It's often been said that having an environment conducive to learning is crucial in a teacher's ability to convey a lesson's message to his/her students. The classroom needs to be free of distractions and configured so that every student can easily be involved in every step of the lesson. It must make the students feel comfortable-both physically and psychologically-so that the motivation to learn comes effortlessly, yet still be capable of challenging them to help build their confidence. The correct tools must be readily available in order to help facilitate learning any new skill or task. And lest we forget the most important of all requirements, the teacher must possess the knowledge, patience, and aptitude for affably guiding students of varying abilities through the curriculum.
Meeting all those requirements and molding them into a tidy riding school package is a tough job. It's easy to be slightly deficient in one aspect or another, and it doesn't take much to upset the delicate balance required to help students improve their riding skills. The number of riding schools we've experienced that manage to keep this balance can be counted on one hand.
Thankfully, we've found one more school to add to that list.
The Ragin' Cajun
Die-hard superbike racing fans will remember former multi-time AMA champion Jamie James from his racing exploits aboard the Vance & Hines Yamahas and the Yoshimura Suzukis. The Louisiana native-nicknamed the "Ragin' Cajun"-forged a reputation as a fierce competitor with a natural talent for sliding a motorcycle (he raced amateur dirt-track and motocross before taking up roadracing in '84) on his way to the AMA Superbike and 750 Supersport titles in '89, and the 600 Supersport championship in '94.
James' friendly and approachable nature off the track, however, earned him just as many fans as his racing exploits on the track. James was one of the original instructors at the Kevin Schwantz Suzuki School, and we spent plenty of time with him during our visit there ("Cornering Curriculum," December '01); his extremely easygoing nature puts students at ease, giving them the confidence to ask questions, and it was easy to see that he was one of the more popular instructors at the school. The fact that he's ridden enough laps around Road Atlanta (and won many races there) during his career that he could probably ride the place blindfolded with one hand tied behind his back surely didn't hurt, either.
James had always kept close ties with Yamaha, and a few years ago he started his own business creating custom-modified YZF-R1s that were sold through Yamaha dealers. With all the brand-related riding schools that were already in existence, however, it was obvious there was one motorcycle manufacturer that lacked any major presence in this arena. Thus it was only natural that James and Yamaha would join forces to create a school that featured the company's racetrack-oriented sportbikes.