started noticing the gravel patches here & there. It seemed like the cars were
having a harder time staying on their side of the road. And lately there
appeared to be more Armco everywhere. I decided I’d better back off a bit. And
that was pretty much it. Six months later I sold the bike; it just wasn’t much
fun anymore when I was too scared to ride at my limit.

    Fast forward to 1990. An older, wiser(?), Craig starts thinking about
motorcycles. Like a dormant virus the biker bug has been lurking there all
along waiting for the right moment. That confluence of disposable income, mid-
life crises, and just plain questionable judgment that would lead me into the
Ducati shop one afternoon. It seemed simple. Just take the thing out for a
ride, it won’t be that great, and then all these irrational urges go away.
Well, you know how it goes. At least I didn’t buy a Harley.

    So there I am, another old fart on a fast bike headed for trouble on a
twisty road. It was great for a few weeks. But then the old reality started
setting in. This bike’s limit is so high I don’t have the nerve to even begin
to really push it on these roads. You’d have to be crazy, or 24, to ride like
that on the street. I either had to find a safe way to push it , or the thing
was headed for somebody else’s garage.

    Enter Reg Pridmore’s Class School. I’d read about the school, and I had a
pleasant memory of buying a couple of Mikuni carbs for the Norton from Reg at
his shop in Santa Barbara back in the dark ages when he was racing BMWs. So,
what the heck. I decided to drop the three + bills and hopefully gain a little
confidence and learn something.

    The track in Seattle is a fun one. I suppose they'd call it technical.
Quite a few tight turns, a lot of elevation changes, some pretty weird camber
here and there, and a straight you should be able to just top out on. We got
started around 8 am with a basic tech/safety inspection, and then a tour of the course on the blackboard, with Reg talking about different possible lines, throttle
management, and so forth.

    Now Class bills itself as a school for street riders not racers. And so
accordingly the emphasis is on smoothness and grace, not how to turn the
fastest lap. But in all honesty I have to say I fail to see how picking the
fastest line through turns on a racetrack makes us safer on the street. I
think we all knew why we were there. WE WANTED TO GO FAST! And soon enough we got our chance.

    We split into a fast group & a slow group and headed out to the track.
While the fast guys circulated on their first few laps playing follow the
leader, the rest of us went out with Reg and hung out at various corners. He
offered insights into what we were seeing, pointing out the good,the bad, and
the ugly. This was some of the most valuable time we spent, but it was over
pretty quickly, and I would have liked to do it again later in the day after
we'd gained a.little more experience.

    Then it was our turn. We started out with about 5 laps of follow the
leader, came in for a blackboard session, and then back out for about 20
minutes pretty much on our own. This was the basic routine for the day.  There
were four or five “instructors” assisting Reg although I wasn’t really sure
how one was supposed to take advantage of their presence on the track. So
mostly we just got an awful lot of free riding time.

    In the afternoon there was the special bonus of Rides Behind Reg. This is
probably the biggest distinguishing feature of Class schools and believe me
there is nothing  like it at Disney world. I mean when you think about it it
really is a privilege to be chauffeured around the track by a three-time AMA
Superbike champion passing the “fast guys” on the outside riding two up!
Although I was trying to concentrate on improving some shift timing problems I
was having I’m afraid that was overshadowed by the shear, gut wrenching thrill
of it all. And the two laps were over VERY quickly.

    The day wound down with a few more sessions ending with a couple of laps
where I found myself in THE ZONE, dragging body parts, and finally passing
that guy on the Suzuki I’d been following all day. Very satisfying.

    So, was it worth the three bills? Well, there’s no denying it was a lot of
fun. And I did improve my track skills and confidence. But, to be completely
objective it was a bit light on technical instruction, and in the end it felt
a little like just a pretty expensive track day. But, I’ll never forget that
ride with Reg.

Check out our Links page for other schools we've come across.