FT NYST 2013-110
Tim Hafner briefs riders at the beginning of a day at NY Safety Track

In the past few months, we’ve had a number of people email us to ask us who we are. In fact, it’s been common enough that we thought we’d post it for all the world to see.

First off, we are not a riding club but a school. We run a full curriculum in the classroom and on the track. We have 4 classroom instructors (3 professional teachers and one corporate trainer) to ensure the product is consistent from school to school. We also have a team of roughly 30 on-track instructors who ride with us.

Fishtail Riding School instructor with students
An instructor talks to students after a session

While we can work with just about any skill level, the heart of the curriculum is focused on the physics of how a motorcycle works and how you make it do what you want, whether that is on your way home in the rain or at your first novice race.

We tend to have a Euro-centric clientele and a high percentage of our customers would be classified as professionals (bankers, lawyers, TV weathermen, etc.). We began as part of BCM Ducati back in the late 90s, so we have a strong Ducati presence at each school. We also work very closely with MAX BMW, so you’ll see a fair number of BMWS as well. However, we literally have everything from full dress Harleys to dedicated track bikes to beautiful vintage machinery at just about every date.

Ducati TT Vintage Ducati's are usually part of our day

We separate the students into 3 groups, Advanced, Intermediate and Novice, based on rider preference and skill level. We build a roster for every school where students are paired with an instructor, so there is a staff member who is responsible for that individual and does their best to make sure the student's needs are met as the day progresses. In other words, we don't just turn people loose and let them fend for themselves. Depending on instructor availability, our typical instructor to student ratio is 1:3, and we'll lower that number if we can. A ratio of 1:2 makes us very happy. And, we give students the opportunity to ride on their own if that’s what they want.

We limit the number of signups for each event. We could significantly increase the number of riders, and therefor income, but we're not into traffic jams; putting too many people on the track just leads to frustration as bikes bunch up entering corners. With our lower numbers, that rarely happens at our days.

Eating lunch at Fishtail Riding School
Eating lunch is an important part of our day

We eat like pigs kings. We provide donuts, coffee and fruit in the morning, plenty of water to drink throughout the day, and we stop for an hour at noon for a fully catered lunch (provided by the Smoke Shack). Our goal is to build community as much as provide a place to ride, and stopping to give everyone a rest while breaking bread fosters that environment. The caterer does a great job with the food, there's always plenty to eat, and we eat together in the garages so that we can tell each other lies about how skilled we are :-)

Lastly, we've built a community where the maturity level is very high. Our clientele tends to be serious about becoming better riders (as opposed to showing the world how fast they are), and as a result we've built a reputation of being one of the safest organizations around. While everyone is out to have a great time, we're also very aware that the job that allows us to play at the track is waiting for our return the next morning. We like to joke that we cater to brittle, old men and women on expensive machinery.

We started Fishtail a number of years ago mainly because we were looking for a way to hang with our friends without any of the negative stuff that can be associated with riding at the track. It's been great fun, and we're really proud of what we've built.