Few things in life beat the thrill of riding your own motorbike on a professional race track. Track days provide a chance for you to test your bike’s capabilities as well as your own, and can help you to develop and improve your skills. Track days take place across the country almost every week, and with a quick web search there’s no doubt you’ll be able to find one that’s suitable for you.
If you are yet to experience a track day, here’s the lowdown on what to expect.
Pre-track day prep
If you’re thinking of riding your own bike, you need to make sure it’s well-prepped for the track. Your bike needs to be in top working order to ensure that there are no nasty surprises on the day. Check your bike well in advance of the actual day as this will give you time to buy any parts if necessary.
When checking your bike, pay particular attention to the brake pads – are they in good nick? If not, make sure you get them replaced. Check for slack in the chain and make sure all fixings are tight. Make sure your oil is at the right level: track riding uses considerably more oil than normal road riding, so top it up if it’s looking low, and change it if it’s quite close to the bike’s scheduled service.
Tyres take a serious thrashing on track days, and this is the reason why many riders choose to ride a bike supplied by organisers. Road tyres are perfectly fine, but they should be no more than five years old and should have lots of tread left on them. Road tyres also behave differently to dedicated track tyres. They will get hotter and wear out more quickly. Often the shoulders will look like beads of melted rubber at the end of the day.
What to take with you
When your bike is checked and ready (and raring) to go, you need to think of what else you need to take. First and foremost, make sure you pack both parts of your driving license – if you fail to bring these to the sign-on, chances are you won’t even be allowed on the track.
It’s important that you pack plenty of food and water as it’s tiring work out on the track! Sugary food and drinks will help to keep your energy levels up, but pack some healthy pieces of fruit, too. When you break for lunch, don’t overeat, as this could make you feel sluggish for your afternoon sessions.
(Oh, and by the way, always make sure you’ve filled-up before arriving to the track day. Nothing is more frustrating than being seconds away from starting your first session and realising you’ve got no fuel).
Clothing & equipment
For the majority of track days it is essential that you wear a full leather one-piece suit, or a 2-piece that can be fully zipped together. A six inch zip at the waist is unlikely to pass muster with the organisers. Obviously, you need to bring suitable motorcycle gloves and boots and a good-quality safety helmet (some organisers require that riders wear an ACU gold sticker helmet).
For that added bit of protection you might want to also wear a back protector and pack a visor demister.
On the day advice
Before you set off on your first session, make sure you give your bike that final check-over. Checking tyre-pressures is a must. If you’re riding a road bike, your tyre pressure should be lower than normal, as your tyres heat up significantly more on the track which causes an increase in pressure (approximately 1psi per 10 degrees C). The weather on the day will also depend on the tyre-pressure, but there will always be experts around if you need some advice.
Do not use your mirrors as you don’t need them on the track. Fold them in if you can; if not, tape them up. Having mirrors will only distract you: you should be focusing on what’s in-front of you, not what’s behind you.
It is also advisable to tape up your speedo. The speed you’re travelling on the track is pretty irrelevant and constantly looking down at your speedo could be hugely distracting. The only thing you really need to use is the rev counter.
If you’re a first-timer, start by riding similar to how you ride on the road. Overcome that initial urge to twist the throttle right round on your first session. Take the time to learn the track and familiarise yourself with its layout. Then, when you start to build up confidence, you can start increasing your speed.