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Cracking the code

PRINCE FREDERICK
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MEET Keith Code, guru of superbike racing, on efforts that went into getting the techniques right

SUPER IDEAS Guru Keith Code Photo: R. Ragu
SUPER IDEAS Guru Keith Code Photo: R. Ragu

K eith Code is to superbike racing what Nick Bollettieri is to tennis. From Wayne Rainey to Leon Camier, the California Superbike School (CSS) Keith founded in 1980 has produced a procession of champion riders. And today, 66-year-old Code's yearly list of international coaching assignments stretches like a chopper's front fork. The guru of road-racing is now in Chennai to oversee classes at CSS India, started last year, in association with Preethi Home Appliances.

Code's entry into superbike coaching was serendipitous. In the mid-1970s, when he returned to road-racing after a lengthy hiatus, he sought to improve his riding skills. “I could not find even crumbs of information about effective road-racing techniques.” The dearth of learning resources proved a boon. Code decided to set himself a banquet of riding lessons.

Observing himself make mistakes, he arrived at the correct way of doing things on the track. Whatever he taught himself, was given permanence in a log book.

All from self-observation

From inconspicuous finishes, he consistently ended up on the winners' podium. He desired to share the fruits of his work with other riders. With this in mind, he made a seven-page course material based on the techniques he had mastered through self-observation. To be certain what worked for him will work for others, he proceeded to train riders one-on-one, with a thin classroom syllabus and numerous hours on the track.

Since the bikers showed results in their races, the idea of a superbike road-racing school began to rule his thoughts. He was so consumed by it that he retired from racing in 1979. As with any man ahead of his time, Code had cold water splashed on his vision.

In 1980, the notion of a superbike school was quixotic to many on the circuit; these prophets of doom appeared right. “In its first year, CSS had only 10 school days!” (Today, the school is present in all the continents, and coaches 7,500 students in a year.)

Venturing into the unknown with nothing but one's shadow for company can cast doubts in the mind of the boldest pioneer. As the school began to grow and attract people with widely varied riding abilities — from legendary superbike champions to rank newcomers — Code was challenged by the need to create lessons that anyone can follow. Code drew upon his experiences as a student of design.

“The instructors at the design school had a practical approach to teaching.

They showed us that we could take small steps towards understanding complex things.

We just had to focus on one small thing at a time.” Code broke every major lesson — such as throttle control and cornering — into a series of small drills.

While Code makes learning easy for his students, he is never easy on his instructors. “We choose the school directors very carefully. Only one in 20 makes the first grade of coaching.

They have to prove their ability to understand our methods.” As Code is a chronic researcher, working on new books and videos, aimed at bettering his earlier discoveries, the instructors are never short of having something new to learn.

PRINCE FREDERICK

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