The open tarmac, no speed limits and the chance to push your riding skills to the limit – all part of the motorcycle track day.
Whilst the traditional ride-out along the country roads to the British coast is very much part of the biking experience, a smaller but still significant number of enthusiasts will be heading to one of Britain’s many race circuits to put their skills to the test.
Track days are big business. With overheads constantly on the increase, race circuits are increasingly trying to turn themselves into venues that don’t just generate revenue on race weekends but instead, are put to use all year round. As a result, all of the major circuits, including Donington, Brands Hatch, Silverstone and Oulton Park, offer riders with nothing more than a driving licence to hit the throttle on their own tarmac.
So what’s involved?
Costs, schedules and conditions will vary from track to track and event to event. With many circuits subject to noise restrictions, certain vehicles will be restricted from certain events although most standard road-legal bikes shouldn’t be affected.
Booking a track day itself will usually require little more than a valid driving licence, race standard safety equipment (ACU Gold standard helmets, full-zip leathers, boots and gloves) and your own motorcycle.
One thing to consider though is that in most cases, your standard motorcycle insurance policy will not apply to any activity on a race circuit. Whilst insurance is not a requirement for taking part in a track day, it is recommended by most circuit organisers as it protects you from any costs that may result from an accident.
This can include damage to your or a fellow rider’s bike, personal injury and any costs that may affect the circuit itself, such as charges for closing the circuit to clear an accident or recover a vehicle as well as any damage to crash barriers or other fixtures. If in doubt, talk to your bike insurance provider.
The days themselves will include an obligatory safety presentation which will cover everything that you would reasonably expect before you are let loose on two miles or more of unrestricted tarmac. The briefing will cover issues ranging from track etiquette, such as overtaking and racing lines, through to riding technique and safety procedures, including flag colours and pit boards.
Following a visual check of your bike and equipment from one of the instructors, riders will be split into groups and taken out on a series of familiarisation laps with an instructor, just to allow you to get acquainted with the riders. From then on, it’s all down to you.
Group sessions will, typically, last for 20 minutes each and most circuits run a three-group system. Between sessions, you’ll have the opportunity to refuel, talk about your lap with fellow riders or get one-to-one advice from the circuit instructors.
Of course, not everybody will be putting in the kind of performance that would have Valentino Rossi worrying about his MotoGP championship and, despite what you may think, not everybody on these track days is an experienced amateur racer. Even if you are a complete novice to race riding, following just the very basic advice will ensure that you have an enjoyable and above all safe day of riding.
Track Day Do’s and Don’ts.
Before you even head onto the road to the circuit, make sure that you have your photo card driving licence (some circuits may also ask for the paper counterpart) that proves that you are able to ride that category of motorcycle.
If you are planning on getting track day bike insurance, do it before the day. Also ensure that you have all of the necessary safety equipment.
Also remember to fill-up before you get to the circuit. Some tracks will have fuelling facilities, although they tend to cost a few pence per litre more, whilst some will require you to drive to the local forecourt.
Of course, for your own safety, checking that your bike is mechanically sound is also essential. The key components of your bike, such as the brakes, chain and tyres are going to be subjected to a lot more stress than they would normally be, so make sure that everything is in perfect condition.
At the track, listen to the safety briefing and take on board what the instructors say. They’ve got plenty of experience of the circuit and you won’t be the first novice that they’ve taught.
Remember that track days are not competitive races. Don’t concern yourself too much with lap times and how quickly other riders in your group are riding. If you push yourself too hard, lap times could end up being the last thing on your mind.
If you happen to come off your bike, follow the directions of the circuit stewards and marshals. Never run onto the track to recover your bike.
Above all, enjoy the day! Riding at one of the UK’s famous racing venues should be an experience to remember, to make sure that you enjoy yourself.