Your first motorcycle track day and what to expect.
Benefits of motorcycle Track days.
Whether you are new to motorcycle riding or an old hand wanting to experience something new or just improve your skill, Going to a motorcycle track day is one of the best ways to gain insight into the best way to handle your bike and what it is capable of as well as test your skill level and improve on it.
Remember that there are people that are going to a track day for the same reason as you or just wanting to learn and are probably just as scared or apprehensive as you are. Some of the benefits and reasons for you to do a track day now are:
- No speeding fines
- It is safer to do the large speeds that are not safe on the roads
- No obstacles or animals to jump out in front of you
- You can test your motorcycles limits (which I doubt you will reach)
- Over come your fears and bad habits that you may have learnt
- Bragging rights to your friends when you drag your knee or have no edges on your tires.
Arriving at the track and costs.
Arrive early and start making friends. The best way to learn about a certain track is to ask people that have already ridden on it and know what to expect. You can learn what to watch out for this way before you even set out and most people are more than willing to give a little riding advice as it makes them feel important.
It is also a good idea to get there early as you may have forgotten something in all the excitement and you want a little time to relax the nerves and go over your bike before setting out. You pay the track day fee which can range from 30 dollars for a small track to 350 dollars for the top Moto GP tracks. At this time I suggest grabbing a soda or water as you want to keep hydrated. It takes a lot of energy to ride on a race track at speed and you will sweat so keep up the fluids throughout the day. Riding on a track takes a lot of concentration and wearing your full gear will certainly drain you of energy. So don't forget to eat and keep that energy up.
Quite a few guys will drink energy drinks which is fine for a quick pick me up but the energy will drop just as quickly so make sure you have a proper meal in between or even some small ones just to make sure your energy levels are up all day.
Track day briefing and Group choice
Most tracks open at 8 am and the briefing of flags and conditions is at 9 am. You do not want to miss this, the track director will advise you on the meaning of the different flags and if there are any defects to watch out for. It is possible that cars have been out and dropped oil on certain parts of the track or that it rained during the night and the track surface is cold.
You will be then be advised of the group sessions which are normally 20 - 30 minutes long, You want to choose the correct group as too slow a group and you will be stuck behind riders and get irritated, too fast a group and you become a nuisance and danger to faster riders. The groups are as follows:
- Group D - Slow novice riders, First time to the track and motorcycles under 600 cc. This group of riders normally sit up straight around the corners and don't go our of 3rd gear.
- Group C - New to this track and not quite comfortable with high speed cornering. They will accelerate hard on the straights and still sit upright in corners or have the bike leaned slightly over.
- Group B - Faster riders with 600 cc and above. These are your average Joe riders that are quick and starting to drag knee around a corner and are comfortable with the handling of a motorcycle at much higher speeds.
- Group A - The Elite of the track day. The are for the 1000 cc bikes and race riders that are practicing for race days. You will find a few everyday riders in this class but they are fast.
Get out on to track and take it easy.
Your tires are cold from the waiting around and chatting, Your group is called over the loud speaker and everyone hops on their bikes and head out into pit lane. A marshal will have checked your bike over to ensure it is safe and regulations are met.
Do not, please I repeat do not think that you can go at any speed on the first lap. Tires are cold and slippery. You do not know what is on the track just yet. Regardless of whether you are using track day slicks or your run around town tires (I have used both and will concentrate on this later) it takes time to build up heat and make your tire sticky. Take two laps to warm up at least and do some hard acceleration and braking. Swerving from side to side does not put heat in your tires, it just makes you look like an idiot. Watch the racing guys, Marc Marquez will accelerate as hard as he can and then pull an "endo" (lift back wheel under braking). This scrubs the tires and generates a lot of heat.
After the first couple laps you can now start to turn your bike fast and lower in the corners. By lap 4 or 5 I am normally completely comfortable with the conditions and tire heat and start putting in the fast laps. You will experience faster guys over taking you but hold your line. You paid to use the track and have just as much rights to ride on your line as they do. Let them over take and watch out for you, not the other way around. Do not worry about looking behind you as by the time you look straight again you will be off the track and on the dirt (hopefully you riding that quickly).
Keep going and you will get better. practice makes perfect. once you come in from the session after the checkered flag (you can come in any time you want and do not have to worry about the whole session) park your bike in the sun. This will keep some warmth in the tires unless you have tire warmers. Chat to the guys about your experience and maybe some will have watched you and give you pointers. Drink some more fluids and get ready for another session.
What is your biggest worry on the track?
Tips to be faster on the track day.
Using a lap timer really helps if you want to see if you are getting quicker each time. They can be quite pricey so if you would like to cut costs, you can look at downloading racechrono from the google play store. This is a lap timer that uses your cellphones gps to calculate your lap times as well as your track position and speeds. It can even go so far as to connect to a GO PRO camera and overlap times and details on to the video.
Some tips for going faster are:
- Corner entry speed - faster in does not always mean faster out.
- In the corner do not chop the throttle or increase suddenly. if you do have too much speed rather lean harder or use the rear brake if you really have to but not that much.
- Keep a straight line through the corner or square off a corner rather than going too wide or to early.
- The correct tire choice will affect how fast you can ride in the conditions - Check out my track day tire choice hub to help you understand the tires.
- Yes straight line speed does help and a bigger engine will get your times up but it also means you have to brake earlier and cannot take corners as quickly. So get on the brakes hard and finish your braking early so that your corner speed is perfect.
- Try to be smooth. I have always ridden very aggressively and soon as I relaxed and rode smoothly, my lap times decreased.
Please see my other hub about ways to ride quicker for a more details outline.
Racechrono and video overlap
End of the day and going home.
At this time, hopefully you have had the experience of a life time and have become addicted to track days and can't wait to come back. Please remember you will be exhausted at least mentally if not physically. I ride to the track and back home on my motorcycle and have to keep reminding myself that it is the road. I cannot ride the same as I did on the track as it is extremely dangerous. You will also be tired and cannot focus like you should be so take it easy. If you came via a 4 wheeled vehicle towing your bike it is the same thing. You still need to drive slower and try keep alert.
One last thing to leave you with. Just go out there and ride the track. You will not regret it. Make friends as bikers are the friendliest of people and it is a great fraternity to be part of.