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Riding a motorcycle on a cold race track

Updated on July 20, 2015

What to remember on a cold race track.

When the weather is cold, Your riding style and performance will have to change. Even when the sun is out but the weather is cold, you cannot just go out and ride as fast as possible as you normally would. The tarmac would still be cold and this affects the tyre performance and bike handling differently. Tyres take a little longer to warm up than normal and wind or cold air can reduce heat very quickly which means grip is reduced.

Just because other people are out there giving it their all doesn't mean that your bike will perform the same. They could be using a much different tire or even tire warmers which give an added benefit to starting quick times early.

Knee down when still cold

Knee down at 5 degrees Celsius after first warm up lap.
Knee down at 5 degrees Celsius after first warm up lap.

Cold tar and wind on tires.

Cold racetrack tar has a vastly different characteristic to a hot race track. Your tires do not mold to the surface and grip as well as it does on warmer days. The cold tarmac reduces your bikes tyre temperature quite quickly. So sitting in the pit lane waiting to start, your tires are quickly losing their heat even if you used tire warmers.

When doing warm up laps, the cold air / wind reduces the tyre temperature and grip. You need to find the correct balance between riding hard to get the heat up and not pushing so hard that you slip. Adding an extra warm up lap helps to generate additional heat allowing for you to push to the max.

You will feel coming out of corners and getting on the power that the tyre may squirm a little or even spin up more than usual.

Warming tyres up correctly on cold racetrack

In order to get heat into your tyres quickly, you have two options.

  • Tyre warmers
  • knowing how to warm up tyres correctly

Tyre warmers on a cold race track are great. They allow you to start off a little harder and reduce the time needed to get your tyres up to full operating temperature. I would still try for a little more warm up on the track to ensure your tyres are at the optimum temp for the cold race track.

Warming up your tyres yourself. This is fairly simple process. On the straight you accelerate as hard as possible and just before the corner brake hard a couple times. This scrubbing motion, warms up the entire tyre carcass. However on a cold day or cold race track, it does take a little more time and laps to ensure the entire tyre is warm through to the rim.

Getting your knee down when it is 1 degree celcius is not hard if your tyres are warmed up correctly but if there is ice or the track is wet then this is not suggested.

Tyre Cold tear

Tearing when tyre and track is cold.
Tearing when tyre and track is cold. | Source

What are the dangers and what happens to tyres

The dangers are self explanatory. Cold tyres and cold race track means the grip is reduced. Reduced grip when pushing hard means the tyres will slip or wash away causing you to end up going off the track.

Tyres when pushed hard when cold get what is called a cold tear. Pieces of the rubber are actually ripped off the tyre or lifted up. The hard abrasive track and cold tyre which cannot mold to the surface, cause little bits of your tyre to be pulled off the carcass. When tyres are warm, they are pliable and mold into the track surface. You can see when getting finishing a ride, you are able to dig your finger nail into the tyre because the rubber becomes so soft. This allows the tyre to find little grooves in the race track surface and adds to the effect of grip.

When cold, the tires find the grooves but instead of molding, they get caught and it pulls the rubber up.

Tyre warmers are worth it

Tyre warmers are worth it no matter the weather.
Tyre warmers are worth it no matter the weather.

So can I ride on a cold race track with no tyre warmers

The answer is definitely yes. No need to pack up and go home. Just ensure your have the correct tyres for your riding style and the conditions. If it is cold and wet, then do not go out on slicks or full race tyres. Try to use a wet weather tyre or road tyre.

Do not push hard immediately but rather stay in your comfort level and hopefully it warms up during the day. We just went out this weekend on a track that was between 1 degree and 4 degrees celcius. Everyone just took an extra lap (3 laps in total) to warm up the tyres and by the end of the sessions, we were hitting our fastest times. This was running on Pirelli Rosso Corsa tyres which are designed for the road with the occasional track day. The tyres tend to warm up a little quicker and can still perform in slightly damp conditions with no problem.

In conclusion

Just because the weather is cold or the race track is cold, does not mean you must pack your bike up and go home or stay at home. It just means that some extra care must be taken when warming up the tyres and that you ride within your comfort zone.

We will ride on the track in summer when it rains and winter when it hits freezing point. It is still safer than pushing it hard on the road. Technology in tyres are extremely advanced and are tested to be used in all conditions. So do it, go out in the cold, dress warm and warm up the tyres before pushing to your limit and you will be just fine.

Ride Safe.

Track days in the cold

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Choosing tyres for cold days

As long as the race track is dry, any track tire will be good enough for the intermediate and novice. Most people will run out of skill before reaching any where near the limit of the tire. If the track is wet then always fit a wet weather tire. Slicks and dry tires are made differently and cannot disperse the water enough to give any decent amount of grip and you are just asking for trouble.

It is always wise to have a spare set of tires if you can afford it to match the conditions. You could even have them on a spare set of rims so it is easier to swop them when the conditions change.

Remember, when it comes to motorcycles, always by the best you can afford. Tires keep you in contact with the road and should always be in the best condition. Your riding gear protects you when your tires have gone. So make sure you have the best to protect you. We want you to keep riding and therefore always be safe.


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