Many motorcyclists want to take their bikes onto the track and trackdays are the ideal environment. If you have never been on a track before the experience can feel daunting so here are a number of tips to help make your trackday enjoyable.
Use a van or a trailer to get your bike to the track
This has a number of advantages. If the worst happens and the bike gets
damaged you can get it home without waiting for a recovery service. You
can prepare the bike the night before by removing anything that can be
damaged in a spill. Removal is far better than taping something up. If
cost is an issue hire a van with a friend or two. One advantage that is
often overlooked is what happens after a trackday. You've been out on
the track for 8 sessions, you're tired (trust me, you will be!!), your
leathers are soaked with sweat, your tyres are way past their best, you have to ride
home and your perception of speed is screwed up. It's a recipe for disaster.
With a van or trailer you can get changed into fresh clothes load the
bike up and unwind with some good sounds. If it's a hot track day you
can change out of your leathers between sessions.
Don't eat junk food and drink Coke or other fizzy drinks: the sugar levels
dull your concentration. If you don't believe me have a look at the first
session after lunch at your next trackday. Drink bottled water and eat
fruit or pasta.
The 3 Sessions to be aware of!!
There are 3 sessions you have to take extra care in. I would advise you to run
at 75% in these sessions for various reasons:
1. The first session of the day
You are new to the track. Even if you have been around it before and
it's dry, the grip levels will be different from last time and heavy
rain might have washed some of the rubber deposits away. The track will
be colder than before and other riders may not have ridden the track
before. If you have done any work on your bike you will surely discover
that you failed to tighten a caliper bolt in the first few laps.
2. The first session after lunch
Tyres have cooled, concentration levels are lower. Use this session
to get back into the groove and gradually build your speed up again.
3. The last session of the day
Simple bit of advice here, don't go out in the last session: confidence
is up and will invariably exceed ability, tiredness will start to play
a part and tyres wil be nearing the end of their life. It's just not
worth it. Pack up when you are ahead.
Find someone slightly faster than you
Once you have settled into a rhythm, know the track and are confident
with your bike's handling and braking, find someone who is about 5-10 %
quicker than you. Follow their lines, use their braking points and soon
you will find that extra bit of speed.
Pick your group wisely
Fast Group: lots of fast road riders and racers, this is probably
the safest group of the lot as fast riders know what they are doing. If
you aren't sure whether you should go intermediate or fast, pick the fast
group: you can always ask to go down a group later.
Intermediate Group: Try to avoid this group like
the plague, its got fast guys who don't like to finish mid pack, slow
guys who don't want to go in the slow group. The broad spread of riders
is a recipe for disaster.
Slow Group: this is the ideal group for Novices
and people who want to build their confidence. You won't be the slowest
rider here, you are not expected to ride like a GP god and apart form
a few intermediate riders who like to lap people and so choose this group
you will be given lots of room. Once you have lapped 3/4 of the field
and are confident of your ability then its time to move up. Take some
lap time of riders in the other groups from the front, middle and back
of the group, compare them with your lap times and if you can make it
in the fast group, do it!
Mark Thompson has spent the past 20 years racing motorcycles and managing race teams and riders. He now runs the Trackbikes website.