Even if you’re a track day regular, there can still be a degree of intimidation when snooping around the pitlane garages and spotting dedicated track bikes, often ex-racing superbikes or converted road-going sports bikes costing thousands with their tyre warmers, paddock stands, spare wheels and tyres, giant toolboxes and flashy vans parked outside. Some riders have the resources to pump into their hobby and fair play to those guys and girls because sometimes you can get your kicks by creating a motorbike that at least looks fast, probably is fast, wears race slicks and then goes out to play in the intermediate group. There’s definitely a feel-good factor if you’ve got tens of thousands to spend. And who cares if that’s how they like to play. Good on ’em. Keep investing in motorcycling and making yourself happy.
On the flip side, there are plenty of riders who turn up on their road bike, drop their tyre pressures, fold in their mirrors and off they go. It’ll cost a few tanks of fuel and probably a set of tyres but there’s the risk of dropping it or being caught up in someone else’s drama. After all, if they’ve ridden to the circuit, they’ll need to get it home too. And possibly to work the next day.
Then there are those who have bought budget track bikes with little worry about damage, or just for the thrill of passing one of those faster and more expensive machines! From 20-year-old ZX-6’s, GSXR’s or CB500’s, to converted cat D R1’s, for example, there are plenty to find on the forums and Facebook groups.
Track days themselves have become so much more popular in the last decade too. MSV, the owners of Donington Park, Brands Hatch, Cadwell, Snetterton and Oulton Park are running 50% more motorcycle track days than seven years ago with increases in ‘sold out’ days, those running a second track-only bike and even the pace in each group has increased.
That means with more and more opportunities to get on track, there’s plenty more machines out there dedicated to the job.
Some track day operators offer road-bike only days, others provide an open pit lane but generally speaking a traditional motorcycle track day runs from 9am – 5pm with rolling 20-minute sessions, breaking for a lunch stop. Those attending are split into three classes depending on experience and ability so you’ll be on track for 20-minute per hour which can be demanding for bike and rider.
Garage spaces are usually available on a first come, first served basis though some prefer to be based outside in the paddock area near friends either share a gazebo, generator or just stories. Tyre warmers, tool kits, helmet dryers, even mats for the bike are part of the modern-day track day user’s arsenal but they don’t have to be. There are others who turn up on their road bike with their licence and so long as they have the relevant kit, they’re good to go. We’d advise dropping tyre pressures though. And remember to top them back up again before riding home.
Then there are track evenings which are shorter meaning less sessions, and often restricted to just two groups which can be more intensive, but you get a good amount of track time for the fee.
We spoke to a range of BikeSocial Members enjoying themselves on the 2021 Bennetts Track Days at both Cadwell Park and Donington Park:
Gary Millson, Cadwell Park – Honda CrossTourer
“It’s the only bike I’ve got, I got rid of my Gixxer two years ago and I’d never done a track day on that but when I bought this I thought ‘why not?’. It’s my regular road bike, I’ve had it for three years now and I’ve only ever done one track day before on this bike and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’ll keep up with anything on the straights though not so agile around the bends.
“I ride this bike all day long and get off still feeling fresh. I rode it here today and I shall ride it back home again... hopefully. Without a doubt it’s in the back of your mind (crashing) when you tip it into a corner, and it makes you be just that little bit more careful. I mix it up (in the group) and just ride to enjoy!”
@_LaraMoto_, Donington Park – Yamaha R6 track bike
“I paid a rather good price of four grand. I’ve done a few years of racing but in reality, I started with a CBR600F which was my first big bike around 2012/2013. I started doing some tours on it then I booked my first track day at Mallory Park because I wanted to learn more about what my bike could do in a safer environment. I got some instruction and then ticked off a lot of UK tracks to carry on learning. Then I picked up a couple of CB500’s and started racing with Thundersport GB. CBs are a great bike to learn on and clearly it’s not about the power because they have 50 brake! It’s all about corner speed and race craft which taught me what you can really do in the corners.
“I’m back with the R6 and it needed a little bit of work. At £4k (and 14 years old) it was pretty basic, but it did come with upgraded Öhlins front and a TTX rear, it’s got an upgraded Brembo master cylinder and super-helpful gear position indicator. All I’ve done is freshen it up, put some race tyres on.
“A lot of people are really scared about track days because they think they’re going to bin their bike. The reality is that when you go out on the road for a Sunday blast you’re subject to a phenomenal amount of risk that you deal with perfectly well. What a track day offers you is a much, much safer environment to learn and explore the extent of how your bike can pull or decelerate and you really learn how to use the brakes. Doing a Bennetts day in particular, is quieter and more respectful. There’s time to build up your confidence with the welcome environment, the instructors, the BSB mechanic.”
Neil Allen, Donington Park – Honda CB500
“I’ve probably been doing track days for about ten years on and off, usually a couple per year, where I can just wheel a bike out and go hence the CB500. My dad used to work for a rider training school and he kind of inherited one. It was on 45,000 road miles and there’s loads of parts available so for me who is doing a couple of track days per year it does the job.
“I’ve tun the same tyres for years, the flat bars we put on recently cost £20. It looks a bit rough and ready but I’m still having the same amount of fun as everyone else out there. It’s cheap and doesn’t owe me much so I’m not too concerned about going out and riding it in the rain!”
Becky Houghton (@tipsy_unicorn94), Donington Park – Suzuki SV650
“When I picked it up, it already had a different shock. It still had the original but that’s not brilliant for racing. We’ve done little bits to make it look nice, like pretty coloured brake lines. I picked up the clip-ons and race fairing second-hand. There’s a massive scene for the SV’s – they’ve got a nice bit of power but they’re not too aggressive or scary, they’re a perfect learner track bike and because you’re missing that power, they’ll teach you how to corner better. There’re loads of spares and loads of people selling them, breaking them and got bits for them. Even if you’re buying new, bits are quite cheap – I think the rear sets were £50/60 for a set. If something happens, it’s not the end of the world.
“It all depends on how far you want to go with them. You could get it more track-oriented you can tweak little bits. I’ve tracked road bikes that had their MOT, you can go out and have loads of fun. And because they’re cheap you can go out and have loads of fun and you don’t have to worry about what happens!
“There’s always loads of people at track days who will help you out. There’s always a suspension person, a tyre person, spare parts, instructors. People will always go out of their way to help you.”
Lee Butler (not Barry Sheene), Cadwell Park – Suzuki GSX-R750 K4
“I bought it 6 months ago for about £2k, it was a rough road bike, but I knew I was going to put track fairings on it. Then the spending began! The fairing was bout £200 and I sprayed it myself in my cellar. Put a set of tyres on and the grips. It’s still road legal but I had a Fireblade last year and came here on that which is my road bike and I commute a lot on it – maybe 1500-1600 miles a month and as I was getting quicker I realised that I had to ride this to work the next morning. So I looked around for different options to save my road bike for the road. And I’ve got addicted now!”
The other option is to hire a bike. The benefits are not having to worry about transporting to and from the track, you don’t have to maintain it or worry about tyre pressures and if you book in advance, you’ve got quite the choice. On a Bennetts Track Day, Moto Events bring along a fleet of Yamahas and of course the price depends on which model you opt for from an MT-07 to an R1.
Richard Margerison, Moto Events Group
“There are lots of small obstacles when doing a track day for a beginner and we take care of them all; riding kit (boots, leathers, gloves, helmet), the bike, tyre warmers if you need them. The full set-up. You literally get out of the car with your driving licence, we do everything else – it’s like being Valentino for the day! On the bike, ride it, get off. Even the track day place is included.
“We have the R6, we will have the R7, we have the R1, the MT range and we even have the NIKEN for anybody who wants to try something a little bit different. We do as much or as little as you want, even if you’ve never done a track day before. You can even hire them on an individual session basis depending on availability. You can upgrade if you want to move around.
“We upgrade the tyres and add some crash protection but apart from that they’re completely standard, brand-new bikes.”
So, whatever your resources are when it comes to track days, there are options suited to everyone. Sometimes though, all you need is a little guidance from the instructors….
Visit the Moto Events Group website right here
If you insure your bike directly with Bennetts you automatically become a BikeSocial member with access to over 150 exclusive offers, discounts, competitions and of course our very special Bennetts Track Days which will be back for 2022.
This year we held five days at MSV circuit around the land; Brands Hatch (Indy), Cadwell Park, 2 x Donington Park and Oulton Park attended by our ambassador, John McGuinness who’ll ride on track and offer feedback, a chat, a selfie or some abuse depending on what your preference is. We have a BSB mechanic, 100% Suspension, smaller groups, more time on track and FREE photographs for every attendee. Plus, they’re less expensive than your regular motorcycle track days.
If you don’t insure your bike directly with Bennetts, there’s still the chance to become a BikeSocial member by signing up for an annual fee. Click here for more information about BikeSocial membership.