The “Guru of Motorcycle Road Racing,” Keith Code has built his entire life around his unbridled passion for motorcycles. Enthusiastic, energetic, and exploding with knowledge, he has changed the lives of thousands of riders with his proven coaching techniques. Here we find out a little bit more about the dynamic Code.
Q: You’re a pretty busy guy, is there a ritual you start every day with?
A: Espresso is what I start my day with. I grind up the beans and make a pot. While I’m doing that I usually think of what riding problem I’m going to attack for the morning writing session. That’s the ritual. I write in the mornings.
Q: Is there such thing as a typical day for you? Could you describe it for us?
A: Writing means research and that’s what I do for my most productive hours, from about 6:00am until 11:00am. The research takes me into, well, I never know where I’ll wind up and with what kind of information. Things on reaction time and the problems of the human body trying to coordinate with a motorcycle. Some are blind alleys, some of it is just interesting, and some of it really does apply to what I do.
Q: Why motorcycle road racing in 1961? What was the appeal of motorcycles in the first place? Has that changed for you?
A: It has changed. Riding was all about getting away from home and school and had a hint of rebellion in it for me. Once I found out about road racing that all changed into unbridled passion.
Q: Can you describe your racing style in one word?
Q: What were some of the very first notes, techniques, and research that you came up with?
A: I wrote up seven pages of information based on my observations of visual skills that allowed me to make breakthroughs in my own riding and racing and I started the one-on-one Keith Code Rider Improvement Program. I had a pretty good idea they were solid pieces of actual riding technology but when you break new ground, it raises your heart rate. You have to be brave to put out something new. As it happens, I got consistently good results with the riders I worked with so I knew I was on to something good.
Q: Why do you think these initial techniques and teachings in the Keith Code Rider Improvement Program had such astonishing results?
A: They were basic. Basic, to me, means essential, can’t-do-without; the skills and techniques you must know to improve.
Q: What do you think about being called the “Guru of Road Racing?”
A: It made sense in the ’70s. John Ulrich, the now publisher of Road Racing World, called me the Guru because there wasn’t anyone else coaching riders like that. In fact, there wasn’t any coaching to be found. Every now and then a racer would hold a clinic but they were follow me and do what I do; this is the hot line type of instruction. They didn’t have any solid theory to work from, just personal experience advice.
Q: I’m betting that a lot of people would trade lives with you in an instant so they could live their lives as the motorcycle Guru. Who would you swap with and why?
A: Ha ha ha! Once you’ve dedicated thirty seven years to something you realize that the grass is not greener for the others; their celebrity and accomplishments came with a price tag, too. But to answer, I would have liked to have been Alexander Calder, the sculptor. I’m fascinated with his work and know it must have given him great joy to create those beautiful things.
Q: Who is your role model? Who do you look up to and why?
A: To be perfectly honest, I read some of Ron Hubbard’s books in the ’70s when I was trying to get back into the sport and they opened the door for me to understand how to look deeper into things and discover the underlying reasons for my successes and failures in riding. I saw how it helped me ride better. He was good at figuring out basics. I still go back and read his stuff for inspiration.
Q: What is the biggest misunderstanding about you?
A: Hmmmmm, well, it seems to be that I teach some sort of formula riding. Not everyone likes it when you say there are fundamentals, that there is a real technology to riding. They seem to prefer the idea that all advice is good advice and they feel pigeon holed when you narrow down the possibilities to a true basic. That and many people prefer things to be more complicated. They can’t get along with how simple fundamental techniques really are.
Q: What is the biggest misunderstanding about the school?
A: I think it is the idea that if you have ridden for a while, done track days or raced some that it is too basic. But if someone thinks they can ignore the basics, that they don’t apply when you are riding quicker, they are in for a big surprise. Someone says, “good throttle control, I totally understand that, I don’t need coaching on that.” They seem to want to get to other techniques which they think will break open their riding. The truth is that you never outgrow the basics. You have to bring them along to higher levels and create an ever widening foundation or you will struggle and not know why. Throwing other techniques at a problem that don’t handle the most basic aspect of it only winds you up in more problems.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
A: Working with good racers and helping them to improve. I still get chills when I see my race students doing well. The best part of that is; 9 times out of 10 it is a real simple basic that sorts them out to go quicker.
Q: Biggest accomplishment?
A: Having a quote from my “The Soft Science of Road Racing” book included in the Guggenheim Museum’s catalog for “The Art of the Motorcycle” show.
That will live on for people well after I’m gone.
Q: Regret anything?
A: I often think that I could have gotten more done earlier and discovered a lot of the things that took me twenty-five years if I’d had a more formal education. Then I look around and see that most of the world’s important breakthroughs just come from dedication and I relax.
Q: You’ve done hundreds of thousands of laps around the greatest courses on the planet. Walk me through your favorite lap of your favorite course…what made it so special?”
A: Hang on! One of the costs of this life for me has been the great lack of riding time because the schools absorbed so much of my attention. In the end, I’ve ridden a lot less than almost anyone I know, even though I’ve been to many tracks. I do ride when I’m trying to work something out but I can’t be a teacher and a rider at the same time, it’s one or the other for me.
Q: If you were a motorcycle what would you be?
A: A 250cc GP bike.
Q: You have many different projects on the go from running CSS, publishing articles, writing coaching manuals, translating Twist of the Wrist etc, how do you keep yourself organized and on track? (no pun intended)
A: I’ve discovered that it’s difficult to do those things by yourself, I have to hand it to my staff for backing me up and responding with the same passion I have at the schools. Aside from that my wife of forty two years, Judy, she backs me up and always has. She is the power behind Keith Code that keeps my eye on the target.
Q: If you could be a superhero, what power would you possess?
A: I already have what I need and want, it’s just a question of focusing.
If you push me though, I’d say the power I’d want to improve the most would be understanding. I’d like to be able to look at something and know all about it, instantly.
Q: What is the one thing that all your coaches have in common?
A: I think it’s being part of their student’s breakthroughs. The same thing I get when I’m coaching a racer. It’s really the same for me at the schools. It’s almost embarrassing to hear some of the successes the students have. When I hear a student telling me he’s had the best day of his life at my school, I don’t know why that’s embarrassing for me but it is.
Q: You occasionally have some of your coaches ride and work with you on track. What are your most common riding errors? What is it like being coached by someone else?
A: First off, I thoroughly enjoy being coached. For as little riding as I do that is one of the greatest benefits of being the boss at CSS. When I’m a student, I’m a student, 100%. I just want to improve and I love it when my coach points out some detail of my riding that is lacking. I have to work through the problem just like everyone else does.
Q: You’ve coached and mentored several young racers like Peter Lenz and Joe Roberts. What do the kids you support have in common?
A: Curiosity and willingness to experiment and to be honest with themselves about what they are doing. These are the qualities that are most important in kids and adult racers as well.
Q: What specific things make a young racer stand out? Is it championship standings, wins, riding style, personality?
A: I think I covered this but there is one more aspect. That they can see the coaching is making improvements and ask for more.
Q: How is youth racing different in North America vs the rest of the world?
A: I think it is the national pride that goes along with succeeding like in Australia, Italy and Spain. Everyone in those countries knows who their Moto GP heroes are, I mean just about everyone. Here, that isn’t the case, here, road racing is an obscure sport.
Q: Is there a difference between coaching adults and coaching young kids?
A: Yes and no. You still have to communicate the same principals. You have to feel out how the one in front of you learns. You have to be careful not to disturb their own balance and native drive but just help them develop themselves to reach a little closer to what they often can’t articulate for themselves.
Q: What do exceptional motorcycle riders and racers all have in common?
A: I mentioned it before but it bears repeating, they see themselves and what they are doing without self deception. They can separate out what they are doing from what they want to do and focus on it.
Q: What enables riders to go faster? Can anyone learn to ride fast?
A: There has to be some deep yearning to go fast. With that and a dash of patience, I’ve seen some very timid riders go way beyond what they had originally envisioned for themselves with speed. I can also say that going quick isn’t for everyone, there has to be that underlying urge.
Q: How would you describe motorcycle road racing to someone that didn’t know a thing about it?
A: A motorcycle road race is one of the greatest holidays you will ever take. Even though it may only last fifteen, twenty or forty five minutes it is such special time where you are in touch with yourself in ways it isn’t possible in ordinary life.
Q: Why is the California Superbike School so successful? Why does it work?
A: Riders everywhere at all levels of skill improve from our training.
Q: What is the hardest riding skill to master?
A: The hardest part isn’t a skill at all, it is a mind-set to improve. To sneak up on the barriers we have identified and be willing to embrace them instead of reject them.
Q: What kind of training do your coaches get?
A: A good coach isn’t necessarily a super fast rider, he is a competent rider.
He knows his own riding well enough to be able to look for the indicators that are blocking the student he is working with. For that you must know those barriers cold and you must have a wide variety of coaching tools at your disposal to help with. Our coach training provides those tools. I can safely say that no one else has been able to do that or if they have they aren’t saying anything about it.
Q: Favourite place in the world? Favorite track?
A: I think it is Brno in the Czech Republic. Great people, great track, lovely area. There and almost anywhere in Italy.
Q: What do you think about when you are alone in your car?
A: Sorting out either how to coach or what to coach. I bend Judy’s ear all the time with my ideas. She reads all my writing, she edits it and she knows me and what I’m trying to say sometimes when I don’t know myself. She herself doesn’t care to ride but she knows the things I’ve developed and where they come from. Also, my son, Dylan, he’s got a firmer grasp of our riding technology than anyone else. He’s a great asset in the world of rider training.
Q: What’s next Keith? What are you working on right now? What should we expect from you in the next year?
A: Things started accelerating a year ago when I began doing our Level IV Consultant job at the schools. Quite a bit of new material has come out of that. We now have ninety one assignments for our Level IV students. These assignments approach riding in many different ways but the one thing we are doing is letting the rider discover what works best for him and how to make that happen. The new drills are designed to do that.