If you build it, they will come. That continues to be the mantra for the Edwards’ clan with their one-of-a-kind Texas Tornado Boot Camp. Coming up on its fifth season, the Boot Camp gives folks the opportunity to experience a day – well, actually four days – in the life of two-time World Superbike Champ and American road racing hero, Colin Edwards.
Established in the spring of 2011, the TTBC curriculum has grown from a weekend mini-bike retreat in the woods north of Houston into a full-fledged motorcycle riding academy, appealing to both novices and pros… with a Texas twist of course.
“Track days just really piss me off in a way,” says Edwards of the typical motorcycle track day and riding school experience. “I’ve done the guest instructor thing, and have hosted my own track days. And the one thing that really pissed me off is, you show up at eight in the morning, everybody’s antsy, they want to ride. Then five o’clock comes, and the track’s closed… see you later. Get out of here.”
We revisit Colin Edwards’ Texas Tornado Boot Camp to see if its curriculum has evolved from a weekend of mini-bike thrills and spills into a legit riding school?
“For the money that you spend, you miss the camaraderie,” continues Edwards. And that lack of camaraderie is one of the voids Edwards fills with his boot camp.
“I wanted everybody to stay in one area. When you leave here, you’ll have everybody’s contact and hopefully gain a few friends. So we built the Saloon. Well Bodak [first name Steve, one of Colin’s three faithful friends and right-hand men] did, more or less. That guy seriously rocks. He’s salt of the earth. He built it, and it’s exactly what we needed.”
Styled like an 18th century “brothel” from the outside, according to Edwards, Texas Saloon is the base of operations for the next four days. It’s where everyone meets, eats, sleeps, showers and cools off between the smorgasbord of activities. Forget your towel and toothpaste? Don’t worry, the camp has literally everything you need, including full head-to-toe riding gear sets featuring Sidi boots, Arai helmets, and Fly Racing pants/jerseys. And if you’re looking for added privacy, there are three VIP guests rooms with private full bathrooms.
Styled like an 18th century “brothel” from the outside, according to Edwards, Texas Saloon is the base of operations for the next four days. It’s where everyone meets, eats, sleeps, showers and cools off between the smorgasbord of activities.
Whether burning lap after lap on one of the three clay TT tracks (one of them even features a lighted 45,000 square-foot metal roof, in case of rain, and for riding after dark), to learning the safe, and hopefully accurate ways to squeeze the trigger on Colin’s arsenal of firearms (including Glock handguns, Benelli shotguns and a high-power 50 caliber rifle), or perhaps challenging your new mates to a billiards rack, or round of ping pong, there’s plenty of time on your feet. So it only makes sense that you have a cozy space to relax when it’s time to eventually kick em’ up.
Thankfully, TTBC doesn’t disappoint with when it comes time to eat. Colin’s mother-in-law Donna and family friend Candice Newton (her kid, Jay just wrapped up his rookie season in MotoAmerica’s Superstock 600 class) serve three home-cooked meals every day – including some of the tastiest smoked barbecue you’ll ever eat on the last evening – along with a buffet of snacks and cold drinks to keep even the most athletic body rolling forward. And when the sun heads down at night, an ice chest full of silver sodas help re-hydrate tired muscles as well as easing the Paul Bunyan tales from your mouth over the warm light of a campfire.
Aleix Espargaro mixes it up with instructors Jake Johnson and Mike Myers at TTBC.
Regardless if you’re new to riding motorcycles, or you’re a professional racer, like Aleix Espargaro or recently crowned Supersport 600 champ, Joe Roberts, the TTBC curriculum has some helpful wisdom to impart.
“The reality is, we do not teach anything super extra special,” reveals the long-time factory Yamaha MotoGP racer. “We’re not teaching you how to do a double backflip. We’re not teaching you how to do a 360 [slide] like Jake [Johnson, TTBC’s newest instructor and two-time Grand National Champ] can do. (And yes, it’s pretty dang amazing to watch!) We simply show you what’s possible. All we really do is ingrain fundamentals. And the more solid your fundamentals are, the better off you are as a rider.”
To do this, the camp runs a fleet of late-model Yamaha TT-R125L dirt bikes. Each is fitted with a Bridgestone M23 knob at the front, paired to a Battlax-series BT45 road tire. While this combo may seem odd, it boosts grip sensation and helps students understand the fundamentals of a slide. It also prevents the clay-based tracks from getting torn up from the roost of a knobby. There’s also a couple larger-rider-friendly TT-R230s for those that require a little extra space.
Edwards supervises a young student showing him the safe way to handle a firearm.
Throughout the course of each day instructors run through a gamut of drills beginning with the exit of a corner, and working their way backwards through a turn. Being mostly from the south, the instructor team has a charming (and patient) way of articulating what you’re supposed to be doing on the bike, as well as helping you make corrections when you’re not.
“Most schools talk about corner entry, when in reality the exit is the first thing you need to know,” explains Edwards of the TTBC curriculum.
Each drill builds on the next, helping riders gain both confidence as well as control behind the handlebar through sheer repetition. Yet, the TTBC team runs a loose enough program to keep things fun and lighthearted. Need a break, take two. Haven’t had your fill? Top off the fuel tank, stretch your right wrist and keep on sliding.
The ability to control a motorcycle during a slide is a key training fundamental at TTBC.
Although down on power by most adult rider standards, the little 7.5 horsepower air-cooled TT-Rs are an ideal platform to highlight what you’re doing wrong, as well as right. Without the torque of a larger displacement machine, mistakes are amplified. A little slip here, a bobble there – it all costs precious time at the hands of Edwards’ stopwatch, a racer chic accessory that hangs around his neck each evening during Superpole.
Just like the final timed qualifying event in World Superbike, as well as our own sportbike shootouts, Superpole is where you get the chance to hang it all out on the line for bragging rights, not to mention gauging your progress through camp.
Accidents happen. But through repetition and focusing on the basics, Edwards and company help students learn how to safely control a motorcycle.
As the sun gets low in the sky each evening, the three tracks are linked together. Each rider lines up under the class’ attentive eyes, with Colin himself working the clock. It’s a one shot deal. There are no re-dos (well, as long as you don’t make a humongous mistake in the first third of the track), and times are posted on a whiteboard for all to see. Even the instructors and TTBC kids get in on the action. The results demonstrates your improvement, or lack thereof, and serves as a baseline for the next day of instruction.
“I’ve been riding motorcycles for 37 years,” sums up the 41-year-old champ. “And every time I come out here I learn something new. So if I’m still learning, that pretty much tells me there’s really no limit as far as what you can do.”
Some folks may balk at the $2250 price tag, but TTBC is more than just another school. From the hours upon hours of seat time in a stress-free environment with quality instruction, to the all-inclusive experience, including gourmet meals and firearms training, it’s the total package. Special kudos to the Edwards’ family for making everyone feel special, and like part of the family for a few days. If you’re looking for that four-day ultimate funfest on motorcycles treatment, it’s money well spent.
- We revisit Colin Edwards’ Texas Tornado Boot Camp to see if its curriculum has evolved from a weekend of mini-bike thrills and spills into a legit riding school?
- Edwards’ long-time friend and right-hand man, Steve Bodak built the Saloon - the base of operations for TTBC.
- The eyes of a champion. Edwards son, Hayes, spends summer break by mixing it up with students at TTBC.
- TTBC uses a fleet of Yamaha TT-R125Ls. Yamaha’s air-cooled dirt bikes are simple, tough and easy to learn on. A few TT-R230s are also available to accommodate larger rider