Advocating safety in a country where kamote riders are simply accepted as a fact of life is a noble yet sadly thankless pursuit. Not many people feel strongly enough about it to pay attention to their own behavior on the streets, much less to quit their day jobs and do something about it full-time.
It is admirable, therefore, that Coach Edsel Vengco would dedicate his life to leading Ride Academi in its mission to educate riders of all disciplines across the country. Clearly, they are onto something, seeing as KTM has picked them up to expand KTM Riders Academy‘s reach beyond off-road and enduro riding.
Things kick off with Coach Edsel introducing the course and the coaches. A couple of keynote speakers are also called in to talk about the importance of riding safely on the street.
Finally, after all the talk, it’s time to walk up to the bikes. But before firing them up, Coach Edsel starts with an activity unique to his course: stretching. He was a fitness instructor before becoming a riding coach after all, so it only makes sense for him to start a physical activity by warming up.
Afterward, the coaches do an assessment of each student’s current riding ability, and the group is split up. The novice group starts off with simple U-turns across all four lanes of the street course, and practices on smooth low-speed stops before moving on to figure-eight maneuvers. The second group of more experienced riders skips right on to figure eights.
Given that these are all low-speed drills, the primary technique taught to the students is counter-leaning—allowing the bike to drop down to one side and having the rider’s upper body lean out to the opposite side in order to improve stability.
Once everyone’s hips are comfortable doing the two-wheeled Waka-Waka, the bell rings for lunch, which is then followed by another round of keynote speeches as well as practical instruction on how to pick a motorcycle up should you drop it. To pose a worthy challenge, the coaches lay a 790 Adventure down on the pavement for students to pick up one by one.
From here, the group is reunited, and Ride Academi coach and current PSBK Rookie Class champion Lorenz Villanueva takes over.
He demonstrates each drill and skill with next-level confidence and finesse. A truly inspiring instructor to have—one that makes his students aspire to emulate him. He’s also Ride Academi’s resident crack-up, making everyone feel at ease.
He walks students through Ride Academi’s infamous Course 5 where the four-lane street is split into three tight and consecutive U-turns. This tests how comfortable you are switching back from side to side and leaning the bike at low speeds where balance is the most difficult to achieve.
After successfully doing a few rounds of Course 5, it’s time for everyone’s favorite: the slalom. At this point, if you’ve mastered counter-leaning and taken all the previous drills seriously, then the quick direction changes of the slalom are a walk in the park.
Last but not least, the coaches simulate an emergency braking situation where students accelerate up to 60km/h and must be able to stop before a predetermined point on the road where a hypothetical obstacle would be.
The challenge, by the way, for each and every drill is that you are not allowed to touch the clutch once you get going. This way, students are forced to maintain a constant speed and rely solely on their balance to maneuver out of the course. It also compels students to look ahead in advance and prepare for the next turn.
Overall, there is a linear progression of difficulty with each drill, and one helps you with the next allowing riders to fully master the skill at the end of the day.
But as Coach Edsel likes to say: “Practice makes progress.” One day isn’t enough for anyone to become proficient in any one thing. It’s up to the students to keep practicing what they’ve learned in order to make progress. Good thing KTM and Ride Academi will send you home with more than enough knowledge for you to practice safety on the street.