Misti started with riding in 2000 at the age of 24. A year later she entered her first race in Washington. She followed that up with the Canadian Nationals and then did two years racing AMA 600 Supersport and Formula Extreme. She used to jet set around the world coaching full time with the California Superbike School. You can read her full racing story right here. Now she stays home with her husband, two kids and rides and coaches whenever possible to keep herself from going insane with the monotony of sleepless nights, dishes, laundry, groceries, poo…you get the point. A great video of Misti is at the bottom of the page.
When did you get into riding and how did you learn?
I learned in 2000 from some friends and did not take a course. Horrible I know. I bought a 1989 Honda CBR 600 and I was having trouble with the figure 8s. That was the test back then. Figure 8s, slowing riding, ride around the block and you’re good! So I borrowed my friends 250 to complete the test. It was pretty astounding as I was riding my CBR 600 out on the road soon after. You can have a natural talent to pick it up, you can ride fast, but you are not necessarily riding well. That is the difference. Sure I was riding better than others but it was accidentally. I had no concept of counter steering, I never practiced any emergency maneuvers or stopping. My main goal was to drag my foot peg as that was what the fast riders were doing at the time. Looking back now, I was a terrible rider based on technique.
I did ride a lot. I rode to work every day and then every weekend. Around 50,000kms, (*the first year or two) I don’t remember exactly but it was a lot for sure. There was a core group in my hometown and we rode all the time. We had this great annual ride called the Easter Ride. It was four days and we would ride to California back. Two days down and two days back. 12 hour days. 7am to 7pm. All back roads, no Freeways, and it was a rather crazy group of riders.
How can new riders manage aggressive riding early on?
Better rider education, period. New riders just don’t understand the dangers, and there is also a blame game. I started blaming traffic, the gravel on the road, anything but myself. When you look back at those close calls and analyze them you do start to realize that you could have avoided them. There was always some fun weekend ride to go on and I knew lots of riders. The rides we went on were fast and aggressive. It was exciting but I did not realize at the time how stupid it was. I unfortunately lost a lot of friends along the way to road accidents and Then I ended up on a race track. It changed everything.
What were some of your memorable motorcycles then and now?
I am not very up on specific motorcycles. I do not drool over the machines and I could really care less about the different bikes that are out there. I prefer the riding. That said, I did love my 1989 CBR 600 because it was my first bike. I remember saying to myself I want to ride it as fast I can until I know it 100%. I remember riding at the back of the group. Then I was in the middle of the group. Then one day, my group announced that I would be leading the ride. I will never forget that. I was over the moon. I had just graduated from the back of the pack to the leader. That ride I scraped my foot pegs and they were congratulating me on it. It was pretty lucky I survived that time. I did love my CBR 600 because it did give me amazing memories.
I take what I get and ride whatever I can get my hands on. I do really enjoy the BMW S1000RRs. They are a phenomenal motorcycle. This is a user friendly bike and The electronics are incredible. CSS (California Superbike School) took a lot of heat initially switching from 600cc motorcycles to BMW S1000RRs. People thought we were going to kill people on these bikes and there would be way more crashes. In actual fact the opposite happened. Crashes went down by 40%. It is a good student bike for our school but not necessarily a good starter bike for the street. This bike will kick your ass if you disrespect it for a moment.
What is one skill or technique that really changed your riding?
I don’t remember thinking about technique on the street. There was no talk about it either. We just rode and you were either good or not. All the technique happened on the track. It wasn’t even in the first year or two of racing. It was when I ended up a California Superbike School for the first time. I arrived at the school thinking I was hot shit and that they were going to be impressed by how fast I could ride. It was very eye opening on what I didn’t know. One of the very first exercises you do is a parking lot exercise on counter steering. They asked me to show them how to make the bike go left and go right. I couldn’t. I couldn’t even explain it. They told me to press the bars into the turn [push left to go left and vice versa] and there was a moment of clarity. That was my big moment. It made me a better rider instantly. I didn’t know a single thing about technique but I was ready to learn. This was my first motorcycle course! Even after a year of racing and winning a few race. You can’t be very good if you don’t know how you’re consciously doing it.
Shortly after that I became a California Superbike School instructor. I became the one explaining counter steering to students. I definitely wasn’t the only one that didn’t know about counter-steering. It was surprising.
What are some of your more memorable mistakes?
I had a couple of high sides andI had no idea what happened. I was riding along and all of a sudden I was in the air. I dismissed it as just something that happens when racing and then it happened again. I had no idea how to fix it. That all changed with the slide bike at CSS. They made me purposely slide it and trained me on proper use of the throttle. The automatic reaction is to chop the throttle when in fact we just have to ease off it. This regains control of the motorcycle. This allowed me to save myself from other high sides. Anytime the rear stepped out my re-trained reaction saved me.
The other is a vicious tank slapper I had while chasing a fast student. I decided to let go completely and was considering jumping off the bike but something interesting happened. The bike settled down and stopped shaking. I immediately grabbed the bars forcefully but it started shaking again. I let go and when it settled down again, I grabbed the bars again more gently this time. This time it did not shake. As I approached the corner I needed to slow down but the brakes did not work. In a tank slapper the front brake pads and pistons can shake loose and be forced away from the roters so the brakes go soft or fade completely. I remembered that the way to regain your brakes is to pump them and I was able to slow down just in time. I immediately pulled off the track, sat down and had a moment.
When we crash we often scared or intimidated by the motorcycle. How can we make getting back on the bike easier?
Knowing what happened and knowing what you did as the rider. So that you can own it and not do it again. This will give you confidence and take away from the physiological aspect of it. When you’re racing you can’t sit in the pits and cry about it. You have to get back out there and race.
What is the best motorcycle related item that you’ve bought that is $100 or less?
Well motorcycles training and the right motorcycle gear are not $100 or less. Forgo the little things and bling. Save up those $100 until you can buy the best quality helmet, gear, and training. I am not a fan of putting money into the machine until you’ve learned to ride it well and be safe.
What common mistakes professional riders make that make you wonder “why are they doing that?”
The riders that don’t learn proper visual skills. Visual skills are huge, especially when racing. The best racers have dialed in visual skills. You also have to familiarize yourself with the track. You can’t just rely on your intuitive nature. That is what I used to do. It doesn’t work if you want to be competitive. And maybe body position, a focus on body position without really understanding how to work best with the machine.
What mistakes do you see your students make the most?
Adding lean angle and throttle at the same time is probably the most detrimental. Having a misunderstanding on when to get on the gas and not understanding the process of good throttle control. The timing in the corner is critical. Traction control will not save you because you end up carrying too much learn angle. It is a terrible combination. If we see any students doing this we pull them in immediately and educate them on what they are doing wrong.
Who were your great teachers of riding?
California Superbike School was my teacher. Everyone around me that was affiliated with the school, Keith Code, other instructors etc, became my teacher. I was hungry for information!
Did you have any special exercises or eating habits between racing?
No. It was really hard since I was on the road. I certainly could have done that better. I was on the road 150 days of the year coaching and racing. It was a lot of back and forth and a lot traveling and eating out. I was always tired and was not in the best of shape. I look back at that and wish I did a better job of being more fit while racing, it pays to be strong and in exceptional shape.
Do you have any favorite books, movies, and documentaries?
About motorcycling? I really liked The Worlds Fastest Indian about Burt Munro and his drive to go fast on the Salt Flats. He really made it happen, and didn’t let anything stop him.
What does Burt Monro’ing it mean?
It means “leap and the net will appear.” I really related to his story because it reminded me of me and going racing at the AMA level. I have stories and stories on my time with the AMA. I would get my bike to the track in such convoluted ways. After the race I always have a way of getting it to the next race. The first year I had No trailer, no transportation, nothing. I always knew it would work it out, though. I would wander the pits asking anyone to help. Eventually I found someone to help and paid them a couple of hundred bucks.I kept going and making it work. If I listened to the people who told me to go home, told me my bike wasn’t good enough, etc. Nothing would have happened. I made it out to 13 AMA races that should have never have happened for me and I’m proud of that. Watch Minor Details to see the story of my privateer riding adventures 🙂
[Lee: This is such a great story and is exactly why you should try. Getting started in anything is tough. Plan all you want, even the best plans fall apart. When you get yourself part way to where you are going or what your goals are. This forces you to make things happen and allows some great things to happen. Immense personal growth will happen. Staying home you are guaranteed nothing is going to happen but getting out there? The odds of it working out are better than you think.]
Who are successful riders in your eyes?
Again, I don’t really watch motorcycle racing much. I never really had any mentors or role models but if I had to pick a few I’d say Ben Bostrom is one. I remember getting qualifying times good enough for a race at Laguna Seca and then I was knocked out. I had a great lap time then Ben went and broke the record. Since you have to be within 110% of the top lap time it knocked me (and several others) out of the race.
Josh Hayes also. He was one of the nice guys at the track and always had time to help. I was really struggling making a qualifying time at VIR and then Josh Hayes passed me. He slowed down, patted his back [indicating to follow me], and allowed me to follow for an entire lap. This gesture allowed me to see better lines and strategies. This knocked a second off my lap time and allowed me to qualify. This was not talked about before we got onto the track. He had no reason to help me it is who he is.
[Lee: I went down to American Supercamp in December 2015. Josh Hayes was one of the instructors. He helped out a lot of riders including myself. Took the time to really explain things. I went back to American Supercamp in 2016 (it’s tough to learn and insanely fun), Josh Hayes recognized me and spent even more time with me the second time around. Incredibly successful racer and all around great guy.
If you to spend $25,000 on motorcycling right now. Where would you spend it?
I would buy mini bikes and stuff for my kids (they both ride and race). I would buy a trailer and Some updated helmets. Then I would do more mini racing and riding with my kids.
How can we be better students when learning to ride (beginner to advanced)?
Be open minded and willing to learn. Take a quality riding school. Be a good student. Some riders need more support than others, I take that into consideration when coaching. It doesn’t matter if the student is male or female. The material is the same but I do want to match their personality. It’s a better connection. At CSS we do have a variety of coaches to match personalities but the technique is always the same.
If you were able to talk to your 20 year old self today, what would you say?
Go to the CSS first! Go learn the skills first and put your investment into making yourself a better rider. I would have been a better, faster, quicker had I gone right off the bat. I had bad habits that needed reversing by the time I made it to the training I needed. I could have improved my racing had I done that first. I survived without the training but I can’t say that about some of my friends. So I am on a mission to get people to a riding school.