“Now is past tense in anything that moves.”
Dane Pitarresi has a 40+ year career focused on going fast on four wheels, and he’s got the quips to prove it. With experience racing in SCCA, IMSA, and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Dane has an impressive resume. But why am I chatting with an ex-automotive racer? Turns out that he’s just as nuts about bikes as you and me, and he’s trying to help get new riders into the fold with a training tool called SKIDBIKE that promises to eliminate the possibility of a crash if the rider makes a mistake. On the other end of the spectrum, advanced riders can also learn what it’s like to slide like a flat track rider, except they’re playing on the edge of traction on pavement. Turns out invincibility is quite the boost to one’s courage, and SKIDBIKE provides riders with both.
What is SKIDBIKE?The system itself consists of independent carriages for the front and rear wheels. Each carriage has an electrically controlled hydraulic ram that can lift the wheel off the ground, enabling Dane to play with how much grip the rider has.
From a safety standpoint, the carriages are supplemented by “wings” that limit how much the bike can lean over – the maximum limit is 35 degrees. As Vy demonstrates below, a rider can just stay at max lean even when stationary, meaning that if a student screws up and puts themselves in a situation that would normally result in a lowside or highside, they just have to hold on the bike.
If you need to put your foot down for any reason (such as if you’re Nathan and you’re about to experience would what normally be a highside), the wings have platforms where you can safely support yourself.
Dane has a remote control that can adjust how much grip the rider has with the front and rear tires on the fly, and he can kill engine power from afar if necessary. Though the system is very robust, each rider is outfitted with a Helite airbag vest just in case.
SKIDBIKE owes its existence to SKIDCAR, a driver training program created in 1980s Sweden. Since 1990, Dane has been the sole SKIDCAR source for the US, one of the 35 countries that utilizes the system to train law enforcement, first responders, professional drivers, and lucky beginners. Because Dane is also a passionate motorcyclist, he convinced the company to expand into two-wheeled vehicles, and I’m very glad he did. I learned all about this when I originally met Dane at the 2017 Mecum Las Vegas Auctions. He kindly offered to bring the SKIDBIKE to me in Los Angeles, so I asked a few friends of varying skill levels to join and try it for themselves.
What’s it Like?
Because Dane typically works in an instructional capacity with beginners, the day starts with a quick session to get familiarized with the controls.
First, you start with off with a carriage on the rear tire only. This gets you used to the system and enables a beginner to learn what the limit of rear wheel braking is. Dane stresses that at its core, SKIDBIKE is a safety-focused rider training system. But riders who have plenty of experience will find it difficult to resist the temptation to start sliding the rear wheel. Dane understands this and didn’t have a problem with us goofing around, but if your sole purpose is to drift then you’re not learning as much as you can.
Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, the SKIDBIKE system provides an unique opportunity in that you can explore the limits of adhesion, make a mistake, and not have to pay the usual physical price. The first time I went out, Dane told me to focus on the front brake while corner. He specifically told me to “breathe” on it as I attacked corner after corner to learn exactly how much pressure I could apply before the front end would start to tuck. The only way to find the limit is to go past it, and it’s nice to know that you won’t crash when that happens.
There are many similarities to my time at Wheelie University – prove that you can handle the system at a certain level and Dane will let you get a little crazier. Eventually, you can attempt your best Nick Brocha-impression.
Though the day starts with just the rear carriage, the front carriage is actually what drove the creation of SKIDBIKE. For Dane, the key was to offer students the ability to feel the front brake lock up and the impending lowside without putting themselves in harm’s way. The takeaway for a rider should be understanding how to optimally use both brakes together.
At walking speeds, the system doesn’t really feel like a motorcycle because of the wings, which add a lot of weight/width and give me bike a floaty sensation. It would be an interesting way of teaching someone new how to ride, as they could focus almost completely on learning how to use a clutch and not have to worry about staying balanced at the same time. Once you’re moving, it starts to feel like a regular bike again – just one that’s four times as wide as usual.
For most riders, the only way to learn how to play on the edge of traction is on a dirt bike. SKIDBIKE is the only system I’ve encountered that allows for similar education on pavement, and I think that knowledge is very valuable. As an experienced rider, I appreciated the opportunity to practice pushing the limit of front wheel braking and learning how to recover without tucking the front wheel, but what really put a smile on my face was sliding the rear wheel. Vy also had a smile on her face because she felt confident to do things she had never done on a bike, such as locking up the rear wheel or dumping the clutch.
No matter your skill level, SKIDBIKE is tremendous fun. They’re currently working to get the system in safety training courses around the country – would you try this out if it was offered as a private course?
I actually tried out SKIDBIKE over a year ago with the intent of creating a video, and I finally decided I should complement it with this written story. If you missed it when it originally debuted, here’s the video again!