In at the deep end – a novice track day at Cadwell Park
01 July 2010 12:54
My rear tyre looks like someone’s been shaving it the wrong way with a Mach 3 razor. There are bubbles of rubber clogging parts of the tread and strange, misshapen lumps pressed into the centre of the contact patch. My finger actually sticks to the outer section of the tyre, as though it’s coated in an invisible glue. All of this is perfectly normal, MCN Web Producer James Keen assures me.
We’re at Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire for my first taste of a road without potholes, traffic, speed limits or junctions. It’s halfway into the day, and I’m feeling an exhilarating mixture of excitement and terror.
Focused Events have been running track days since 1995, when I was just about getting comfortable on my first bicycle, and there are riders among us who may have been here for that first session. The car park is a festival of trade vans and gazebos, tyre warmers and track bikes. I look around at the intense looking riders stalking the grounds in their leathers and mounting their supersports machines. By contrast my Street Triple 675 seems quite cute and inoffensive, or at least in my hands it does.
The day is divided up into seven sessions of riding, lasting 20 minutes each. A friendly welcome by the marshals and staff began the day, with an engineer on hand in the paddock to get our tyres down to track pressures, and then we were out on the circuit to do more or less as we wished.
The riders too were divided into three sets and sent out in rotation to keep the course uncrowded and allow each group a rest in between sessions. Nominally they were divided into novice, intermediate and advanced, but as I quickly realised, as a true novice I was in a category of one.
The morning sessions flew by in a roar of narrow overtakes and alternately shattered and rebuilt confidence. I, of course, was the target of the overtakes, while the guys flying past were either competent riders who simply wanted to move faster or over-eager rookies who saw my yellow newbie-bib as more of a red rag than a white flag.
Couple this with the naturally challenging geography of Cadwell Park and it took some willpower to keep going out for a hammering every time group one were called to the pit.
Now, at lunchtime, I’m looking back at the morning’s events and sifting the positives from the negatives. The track is spectacularly varied, boasting full-throttle straights, big-lean double-handed bends, chicanes and even the wheelie-inducing Mountain. I’m learning. The down-side is that I’m feeling pressurised into going fast, faster than I can comfortably ride.
With a deep breath I head out for the afternoon’s sessions. James advises me to ignore the other riders and just ride how I want to ride. It works. I can feel myself getting smoother and quicker, despite the obvious skill gap between me and the rest of the group.
By the end of the final session I can feel the embers of my confidence lighting up again. Tailing the more advanced riders and swooping through the wealth of corners at faster and faster speeds has done me good. At times it may have felt like too much too soon, but I’ve taken my first steps towards becoming a more aware, safer and controlled biker.
For more info or to book your first track day, visit www.focusedevents.com or call 0845 026 72 72.