5 Simple Steps to Trackdays in the U.S.
Dalton Fuller with Sportbiketrackgear.com
With the riding season quickly approaching here in the Midwest, moto-fanatics all over the country side are working feverishly to get their bikes, bodies and minds prepared. Throughout all of the madness around the shop and in the garage, there are a few questions that I encounter often in my personal and professional life. For many folks who are seasoned at the race track the steps are simple, but it is understandably different for those new to the experience. I always hear: “How do I get started going to the track?” or “There is so much to going to the track, I just couldn’t justify the effort to get there”. Although it seems daunting, making a track-addiction reality is a relatively easy process, and I intend to dispel any rumors otherwise in just 5 simple…er… plausible steps for conquering trackdays.
Step #1: Get a Bike
This first step might be, for the most part, an obvious one, but in actuality there are a ton of mental excuses here that stop folks from taking it to the track. First off, a track ready bike is often a lot less than what many people think. The classification for Sportbike Track Time simply states “Severely under-powered motorcycles or those not suited to high speeds and lean angles will not be allowed on the track” which is actually a fairly open classification. For me that reads any type of production sportbike/sport touring/adventure 125cc’s and above, also to include modern production 450cc and higher dirt bike or “supermotos”. Aside from the typical cruiser, that leaves it open to a variety of motorcycles, all completely capable of providing the ride of your life on the race track. The resounding message here is that, as nice as it is to have a manufacturer prepped track bike, it’s certainly not necessary to enjoy your first day out. What is more important is that you are on a motorcycle you feel comfortable with that is well maintained, which leads me to step #2.
Step #2: Prep Your Bike
More important than the type of motorcycle you are riding is the condition, which for some might be an even bigger issue than buying the right bike. Most riders are inherent gear heads, making it that much easier to go out and prep your bike but it is not essential to make sure your machine is safe to ride. The basics for the race track are simple and it only takes a little input to get a bike ready for the track. First off (and maybe most important) you want to make sure that your tires are in good condition. Depending on your skill level, it may not even be necessary to purchase new tires, you just want to be sure that the rubber is not so worn out that you won’t pass the tech inspection or lose confidence on the race track. A good way to do this is look up the specifications for your particular tire and measure the tread thickness well in advance of your track-day, so you can order some new ones if necessary. Most track-days will have a tire service at the track, so if you absolutely do not know what to look for, just arrive at the track a little early, bring some cash, and ask one of the techs at tire service if you are good to go or should look for some new skins. General maintenance like fresh liquid and correct fluid levels are also important, so do yourself a huge favor and pick up a shop service manual for your motorcycle and take a look. You will find that most of the information you will be needing can be found there. Other basics include removing your license plate, applying blue painters tape to any glass or plastic lens components such as mirrors or lights and making sure your plastics are secured adequately. All of this can be done for the novice group in virtually no time at all so there is no reason to dwell on preparation as a reason to not head out to the track. It is easy to over think this step just as it is the type of motorcycle you are riding in the sense that you don’t need a fully safety wired supersport with high end race bodywork for a Novice level TD, and most of those things won’t even be necessary until you begin moving up into different riding groups. Enjoy what you have, listen to the coaching, and it will be difficult to have a bad time.
Step #3: Having the Correct Gear
I am a total gear junkie. So as you might expect this is my absolute favorite step, and also likely the most crucial not just for heading to the track, but for riding in general. Requirements for riding gear varies from organization to organization but best practice remains the same for anyone. A day at the track can be one of the most exhilarating, life changing events you ever undertake, but it can also take an unhappy turn if you fail to make the proper preparations. Believe me, I am what some might consider a ridiculously cheap individual, but if there is one thing I will spend good money on, it is my moto
rcycle gear. A good way to think about riding a motorcycle is that no matter what you do on your bike, there is always just a single piece of leather or EPS separating your skin from the giant black sand paper strip that is the road, so you had better make sure that the leather and foam you choose is going to be adequate in any range from 10 mph-200 mph. Some people get lucky, and some people don’t. I usually hedge my bet in this category and with the help of one of our gear experts you can actually get pretty good,
brand new gear that you can wear on the street or track for under $800. The basics you will need for the novice group regardless of your price point are as follow: One Piece or Two-Piece leathers (must zip together), Full-face helmet, full gauntlet gloves and a boot that covers the ankle. It is never a bad idea to have a back protector, chest protector or some other internal armor but none of this is essential to be on the track until you start moving up in the groups. It can be difficult to tell what type of quality you want to look for, which is why I cannot stress enough, give us a call or send us an email. All of the Gear Experts at STG have an amazing ability to size gear over the phone, and make sure you are getting the most out of whatever you have to spend. I am not talking about what will get you by, but which items are right for adequate protection and also fit into your budget. Safety is insanely important, and it can be particularly hard to afford a track-day if you’re laid up because you skimped out on your gear. To prove we are no Bull, I have attached a list of gear that I would 100% wear at a novice group track day that you can get for a seriously affordable price.
- Helmet: Bell RS-1 Solid Color- $207.97
- Suit: Scorpion ExoWear Podium One- Piece Leather Race Suit – 399.95 Scorpion ExoWear SJ2 & SP2 Leather Jacket and pant Two-Piece Suit Combo – $349.95
- Boots: Cortech Impulse Air Boots – $199.95
- Gloves: Scorpion ExoWear SG3 Gloves – $134.95
Step #4: Finding a Ride to the Track
Some of us are lucky enough to live ten or fifteen minutes from the nearest track and have a 2 car enclosed trailer to carry all of our equipment, while others reside 5 hours from the nearest circuit and only own a Sportbike and an ’01 Mercury Cougar. First, if you haven’t already, you need to accept who you are and that you may need help getting to the track. I live roughly 2 hours from our local course and up until recently only had a Jeep Wrangler that I wouldn’t likely trust on a cross-state trip. I would be lying if I told you I hadn’t considered riding to the track, but after some thought, decided against it. Although some folks don’t think twice about riding off the street into turn 1 with a spare set of tires around their hips (have totally seen this), I couldn’t imagine wadding up my beloved bike and then having to try to find a way to get back home (but if you live close enough, why not?) Instead, I previously leveraged friends, acquaintances, and even my boss for rides to the track. It isn’t the end of the world to ask for a lift and in most cases folks who go to the track only want more people to tag along, so why not take the plunge and stick your proverbial thumb out.
Another great resource that folks not deeply imbedded in bike life might not imagine, is the world of social media. I belong to at least seven state-wide groups filled to the brim with wide eyed moto-addicts itching to get out to the track. Of those seven groups, I can imagine a massive presence of friendly-bike-loving-truck-and-trailer-owning folks that would enjoy nothing more than to get a new guy or girl out on the track, and one more pocket book to help split the cost of gas. The track is just as much a social experience as it is for riding and it is essential to expand your horizon and meet new like minded people because, aside from a ride, you might need their help sooner or later.
Step #5: Buy Your Time
We have finally made it! The last step you have to take before the best day of your life. There are a few different trackday organizations and it really depends on where you are located to find the best one. The easiest way for you to find the organization is to locate the nearest race track and give them a call or do a quick google search for tracks in your area. They will be able to let you know which organizations sponsor track days and who to contact. There are tons of different reasons to buy track time aside from just getting to ride in a place with no speed limits. I mentioned earlier the social aspect of heading to the track and it really is a huge part of the sport. It is a chance for like-minded people from all different walks of life to come together and do something that they love. There is so much out there that we can learn from others and the track is a place where all of this knowledge accumulates into a melting pot of speed and relaxation. In the beginning, it can be stressful to prepare for a weekend or even a day at the track, but the more you go the easier it gets, almost to a point where you don’t even think about the drive there or packing up to head home, or even care about the time it takes to maintain your gear and equipment. The only thing that matters is spending a day honing your skill and the evening hanging with friends, who sometimes have driven from very far away. This is just a short description of the dedication it takes to be a track-addict, but in the end every bit of effort you put in is returned ten fold.
I hope this was informative enough to get you pointed in the right direction but if you have any specific questions always feel free to email me direct at Dalton@sportbiketrackgear.com. Our Gear Experts can also be a great resource and it is easy enough to get in touch with them by calling 888.784.4327 or emailing Orders@sportbiketrackgear.com.