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post #1 of 14 Old 05-16-2011, 01:06 PM Thread Starter
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Lee Parks Total Control May 2011 review

I just attended the Lee Parks Total Control riders clinic in Olympia, Washington this past weekend (May 14, 2011). Here's my review...

SUMMARY

B+ overall. Through a combination of useful but sometimes rambling classroom sessions as well as targeted and very useful range exercises, I feel my ability to take a corner smoothly and in control is greatly enhanced. Cost: $295.

DETAIL

The course is 40% classroom lecture and 60% range exercises. The lectures were informative but tended to be long-winded, sometimes overly detailed, and occasionally tangential, bordering on completely off-topic. Pete and Jeff, our two instructors, were engaging and very knowledgeable and definitely likable. After introductions were made, we talked about the theory of cornering as well as the mental attitudes needed to ride effectively. Eventually we headed out to the range, a large parking lot behind a nearby mall about 5 blocks away.

The range exercises were the most useful part of the clinic. Anyone that took the MSF Basic Riders Course would find the format and approach very similar. We had a large area to work in, roughly the size of two football fields side-by-side, with circles and routes painted on the asphalt. Pete and Jeff set up several circles and lines using small orange and green cones, then gave us instructions for our first exercise.

To start, we practiced straight-line throttle and brake control exercises, learning to smoothly adjust our speed using a combination of both. Then, after riding around the range to scrub (warm up) our tires, we began some simple turning exercises.

We didn't break for lunch until 1:10 PM and only had 15 minutes to grab something and meet back at the classroom. We continued with another lecture while everyone wolfed down their food. This time the lecture was far more focused and less tangential. We talked about specific cornering techniques with an emphasis on body position. The group moved out onto the parking lot outside for a series of exercises.

One exercise taught us to visualize a corner's turn-in point ahead of time, and then recognizing its position in our mind when we reach it. Then we moved onto a pair of exercises that involved leaning to the side into the arms of two other riders, followed by sitting on our bikes and leaning off with our bodies while other riders held our bike. After that, we suited up and headed back to the range.

The remaining series of range exercises taught us how to locate our turn-in point and how to use our head and direction of sight to ensure smooth cornering. Looking through the curve is probably the most influential part of navigating a corner smoothly. I scraped my pegs a couple of times during these exercises, despite riding the tallest bike in the group. It was easy to tell when my eyes or head moved out of that 'look through' position because my bike would twitch and swerve along with my line-of-sight. Even my throttle control varied with my eye and head position. Whenever I looked steadily through the curve my cornering technique was smooth and even.

And then the rain came. During a lecture on tires earlier in the day, instructor Jeff commented that modern street bike tires are capable of far more than most bikes and riders will demand of them. He also said that they provide up to 80% traction on wet road surfaces, still above what most riders will need. Those comments gave us the confidence to keep taking the curves in the range exercise even after the rain had the pavement soaking wet.

We rode in at least an hour of hard rain, and I personally found it exciting to take the same corners at the same speed but on very wet pavement. It boosted my confidence dramatically.

After retiring back to the classroom at 6pm, the remainder of the session was about suspension. Since the suspension on my V-Strom has very little adjustment capabilities, I decided to bag the rest of the class and head back to my motel in the rain.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I gained a greater knowledge of the mechanics and physics of how a motorcycle goes around corners and much of the details that is involved in that process. I gained knowledge of how I should be moving my head and body before, during, and after a turn. I gained knowledge of how to choose the best line for navigating a corner with control and safety. And I gained the confidence to ride my motorcycle with greater speed and control, even in the rain.

The best way I can judge a product, service, or class is to weight it against the cost/effort. Overall I would say this class is worth more than the cost and time to attend it, and would even consider taking it again if there was one held closer to my home town.

2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650, "The Grey Mule"
2012 Suzuki GSX-R750, "Shoot to Thrill" (sold 2017)

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post #2 of 14 Old 05-16-2011, 02:16 PM
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Steve,
I greatly appreciate the write-up. I've been thinking about taking the class but kept backing away from the cost. Sounds like it would be worth it for me. Still trying to overcome the fear of over-leaning and low-siding. And I thought rain severely limits cornering. Guess not. Again, thanks. I will be signing up.
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post #3 of 14 Old 05-16-2011, 02:28 PM Thread Starter
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Steve,
I greatly appreciate the write-up. I've been thinking about taking the class but kept backing away from the cost. Sounds like it would be worth it for me. Still trying to overcome the fear of over-leaning and low-siding. And I thought rain severely limits cornering. Guess not. Again, thanks. I will be signing up.
The issue of leaning off the bike becomes a non-issue ... it's just a natural part of the turn itself. Their classroom lectures talk about tires and traction and suspension which goes a long way toward lessening, or even removing, your fear of low-siding. The boost in confidence from this class is almost worth the price by itself.

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post #4 of 14 Old 05-16-2011, 04:23 PM
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Even if you have a non-adjustable bike, the session on adjusting suspension is still good information. And V-Strom suspension has lots of adjustability -- you just have to take stuff apart and spend money... Knowledge about adjusting suspension helps you understand what you're after.

Anyway, I took the class last summer near Chicago and agree that it is well worth every penny.

I'd say my classes didn't ramble so much as delved into too much detail. At many points, I was bored silly with what I thought was very basic info. But then again, I could tell that many in the class had never encountered this information before. Hard to balance that, I suppose. In my class we did some completely pointless exercises involving picking up a bottle blindfolded, leaning and falling into each other, etc. The body positioning exercise on the bike took an awful lot of time, too -- perhaps they've updated this a bit.

I think everyone feels that riding time in the class is far too limited. I would say that a "Skills Day" following your TCR class is virtually mandatory. This is basically an open all-day practice with one or more coaches present, and it is extremely valuable if you want to make full use of the basic skills and concepts you learned in the class.

I think every rider should take this class -- you'll become a much, much safer rider.

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Last edited by bwringer; 05-16-2011 at 04:28 PM.
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post #5 of 14 Old 05-16-2011, 04:37 PM Thread Starter
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I'd say my classes didn't ramble so much as delved into too much detail. At many points, I was bored silly with what I thought was very basic info. But then again, I could tell that many in the class had never encountered this information before. Hard to balance that, I suppose.

I think everyone feels that riding time in the class is far too limited. I would say that a "Skills Day" following your TCR class is virtually mandatory. This is basically an open all-day practice with one or more coaches present, and it is extremely valuable if you want to make full use of the basic skills and concepts you learned in the class.

I think every rider should take this class -- you'll become a much, much safer rider.
I agree completely on all points. I had to boogie home in the pouring rain on I-5 so didn't have a chance to utilize any of what I learned in the class. Ideal would have been to take the 250 mile twisty route home, to practice it all on every curve. It's important to use what you were taught as soon as possible afterward or you lose it pretty quickly.

2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650, "The Grey Mule"
2012 Suzuki GSX-R750, "Shoot to Thrill" (sold 2017)

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post #6 of 14 Old 05-16-2011, 04:39 PM
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So, did anybody crash?

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post #7 of 14 Old 05-16-2011, 04:41 PM Thread Starter
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So, did anybody crash?
One guy dropped his brand new Moto Guzzi 1200. Twice. Trying to do a very low speed turn getting back into line (not during the exercise itself). He was about 5' 7" tall and to see him sitting on that bike reminded me of the rodeo riders sitting on top of 2,000 pound bulls.

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post #8 of 14 Old 05-16-2011, 07:33 PM
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Outstanding review, thank you. I live close enough to Oly that I could easily make that -- I will put it on the todo list.

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Originally Posted by stevewz View Post
It was easy to tell when my eyes or head moved out of that 'look through' position because my bike would twitch and swerve along with my line-of-sight. Even my throttle control varied with my eye and head position. Whenever I looked steadily through the curve my cornering technique was smooth and even.
This is something I "know" but have never got right. Some more advanced training might help drill it into me.

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And then the rain came.
Quite a lot of it this weekend! It was an unusually wet (even for us) storm system.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stevewz View Post
During a lecture on tires earlier in the day, instructor Jeff commented that modern street bike tires are capable of far more than most bikes and riders will demand of them. He also said that they provide up to 80% traction on wet road surfaces, still above what most riders will need. Those comments gave us the confidence to keep taking the curves in the range exercise even after the rain had the pavement soaking wet.
I hope that this was couched in reality ... while the above is marginally true, it assumes a controlled environment where you know that there's only water present! On the street, particularly at urban intersections and freeway ramps, it's likely as not that you'll frequently encounter oil or fuel in the mix, which raises the risk dramatically.

Thanks again for the detailed and objective report.
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post #9 of 14 Old 05-16-2011, 07:51 PM
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Nice review, Steve. Was Jeff riding a blue Concours with over 200k on the clock? Great, knowledgeable guy.

Rob

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07 650A | KLR250(x2) | KLR650 | DRZ400 | FJR
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post #10 of 14 Old 05-16-2011, 11:02 PM
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Nice review, Steve. Was Jeff riding a blue Concours with over 200k on the clock? Great, knowledgeable guy.
And smooth. He co-taught the intermediate class I took. I'll bet he's hell to follow on a twisty road.

Quick story about the class. There were three big-Harley riders. Two were in their early sixties. During intro's it was obvious they felt the class was beneath their skill level. Both had been riding a long time, road captains for their HD club, etc. Only taking the class because it was required to get on Ft Lewis. It was good I was wearing a full-face because I was laughing at them most of the time. They couldn't come close to staying in the figure-eight box, constantly overshot the turns, and almost crashed every time they had to do an emergency stop. Forget the avoidance maneuvers. A humbling experience for those two. The third guy had what looked like a retro police bike. Huge thing, as was he. He crashed twice. Each time he leaped off and his Harley laid on its side, still running and going in circles as it pivoted on the front crash bar. He flunked the class.

Good times.
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