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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.