One of my first assignments for Rider was to attend and review the California Superbike School. My palms got sweaty and my chest tightened at the prospect of riding an unfamiliar sportbike on an unfamiliar racetrack for two days and interviewing the legendary Keith Code. I hadn’t even ridden on a track before! That proved to be a pivotal experience for me. After years of learning to ride through trial and error, Code and his coaches took the mystery out of cornering by breaking it down into a simple—though not necessarily easy—step-by step process.
While there really is no substitute for the didactic experience of classroom and on-track coaching, many riders don’t have the time or money to devote to a one- or two-day riding school. To share his teachings with the masses, Code has published books and produced videos. Twist of the Wrist: The Motorcycle Roadracers Handbook came out in 1983 and quickly became a standard reference to learn the “art of cornering.” It was later followed by companion audio CDs and a video. An updated volume, Twist of the Wrist II: The Basics of High-Performance Motorcycle Riding, was published in 1997 and geared toward a wider audience. This book provides the substantive material for the eponymous DVD released in late 2009.
Keith Code is a striking figure. With shock-white hair and a soul patch providing rock-star ornamentation for a craggy face and dead-serious eyes, he’s all business. Even when he injects some humor into his teaching, it seems to be purely for our benefit, like a kung-fu master toying with naïve pupils. He speaks clearly and deliberately, without “ums” or any excess words, and the tone of his voice is one of deep, confident knowledge—with a slight twinge of cockiness. When Keith Code starts talking, pay attention.
Drawing on his 30 years of experience running CSS, which has taught over 100,000 students and 15 U.S. Superbike champions how to be better riders, Keith Code puts his heart and soul in everything he does. Twist of the Wrist II is an entertaining, informative DVD with high production value. Instead of simply following a curriculum outline, Twisthas a narrative trajectory that entertains as it teaches. Early on we meet two inexperienced riders at Newcomb’s Ranch, a popular motorcycle hangout on South California’s Angeles Crest Highway. Their youthful exuberance far exceeds their skills, and their shiny new sportbikes seem destined to shorten their life expectancy. Before tragedy strikes, an older and wiser rider steps in and hands them a well-used copy of Twist of the Wrist II, which he calls the “cornering Bible.” We follow the young guns as they use the book to learn new skills, eventually head to the track to practice in a safe environment and ultimately become better, more confident riders.
Early on, we are told that our instinctivesurvival reactions, or SRs, are the biggest barrier to riding smoothly and confidently. The eight SRs are: body steering instead of countersteering; chopping the throttle; counter leaning; tightening the grip on the bars; not looking through the turn; target fixation; freezing up; and grabbing the brakes. Stop and think about that for a moment. Innate responses by our amygdala—that reptilian part of our brain responsible for “fight or flight” reflexes—fill us with confusion and panic, which can lead us to cause that thing we most desperately want to avoid: a crash.
At California Superbike School, I remember Code telling us that motorcycles want to do the right thing. It is our job to create the least interference possible with their designed function. To do that, we must consciously prevent ourselves from overreacting. In the heat of the moment, we need to stay relaxed. Keep cool, find your happy place, get Zen or pray—whatever it takes, just don’t freak out. By staying centered and focused, we can continue to countersteer, maintain throttle, lean into the turn, keep a light grip on the bars, look where we want to go and stay in control.
Professional camera work, computer graphics, special “meters” that show steering input and suspension travel and Code’s self-designed Lean-and-Slide Bike and Panic Brake Bike illustrate lessons and examples brilliantly, often in slo-mo-ah-ha! mode. An added bonus is narration by Julian Ryder, a World Superbike and MotoGP commentator whose English accent sounds authoritative. Keith Code clearly invested a lot of time and money in producing Twist. It’s a shame his decades-long partnership with Kawasaki, whose lime-green color and bikes are featured prominently in the DVD, ended just before its release. He formed a new alliance with BMW and now uses the S 1000 RR for track training.
You’ll get way more value of out of the Twist of the Wrist II DVD than its $29.95 price. For new riders, veterans, racers and CSS alumni alike, it is great reference material. Do your best riding buddy a solid by ordering a copy for him, too.
To view a trailer, order or get more information, visit www.twistofthewristdvd.com.