I’ve been riding motorcycles on the road for around six years, and since I passed the Direct Access test in 2017 my bike of choice has been a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R 636 in the KRT colours. I absolutely love it. It’s my pride and joy and it’s so user-friendly and comfortable, I feel like I can do anything on it – from doing my best Johnny Rea impression on regular Sunday B-road blasts, to riding it abroad to watch MotoGP. But, there’s one activity missing from that list… Track days.
So, I spent the bulk of last summer procrastinating over whether to take the 636 on track. It might seem an obvious choice and riding on track has always been something I wanted to do. However, it’s worth noting that it’s my only bike and I bought it brand new. The last thing I wanted to do was end up laying down in the gravel trap, or worse. After plenty of should-I-shouldn’t-I deliberation I bit the bullet and booked the next available date at Snetterton.
Thankfully, the day ended without any hiccups and I had a fantastic time. I learnt loads from being on track with quicker riders (including my brother, annoyingly), and I scratched beneath the surface of just what my bike can do. However when riding the circuit, I couldn’t shake the thought in the back of my mind that every time I tipped into Agostini’s, or any other tight-ish corner, the front could fold and I’d be living out my nightmare in the kitty litter. I came away from the day feeling great but knowing that if I wanted to do more track days, I needed a bike solely for the job.
Bennetts offers great value track days at the leading circuits around the UK, with fantastic discounts for policy holders and their guests. The sessions are even run with the option of free on-site help and advice from California Superbike School, so whether it's your first time on track, or you're highly experienced, it really doesn't matter what you ride; a Bennetts track day is one of the best experiences you can have on your motorcycle.
Trawling the classifieds began as soon as the 636 was back in the garage. I had a budget of no more than £1,500, and I ideally wanted a fuel-injected machine that hadn’t done a million miles. I decided to keep away from bikes that had already been track prepared, because for £1,500, the track-ready ones I’d found had all done a lot of harsh track miles and had been down the road once or twice – and I’m not mechanically-minded enough to overhaul a bike or do any big repairs myself. With that in mind, early 2000 R6s, SRAD 600s, CBR600s and ZX-6Rs were in my sights, but soon realised for what I wanted, the good road-going options were all outside my price range.
But then I came across a completely standard 2004 Suzuki SV650s with 26,000 miles on the clock for £1,200, conveniently just a mile away from where I live. After some research about just how track capable an SV650 is, I decided it was the perfect track bike for me. Low miles, fuel-injected, not too heavy, poky enough engine, and spare parts galore thanks to the multiple minitwins club racing series. After making sure everything was in order, I got £50 knocked off the asking price and walked away with the ideal tool for the job, and well under budget.
To get it track ready, my initial thinking was to swap the standard fairings for some racing ones, put some sticky tyres on and get back to Snetterton as soon as possible. But, with more research under my belt, I decided to be frugal with the change I had from the purchase and do the basics first. And with the amount I had left, I knew I’d have to do some of the bigger jobs over a period of time.
Upgrading the suspension and adding other trick parts to the SV had to wait. The first thing I did was take it for an MOT – not that you need one for riding on track – but just to give it a once over and make sure everything was working as it should be, which thankfully it was without any advisories. Next on the list was some fresh engine oil and filter change which I did myself. I then joined the Minitwins Facebook group (a fantastic community of mainly SV650 owners, track day riders and racers) in search of some sticky rubber, and managed to pick up a used set of Continental Race Attacks for £45. The group is also a great source of technical information, with each member willing to share their years of experience and information when questions are posted on the group’s page.
Finally, I removed the road-going accessories like mirrors and the number plate, and with that the basics were complete. At the time of writing, I have my second track day at Snetterton booked to understand how the SV feels, what’s good, what needs tweaking, and find out where to focus my efforts next.
Below is a breakdown of how far my £1,500 budget took me.
Time to save for the next upgrades!