Earlier this year, UK racer and friend of the mag, Nathalie Legrand spent a week at Johnny Lewis' Moto Anatomy school in Florida. She supplied a diary of the intense week.
After a couple of months going to practice with my KTM 250, that George Pickering set up for me, I realised that if I wanted to be safer on the track and take on good habits, I needed some help. It can be overwhelming to hear different tips from different people when you start a new sport and you end up being confused about the what, how, and when.
One name always came back in the discussion when talking about flat track coaching - Johnny Lewis and Moto Anatomy. In addition to being one of the sponsors for the 2019 UK and European DTRA season, Lewis is still racing with the AFT and spends the rest of his time training people from beginners to pros at his home in Florida and tracks around North America and beyond.
At the end of 2019 and I finally booked it. Five days with the master! And I’m luckier than I had hoped for: I learn a couple of weeks after booking that we are going to spend two days at his facility and then two days on the famous Daytona short track! I am very excited and a bit intimidated too...
I arrive at Moto Anatomy HQ late on a Sunday night. The taxi drops me at the property. It’s pitch dark outside in the middle of Florida somewhere, but thankfully I am in the right place and Johnny is there waiting for me. He is setting me up in a very fancy motorhome and I am being told to be awake and ready by nine sharp!
8am local time - it’s sunny and warm outside, in February... From afar I can see two tracks - 1 round very short and one 1/5 of mile in a D shape. The sunrise shines through the big beautiful trees that are everywhere and I can see the tractors watering and prepping the tracks.
After a bowl of oats we head to the short track where the Kawasaki KLX140s are waiting for us.
.Johnny is going through all the basics with us. He is telling us that to get better you have to look back at all the basics first. Even as a pro you sometimes need to take a step back. So we are doing endless drills the whole day with plots, doing donuts and practicing braking techniques and body position. It is a lot to take in and on a short track everything happens a lot faster! I manage to crash, and because I have earlier on blamed my knee braces for not letting me put my feet far enough out, I took them off, which now earns me a massive bruise. I suck it up and hop back on my bike. Lessons learned: 1. Keep gear on at all time and 2. Gear isn’t to be blamed.
In spite of the setback, Johnny manages to get my elbow up and I have a better control of my bike within the first day. He asks me if it is ok for him to hop on the back of my bike and be in charge of the throttle only. I would have never ever let anyone do that but when you watch him sliding through sharp corner wearing Vans you know he is in control.
My brain is boiling with a thousand pieces of useful information and I am trying to take as much notes as possible.
We are lucky to have Alysha Lewis cooking very tasty meal for us. They are promoting a plant-based diet, which honestly wasn’t a selling point for me at first, but after couple of days my recurring eczema disappeared completely. Up to this day I am still following their diet advice and my eczema never came back.
I can see a big, fancy KTM truck driving towards us.
Mike Lafferty, 8x US National Enduro champion is joining us. He has never done flat track before but as you could expect he is picking up on it real fast. This is our last day before Daytona so we are all stepping up on the KTM 450SXF and riding on the big track. The 450 puts on smile on my face so big that my cheeks end up hurting by the end of the day. I never thought I’d be capable of riding it but Johnny manages to build up my confidence and teach me enough so that I feel safe and in control. By the end of the day we end up watching Ryan Sipes and Ryan Wells both pro riders doing laps on the track. I am already counting how many days left I have dreading the departure.
I spend the rest of the afternoon watching Maxsen and Clary, Alysha and Johnny’s kids riding through the garden and the track with their bicycle. No doubt those two will be on podiums in no time.
7pm - the vans are loaded with the bikes and gear ms and hop we go, direction - DAYTONA!
We are staying in a beautiful big house where we all have a big room for ourself. Pretty fancy I’d say for a flat track school.
Arrival at NASCAR track and it is even bigger than what I thought. My dad used to watch races on TV when I was a girl and I have just the last months watching hours and hours of AFT footage. It all feels surreal to be there myself with the KTM and the boys. The American Flat Track crew has set up camp too.
Johnny is making us walk all around the track backward. We go through every difficulty, corners, where we should brake, where we should pick up the throttle, what the track is made of, how the track is going to change throughout the day, how to adjust the bike’s gearing… I never thought there was so much science behind this sport.
Lewis, Bobby Lupica and Trevor Quayle are doing some laps to show us how it’s done... They make it look easy.
We are going start and race rehearsal for the opening season race – but that will end up never happening due to the COVID-19 situation all over the world.
By the end of the day we must have done what felt like 1000 laps and I am ecstatic. Everything that Johnny kept repeating over the past two days on the short tracks we are applying on the 1/4 mile.
We end up in the evening walking through Daytona beach walk and stop at a bar where the ceiling is covered in XXL bras, the full Daytona experience.
We are all going faster. I have never felt as smooth on a bike as now. Johnny is driving literally 2cm from my bike while I ride, talking to me and telling me when to pick up the throttle and when to brake. This is what I call some proper 1-1 coaching!
We spend a couple of hours as well watching how the AFT crew, with Johnny counselling, are setting up the TT track for the March event. Everything is looked at closely. It is a very strange feeling to be in the middle of NASCAR 2.5 miles of perfect tarmac. It’s impossible to realise how big and impressive it is when you just see it on TV. I am living my Florida dream, camera in hand, trying to appreciate and capture every minutes of this perfect week.
By the end of the day we are exhausted and after a well-deserved shower I fall asleep within 1 minute. Only the biggest of storm could have woken me up then...
Last day. Press day. We arrive at the track that now feels very familiar.
The AFT set up everything for the Press day. There is one Indian FTR750 and one Harley XG750R there, as well as Shayna Texter and Jarod Vanderkooi, here to give tips to the press. A journalist from Bloomberg and various other magazines arrive and they spend their day being taught by some of the best riders in the world. Everybody is listening carefully to Johnny Lewis.
The journalists, some who have never ridden a bike before, start doing laps and obviously as you would except everybody has huge smile on their faces. Cause that’s what flat track does to you.
Fast forward a couple of weeks after returning from Florida I had the pleasure to go to Spain to practice with the head of the DTRA Anthony Brown and some of the UK's best racers. As soon as I came back from my first couple of laps the comments are unanimous: I have improved a lot! I might never be the fastest on the track, but now I can finally say that I am riding flat track and with all the instruction I have been given I am pretty sure that with time and practice I’ll be able to reach my full potential. Most importantly for me, I am now safe for me and others on the track, in control of my KTM and can follow a line as well as riding with a proper flat track style
I cannot wait to go back.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MOTO-ANATOMY
See Johnny's first appearance in Sideburn in SB9, JL's Guide to Surviving the GNC
Johnny's Get Schooled on getting back to basics in SB38
Our Who What Why interview with Johnny in SB34
How to use your brake to go faster in SB30