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  • Sarah Merrell

Stop Making Mods to Your Bike and Invest in a Riding School

If there's anything I've learned over the years, it's that rarely does anything worth achieving come easy--it takes hard work, dedication and time. Think about it. If you want to be successful in your career you have to build your skill set through education or training. If you want to be a great golfer you have to take lessons and practice. Or if you want to become more fit and lose body fat you have to learn to eat right and workout. Motorcycling isn't any different. There's no magical quick fix to become a better, faster rider. So why then, do so many riders think it's merely buying some mods that will help them achieve that?

While it's true that mods can help improve your bike's performance, the best modification you can make is not to your bike but to yourself. All the mods in the world aren't going to help you see significant improvement until you make an investment in yourself as a rider.

This is something I learned from personal experience. When I first started riding, I rode my Suzuki DRZ supermoto. In my head I made the excuse that I was so slow on group rides because my bike didn't have the same power as the 600s or liter bikes. It was easier to think I was slow because my bike was slow than to own up to the fact I needed to build my skill as a rider. But then I started doing track days, and I spent a lot of time listening to the coaches during the classroom sessions and then working with them on-track--following them and then listening after they followed me and assessed my riding. Each session, I tried to pick one thing to work on. Sometimes it was body position, or braking or working on my lines or where I was looking or turning in. I worked at trying to be smooth and taking corners a little faster each time. This translated to the road, and I started to realize my bike wasn't the problem--I was. It's amazing how fast a little 400cc supermoto can be when your ability level as a rider has improved.

Over the years, I found that everytime I made an investment in my skill as a rider, whether it was a track day, reading a book (I love Keith Codes' Twist of the Wrist), watching videos or attending a training course like Total Rider Tech, I made improvements. Did my mods like my exhaust, stainless steel brake lines and power commander make a difference? Yeah. But they're not what helped me see the biggest positive change.

About the time I got my sportbike was when I first started hearing about riding schools like California Superbike School and Yamaha Champions Riding School. I checked it out and talked to people who had done it and immediately became convinced that this was what I needed to take my riding to the next level. All I heard were these positive stories about how much it changed people's lives. I checked it out and got a bit sticker-shocked over the price though. So it became a dream. Something I hoped to do someday when I had the money. But, I never got it out of my head.

This year, I decided to get more serious about my riding and began doing more track days, and as I did, I began hearing more and more about Yamaha Champions Riding School. I started following them on social and watching their videos. Now, track days are great, but they are not a riding school. And here's the difference with Yamaha Champions Riding School:

1. You're learning from some of the top instructors in the industry and there's a 4:1 student to instructor ratio.

2. They film you on-track and then you get to analyze the footage with an instructor.

3. Some of the classroom learning happens in a van at speed!

4. Unlike track riding, you have the chance to do drills--like rear brake drills, rider-adjustment drills and steering-geometry adjustability. It also covers principles like consistency, traction studies, and tire and suspension loading.

5. The teaching is competition-proven and it provides skills that are used by the best riders in the world. The techniques are truly world-class. Plus, you may end up with a guest instructor like Larry Pegram or Scott Russell.

After learning about this I became even more adamant that I had to do Champ School. And the sooner the better. So, after talking with some of the folks from Champ School, I'm pleased to share that I'll be attending the Aug. 19 and 20 Champ School at Pittsburgh International Race Complex!

I feel confident that Champ School will make the biggest impact that has ever been made in my riding and couldn't be more excited.

I also have good news for anyone considering it--you can get a 10% discount through my discount code: Sarah10. Just visit and enter Sarah10 at checkout. That's $220 you'll save! And this can be used for any Champ School, not just the one on Aug. 19 and 20--so check out the schedule.

Also, if you're not quite ready to make the investment in the two-day Champ School, they also offer a one-day program called Champ Day.

Although Champ School is different than track days I still fully intend to continue doing track days. But, I have a feeling after doing the school that I'll become a better rider on the track and see my laps times improve. In fact, some Champ School participants see a six-second improvement! It's hard enough for me to just shave a second off! So I'm really excited to see my track riding progress.

One of the other important attributes about Champ School is that it's not just about speed, but about safety. It doesn't matter how fast you can go if you can't stay on the bike, so I'm looking forward to that benefit as well. And it all translates to the road, too.

In closing, I'm not saying "don't make mods to your bike." There are mods that are a necessity. For example, I added braided stainless steel brake lines since my rubber ones would swell at the track under pressure and lacked the performance I needed. But, what I am saying is, before you start making mods, ask yourself if putting that money into your riding will be the better investment.

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