Ever wanted to get into dirt track? Flat-track newbie Royal Enfield may have just the ticket.
There’s something about the purity of flat track that continues to draw riders in. It’s a sport that hasn’t really changed since its inception—go fast, turn left—but the nuances on how to do so keep generations of riders coming back time and again.
It’s a bit like drag racing. Getting down the quarter mile may seem like a simple exercise, but when you’re breaking movements down into thousandths of a second, it suddenly becomes a whole new ball game.
One company that’s hit flat track with full force in recent times has been Royal Enfield. Once as British as Earl Grey tea but now as Indian as curry, Royal Enfield is by far the most prestigious motorcycling brand coming out of the subcontinent, and they’ve been bitten by the flat-track bug hard in 2020. So hard, in fact, they’ve created their own AFT team and started their dirt-track school with commercial partner and racer, Johnny Lewis.
Lewis, the proprietor behind the Moto Anatomy riding school based out of Center Hill in Florida, is now Royal Enfield’s go-to man for flat track. And, together with chassis partner Harris Performance out of Hertford in the UK, the trio went racing in the Production Twins category this year and took a breakthrough victory at the Daytona Short Track season-closing event.
Using Royal Enfield Himalayan motorcycles modified for flat-track duties, riders learn all the base skills required to competently slide a motorcycle in a controlled way to enable fast lap times, and so far, the schools have been a roaring success.
“We actually launched the Slide School in India last November,” Lewis said. “And in August with the delays associated with Covid-19, we started up in the U.S. To date, we went from Ohio to Pennsylvania to North Carolina, back to my place in Florida, and now in California. We’ve seen over 160 students come through the school to date.”
For the bargain price of $250, students can rock up to one of the Royal Enfield Slide Schools and be presented with everything required to learn flat track—all riding gear, motorcycle, and of course, Lewis himself. The riding goes for about half a day, as Lewis admits there’s an awful lot to take in when learning to slide a bike.
“We’re taking a lot in in a short amount of time and our bodies and minds can only handle so much, and with flat track you’ve got to be 100 percent when you’re out there doing it,” Lewis says. “You can’t half slide a motorcycle. Either you’re sliding or you’re stopping and you’re starting the process all over again. So, it’s about being on top of your game. I really emphasize that with my program. The slide school is typically three and a half hours. But we do offer a little bit longer programs too, to kind of space it out a little bit and make sure the body is good and ready to go and be 100 percent when you’re trying to slide a motorcycle.”
While the bikes may seem like they’re better designed to hit rugged mountains in India, the Royal Enfield Himalayan actually provides a good base point to learn dirt-track fundamentals. They’re about one and a half times the weight of a 450 single and have less than half the muscle at “around 25 horsepower.” As such, they are ultra-sensitive to body position inputs for both corner entry and exit, but equally won’t throw you too hard if you get it all wrong, especially when getting hard on the throttle.
I have done a bit of flat-track stuff in the past, so the style is not totally foreign to me, but it’s always foreign if you’re not doing it regularly. My biggest thing was trying to figure out where I was looking. I could get the motorcycle into a corner pretty well, I was good on the rear brake, but it’s that transition of getting the elbows up, turning, and then pushing away from the corner that was my weak point. It’s amazing what you can do with your upper body and how you can use it to turn the bike. This is an extremely challenging sport but hugely addictive at the same time.
Lewis’ coaching method is calm and methodical, and I could feel a few of his many lessons starting to sink in with more laps. I had far more fun on the Enfield than I originally thought I would, and I’d highly recommend checking out the Royal Enfield Slide School if you want to get your feet wet in dirt-track racing. CN
VIDEO | Moto Anatomy Royal Enfield Slide School
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