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Everything You Need to Know About Doing a Track Day


So you have finally decided to take your bike to the track... after buying all sorts of performance parts and accessories for it - you want to see what it can do! Track days are the event where you can actually open that sucker up and see what you bike can do. It is absolutely the best place to improve your riding skills. Where else can you get the opportunity to push your limits as a rider without any cops, cliffs, or SUVs to worry about?

On the first go, a track day sounds like a hassle. You've gotta make sure you have everything you may possibly need for a day out, get your bike ready, and get your bike there. Track days often mean crack-of-dawn wake up calls and a hot day under the sun in your leathers. Not to mention that a day doesn't exactly come cheap. But don't worry! it certainly takes some effort but the fun and experience you are going to get makes it all worth it.

Your first time at the track may be nerve-wrecking. Maybe you're not sure what to expect and you're afraid you're going to be the slowest rider out there. In this post, we aim to put your fears behind you. We'll cover track day safety tips and must-bring checklist items to make your day a success!

Why Track Days?

Let's get something straight: track days are not race events. It is not true that you must ride as fast as you can. There is no winning. And it is certainly not true that you must own a sportbike to be allowed out on the track.

So what is the purpose of a track day? A racetrack offers a controlled environment where you can safely advance your skills. Yes, riding at the track is an extreme sport, but contrary to popular belief, it is actually a lot safer than riding on the street. Assuming you and every other rider follow the rules, of course. Out there on the racetrack, there are no cars to contend with. No bad drivers changing lanes suddenly or pulling in from out of nowhere. No potholes or bumps on the road and other hazards. There's only you and other riders who love the sport as much as you do.

You don't even need to own a sportbike to participate in a track day. There's no rule that only a certain type of bike is allowed. As long as you own a bike and want to improve your skills and have the time of your life, you're welcomed!

Riding Level

Newbies are often worried about being too slow when compared to the more advanced riders. Not to worry - there is good news for you. Track events are usually split into three levels: Levels 1, 2 and 3. Level 1 is generally for the fastest riders while level 3 is for novice riders who want an easier pace. Some organizations do A, B or C but usually there are always different groups for difference riding paces in order to preserve track safety and riding experience.

On your first track day, you will be in Level 3 (or the slowest group). So don't feel bad to go at your own pace. As this is not a race, there is no pressure to go fast. Only go as fast as you're comfortable with. And of course, as you ride the racetrack over and over, you will refine your skills and you may be even safely passing others by the end of the day!

Safety Check and What to Bring

We always stress on safety first at Solomoto, and riding at the track is an entirely different beast with a very specific set of requirements. A safety check will encompass everything from foods and spare tools, to rider's equipment and motorcycle's requirement.

Proper nutrition:

It is extremely important to carry enough food and water with you as doing a track day is very physically demanding. Tracks are mostly situated in slightly more remote places where access to food will be scarce (most likely, you'll just find hot dogs at the concession stand). They also tend to be in hotter areas like Southern California. Inadequate hydration or nutrition will cause extra fatigue in near triple digit summer temperature. At worst, heat strokes can even be life threatening.

We recommend bringing a cooler with plenty of water (1 bottle every hour as a general rule of thumb). Also pack foods high in protein and carbs to provide the necessary energy, including a proper meal for lunch (I always bought chicken breast sandwiches). Snacks like beef jerky, bananas, or a protein shake are great for providing nutrition the healthy way.

Bring more water and food than you think you will need. Twice as much even. When you're sweating inside your leathers under the hot sun, you'd be surprised at how fast food and water will burn off after just a few laps around the track!

Rider's requirement:

Rider gear requirements at the track are much much more stringent than for any other kind of riding. Track racing is the most intense kind of riding there is and when going at such high speeds, any kind of crash could be very painful for you without the proper gear. So if you're planning on picking up this hobby, please don't skimp on the gear. Remember that you get what you pay for.

But the good news is that serious injuries are quite rare at the race track. Crashes are usually a result of you pushing past your limit, and not due to bike collisions. If you think you should 'try something' on the track - don't.

As a rider you must have the following:

- a full-face helmet (DOT or Snell certified)
- full leather suit: we recommend a one piece suit, as they hold up better than two pieces zipped together. Some tracks inspect your two-piece leathers and won't let you go out if the marshal deems that it's not enough.
- back protector: either in your jacket, or a separate strap-on that fits under the jacket
- motorcycle boots: must cover your ankles
- motorcycle riding gloves: you must have full-length gloves that go at least one inch above the wrist

Also, make sure you have valid medical insurance.

Motorcycle's requirement:

Prep your bike the day before the track day so you won't feel rushed the morning of. Your bike will have to pass a technical inspection when you arrive. Whether you have sportbike or sport-ish bike, it must have:

- an operational kill switch
- road racing tires and wheels with valve caps: the tires should not be worn down and should be free of damage.
- functional front and rear brakes (also check your brake pads and make sure they have enough life left in them)
- mirrors or plastic lenses taped or removed
- unplugged fuses for headlight and taillight
- tight & sound oil drain plug with no fluid leaks

Remember, all glass must be taped up. And don't forget to check the tire pressure and allow some time to get your tires heated before diving in.

What to Expect

Now that you understand the requirements, let's go over what you will encounter in a typical track day.

Gates open for riders usually around 6-7 AM. Aim to get there early enough to secure a place in the pits. Some organizations allow covered garages to be rented at various tracks. If your local track does not have this option, make sure you bring your own pop-up tent (and fold up camping chair!). The shaded respite is necessary when you're sweating it out on the track under the sun.

Start to prep your bike if you haven't done so the night before, or if you rode your bike to the track. Tape up your mirrors and change out your tires if needed.

Then you will be called for registration. After registration, you will be going through technical inspection of your bike. You will need to participate in rider's meeting where general rules and meaning of different flags are discussed. Pay attention at this meeting! It is important for your and everyone else's safety.

Track sessions generally start at 9 AM, with each group rotating for 20 minutes at a time. Some organizations will do sighting laps first, where an instructor takes you around the track for a couple of slow circuits (no passing here!). This is so you can become familiar with the track and warm up your bike.

The last session ends around at 5PM, but don't feel pressured to stay all the way til the end. You should know when to stop. If you are feeling tired or develop any kind of discomfort, listen to your body and stop. Riding at the track is very physically demanding and not being at your best will run the risk of crashing.


Conclusion

Now you know what to expect and what to bring! Hopefully, you no longer feel nervous about your first track day. Remember, it is not a race and there is absolutely no pressure. Track days are designed to allow you to practice and improve in a controlled environment. It's also a great social event to be around other riders as enthusiastic as you are. It's one of the most fun you can have on a motorcycle!

Solomoto has always been a strong proponent of the track days. It is where I really discovered my love for riding and my obsession with upgrading my machine with the latest and greatest in parts from your favorite online motorcycle part store. Lastly, we would love to give a shout-out to Fast Track Riders. This organization provides on track training for beginners & first-time track riders, and aids you with every braking points, every sharp corner, throttle control tips & riding mechanics available. We are the proud sponsor of Fast Track Riders and are very happy to support this great sports event.

Simply put, there is no such thing as too old or too young, too inexperienced, or not having the correct bike. As long as you can ride a motorcycle, you're welcomed at the track!

By Sir D

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