Trackday jitters? Fear not, it’s just like any other ride

Posted: 09 Jun 2013

Trackday

You hear a lot of riders saying ‘I’d love to go on a trackday, but I don’t want to crash my bike’, which is fair enough, but just because you are going on track doesn’t necessarily mean you will end up in a gravel trap.

Trackday organisers will bend over backwards to help newbies and crashes are remarkably infrequent with those new to circuit riding – it’s the more experienced riders that generally get all carried away… in more ways than one! If you are still worried then you can hire a bike or do a school such as the Ron Haslam Race School or Chris Walker Race School who provide bikes, but often the best idea is to just get out there and enjoy it on your own machine.

So, you have taken the plunge and booked your day, what should you do beforehand?

The most important thing to do is ensure that both yourself and your bike are ready for the day ahead. Check you bike’s oil, brake pads and chain and sprockets. It’s fair to say the bike will be used a bit harder than on the road so you want it in tip top condition and missing an afternoon’s riding because your pads have had it is irritating.

Next check the noise regulation of the track you are going to, if you have a race pipe you may need a baffle to meet the restrictions. Often the best idea is to fit an OE can to be on the safe side. A lot of riders are concerned they will need track tyres, which isn’t the case. Your road tyres are more than up to the job, just ensure they have a decent amount of life left in them. Finally, if you are concerned about damage then fit a set of crash bungs, they can be worth their weight in gold…

Bike sorted, what about yourself? Have you got either one-piece or zip-together leathers, race gloves, a back protector and a decent helmet? You may never have got your knee down on the road, don’t worry there is no shame in this, but track riding is different so you may need a set of sliders. And also pack a set of waterproofs, just in case…

Now think about the day. If the track is a distance away it may be worth booking a cheap hotel as signing on is usually around 8am in the morning. Waking up at 3am to get there won’t put you in a decent frame of mind to ride on track. Pack a few essentials such as water, cereal bars and the like to keep your energy up during the day – quick energy foods such as chocolate aren’t a good idea. A lot of riders choose to van their bike to a track, this is up to you but it can add a substantial amount to the overall cost of the day.

Ok, you have made the track, signed on (be honest, if you are a novice ask to go in the novice group!) and your first session is approaching, what should you do? The first thing is simple – take it easy! Trackdays aren’t races so don’t be afraid of going slowly. You have the whole day ahead to enjoy the track so use the first session to get a bit of a clue as to where the circuit goes, calm a few nerves and generally ease yourself in.

Survived it? Of course you have, it wasn’t that bad was it? OK, now go look for an instructor.

Most trackday firms have ‘roaming instructors’ who are experienced riders there to help. Often these can be riders such as Neil Hodgson, Niall Mackenzie, Steve Plater etc, yes they are superstars, but they are also there to help. Every one of these riders will remember the terror of the first time they went on track and will be more than happy to help. Pop over, explain you are new to this track lark and ask if they will show you around for a few laps. Use the next session to follow the instructor, see the correct lines and generally learn the track.

Your confidence will grow and you will start to get the most out of the day. Relax, enjoy the circuit and very soon you will wonder why you got yourself so worked up in the first place.

Top trackday tips

  1. Don’t get over excited as that’s how accidents happen. Remember your limits and take it easy. Don’t get suckered into following a quicker rider.
  2. If you are feeling tired (you will, track riding is hard work as you have to concentrate so much) pull in early, there is no shame in sitting out a few laps.
  3. If there is a big group of riders out on track don’t follow them around as they probably don’t know the correct lines either, let them past and enjoy the track at your own pace.
  4. Should you feel like you have messed up a corner don’t stare at the gravel as you will invariably ride into it! Look through the corner, or at where you want to be, and the bike will get you there. A modern motorcycle is considerably more accomplished when it come to cornering than most riders!
  5. Don’t get hung up on getting your knee down. If it happens it happens, if not, who cares?
  6. Think about body position and if necessary ask an instructor about hanging off etc.
  7. Always let your tyres warm up for a few laps and then gently increase your pace.
  8. Don’t worry about riding in the wet. If it rains then use this as an excuse to gently learn the track ready for when it eventually dries out.
  9. Know when to stop. If you have a ‘moment’ or are feeling tired then stop, call it a day and even miss the last session if necessary. It is better to stop early than have an accident.
  10. Never be afraid to ask for help. Find an instructor and ask them to follow you or lead you around for a few laps, you will learn more in two laps with an instructor than an entire day on your own.
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