MCN Fleet: Gareth's first track day on the R7
Ever since I got my hands on the keys for the R7, I’ve been planning this day. The wild idea to ride each and every BSB circuit in the UK during my first season doing bike trackdays starts right here at the beautiful Cadwell Park.
Arriving at 7am alongside videographer Joseph, tension built as I got my first glimpse of the track. It’s a narrow, foreboding layout viewed from the café where sign-on occurs, made slightly less intimidating by a friendly, authoritative novice group rider briefing by the MSVT team.
Attending this got me a blue sticker, which went on the front of the R7 alongside one to denote the bike had passed a static noise test. The latter wasn’t a surprise – I remain convinced this sportsbike should sound sportier, and it was certainly well below the 105dB threshold.
Formalities out of the way, it was time to don my brand-new leathers: RST’s latest 4.2 airbag suit. At this point, in the paddock surrounded by serious-looking people on seriouslooking bikes, I was painfully aware of the fact that I had all the gear, and no idea.
Well, kind of. This was my first public trackday on a bike, but I’ve been racing cars for years and grabbed some track time with Chief Road Tester Michael Neeves at Anglesey last year – so I know I’ll relax the moment I’m on track.
Our first session was at 9.40am, and started with two sighting laps behind an instructor. Clicking into first and pulling out of the paddock, immediately I saw the track is nowhere near as narrow as it looks, but the elevation changes are extreme, with plenty of downhill braking and unsighted apexes – plus, of course, the famous Mountain.
This was set to be a baptism of fire for the R7 on its standard brakes and tyres. After the two slow laps, it was back into the paddock before heading back out as a group to get going properly, only for the session to be red flagged as someone came off, presumably on cold tyres.
But a few sessions in, I’d got a decent amount of laps under my belt and felt like I was getting more familiar with the track. What was really interesting was the R7’s performance relative to other bikes out there. I found the litre bikes monstered me on the straights, only for me to catch up, and sometimes overtake, in the corners.
The R7’s handling astonished me in this context, and fellow riders said how well it seemed to turn in. The OEM Bridgestone S22s were fabulous, feeling stable and predictable when lowered to optimum track pressures (32psi front and 28psi rear from cold was the advice from Bridgestone).
As a relative track novice, I felt nicely looked after by the R7’s skill set. So much so, that I felt able to start pushing harder. The circuit put me back in my box in short order though.
An over-enthusiastic throttle over the Mountain initiated my first ever wheelie and as the R7 doesn’t have any rider aids I had to temper it with my own inputs. All was fine, but it was a reminder not to get too exuberant. I didn’t fancy looping the R7 into the scenery…
Just in case…
You need two compulsory bits of safety kit to attend an MSVT trackday – a back protector (integral on my RST
suit) and a brake lever guard. Given my theme for the year, I contacted BSB parts provider R&G, who sent me
some natty carbon fibre lever guards for both sides of the bike, along with some other protective items. The weekend before my first outing I had some workshop time bolting on frame and fork protectors, and a pair of engine case covers; none of which I have any intention of relying on. But better safe than sorry.
Watch: Gareth’s first track day at Cadwell Park on video
Update 1: Welcome to the Yamaha R7
I’m aware that there’s always a honeymoon period when you get a new bike, but how long does it last? I’m asking because I’ve been heading into my garage pretty much daily since it arrived simply to stare at the R7, resplendent in the famous Speed Block livery, in this case harking back to the factory YZR500 GP bike from 1978.
It’s a special edition paintjob to celebrate 60 years of grand prix racing, costs £300 extra, and transforms the R7 from a decent-looking supersport into a knee-wobblingly beautiful machine, if you ask me.
But don’t worry, I’ve not just been looking at it: I’ve been out on the road covering decent miles too, and the bike’s appeal is only growing. That’s because it’s one of the new breed of supersports, akin to the Aprilia RS660 and perhaps the Ducati SuperSport – bikes that aren’t too extreme to use everyday, with middling power figures, sensible price tags and a comfy riding position.
Yamaha don’t even sell an R6 for the road in the UK any longer, instead pointing that sharp-edged bike at racing and trackdays. I’ve done a 200-mile day on the road already, which may not sound much, but I’m still pretty new to this, having only passed my A licence in September 2019.
It was my biggest ever day in the saddle. The bike shrugged off that sort of mileage no problem, though.
It was slightly odd when a biking neighbour asked if it was electric, though. I hadn’t thought it was that quiet, but maybe the CP2 motor’s bark needs livening up a little…
I’m really pleased to report it’s comfortable, because I’ve got big plans for it. Ever since doing a beginner trackday session with Neevesy last year for a video project, I haven’t stopped thinking about circuit riding. So, with this bike’s motorsport heritage front and centre, my mission in 2022 is to try to ride every circuit that BSB visits during a season, working in conjunction with MSVT, Silverstone and Knockhill.
The obvious problem is Thruxton, which is the UK’s fastest track but doesn’t hold bike trackdays, so I’m not quite sure how I can make that happen… if you have any ideas, get in touch!
Between all that I’ll be riding it on the road too, of course, to judge what it’s like as an everyday companion. I have plenty of trips lined up, as well as the B-road blasts I enjoy so much around where I live. I can’t wait.