Lee Parks' Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic™

Text: Eric Bass • Photography: Lee Parks

Despite the old adage that "two heads are better than one," any rider who has ever attempted to negotiate a hairpin curve or sudden road hazard on a motorcycle burdened by a less than synchronized passenger can attest that there are indeed exceptions to this rule. In truth, the degree of harmony or dissonance between the minds and bodies of pilot and co-pilot plays a critical role in determining whether touring two-up will be a thoroughly pleasurable bonding experience between partners, or a stressful and potentially hazardous folie à deux.

So how can you and your preferred pillion learn to conduct advanced riding maneuvers with the casual grace of a pair of Cirque du Soleil acrobats? Well, for one, attending a reputable riding school together is an excellent foundation. Many folks don't realize it but there are several good schools out there which permit folks to take their classes two-up. My wife Jackie and I recently participated in the Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic as a dynamic duo and it proved to be a fun and valuable learning experience for both of us.

The course we took was conducted in frosty Adelanto, CA by the school's founder, Lee Parks, whose credentials include a five-year stint as the editor of the venerable bench test bible, Motorcycle Consumer News, as well as years of road-racing experience. His book, Total Control, is a well-respected tome on the subject of high performance street riding techniques, and the class is structured around those principles.

Parks' curriculum focuses on optimal cornering technique and alternates between classroom instruction and practical application in a cone-filled parking lot at speeds rarely exceeding 30 mph. The various practice pad drills involve navigating around circles, ovals, and figure eights. The riders are divided into several small groups and they practice the techniques one at a time, at their own version of an appropriate pace, under the direct guidance of an instructor. Parks believes that this makes his class a perfect choice for experienced riders who want to improve their skills, but who are uncomfortable with the idea of track-based schools.

You ride what ya' brung at Lee's class, and he reports that the majority of students typically arrive on sport tourers. The session we participated in consisted of a diverse batch of rides including several sportbikes, a pair of Ninja 250s, a Goldwing, and even a female Hog rider who grew so enamored of her newfound skills that Parks actually advised her to slow it down a bit! Jackie and I were the only couple taking the class two-up, and as it turned out, aside from a suggestion here, and a question answered there, there was no need for a special curriculum to accommodate us.

As the wife of a moto-journalist and a skilled motorcycle photographer in her own right, Jackie has had plenty of exposure to riding. To date though, she hasn't piloted a motorcycle herself, nor has she ever read a book nor taken a class on proper technique. While I would have already rated her as an excellent and nearly transparent passenger, I was unaware of some of the hidden concerns and misunderstandings that lurked behind the visor of her helmet.

After the TCARC class Jackie reported that, "As a passenger, it opened my eyes to what is going through the rider's mind as we approach obstacles and negotiate curves. I also now understand what it means to really look through the turn by selecting your turn-in point, then trusting that it's there and carving the turn while looking away and ahead. I really saw the difference in how much smoother the ride was when using the technique of trail braking, and the benefit of using Lee's method of initiating a deep entry point and 'flopping' into the turn. There was no more jostling the bike and getting unseated."

Proper body position is a critical factor for the rider, but it's quite common for a passenger's poor mechanics to throw the pilot off by fighting their inputs. Often this dissonance comes at the worst possible time in the middle of a hairpin turn or emergency maneuver. According to Jackie, "Using the proper body position gave me more confidence and a more secure seat for turning really deeply. I know how to position myself now so I don't have to hang on for dear life, or get caught off guard and throw the bike off balance or fall off. It also wasn't as physically demanding once I learned how to work with the bike, so I wasn't tired from hanging on."

Along with improving the riders' technical skills, TCARC's classroom instruction also directly addresses techniques to replace counter-productive psychological impulses like fear and anxiety with a state of relaxed attentiveness that allows you to tap into your fullest skills and abilities. This can benefit both rider and passenger and greatly increase the fun factor of the ride.

Jackie and I took full advantage of the opportunity to safely explore our limits on the practice pad, and she used these concepts to calm her mind and focus. "When I saw how deeply leaned over the other bikes were getting, and how the riders hung off the sides, I got a little nervous, but when you use the techniques we learned, it really doesn't feel like you're leaning so much, and it's comfortable. With practice, you get a feel of how to go with the flow, and now that I know the bike won't fall over at those angles, I feel way more confident, excited even, to ride through twisty passes as we travel."

So whether your partner occasionally tries to zig while you're zagging, or if you'd just like to enhance your skills and safety together, Lee Parks' Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic is a great choice for those who want their two heads thinking, and riding, more like one.