Champion Flat Track School was founded by Pete Boast, the man who brought flat track to the UK back in 2005 after racing it himself in the USA.
I have a pet hate for accomplished sportspeople who take up coaching but are really all about ego, it makes it impossible for me to respect them. Mr Boast is the most unassuming, friendly and chilled coach you could ask for, he just wants everyone to have a crack at the sport and enjoy themselves, this means the school is ideal for absolutely anyone. Pete was helped by two equally friendly lads (Adam Marshall and James Andrews) both of whom have significant experience in short circuit, supermoto and now flat track.
The day is informal from the briefing through to the ‘chase’ which ends the day. A friendly chat from the guys explaining what the day is about and how it is run kicks things off. We are in a large barn on a farmyard, it is insulated for sound and the floor is hard-packed dirt. Hay bails protect riders from big hard things and in the corner is a gas heater and lots of water, fruit and tray bakes.
Technically, flat tracking is pretty bloody basic. You take a dirt bike, drop the suspension, put crap tyres on it and stick a metal shoe on your left boot. That’s kind of it. As for the rest of the gear being worn on the day – well it ranged from brand new Ducati leathers to a pair of jeans and a Barbour jacket. The metal shoe was a bit of a pain, I wore MX boots to start but the shoe fell off, then I went for my road boots and the same happened. It was manageable but a higher lip at the back of the metal shoe would have made things easier. If you are going, try to find something with a proper heel at the back – both my boots had rounded heels which let them slide out of the shoe. Enduro or trials boots will work better than mx boots.
The bikes were Honda 100/125 four strokes and were perfect for the job. Anything bigger would have been wasted in the barn and would probably have made things a lot harder. Bigger is not always better. All the bikes worked perfectly, there were eight to choose from.
The morning is all about drills – three groups, a bike for each group and working with cones. Start with just weaving in and out of a straight line of cones to learn to manage the bike with the upper body, then staggered cones to make it harder. We then practiced riding in a tight circle using our foot for support, this is when you start to get the front tyre sliding out in absolute confidence. Then it’s riding a tiny little figure of eight and a tiny oval. The morning is tricky as everything is so tight, but it really sets you up for the afternoon on the bigger track.
The main things you learn in the morning are getting the elbows up, sitting on the high side of the bike, pushing the bike down, getting the inside leg out at 90 degrees and really depending on the metal shoe. Our group consisted of Danny and myself and two young ladies and it was definitely the group to be in – we all listened, took advice and then put that advice into practice in the afternoon. More on that later.
Lunch was at the Bottle and Glass pub, a hearty buffet of sandwiches, sausage rolls and chips in a very bikey environment. It’s a great little pub and I will be making a point of going back. As with the rest of the day, it was relaxed and unhurried and gave us all a chance to chat as well as to admire the classic TT bike in the glass case and the walls covered in signed pictures of Pete Boast, the Lowes twins, Guy Martin and various other local heroes.
Talking to Pete’s assistant coaches at lunch, they both had the same story – good short circuit riders forced to leave the sport because of tyre prices, moved to supermoto until expensive bespoke supermoto tyres became available and therefore necessary for good results and now riding flat track as a way of competing at minimal cost. It is ironic that the cutting edge tyre technology that makes our bikes perform so incredibly well is actually the biggest barrier to riders enjoying the sport. These flat track guys will use one front and three rears in a season…
The afternoon is when the fun starts, beginning with an oval circuit and running one team at a time together. With four bikes on track you get a bit of sport going as well as learning to practice what we were taught in the morning. Except….
Watching the other two groups, it was obvious they only really wanted to race each other! I couldn’t see much evidence of the coaching from the morning and they spent most of the afternoon just chasing each other on track and falling off. Our group was thankfully a bit different. The two girls had really picked up everything they had been told and were showing some serious style. Danny and myself were both clearly trying to follow the coaching whilst at the same time trying to throw down some record lap times! Great fun was had, then they set up the TT course which involved a right hander and a couple of hairpins to mix it up a bit, great fun.
To end the day, we competed in pairs against all the other riders using the TT course, Danny and I were paired together and claimed the champagne. A fitting end to a very successful day.
I am writing this on Monday evening and my legs still hurt from being held out at 90 degrees from my arse! But the smile is still on my face and I just wish I could pop down the road at the weekend and flat track. Pete has trackdays on Wednesdays and the odd Saturday, you can hire his bikes. I reckon Danny and I will be back in the not too distant future for a go at the next class up or even to do the same class again. To learn to have a bike with both the front and rear end loose whilst still feeling loads of grip is quite an experience and I really, really enjoyed just blatting round trying to get the bike low and the corners nailed.
If you are considering having a go at something a bit different, get along to Champion Flat Track – it’s not a lot of money, isn’t reliant on the weather and is all about fun.