How to prepare for your first trackday
30 November 2006 13:55
Trackdays are just for nutters and racers, aren’t they?
Yes, and no. Trackdays are popular with the racing fraternity because race practice is very limited – how and where else can a racer set up their bike? You have to remember that even the quickest rider had their first trackday and, like you, were probably nervous. But don’t forget to enjoy it!
I’ve never been on a track before
Don’t worry. Nearly all trackday organisers cater for every type of rider. More often than not the day’s riding is split into three groups: slow – learners/first timers; medium – more track experienced and capable of going at fair pace and fast – usually dedicated trackday addicts and racer types. It’s also possible to start in one group and move up if you think you’re capable of going faster, or down if you made the wrong choice. But remember, you may think you are fast on the road, but it doesn’t mean you’ll be fast on track.
Don’t I need a race bike to do a trackday?
No. Any bike will do as long as it’s up to MoT standard. But if you have a non road legal race exhaust on your bike you should check beforehand if noise restrictions apply to the day you’re thinking of doing.
What if I crash?
Sad but true, people do crash at trackdays. The most solid advice you can take onboard are these gems: 1) Go to enjoy yourself while learning and improving your riding skills. 2) Don’t assume you’ll be the fastest person out there because there’ll always be someone faster. 3) Build yourself up to a respectable pace – too many folk try too hard first time out and crash.
1. All trackday organisers check you have a valid driving licence, in most cases with motorcycle entitlement (check with the organiser). It’s all to do with the organiser’s insurance – no licence means you won’t be allowed to ride. Don’t be clever and say you’ve forgotten it… you’ll be charged for a licence check with DVLA.
2. Riding gear for trackdays should consist of the following: either one-piece or two-piece leathers which zip together, full-face crash helmet, bike gloves and boots. Airwair and riggers boots are a no-no. If your leathers haven’t got a built-in back protector then we suggest you go and buy one – if you crash, it will protect your spine against bruising.
3. It can’t be stressed enough that a clean visor is important whether it’s clear or tinted. Many circuits have varying grades of tarmac and you need to be able to tell which is new darker tarmac or wet tarmac, freshly dropped oil or just stained tarmac. Wear earplugs – riding fast all day will cause ear damage. I said, it will cause… (ho, ho – ed)
4. All racers wear identity tags round their necks so if they are injured, attending medical and trackside staff can immediately find out who they are. It’s not mandatory but we suggest you do likewise, even if it’s a piece of card on string with your details on (name, date of birth, next of kin) – don’t carry bulky objects like a wallet on track.
5. Always be prepared for the great British weather by taking waterproofs with you. A one-piece oversuit is ideal. Take everything in a rucksack and ask the organiser for somewhere safe to stow it. It’s advisable to take a large bottle of water with you, as you’ll get hot and dehydration ruins concentration.
6. While packing that rucksack make sure you have some cash to go with the debit/cards. Some on-circuit and off-circuit fuel stations won’t accept plastic. The same can apply to circuit canteens. Sugar snacks and energy bars will help keep concentration levels up. Money will also score you some photos of your big day out if a photographer is present.
7. There are circuits the length of the UK, and we know it’s great to be able to say you’ve ridden on a WSB or GP circuit, but for your first time out it would be better to choose a circuit closer to home. Riding all day will tire you mentally and physically so a long ride home is the last thing you need. Race circuits can supply a list of nearby B&Bs…
8. Which is good because most trackdays start early, like 7.30am so a briefing of the day’s events, on-track etiquette, and maybe even bike inspection (for safety reasons) can be done before riding starts. Don’t dismiss any advice given by the organisers when you get confirmation of your trackday booking.
9. To find the nearest, most suitable (eg beginner group) trackday, scour the trackday adverts within your MCN. Internet online bookings are very popular. Perhaps the biggest and best trackday website is www.uktrackdays.co.uk. This site provides dates, times, organisers and a whole stack of other trackday info throughout the year.
10. Circuit knowledge is a good thing. Gen up beforehand by studying the track on the internet, or by playing a British Superbike PS2 or Xbox game. You might want to think about insurance, too. Ask your insurer/broker if your insurance covers you for trackdays. If not try Everitt Boles (0207-377-9234).
11. Nobody likes to think they need their hand holding… but the simple truth is your first trackday is a rollercoaster of emotion – mostly nerves followed by uncut excitement. So why not share it? Get your bike-riding friends, family or work colleagues to go with you even if only to spectate and be there to talk to.
12. Make sure you have some tools with you. The absolute minimum is the bike’s original tool kit. It’s not just you that will get stressed. Everything on the bike will get hammered a lot harder than it does on the road. Chains nearly always need tensioning at lunchtime. And if the bike has suspension adjustment you could well end up wanting to use.