Trackdays - Get the Maximum Enjoyment from Your Time on the Track
Many motorcyclists want to take their bikes onto the track and trackdays are the ideal environment. If you have never been on a track before the experience can feel daunting so here are a number of tips to help make your trackday enjoyable. Use a van or a trailer to get your bike to the track
This has a number of advantages. If the worst happens and the bike gets damaged you can get it home without waiting for a recovery service. You can prepare the bike the night before by removing anything that can be damaged in a spill. Removal is far better than taping something up. If cost is an issue hire a van with a friend or two. One advantage that is often overlooked is what happens after a trackday. You've been out on the track for 8 sessions, you're tired (trust me, you will be!!), your leathers are soaked with sweat, your tyres are way past their best, you have to ride home and your perception of speed is screwed up. It's a recipe for disaster. With a van or trailer you can get changed into fresh clothes load the bike up and unwind with some good sounds. If it's a hot track day you can change out of your leathers between sessions.
Don't eat junk food and drink Coke or other fizzy drinks: the sugar levels dull your concentration. If you don't believe me have a look at the first session after lunch at your next trackday. Drink bottled water and eat fruit or pasta.
The 3 Sessions to be aware of!!
There are 3 sessions you have to take extra care in. I would advise you to run at 75% in these sessions for various reasons:
1. The first session of the day
You are new to the track. Even if you have been around it before and it's dry, the grip levels will be different from last time and heavy rain might have washed some of the rubber deposits away. The track will be colder than before and other riders may not have ridden the track before. If you have done any work on your bike you will surely discover that you failed to tighten a caliper bolt in the first few laps.
2. The first session after lunch
Tyres have cooled, concentration levels are lower. Use this session to get back into the groove and gradually build your speed up again.
3. The last session of the day
Simple bit of advice here, don't go out in the last session: confidence is up and will invariably exceed ability, tiredness will start to play a part and tyres wil be nearing the end of their life. It's just not worth it. Pack up when you are ahead.
Find someone slightly faster than you
Once you have settled into a rhythm, know the track and are confident with your bike's handling and braking, find someone who is about 5-10 % quicker than you. Follow their lines, use their braking points and soon you will find that extra bit of speed.
Pick your group wisely
Fast Group: lots of fast road riders and racers, this is probably the safest group of the lot as fast riders know what they are doing. If you aren't sure whether you should go intermediate or fast, pick the fast group: you can always ask to go down a group later.
Intermediate Group: Try to avoid this group like the plague, its got fast guys who don't like to finish mid pack, slow guys who don't want to go in the slow group. The broad spread of riders is a recipe for disaster.
Slow Group: this is the ideal group for Novices and people who want to build their confidence. You won't be the slowest rider here, you are not expected to ride like a GP god and apart form a few intermediate riders who like to lap people and so choose this group you will be given lots of room. Once you have lapped 3/4 of the field and are confident of your ability then its time to move up. Take some lap time of riders in the other groups from the front, middle and back of the group, compare them with your lap times and if you can make it in the fast group, do it!
Mark Thompson has spent the past 20 years racing motorcycles and managing race teams and riders. He now runs the Trackbikes website.
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