“How much fun can riding a Yamaha TTR around a flat dirt track be? Doesn’t sound all that exciting,” I thought to myself as I cordially accepted an invite to the Colin Edwards Texas Tornado Boot Camp over Halloween weekend. Four days of slow, choked up pit bikes putting around flat, featureless tracks failed to get my adrenaline going. To keep the stoke high, I envisioned evenings drinking beer and relishing in stories from Colin Edwards about his glory days of racing. 22 years of professional racing, culminating with 2 World Superbike Titles and 12 Moto GP podiums would surely produce endless hours of entertainment. That alone would be worth the trip.

Colin Edwards
Colin Edwards relays knowledge garnered from 22 years of professional road racing with an undeniably Texan personality and style.Photo by Seiji Ishii

The Texas Tornado Boot Camp has been in operation since 2011 and has hosted many professional motorcycle racers, including Edwards’ old teammate Valentino Rossi. The 20-acre facility, hidden away in the pine forests near Montgomery, TX, is impressive in many ways. The old western town motif of the buildings indeed reinforce the Texas Tornado moniker Edwards held while racing and the covered dirt track arena, at 300’ x 100’, has the largest clear span structure I have ever seen. Behind this mammoth structure lies a 1/8-mile dirt oval and a dirt TT track. The main “saloon” acts as the indoor gathering area, dining hall and holds the rider/instructor accommodations. Both bunk rooms and VIP guest rooms are available and every conceivable amenity was available. Riders can literally show up with the clothes on their backs, as safety gear can be provided and all food is included.

Flat Track Arena
The massive covered flat track arena was the main area utilized for learning and practicing skills.Photo by Seiji Ishii

The instructor roster for the Halloween edition of the boot camp read like a who’s who of motorcycle racing, encompassing all disciplines. Seven instructors and Edwards shared their wisdom with our group of 24, with over 25 national/world titles amongst them. I have never been to an instructional camp with as many titles spread between the teachers. As lauded as these professionals are in their particular disciplines of motorsport, they were also strikingly approachable. Texas hospitality was running deep, no doubt an absolute requirement handed down by the equally affable Edwards. There was also a certified and professionally practicing EMT on duty throughout the camp and a staff photographer (every rider received a memory stick with all photos and videos as well as a group print).

Old West Town themed building
Student lodging, meals and gatherings centered around this Old West themed building.Photo by Seiji Ishii

A large portion of the students descended on the “little western town” from far reaches of the globe; Brazil, Australia, Germany and France were all represented and provided one of the highlights-the opportunity to experience people with vastly different cultures. I would like to add that the foreign visitors experienced Texas culture and not American culture!

Each day consisted of a group warm up, then free riding to refamiliarize with the well-maintained Yamaha TTR motorcycles and get a feel for track conditions. Teaching sessions followed, each covering specific skills, then drills that allow immersion in these new skills. The groups are split by ability levels and the camp can address pure beginners with their own group and instructor. After the prescribed skill sets of the day have been practiced to every student’s satisfaction, each day ends in a “superpole.” This is a race against the clock, one rider on the course (made up of all three tracks) at a time. These tests provided an absolute gauge of improvement and book ended the day with camaraderie and support, as everyone pursued the common goal of getting faster.

The small, “under-powered” TTR’s that initially didn’t seem that exciting proved to be ideal. The smaller size and lower top speed makes them safer, but also encourages you to find, and at times, exceed your limits and comfort zone. Within the first few drills, it becomes apparent that the experience aboard a larger, more powerful bike would be entirely different and not nearly as productive or fun. The “flat and featureless” dirt tracks proved to contain a myriad of tiny bumps, textures and differences in moisture utilized for grip and line selection is super challenging due to the complete absence of ruts! My preconceived notions concerning both bike and tracks were squashed into oblivion thirty minutes into the first day.

Colin Edwards Texas Tornado Boot Camp Experience
A mind-blowing amount of experience and wisdom always surrounds the students; over 25 national and world titles were shared with our seven instructors.Photo by Seiji Ishii

Each day contained some form of friendly competition. These ranged from slowly performed skill testing competitions to all out, head to head racing. One of the more entertaining and exhausting competitions was the one-hour endurance race, accomplished solo by a brave few, and by teams of three. The Le Mans style start and bike hand-offs provided extra challenges, and watching the instructors display their incredible bike handling skills added entertainment value. The most intense competition was the four-up, head-to-head, two-lap races. Amazing to see quiet and calm people turn into cold-hearted killers, stealing your lines, and to battle your own control issues as competitive juices tend to erode freshly engrained skills.

Another daily feature of the camp was the guns….yup, guns. This is Texas, after all. The necessary physical breaks required during the day were addressed with the same expert instruction as the motorcycle skills. The head shooting instructor for our group had an incredible firearms background, including stints in Presidential Security under Reagan, military and law enforcement. The weapons ranged from pistols, rifles, shotguns, all the way up to an incredible 50 caliber rifle that looked like something out of the game Call of Duty. The gun experience culminated with a 5-gun timed competition, and this Halloween edition of the boot camp had us shooting in costume. I am not a gun person at all but I was both entertained and grateful that I learned about guns, shooting, and honestly, about gun policy and life in the military. (Colin hosts military veterans free of charge through a program called Race for The Wounded.) As divisive as gun policy seems to be, every single camper visibly enjoyed these distractions from the motorcycles.

Firearms Instruction
Recovering between riding sessions involved receiving instructions and shooting all sort of firearms, including this monster 50-caliber rifle.Photo by Seiji Ishii

Every day ended with the usual storytelling about what happened aboard the bikes, and satisfying meals prepared by the staff. One of the highlights was real pit smoked BBQ, which teased riders all day, fragrant smoke wafting across the grounds from dawn ‘til dusk. Beer and conversation flowed freely, students and instructors chatting as if they were old friends. Friendly competitive games were borne nightly and Edwards’ “my house is your house” manner is a welcome change from the roped off and credential carrying of the racing paddocks.

There were countless “takeaways” from the camp, all skills, techniques and ways of thinking that will improve both on- and off-road riding. Edwards sums up what he feels are the most important things camp attendees take home with them:

"The number one thing I want our clients to take away from camp... head up & look ahead. Eliminate time between applying the brakes and throttle, no coast time. If you're coasting, the bike is riding you, you're not in control. Always have an input into the motorcycle 100% of the time. What we teach at the camp translates to any type of motorcycle riding or racing that you're doing. For our motocross, off-road, SX/MX guys, tracks have a flat corner or two. If there's no rut or berm to drop into, then flat track it. The bike is always loose; it comes down to an understanding of FEEL. It comes down to more training on FEEL."

Edwards’ philosophies, combined with those of the various instructors, all the drills, friendly competitions, and occasionally surpassing my limits resulted in dropping my superpole time by more than 10 seconds in the four days of the camp. Similar gains were seen across the board, from campers of all abilities. The pure beginners actually posted the largest drops in superpole times.

Superpole results
Each day of instruction ended with the “Superpole,” an individual time trial that provided a solid means of measuring progress.Photo by Seiji Ishii

The Colin Edwards Texas Tornado Boot Camp’s value, in my opinion, is only partially based on the skills, techniques and wisdom taught by an amazingly qualified staff. Yes, all these will make each rider safer, faster and allow more enjoyment aboard his or her bikes of choice, but there was so much more to the camp experience. The Texas hospitality, the shooting experiences, real BBQ, differing cultures, down-to-earth attitude of the former and current pros, all these intangibles made this camp so much more than another learn to ride clinic. Sign yourself up to gain speed, safety and enjoyment, but also for the awesome memories that your visit to the Texas Tornado Bootcamp will surely produce.