Photos: Michael Marino/All of this is interspaced with lapping (to and from drill zones) and even the opportunity to watch instructors like Haney and current AMA Pro American Superbike racer Jason DiSalvo run at-speed demonstrations from literally the side of the track, like not behind the barriers but just on the other side of the curbing, as shown in this i
Phone shot I took. Remember this camera has no zoom function whatsoever.
Much more useful, if far less visually impressive, are the classroom lectures. These are co-taught by Haney and Michael Czysz of MotoCzysz fame and Hell For Leather reader (Hi Michael!). It's unusual to have each aspect of riding that's being taught broken down both from a rider's perspective (Jeff) and an engineer's (Michael), but that means you're sure to have things explained in a way you understand, whether you're a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner.
It's in the classroom that Michael explains how trail braking works and what its advantages are. There's no space for us to fully break it down here, but the Skip Barber principal of exploiting as much as possible of a tire's given grip is the main idea. While not at 100% lean, the tire has extra grip left that can be can be used to shed speed. So say, at 90% lean, you have room to use 10% of the braking capacity or a little less to leave a margin for safety. By using the brakes while turning, you're altering the suspension geometry of the bike to make it turn faster and loading the front contact patch, increasing available grip. Combine this with the proper body position and you have to the ability to respond to unexpected obstacles on the road or steer more accurately for the apex on the track. Once you've reached the apex and it becomes time to accelerate, you can swap that last 1% of braking for 1% of throttle, remaining within the 100% total of grip available, rolling on more power as the lean angle decreases.
You then take that theoretical knowledge to the track to put it into practice, combining it with blipped downshifts, correct lines and your body position (pushing the head down on corner exit to push the bike upright for more grip) to string together the corner. The first time you get it right, it feels like the kind of riding you always knew you were capable of, but never knew how to access. Faster, more in-control and safer. You might still be a a few minutes off Rossi's lap time, but you've learned to use the same techniques he does to improve your own riding. I know I did.
Skip Barber Superbike School