It’s not the first question you’d expect from the owner of a motorcycle riding school, but this was no ordinary riding school—and this was no ordinary owner.
The Texas Tornado Boot Camp is the creation of two-time World Superbike Champion Colin Edwards and a few fellow Texans. It’s a boy’s weekend away, most of it spent riding motorcycles or shooting guns, with plenty of food, fraternity, beer, and laughter. It isn’t exclusively for boys, though; this weekend there were five women, and they weren’t the first. It’s a seriously good time and if you’ve got the money, and you enjoy riding motorcycles, you should do it.
This was a four-day edition of the Texas Tornado Boot Camp (there used to be two-day camps, but they have since been dropped because Edwards and staff felt that it wasn't enough time...more on that later). For one it was Halloween weekend, and most all the students brought costumes for the Saturday night bash. And there was a special guest instructor: Three-time World Champion Freddie Spencer was helping out, when he wasn’t riding with his son Connor. Spencer had a roadracing school for years, but it was nothing like this. Nothing is.
The TTBC Saloon/Hotel has...
The TTBC Saloon/Hotel has several second-floor rooms with bunk beds where all the students sleep. The camp is completely self-contained; you eat, sleep, and ride all in the same place.
“We have no competition,” Edwards said, and he’s right. Of all the riding schools, for all the various surfaces, there’s none that are as self-contained as the TTBC. Once you arrive on Thursday, there’s no reason to leave the premises. You eat here and you sleep here. The TTBC revolves around the Saloon, the hotel/dining room where everyone eats, drinks, bench races, and sleeps. There were 26 “campers” on Halloween weekend, with most staying on the second floor in rooms fitted with bunk beds. There are also three VIP suites. The dining room is the epicenter of camp life. It’s here where breakfast (eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy), lunch (handmade deli sandwiches), and dinner are served, with fruit, snacks, and drinks available all day long, and plenty of beer at night. The food was very good to excellent, with authentic slow-cooked Texas barbecue on Saturday night.
You ride motorcycles, and you can shoot guns too, if that’s your pleasure. You can watch football on Sunday or troll the internet. You can drive go-karts, play paint ball, or drive RC cars. An earlier group of students wanted to go wakeboarding, so Edwards loaded them up and drove them to nearby Lake Conroe. There isn’t much the camp staff won’t do to be accommodating. The tenor of the camp is a reflection of Edwards’ personality; every camper gets personal treatment, not only from the instructors, but Edwards also.
Edwards’ wife Alyssia gets...
Edwards’ wife Alyssia gets sighted in on his .308 sniper rifle at a target 481 yards away. Don’t mess with Texas; she’s an expert shot, and consistently hits the bulls-eye.
Edwards is big on family and friends. His wife, Alyssia, helps out with the camp, as does Alyssia’s mother, Donna, who runs their various enterprises. Their daughter, Gracie Kayte, had the run of the place, including carving pumpkin, and son Hayes was a fast and fearless little terror on his KTM 50 SX two-stroke.
“Whenever I thought of building this, there’s only one way to do it,” recalled Edwards. “I do it my way and my style. I don’t want to do it for the money, and I don’t want to just charge people a bunch of money to hang out, (then) ‘see ya later.’ It’s got to be more personal to me. So first thing we built was ‘the roof’ (a giant fixed canopy). We can’t have anybody come and say, ‘Sorry, we’ll see you next week.’ If they’re flying from Europe, we had to have a ‘rain-out’ feature that we could still ride. And then the hotel was the second thing…the Saloon…I’m a people person. I like to hang around. I like the campfire stories. A lot of what I’ve learned through the years is that’s what a lot of people really want. That little bit of extra connection.”
The Saloon is where everyone...
The Saloon is where everyone eats, sleeps, and talks at the TTBC. It quickly builds a sense of camaraderie among the students when they spend so much time together over the course of four days.
Breakfast was called for 7:30 a.m. The students gradually rolled in, had breakfast, and settled in while Spencer gave a short presentation on proper cornering lines. Unlike most schools, the TTBC doesn’t use Powerpoint presentations or the like. Instead, it’s up to the instructors to get their points across verbally before the drills commence.
Before a single engine was fired up, the campers went through a short calisthenics program to loosen up. Then they gathered around the camp’s lead instructor Joe Prussiano, a former roadracer and longtime friend of Edwards. Seated on one of the camp’s mostly stock Yamaha TT-R125s, Prussiano started the first lesson with a discussion of body position, then braking. “Use both brakes in every corner,” he advised, after which Edwards gave a more detailed explanation about the effect of braking on the attitude of the motorcycle. In addition to stopping, he pointed out, braking creates load, which segued into an explanation of weight transfer and throttle control. “The goal is 100 percent of the time to have some sort of input,” he said. It was a lot for the students to take in, but they’d have plenty of time to put the fundamentals to the test on one of the facility’s many tracks.
Three-time world champion...
Three-time world champion Freddie Spencer was a guest instructor at this TTBC. And yes, that’s a woman rider; Edwards says the school averages at least three or four every camp.
All three groups were riding under the roof at first, before they moved out onto the tracks. At the rear of the roof is a TT track. Next to the TT track is a one-eighth-mile oval, which also has a short infield segment. The Superpole track includes the roof, the TT track, and parts of the oval. Next to the Saloon is a motocross track with very mild jumps. There are plans to put in a small paved raceway. The shooting range sits at the far end of the property’s 22 acres, which also includes a forest for trail riding.
The riders were broken up into three groups, with the smallest group the beginners, then the intermediates, then the intermediate/advanced. The curriculum is set, but advancement is done at the pace of the riders. If they’re quick studies, they advance more quickly. The drills get more difficult, the pace picks up. Front ends wash out. Explanations are given.
Guns are also a big part of...
Guns are also a big part of the Boot Camp, with the majority of students looking forward to the activity. Edwards and the staff take safety very seriously, and every student goes through a firearms safety course before they handle any guns.
After lunch, the students have some free time before the afternoon session. The diversions on offer include go-karts, RC cars, paint ball, pool, and ping-pong. But what a lot of students look forward to is the shooting range.
Guns are big in Texas, and legal. You can pretty much buy any kind of gun without a lot of stress. Edwards owns a lot, many of which he shares on camp weekends. Anyone who wants to shoot has to take a short gun safety course given by Gale Tynefield, a club-racing former Marine who teaches firearm safety and techniques. Tynefield and Edwards take safety very seriously and are diligent in making sure the guns are properly handled.