Sand, Sun, and Speed at Cornerspin

Jul 20, 2013 View Comments by

Sand, Sun, and Speed at Cornerspin

Grit crunches between my clenched teeth as I stay on the throttle deep into a corner, common sense and my survival instincts screaming in protest. After a good handful of brake, I’m back hard on the gas headed for my next trial-by-curve. The results are a solid mixture of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good: corners that I get at least somewhat close to right. The bad: when I’m way, way off. The ugly, well, that’s a crash.

I’m at Aaron Stevenson’s Cornerspin School in Spencer, NC. With me are fellow RoadRUNNER staffers Florian and Manuel Neuhauser. We’ve come for two days of honing our road riding skills by mixing it up in the red dirt of Aaron’s track. Cornerspin’s tagline, “road racing in the dirt” is certainly an apt description of the class.

Day one starts off nice and brisk, with temperatures in the mid-thirties. Aaron begins with an overview of the course and its objectives, but it isn’t long before we’re hopping on some Honda CRF100s and hitting the track. We take a few tentative laps trying to get a feel for the bike and the dirt under our tires. Since Manuel and Florian have attended Cornerspin once before, they acclimate quickly. I, on the other hand, take a bit more time.

After a few laps, Aaron gets to work coaching us on our body position. He encourages us to keep our chest forward, elbows out, head up, and our weight above the engine. A variety of drills drive home why these positions are important. Starting with braking, we take turns slamming on just our front, rear, and both brakes at the same time. We learn to control the bike, even when it’s sliding, and to use the brakes to help us steer.

After the drills we move on to mastering specific corners on the track, running them over and over. Each pass brings a little improvement—or a little pain. Learning to ride any motorcycle, even a tiny 100cc dirt bike, at ten-tenths doesn’t come cheaply. None of us escaped without at least half a dozen crashes (I may have had a few more than that), the wrecks weren’t severe, but even a 15 mph low side doesn’t feel good.

As day one drew to a close we continued racking up the laps. Each time around we tried to go just a smidge faster, brake a little later, and get on the gas a bit sooner. By the end of the day, we were tired, sore, and happy.

Day two dawned with warmer temperatures, a few stiff muscles, and vastly enhanced skills. Techniques that had been a struggle on day one somehow had become second nature by day two. The number of crashes decreased dramatically (though I still had a few), and lap times, though we weren’t keeping track, must have improved greatly. Where day one was learning the techniques, day two was putting them all to use. We continued running laps, perfecting corners, and getting faster.

We also took a turn on Aaron’s oval course, which he also uses for teaching flat track. We practiced sliding the bikes in order to make it through an especially tight turn marked out by tires at each end of the oval. Few things produce as many grins as intentionally sliding a motorcycle through a turn (conversely, few things are as terrifying as doing so unintentionally). By the end of the day I was on my own (Florian and Manuel having entered into a two man race, just as brothers should) attacking the track, sliding through corners, and exercising more control over my bike than ever before.

Perhaps the best endorsement for Cornerspin, or any other training course, is that my riding has forever changed. Even now, each time I’m heading for a curve in the road, I scoot all the way forward, sit up straight, and stick my elbows out, though I save the sliding for the dirt.

Perhaps the best endorsement for Cornerspin, or any other training course, is that my riding has forever changed. Even now, each time I’m heading for a curve in the road, I scoot all the way forward, sit up straight, and stick my elbows out, though I save the sliding for the dirt.

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About the author

There’s something relentlessly romantic about riding a motorcycle. I’m blessed to know that feeling. With a background in photography and a love for motorcycles, I’m interested in the beauty and honesty of the open road. You’ll find me riding Carolina’s roads on my Suzuki SV650.