Preparing for a Track Day

So you want to get on track, good move not only is it fun it’ll also let you find out what your bike is capable of and hopefully make you a better rider. There are three obvious ways to get out on track.

  1. Take up Racing
  2. Go to a Race School
  3. Do a Trackday

Taking up racing is a little extreme as a first track experience, but in the days before Trackdays it was the way it had to be done. I will try and cover going racing in a future article. With regard to going  to a Race School, this is not something I have done but the thought of ragging someone else’s bike round a track while having someone tell me how to ride better is appealing. I do intend to do a Race School at some point but they can work out expensive per minute on track.

I will mostly be taking about doing a Track Day for the first time, on your own bike. Once again there are options to use someone else’s bike by hiring one, which I have never done. I have heard, mainly through various Forums, varying reports about these hire bikes but to be honest most of them seem positive. Generally they supply the bike, which they transport to the venue, for a fixed fee and you agree to pay the first part of any repair bill if you come off. One Trackday at Cadwell I saw a hire GSXR750 come off the track just after the Gooseneck and proceed to roll down the hill end over end, I am sure that that rider was glad he was on a hire bike at that point! It would still be an expensive day for him but not as expensive as totalling his road bike! As I said I have never hired a bike but I am not sure if riding an unfamiliar bike for the first time at the track is the greatest idea.

Anyway I assume that you are keen to get out on track and stretch your bikes legs and set a new lap record, get noticed by a scout for one of the big racing concerns and get a full ride for a season of World Superbike (this isn’t going to happen!) If you are in the lucky situation of having more than one bike you need to pick which one to take. I am in this situation and I tend to pick my sportiest bike. It is true that you can go to a Trackday on anything but I would suggest that you would enjoy yourself more on a ZX6 than a Hayabusa or a Yamaha V-Max. I do have a ZX and a Hayabusa and while both would be a laugh on track I still think that I will enjoy myself most on the ZX. I would not suggest turning up at Snetterton on a YBR125 but I have seen someone on a Sporty 125 having a hoot at Cadwell. So this leads me onto which company and which Track should you pick. To be honest with me the Companies all seem pretty much the same, though XXXXXXXXXX does do free instruction which is great if that is what you want, so I tend to check what dates are available on the track I want and go with whatever company is running it then.

So it is time to book yourself in, I would strongly suggest for the first time, even if you think that you will be running at World Superbike pace, that you book in as a Novice. To be honest most Trackday companies tell you that you must start in the Novice group if you haven’t been on track before. Riding on the track is different to the road, arguably safer without potholes and oncoming traffic, so you might not be a fast as you think straight away and it would be good to go around with likeminded enthusiasts who are going a similar pace. If the Trackday company is any good they will spot if anyone is in the wrong group and move you up or down as needed.

Before the day you should have a good look round your bike, while there is no special preparation like lock wiring of the sump plug you do need to make sure it is ready to go.

Things to check:

Oil
Is there enough? If your bike burns a bit of oil it might be worth taking some along to top up your bike as it will be working harder than usual (hopefully) and might need a top up during the day.
Is it fresh? There is no need to change the oil especially for the Trackday but if the oil has been in there a long time or for a lot of miles it may be worth thinking about it as the engine will be revving higher than usual.

Tyres
These should be in good condition and have a fair bit of wear left on them. Tracks generally have more grip than normal roads and therefore are rougher. You will also be cornering harder than usual and this will add up and your tyres will wear quicker than on the road, this could leave you embarrassed if you were intending to ride home on the bike afterwards. There is no need to get specific Trackday (race) tyres as long as you have reasonable quality ones, sports touring, sports or supersports tyres will all be fine.

Brakes
As you will be riding harder than usual on the track you will need to brake harder than usual. This means that your brakes will need to work well and must have a reasonable amount of pad material left. Once again this is a case of common sense if you feel that they need changing soon, change them before you try doing 145mph on the back straight at Cadwell! Also if the fluid is looking manky it may be worth changing it as the brake system will get hot and the brakes could fade badly due to water in the brake fluid boiling. You may have heard the term brake fade before, all it really means is that the brake lever either needs to be pulled more and more to get the same level of breaking or that the feel at the lever goes all wooden and the braking is not as effective. This is often due to old brake fluid, though it can be exacerbated by glazed pads.

Chain and Sprockets
These need to be in good condition as they will be under more stress than usual. The chain needs to be as loose as possible but still within the recommended settings. This because the suspension will be working harder than usual and the chain may end up stressing the output shaft bearing. I personally wouldn’t put excessive chain lube on the chain as under high speed of the track it may fling off and get to the edge of the tyre.

Now let’s move onto what you need to take with you for a Trackday

  1. Driving Licence – You need both parts, the paper and the plastic bit. It needs to have a current full Motorcycle entitlement, it can’t have run out and you can’t have a ban. If you forget your licence some organisers will ring DVLA (If they are open, not so good for Track Evenings and ones on Saturday or Sunday) to confirm you have one but they tend to charge to do this (around £5 usually)
  2. One piece or two piece zip together leathers – These need to be in good condition and if two piece the zip joining top to bottom needs to go right round your body.
  3. Full face helmet – I believe all the Trackdays ask for a full face helmet, even if you are Tracking your 1935 Rudge! The Helmet needs to be of a known make with  a gold ACU sticker on it. For your own safety I would suggest a good quality helmet that is not too old just in case the worst does happen
  4. Leather gloves – Need to be good quality gloves for your protection and I would suggest that they have a good fastening strap that means they cannot be pulled off.
  5. Leather Boots – Most if not all Trackday organisers specify leather boots but to be honest I have always used synthetic leather boots and I have never been challenged. I would like to have some proper leather boots but I have odd size feet and have difficulties getting them to fit. Quite a few of some of the top boot manufacturers use synthetic leather in their construction so I do not think it is a huge problem.
  6. Bike Key – If you are using a trailer or van to get the bike to the track make sure you have your bike key with you or you will not be going anywhere. (You may laugh but it does happen) I heard of someone who went to a foreign Trackday where they transport your bike and you fly over to meet it who left their key in England!!!!
  7. Petrol – Not 100% necessary but if you can easily do it, you are taking the bike by trailer or van, then take some petrol. Some circuits do have petrol pumps but they are expensive and only open at odd times during the day. Having your own 10litre or 20Litre can, will help no end. However be aware some petrol stations are not happy with people filling 20Litre containers.
  8. Removeable Baffle – If you have removed your baffle so that your bike sounds glorious be aware that it will be noise tested at the circuit. This will be as a static test or as a ride by once on track. If you fail the noise test you will not be allowed to play. Therefore if you have removable baffles it is a good idea to take them to the circuit just in case. Once you have had a noise test and passed (fingers crossed) you will know for next time and it may not be an issue in the future.

Next will be what happens when you get there.

About The Author

Heef
Heef

Ambitious Amateur Mechanic, with a slight (OK not slight) Suzuki bias