You have decided that the time has come to enter your first motorcycle track day. Filled with a mixture of excitement but also nerves and trepidation, you now need to prepare for the day. But what next?
Step 1: Find a local track day
For your first track day, your best bet is to keep it local. Search for ride days at tracks in your local area. Many will have on site coaching for an additional fee, which for your first outing is definitely an investment worth making, even if you are a fairly experienced (non track day) motorcyclist.
Step 2: Choose an appropriate bike and level
Choice of motorcycle
A popular misconception is that the more powerful the bike is, the more fun you will have at the track. In fact my husband, a very experienced motorcyclist had that same view and for many years only ever rode on 1,000cc bikes at the track, such as an R1. However, after being offered the chance to borrow a well sorted Suzuki SV650 in race trim for one track day, he in fact enjoyed that more. The lesser powered bike was a lot easier and less physically demanding to ride at the track in terms of skill and stamina. He found that he was able to corner faster, and was not completely destroyed from the intensity at the end of each session.
In fact when first starting out at the track, it may be prudent to start with a smaller bike such as an R3 or RC390. The lighter, lesser powered bikes are less physically demanding to hang on to and will allow you the opportunity to focus on your riding technique, with the ability to have the time to think about what is coming up at the next corner, look at breaking markers and focus on correct body posture. This will all allow you to learn to go through corners faster which ultimately is the aim to increase the enjoyment from a track day. This is more fun than a faster bike which you will be able to go fast in a straight line on, but will likely be a lot slower through the corners on.
Once you have mastered the techniques on the smaller bikes, these skills can then be applied when moving up to more powerful machines.
Track class level
With respect to choosing your class level, you may believe that you are an undiscovered Marc Marquez or Valentino Rossi, but chances are you are not. It is adviseable to start in a lower level class and move your way up. Being too slow around corners compared to the other, likely more experienced riders out on track, is incredibly dangerous for both you and them. If you find your level is too slow, it will be easy to move up to a faster class.
Step 3 – Safety Motorcycle Riding Gear
Ensure you have all the correct safety gear, with appropriate safety ratings as required by the track day provider in your region. Failure to have the correct safety gear will result in you not being able to get out on track and a wasted day.
You will need at the minimum:
1. Motorcycle boots
2. Full face helmet
3. 1 piece leathers or 2 piece leathers which zip together. Leathers should have an in-built back protector.
4. Motorcycle gloves.
Each of the above items must be undamaged and have the appropriate compliant safety ratings.
While not compulsory at all events (however always check the requirements for the event you are attending), it is advisable to also have a strap on back protector or an airbag back protector. The protection from any in-built back protector will generally be quite small and flimsy, and given the severe injuries which can be sustained to the back in the event of an accident, a good back protector, or ideally an airbag such as the Aplinestars Tech Air 5 is, in our view, essential.
Another item which is highly advisable is a set of earmolds which will not only help protect your ears, but also, with the reduced sound, provide you with less distraction whilst out on track.
Step 4 – Preparation of the bike
In advance of your first motorcycle track day, you need to ensure that your bike is track ready, and in accordance with the requirements of the event you are attending. Make sure you check their requirements well in advance as there is nothing worse than a late night up working the night before an event trying to fix your bike to make it compliant.
Many events will require your bike to be fitted with a variety of sliders which will not only protect the track in the event of an accident, but will also assist in reducing the impact to your bike.
Such requirements could include axle sliders and bar ends, sliders mounted to the foot pegs, a muffler slider and properly fitted sealed catch can with breather, with all overflow / breather hoses going into it.
A hard plastic cover to protect an exposed engine case which have oil or coolant behind them is also a good protective investment.
You may also be required to use lock wire to prevent threaded items from loosening or falling out due to vibration or other forces. The lock wire will ensure that any parts which could discharge oil or fluid, or any safety critical items such as the brake caliper mounting bolts, stay in their correct position.
Ensuring that your bike complies with the requirements of the event you are attending will ensure that your technical inspection at the start of the day proceeds smoothly.
It is advisable, in advance of your first motorcycle track day, that you give the bike an oil and filter change, check the brake pads are good, check the brake fluid, and thoroughly check that all parts on the bike are appropriately tightened.
With respect to your tyres, while street tyres would be appropriate when starting out, as you become more competent, it would be advisable to invest in some track tyres and a set of warmers which will allow for greater grip and safety on track as your speed and competence increases.
If you are running your road bike with the standard fairings rather than purpose built race fairings, you will likely need to remove the mirrors and cover the headlight, tail light, signal lenses and reflectors.
If you intend on using the motorcycle solely as a track bike, it would be worthwhile to invest in a set of race fairings which will reduce the weight of the bike, but also reduce the cost of damage in the event of an accident. Race fairing crash much better than standard fairings, and are far cheaper and easier to fix or replace.
Step 5 – Enjoy your day at the track!
Now you are ready to enjoy your very first motorcycle track day. Ensure you get a good nights sleep the night before so that you are well rested, take plenty of fluids and good energy rich foods with you, and have an amazing day. It is sure it to be the first of many!
Have a great day, feeling llike a kid at Christmas!