Full disclosure: I’m no racer. I enjoy the occasional track day, but the lion’s share of my seat time comes by way of public roads. I’d venture to say that’s the case for most motorcyclists. Whether you fancy yourself an avid racer or a recreational rider, there’s always room for improvement. There’s also no shortage of resources to help sharpen those skills, but not all motorcycle training courses are accessible to everyone.
That’s the case with Yamaha Champions Riding School (YCRS). While the comprehensive course visits circuits from California to New Jersey, many riders aren’t fortunate enough to afford the travel expenses and price tag (ChampStreet: $495, Two-Day: $2,195). To reach riders where they are (geographically and financially), YCRS introduced its 13-part online class Champ U in August, 2021. At $99.95, the digital course features Champ School’s full theory curriculum but leaves the practice to the user.
Customers may not have a closed course to put those lessons to the test, but that’s a small price to pay for such a low price of entry. Customers still receive sage advice from lead instructor Nick Ienatsch and King of the Baggers champion Kyle Wyman, but can now absorb and apply the modules at their own convenience. With the track and riding season on the horizon, I recently completed YCRS’s Champ U to see whether the race-bred techniques can make a road rider faster and safer on the street.
Mind Over Matter
We’ve all been there; practically every motorcyclist knows what it’s like to overcook a corner, rush an apex, or get greedy with the throttle. When those dicey moments inevitably occur, half the battle is collecting your nerves enough to tackle the next bend. I’ve personally bungled countless corners due to a preoccupation with a mistake made in the previous turn. On the track, those successive errors result in slower lap times, but on the roadway, the consequences are much direr.
To help riders regain focus after such instances, Champ U challenges riders to prime their awareness with the Mental Approach chapter. If you’ve ever seen Valentino Rossi crouch beside his Yamaha M1 prior to a MotoGP race, you understand the importance of finding a suitable headspace before a ride. However, not everything goes according to plan during a Sunday cruise or track session, and having a sure-fire way to regain focus is invaluable.
As a result, Ienatsch and company promote riders adopting a personal mantra. I’m sure many readers are questioning such a hippie concept, but the trigger word truly helps riders recoup awareness. That presence is the key to optimal performance, whether you’re barreling into a hairpin or gliding through a picturesque landscape. Of course, without the right mental approach, users can’t effectively apply Champ U’s advanced techniques.
Champ U builds on those firm foundations with the 100 Points of Grip, R=MPH (radius equals miles per hour), and Umbrella of Direction sections. Without giving away too many spoilers, each multi-part chapter puts YCRS’s traction theory, throttle/brake control, and vision techniques on full display. Following each instructional video, users complete a quiz to confirm full comprehension of the material before moving on.
Throughout each section, the instructors implore the rider to practice the concepts described in the video with drills. From gradual brake lever release to smooth throttle application to reducing abrupt movements both on and off the bike, most sessions only requires an empty parking lot to practice. On top of that accessibility, each drill is safe to execute on the street, with Champ U prioritizing perception over performance.
To The Test
Due to the online course’s sequential format, once riders understand the general theory behind YCRS, Champ U moves from the mental to the physical side of riding. The Body Position, Braking Practice, Ergonomics, Downshifting, and Rear Brake chapters examine how the rider’s inputs and setup affect the motorcycle. On the other hand, 100mm of Travel lesson and Pointy End of the Cone lessons act as theory refreshers, drawing from previous chapters to inform on more advanced concepts.
One of the most surprising aspects of Champ U is that it doesn’t restrict practice to motorcycles alone. In the penultimate section, Car Practice, the team illustrates that YCRS lessons also apply to driving automobiles. Bikes and cars may steer differently, but both vehicles feature brakes, acceleration, and finite grip. Ienatsch even equates steering wheel angle to a bike’s lean angle while demonstrating that riders can practice nuanced throttle/brake application and vision while driving.
This chapter is particularly helpful for users in colder climates, where riding year-round may not be an option. It also supports the idea that YCRS lessons don’t just apply to two-wheeled vehicles. Adapting your riding to include Champ U’s core curriculum won’t just improve your performance, but also helps riders minimize abruptness, maximize focus, gain patience, and adjust to changing conditions.
After completing the first 12 Champ U lessons, the course amasses the drills from all the previous chapters into one final chapter. Redoing the drills is even more rewarding when the rider is armed with the knowledge gained throughout the online class. I can honestly say that the self-guided program helped me become a much more cognizant rider regardless of the environment.
The reward of safer street riding is enough to justify Champ U’s $99.95 price tag, but the fact that riders can be both prudent and quicker is well worth the investment. For a limited time, YCRS is also offering Champ U at the discounted rate of $49.95. Including 40 videos, 32 drills, and 43 quizzes, the online course is one of the best values in motorcycling right now.
If price and proximity were major deterrents to taking the Yamaha Champions Riding School in the past, Champ U distills that experience into an accessible online course. Even if you’re not a racer or a track rider, Champ U lays out life-saving riding techniques that will help all riders become faster and safer on any roadway or raceway.