I had the great pleasure of taking part in the Castle Combe track/road skills day in September 2022.

I was aware that road-skills based track training helps build machine and self-confidence immensely but most of the track based training providers were either quite far from where I lived or too expensive. When the TVAM Castle Combe track-based skills training was published for September, I turned into a keyboard warrior and booked a space within seconds. The training was not only closer to home but also lighter on the wallet.

I had quite a few questions in preparation for this event and I must say the organizing team answered all of them with patience and empathy.

I chose to stay the previous night at Chippenham which allowed me to be fairly fresh for the training. The day starts at 7.15am and I was at the track by 7.20am. Registration, indemnity declaration and collecting wrist band took about two minutes followed by noise test. My bike was fine and I got the coveted ‘all clear’ sticker. The noise test was followed by an introductory welcome from the organisers, discussing some cardinal rules for tracks like no turning around and no stopping etc., followed by guidance for intermediate and advanced riders. In the end, around 6 TVAM circuit guides spoke to the novice 1 and 2 groups about what to expect during the day, the track marker system etc.

There are 4 levels at the Castle Combe event: novice 1, novice 2, intermediate and advanced. Each level has a maximum of 12 riders, so in total 48 riders excluding the TVAM guides. Given that this was my first track experience, and what a wreck I am on corners and bends, I registered for the novice 1 level.

The novice groups 1 & 2 each were further split into 3 sub-groups. So 6 sub-groups in total. Each sub-group had 4 riders and was led by one TVAM guide. Each group from novice to advanced is allocated a quarter of the hour. And this remains consistent through the day. For example, our novice 1 group was allocated 45 minutes past the hour and that remained consistent. We had 7 turns in total starting at 9.45am, all the way to 4.45 pm. Each turn, we got about 4 to 5 laps of the circuit. Lunch break was from 12.30pm to 1.30pm and there is a nice café on site serving your regular pub-grub.

The first two turns were more about conditioning around the track. Our track guide would lead and we would try to emulate the positioning and apply the IPSGA system. I was so bad that after a couple of turns when our guide referred to the cones on the track, I was thinking, “what cones?”. It feels as if a lot is happening around you but the key is to be patient as things do start to fall in place. After a few laps with our track guide, I ventured on my own, at a speed comfortable to me but also consciously applying the IPSGA system. With each lap, I gained more confidence in turn increasing the speed but also getting smoother around the bends and corners. The feedback from our TVAM guide was quite positive after the 4th turn and the rest of the day, I just kept pushing myself a bit more to test the boundaries. You do have the choice of riding with the guide through the day if there are specific areas you want to concentrate and improve upon.

The day ended at roughly 5pm and I was really happy with all the time spent on the track. If I have to summarize the key learnings, they would be:

  • An opportunity to apply the IPSGA system in a controlled and safe environment
  • A better understanding of my machine’s capabilities and that I can push my machine further
  • I was able to challenge my mental boundaries like leaning in the direction of the bend, being comfortable at high speeds etc
  • Using the entire width of the available space to prepare for and execute manoeuvres
  • Forward planning when approaching bends and corners

It’s been a few months since I attended the track skills day and I can confidently say that my observer as well as I have seen a major difference in the way I position myself on the road and the confidence with which I deal with bends and corners at speed.

Definitely a day well spent with some really helpful and supportive TVAM guides and lots of other enthusiastic riders. If bends/corners are weak spots, I would strongly recommend attending the TVAM Castle Combe training.

Shiva Kumar

First published in Slipstream March 2023