“Everything you’ve learned out there, doesn’t apply in here. Everything you learn here, doesn’t apply to out there.” -Danny Walker
As I looked around the crowd after he said this on the start of the first day, I thought – “Why am I here”?!
With an intro like that, you’d think I’d jump on the nearest motorcycle and head for the hills. But here is the thing, I have heard about American Supercamp for the past 18 years! No joke. Almost all of my racing and dirt bike friends have taken it at some point. All of them have gushed about what an experience it is.
American Supercamp is a Motorcycle Technique School based on flat track principles. It teaches you how to critically think about your actions and the effects of said actions on the handling of the motorcycle. It focuses on improving your cornering techniques for safety and speed in both corner entry and exit. Basically, it teaches you how to slide. It’s widely known that most top road racers come from a flat track background. A good example is the Hayden brothers. Nicky Hayden was a top flat tracker long before he was a winning MotoGP racer. Learning how to control your bike, as it slides out of control while pushing your boundaries, is what separates winners from second place or saving you from crashing.
Obviously, I’m not that influenced by my friends or I would have taken Supercamp already.
The truth is, over the years when the opportunity arose; I either didn’t have the time, money or health insurance. When my friend Sabine called me up to take it with her, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that she had to ask several times. I had no reason not to. No dates scheduled. No legitimate excuses. Age was on my side now with time, money and health insurance. I only had every reason to stop being a buzz kill.
I finally said YES.
As soon as I got out of my car at the Harrington Raceway in Delaware, I got those jitters I used have when I road raced years ago. It’s part excitement, part unknown wonder, and a whole lot of over-stimulus with meeting new people, the sound of motorcycles, forms to fill out, wondering who is who and what-the-heck-did-I-say-yes-to.
Why would I take American Supercamp at this point in my riding life?
The more you ride, the more you learn. The more you try different types of riding, the more you learn, and the better rider you become. I want to become the best rider I can be in my life. I’m always curious about different types of riding.
I don’t have much dirt riding experience. In fact, I can count on two hands how many times I’ve ridden dirt in the past 18-plus years I’ve been a motorcyclist. The answer is seven. Supercamp was my 7th time on dirt in my life.
American Supercamp has three levels that you can take: Non-racer, Racer or Advanced. It is usually offered over two days and rotates locations throughout the USA. The days are divided with classroom time, riding and video review. Danny Walker, part owner/operator and retired pro-racer, is known in the industry for developing talent and bringing together a pro team of instructors for the camp. Over the last 20-plus years, the camp has developed techniques and drills that any rider can use, from novice to expert, to improve their riding skills.
Danny made that comment in the beginning because sliding the bike is not a technique that you will readily use in your everyday commute. What you can do on a small, lightweight Yamaha TTR125, the motos used in camp, on dirt is completely different than what you can do on say, a big 500-pound Harley riding in a city. What does translate is the ability to respond to any moto as it becomes squirrelly. When you practice being out of control, you become more proficient at being able to correct the issue with ease and calmness.
How awesome is that?!
No matter what your level of riding or your experience, one of the biggest FEAR issues is losing control of your motorcycle and crashing. This can happen to anyone. When things start to go awry on a motorcycle, our initial reaction is to tense up and freak out, which makes us lose focus and crash. Most schools concentrate on teaching students how to ride in controlled environments with smooth pavement. If only life was so easy! Dirt, debris, animals, distracted drivers… There is so much that is out of our control on the roads.
To get the most out of Supercamp, it is advised that you have, at the very least, taken an MSF-type course and know how to shift, turn and ride comfortably with a group. I decided to sign up for the non-racer camp. Although I have race experience and years of riding under my belt, I knew that I would be out of my element on dirt.
This proved to be a good choice. I can’t emphasize how different this type of riding is to anything else I’ve ever done. Danny broke us up into three groups. One third of the attendees were WOMEN and he put us together. How cool is that?! I look forward to a time where I don’t have to point that out. But it’s worth noting because a short while ago, this wasn’t a reality. You would be hard pressed to find just two or three women at an event like this. I also don’t have any issues riding with the men, but it was just fun to be with the ladies for once.
I noticed, during Danny’s morning class intro, a table behind him that had several bottles of Advil and Aleve on it. I thought it was funny. A few hours later I was still laughing as I hit the bottles after I high-sided in the second riding session. I was laughing because being out on the track was ridiculously fun despite my get-off.
Let me be very clear that this should not dissuade ANYONE from taking Supercamp.
I mention this because things happen when you learn new techniques, ride and push your boundaries. I high-sided because that morning’s jittery excitement had me hit the course with too much…ahem…enthusiasm. I was bruised, but nothing I couldn’t ride through. You will fall taking this course. The good news is, you’re on small bikes, going slow, wearing protective gear. If you don’t own your own dirt bike gear, you can borrow everything from the camp from helmet to boots and it’s included in the price.
Highlights from Supercamp
I’ve never taken a school that gives you as much seat time as Supercamp. The info email I received before camp mentioned that it might be wise to start working out and specifically focus on legs. I’m in pretty good shape and I was exhausted at the end of each day. You will get your money’s worth for sure. Breakfast and lunch is also included over the two days.
As Supercamp travels the USA, different pros will join Danny to coach. At my camp, retired South African MotoGP racer, Robbie Petersen, and his pro-racer son, Cam Petersen, graced us with their presence. Hanging out with the three of them was worth the cost of entry. I got two days of instruction from top world-class racers with personal feedback.
Be prepared to be humbled. Before I arrived, I had visions that I would leave camp sliding through corners as effortlessly as flat track legends like Chris Carr. The reality was, I was passed by one of Danny’s twelve year old racers-in-training who rode some of the track lines in a wheelie and had the bike sliding so perfectly in control that he repeatedly passed me in turns. When we reviewed the GoPro video of ourselves riding, I was surprised to see what felt like I was crossed up and sliding through turns looking very much like I was riding upright like a granny.
It just solidified that practice makes perfect. I spent camp laughing my head off, meeting incredible people, and challenging myself both mentally and physically. I know my riding skills improved. I could feel it immediately in my riding when I returned home and rode on the street. I highly recommend this camp to everyone, no matter your age or experience. There is so much to be learned from changing up your environment and learning a new form of riding.
I can’t wait to take this camp again. You can bet, this time, I won’t wait 18 years to do it.
For more information check out: AmericanSupercamp.com
The camps fill up quickly and next year’s schedule is already posted.
Have you taken American Supercamp? Please share below.
I would love to get to know you and meet you on the road!
Wow this is an uplifting and inspiring article! Even at just a hair >50 I’m tempted to sign up for this!!!
You should do it! Our group ranged from early 20s to nearly 60. Everyone enjoyed it.
I did it at age 54. Age is no excuse. 🙂 You will have one of the best times ever, and you will make so many new friends. It is just an awesome experience.
I wouldn’t mind trying something like this. Much better practicing with a light bike, as opposed to something like my GS, and in a controlled environment. Was great to read about the South African contribution to this event.