Royal Enfield's involvement in dirt track continues to grow with today's announcement of a UK-based expansion of their Slide School programme. The UK Slide School will join current schools programmes in India and the USA, the latter run by AFT racer, Johnny Lewis.
Royal Enfield are also in their second season in American Flat Track, after a debut season that saw them score an historic race win in the AFT Production Twins class, win Johnny Lewis, competing against Harley, Kawasaki and Yamaha-powered specialist flat track racers. Additionally, they are continuing with the women-only Build Train Race series we covered in 2020.
The UK Slide School is being run for Royal Enfield by Dirt Craft, Gary Birtwistle's recently launched flat track school. We interviewed him about Dirt Craft and the new Royal Enfield Slide School
Sideburn: Tell us a bit about yourself and your racing history.
Gary Birtwistle: I grew up in a motorcycling family, so I’ve been around bikes and racing my whole life. Summer holidays were spent in the pits at the Isle of Man watching my dad race the Manx GP. Weekends were about watching MotoGP, World Superbikes and motocross. It was all around me. I raced BMX in the US when I was six and started racing motocross around age 11. I won a lot and was a 125 expert at age 17. Once I hit 18 I got some injuries and it put me off so I took a break and spent a few years travelling.
Dirt Craft UK's Gary Birtwistle
I was bit by the racing bug hard when I started riding flat track. I picked up few sponsors and things have just snowballed from there. I’ve been in the mix as a top three British rider the last 3-4 years and in 2018-2019 I won three Hooligan championships (2 British and 1 European) I’ve never finished off the podium and have only ever lost three Hooligan races in that time.
How did the arrangement with Royal Enfield come about?
A guy called Will Starritt (co-founder of Urban Rider) was the catalyst. He’d attended one of our original Dirt Craft training schools and I guess he was impressed and put me in touch with the guys at Royal Enfield back in September last year. Since then we’ve been putting this whole programme together. It's been a lot of work but I’m so excited to be helping to bring Slide School to the UK.
Tell us about the format of your Slide School, how many students, how many bikes, how the day is split?
We want these day to be fun, Informative and unintimidating. Each day we will 12 attendees with 6 on track at any one time. All using our fleet 8 Royal Enfield FT411s. The day will start with a series of tutorials surrounding a specific element of riding technique such as body position, how to back the bike into a turn, or how to pick the perfect racing line. This will be a mix of group talks, pro rider demonstrations and 1-to-1 rider specific tips. The days are 4.5 hours long which means plenty of track time.
We want to share the joys of riding fat track so once riders are up to speed and feeling confident we will let them ride and ride, and focus more on each individual and giving them the tips they need.
What tracks are you planning to use?
We are aim at bringing Slide School all over the UK. That means 5-plus locations. We will be at Greenfield, Leicester, Redcar, Berwick, along with locations in the south east and south west.
Tell us about the bikes you're going to use and why you think they're a good choice.
Oh man, these things are awesome. In essence it’s a converted Royal Enfield Himalayan, but with a factory S&S kit added. Se were talking seat unit, wheels and tyres, exhaust system, airbox delete, handlebars. They are a full-size 411cc single with a low seat height, good flat track geometry and proper wheels and tyres.
How many schools (in a normal year), will you run?
What rider skill level is the school aiming at?
To begin with we are offering it as a beginner to intermediate intro to flat track. But basically anyone is welcome, our aim is to introduce the sport of flat track to the everyman. From there we may start looking at offering level 2 or 3 courses.
There are already a couple of flat track schools in the UK, what makes you believe there's room for more and how will the Slide School differ?
The biggest and most important thing that we do different is that we use real flat track bikes with 19in wheels and not mini bikes. When you put an adult on a kids bike you compromise body position which makes it harder to teach proper technique.
Will people have to pay more if they drop the bikes?
No way José!
What about riding kit?
We want people to bring their own riding gear that they feel comfortable in and trust. We do provide steel shoes and riding shirts for all riders to use. If people are unsure what to wear they can get more info in the FAQ’s on our website.
How do people book and what's the price?
www.dirtcraft.co.uk is the place to book your spot and to get all the info you need. We’re also on Instagram Facebook and twitter. Price per person is £160
Anything else you'd like to add?
I’d just like to say how excited I am to be helping introduce Flat Tack to more people around the country. I’d also like to say a big thanks to everyone who has helped put this programme together, my partner Steph and to all my sponsors, Royal Enfield, Bell Helmets, TCX boots, 250 London, Oakley Goggles.
Released dates: 16th April at Greenfield Dirt Track, 1st May at Leicester Speedway
We featured the S&S Himalayan FT411 in Sideburn 39.