We all ride machines which are under-used compared to what they are designed to do. The UK roads and laws prevent us from realising our bikes’ true performance - how good are the brakes? How fast can I reach in third gear? Can I get my knee down? etc.
Take exhibit A; Triumph’s Speed Triple. Here is a £9,400 bike which pumps out 133bhp but if you ride one then realistically the only time you’ll ever pin the throttle, exceed three figures and not have to worry about oncoming traffic or any law enforcement is on a private runway (should you know of an unused one!) or at a Track Day…
For those who have yet to partake in a Track Day, get booking one. There are several companies who hire a UK or European circuit, provide instructors and divide participants into three categories; Novice, Intermediate and Advanced and you can use your own bike or hire one of theirs. You’ll get to ride on the track in a groups of up to 40 others who are all of a similar capability and in a relatively safe environment to learn more about your bike and develop your own skills.
I don’t want to use my own bike
That’s ok, most Track Day companies will gladly hire you one from their fleet, at a cost of course. There’s normally a range available from a 600cc – 1,000cc from various manufacturers and will need to be pre-booked.
- Leathers – you will need either a one piece set of leathers or a two piece which zips together. Consider what to wear underneath too, this will depend on the weather
- Driving licence – make sure you’ve got both parts
- Paperwork – read it, understand it, fill it in and sign in beforehand. It’ll save you time on the day
- Fuel - top up your tank before you get to the circuit and if you can then take some additional fuel with you in an appropriate container
- Circuit – find a circuit map or search YouTube for any videos so you can learn which direction it goes
- Tyres – check the tread, do you have any? Don’t worry about pressures as there’ll be a tyre service on site
- Noise – most track days will have a maximum noise limit, usually around 102dB. If you have an aftermarket exhaust then check the noise level before you go
- Water/food – there’ll be a cafe or restaurant on site but you might want to take your own. Several 20 minute track sessions can soon take it out of you so it’s important to stay hydrated
- Timings – a normal track day will begin around 7.30am so consider staying locally the night before if you have a long way to travel
- Change of clothes – on a warm day you’ll get sweaty. On a cold day you’ll need layers when you finish each session
- Seating – between sessions you might want to sit down so why not take a fold-up chair
- Insurance –consider track day insurance
Should I ride to the circuit?
You can but do consider that it’s likely to be a long day and you’ll be tired at the end of it. Van hire, a bike trailer or a courier are other options. Handy if you want to take a change of clothes, a chair, food & water etc.
What happens when I arrive?
- On arrival - find a base for the day in the paddock, most of the pit garages can accommodate 5 or 6 bikes comfortably and everyone shares.
- 7.30am - before doing anything else, you’ll need to register which means taking both parts of your driving license and the completed paperwork to the paddock office. The event staff will check who you are against their list and hand you a sticker for your bike which denotes which group you are in. You will also have a wrist band to put on, the pit lane staff will check this before each track session.
- After registration get your bike noise tested, this is mandatory. You will get another sticker.
- There are plenty of other options to add to your experience; you can then have your tyres and suspension checked by professionals, there’s likely to be a Data tracking facility, you can book yourself a photo album or grab some breakfast.
- 8.30am – attend a mandatory safety briefing, usually in the cafe/restaurant. You will witness sarcasm and receive another sticker.
- 9am – Novice (also known as Group 1) first track session. You will line up at the end of the pit lane and taken around the circuit three times at a reasonably slow pace with no overtaking. This is so you can warm your tyres and learn the circuit. After three laps you re–enter the pit lane, form up again and are then released to enjoy the remainder of the session at a pace you feel comfortable at. Overtaking is now permitted.
At the end of the session find your pit garage and leave the bike to cool whilst you tell tales of how amazing it was!
The Intermediate and Expert groups will then enjoy their respective 20 minute sessions before you are given a 5-minute warning via the public address system in advance of your nest session. It comes around quickly.
Any other advice?
- Ride within your capabilities, you aren’t Valentino Rossi and won’t be setting any lap records so ease into the day, learn a little bit extra in each session and make sure you enjoy the day.
- Let your tyres warm up at the beginning of each session
- Keep your rhythm smooth on the track, be safe
- Use the instructors. They are there for a reason, will help with any questions and are able to follow you and offer feedback
- Look ahead on the track, not at the gravel trap or inside of the corner you’re taking
- Know when to come in or stop – you don’t have to do every session, if your brakes are feeling squidgy or you’re a little tired then don’t push it