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Posts Tagged ‘Track Days’

In the last article we explained about track days and all the preparations to go to one. It’s your chance to find out how fast you really are without running into cars, stoplights and even cops.

Now let’s look at some tips on the actually racing. Most of this you will hear from the circuit professionals, something you will really, really, need to go for. Ask them, since they will show you all the ropes, more than I can ever tell you. Track day training is going to be essential.

But for the mean time, here are a few points.

  1. Before going out, make sure you know what each flag stands for. Know when the track marshals are telling you that there is oil on the track, when the session has been called off, when to stop, etc etc. It’s very important to know all the flags, since it can save your life.Trackday-flags
  2. Have fun out there. You don’t have a career in racing, so have fun. You are not there to race everyone on the circuit. Eventually you will find some other racers whom you can measure yourself against, but don’t try it in the first few sessions.
  3. First few laps, ride behind an experienced racer. They will know when and where to brake, and enter into the corners. This way you get a “feel” for the circuit, and you slowly memorize the layout.
  4. Never, ever, look just in front of your tires. Always look as far ahead as your can, especially in a curve. If you look down in front of you, that is where your bike will go. So look towards the exit of the curve, unless of course you want to inspect the grass and gravel.
  5. When hitting the brakes, remember that most of the work will be done by the front brakes. It’s an 80/20 rule – 80% front and 20% the rest (remember your body can also slow down your bike, so not only your rear is in the 20%).
  6. If you do run off the track, do not use your front brakes. When you are still at speed, keep straight and slowly use your rear brakes to slow down. If you are still going too fast and heading for the crash barriers, get off your bike. You will stop faster than your bike.
  7. If you do go back to the pits, make sure the other riders know this, or even when you are slowing down. Race your arm, signaling that you are slowing down. This will prevent another riders from slamming into you.
  8. Don’t over do it. Know you limits, and slowly start improving them. Just because Nicky Hayden was riding in front of you and managed to take that curve at 150 mph, doesn’t mean you can. Do not ride outside your limits. It’s going to take time and practice.
  9. Slowly start lowering your body alongside the bike in the corners. Don’t worry if you can’t put your knee down yet. It takes time and practice to be comfortable doing this. Move your center of gravity (CoG) more and more to the inside of the curve.
  10. When going out on the first laps, take it slow to warm up the tires. Be safe and take two laps making sure the tires have reached perfect temperature, but when you do, keep looking behind you since other racers will already be in their fast laps, and you don’t want to “mingle” with them.
  11. Relax! Racing is about being relaxed. If you stiffen up, you will not be racing smoothly, and therefore you will not be racing at all. More likely, you will be crashing a lot. Just relax, breath going into the corners through the nose, breath out when exiting through the mouth. This way you get a good rhythm going, and you will not fog up your visor.
  12. Oh, and if you think you’ll look cool doing that winner’s wheelie, think again. You’ll find that the circuit will ask you to leave.
  13. When you are part of a novice group, and the seasoned riders are on the track, go and look how they are doing it and learn from them. Talk to them when not riding, and ask for advice. You’ll find that most of them will help you if they can.

Trackday-3

So now you are ready to go and play on the tracks. Remember, it’s for fun. You will learn a lot, and gain more skills in riding your motorcycle in day-to-day traffic in the city. And you will finally find out in a safe way how fast you really are. And that is what it’s all about.

Have fun.

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Once you have got your motorcycle, you will want to find out how quick it, and you, is. If you have a sportsbike, chances are it’s very fast, and trying it on the streets is not the way to find out. You will probably find out what the inside of a hospital or morgue looks like before finding out how fast you are. The smart thing to do is race your motorcycle on a circuit. And for that, you don’t need to be a Nicky Hayden: anyone can try their skills on a race circuit. Most circuits have track days, days that the race tracks are open to the general public. Click here for a list of many track day organizers.

Find a race track close to you and call them, or check their web site. Track days are usually during the week, since weekends are for races. It’s not going to be cheap, count about $100 per day and that is just for the privilege of riding on the track.

Trackday-1

Instruction

Most circuits will have professional racers available to show you the ropes. They will take you around the track to show you where you need to watch out, when to hit the brakes, where to take your curve etc. It’s a bit like tennis courts of golf links; it’s the circuit pro who knows the track inside out. Pay attention, any advice they give is going to be important, no matter how small the details.

So don’t worry if you have never done it before. Newbies are just as welcome as seasoned track day racers. And if the pro is not available, ask the other users. A good friendship is always to be found on the circuits, people are usually eager to help each other.

When registering for track day, go for the new rider slots & training. Almost every circuit has them, and for your first few times, you will need it. Do not be ashamed to do it, everyone has done it.

Which Motorcycles?

There is no hard and fast rule. Any bike will do, but obviously you are going to be looking a bit silly racing a cruiser. Street bikes and sportsbikes will be the ones seen the most on track days.

Trackday-2b

ATGATT

If there is one rule that should be golden it’s the ATGATT rule. All The Gear, All The Time. Most circuits will not even allow you to race without proper gear. No skimping, your life is going to depend on it.

Get a full face integral helmet. Not even a flip up helmet will do here, it needs to be one piece. And the lighter it is, the more you will enjoy it since your head is going to be pulled by the G-forces.

You will need race gloves. If you do go off the bike, chances are that your speed is going to be very fast, and when sliding, those gloves will need to withstand a long slide. Unless of course you don’t mind some skin grafts.

Best is leather pants and jackets, preferably racing ones, but they are very expensive. Best are of course the one-piece racing suits. Expensive, but worth it. But whatever your have, you will need to have either leather or synthetic anti-abrasion material. Do not go out in jeans.

A spine protector really is a must. You’ve probably seen images of professional racers tumbling across the sand and gravel after a shunt. Now imagine this is you, and what your spine is going to go through!

And finally, get some race boots. They need to fit properly, since if you do go off, you don’t want to see your foot without boots sliding 150 mph over the track, do you?

Check Your Motorcycle

You are going to need to make sure your motorcycle is in racing condition. No, I don’t mean that you have sponsor decals on your bike, and umbrella girls. Tires and brake pads should be new, not worn down. The tires should really be racing tires since they stick better to the surface. But race tires wear down quickly, so be prepared to buy a few.

Remove your mirrors and if possible your indicators. If not the track will do that for you when you drop your bike the first time, but it’s not going to be neat.

Tape up your remaining lights, since if your bike goes down, chances are their is going to be debris on the track.

Your suspension should be set up properly for racing. Usually the firmer, the better. Read the manual for the best settings.

Make sure your bike has had a full maintenance done recently, and that fuel, water, coolants, fluids etc are all topped up.

Trackday-2

Going There

If you have done all of the above, best is to transport your motorcycle on a trailer. Not only does it save time once you are at the circuit, but also in case you wreck your bike, you at least have some form of transportation to get back home.

Alternatively, ask if the circuit rents sportsbikes. Some do, and this way you can wreck someone else’s motorcycle.

Check the sleeping conditions at the track in case you are a bit far away. Many circuits offer sleeping areas, but don’t expect comfort – more likely that they’ll be bunk beds.

Eat & Drink Smart

Obviously the last thing you want to do the night before your track day is go on a drinking (and even eating) bender. Avoid alcohol since you are going to be sweating a lot during the day, even if it’s cold. Make sure you hydrate continuously, so bring plenty of water.

Have a good breakfast since you energy is going to be zapped. It’s like going into combat; your adrenaline is going to be pumping through your veins, so make sure you have proteins and fluid in your tummy and more to top it up during the day. Soldiers don’t fight well on an empty stomach, and neither do racers.

Paperwork

You will be needing to sign all sorts of waiver forms with the circuit, but that’s normal. Do check with your insurance company what they will cover on track days. You’ll be surprised that insurance companies accept track days, since at the end, it improves your riding skills.

In our next episode, we will tell you more about the physical aspects of racing your motorcycle during track days. The “how to race” part.

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