Round Two of Cornerspin is the Advanced Rider Class aka Flat Track 101. It’s said to be a combination of Cornerspin with advanced techniques plus flat track. Students must complete Cornerspin 1 (or some other comparable school) before signing up. The advanced class is held only a few times each year. Last year, the advanced class was canceled. Sometimes, it rains out. Sometimes, it has too few students. This year, the weather and students held out. The class was on!
I attended the first Cornerspin three times, but my goal of learning to spin sideways was not complete. I wanted to learn how to spin sideways on a short track. So, I returned for the advanced class. The cost was $600, with no discount for returning students as is normally done with Level 1. You don’t need a bike for this school. Bikes are provided but students are welcome to bring their own. I brought a YCF Sunday 147cc flat tracker, but I didn’t use it until Day 2.
By way of background, Sunday Motors is the mini flat track offering from YCF, a French company. YCF USA is based in Edgewater, Florida. They have a line of Chinese-assembled dirt bikes and racers developed by French National Motocross Racer Yannick Coquard. The engines are produced in Japan. It’s sort of a French/China/Japan connection.
I stumbled on YCF in New Smyrna, Florida and felt that it was not just another Chinese clone because it had a real Mikuni carburetor, front and rear disc brakes, adjustable rear monoshock, performance style pipe and some cosmetic factory tweaks. They looked cool and came with a 3-month warranty. So, I tried one. I bought a 150 BigY MX dirt bike.
The BigY 150 MX lists for $1,999 plus freight and set up. Compare that to Suzuki’s DR-Z125L which lists for $3,299! The seat height is 35 inches, so it’s a full-size dirt bike. But at 182 lbs, it’s pretty light and you get a rear disc brake. It’s a good beginner bike for not much money. I bought my YCF mostly to trash. It held up well. I’m not a professional rider. I crash a lot. I’m still learning. I did not spend a lot. It’s all good.
I showed my YCF dirt bike to my dealer friends in Pennsylvania. One liked it so much, they became a dealer. So, while the YCF website shows only five dealers and they’re mostly in Florida, add one for Pennsylvania: Blackman’s Cycle Center in Emmaus.
YCF also makes two baby flat tracker models, the FT147 and FT187, under the brand name of Sunday Motors. Mine is the FT147. The larger 187cc model is a 4-valve job but shares the same chassis with its smaller brother. They come in plain white, yellow for Yamaha, Orange for H-D and Maroon for Indian – but hey, no checkerboard for Bultaco!
That’s a problem – we need checkerboard!
So, I bought a FT147. The list price was $2,499 plus freight and set up. The larger model starts at $3,299.
Neutral is all the way down with four speeds up, so the pattern takes some getting used to. Both my bikes were very hard to start especially when hot, but they each became completely different bikes once I adjusted the valves, which were out of spec on both bikes. The valve adjustment on mine (two valves) took a whopping 15 minutes. They now each start beautifully cold or hot. They idle and run better, too.
My rear caliper was not aligned on my FT147, but that was my fault. I did the PDI. Be sure to go over your own bike before you race it, or have your dealer do it. Be sure to also check your fluids, but mine were fine. Each run great now with no issues.
Rather than pissing money away on paint, I had mine wrapped in checkerboard. Cost was $200 from TNT Vinyl Designs. With the checkerboard done, my bike was ready for class. I was like a kid with a new lunchbox.
Dale Quarterly, a former leading privateer and AMA National Superbike winner and Tom Kipp, a former Supersport and Superbike Champion, joined Aaron teaching the class. Dale took the lead teaching role on Saturday with Aaron in tow. Tom joined us on Sunday and Aaron took lead. That was three, count ‘em three, instructors for 11 people! That’s pretty damn good!
This class had fewer organized drills than the earlier series. The class was designed for more ride time with instructors working individually with each rider. That’s how its designed.
The students were all experienced racers of some sort across a variety of disciplines. I was the odd man out. My experience came only from a series of lessons. I’ve never raced in my life and it showed. I was the slowest man there and I felt a bit like a fish out of water. The other students were flying round the dirt with their inside foot out sliding and powering through the turns, Yet I had been taught to keep my feet on the pegs and control the bike with my legs. I rode that way until I was instructed to do something else.
Other riders were instructed to stop moving around their bike. Sit on the seat fat, dumb, and stupid – meaning sit neutral. Each of us had different issues and Dale could identify them. My problem was still my death grip, fighting the bike to lean it down. Dale says, “push the bar, push the bar”, which meant push the left handlebar bar to go left, don’t pull the right bar.
One should simply push the left bar lightly. We don’t really need the right hand to go left except for the gas. At one time, Dale got on the bike with me. Yes, envision him and I, some 500 lbs piloting a Honda CRF150 in the dirt. I sat on the gas tank with Dale behind. “Push the bar, push the bar”, he said. Sounds kinky! I understand countersteer. I can do it naturally on a broad turn, or even one tight one, but give me two or three tight 3-5 mph turns in a row, a left, a right and a left, and, well – it’s hard. So back to the drills I went.
The “mini-mile” was a dirt circle no wider than two parking spaces. It’s like turning around in a parking lot. “Turn right to go left”, they said – and I couldn’t do it. Others would speed up and slide, but that wasn’t the drill. They were doing it wrong too! They were just doing wrong differently than I was! I went to a larger circle and the drill became familiar. Make the circle smaller and it’s harder. While the others were riding, Aaron took me for more drills – brake, countersteer, lean and gas – aimed at getting the bike leaned over.
I pretty much sucked at the drills but they did help me on the track. The problem was that as I became faster, so did everyone else. I still felt somewhat out of place. I was a bit discouraged. Then Aaron gave me the shoe! I was no longer discouraged.
Practice with the shoe is reassuring once you get the technique. “Don’t dangle your foot…put your foot out when you brake…put it back on the peg when you’re not. Back it in the corner…brake hard. turn, and gas. Put your foot out to the side, not out by the front wheel…not MX style…use your knee as a hinge, you can stand the bike up or lean it further.”
One can certainly lean the bike further with a leg to stand on! That’s the reassuring part. It wasn’t that hard and helped me when I returned to the track. Its like having another tool in the shed. I suddenly felt better. I had another tool! The other students soon joined me on the short track. Now, it was not so easy. It’s one thing sliding around a flat track when no one else is on the track. You’ll feel like a pro and maybe get some good photos. But its an entirely different feeling trying to slide into the corner with 4-6 other guys trying to slide into that same corner. It’s like learning to use a tool – while 6 other guys are trying to grab that same tool from your hands!
It was time to switch things up. While the others were vying around the short track, I brought my 147 out for drills. The rear brake felt soft at first, but once the pucks settled in, they became downright grippy. With big wide bars, it was easy to “push the bar”. Of course, the suspension felt hard because I had been riding a dirt bike all weekend. But it was working.
Aaron saw me and asked for a spin. I watched him flog the YCF through the short track. Tom Kipp and two others were behind him. The dirt was packed. The YCF’s little tires chirped into each turn. Aaron continued to lead. “Now that’s what I’m talking about”, I thought! It was cool. Everyone was having fun.
We continued to practice both on the short track and the race track. We had some organized drills on different parts of each. Some more general, while others geared to the specific terrain. My issue for the weekend was “push the bar” over the multitude of situations. Everyone’s issue was different.
Sunday, the second day, was about 3/4 over. After a short break I planned more practice on the short track, but I fell. No – not a motorcycle crash kind of fall. I slipped walking with the steel shoe! I wasn’t riding, so I had no gear on. I fell flat on my back, which is already wired together and I was not wearing my back or chest protector. That fall hurt and the July heat pretty much finished my riding for the day, but the day was winding down anyway. So, the next lesson learned, other than riding, was to keep your gear on until you take your shoe off! That’s probably good advice.
In sum, I accomplished my goal of learning to spin it sideways along the track. I could pretty much do it with my Bultaco too, even the real one. Goal accomplished! And I had fun – that’s gravy. So, the question now is where to go from here? Is it on to Johnny Lewis Flat Track School for a more serious immersion or something else? Dunno. Stay tuned.