I'm Dan. A 36 year old guy from Essex, UK.
Biker. Track Nut. Latte Aficionado… If you don’t find a milky coffee in my right hand, it’s probably because it has a throttle in it.
After getting my motorcycle licence in early 2009 I found myself on the track shortly after.
Following a couple of embarrassing tumbles early in my track life I decided to become a student of the game and find out what it takes to ride fast around the track, without the need to pick bike pieces out of the gravel.
Now I’m working to help others do the same…
My Track Journey
My life on the track started back in July 2009, a few months after I passed my motorcycle test and got my licence.
Riding on the track was one of the main reasons why I’d set out to get my licence, so once I passed I was eager to head out on track and ride like the pros.
The twisty and undulating curves of Brands Hatch would be my proving ground.
I was so excited to get out there and show everyone how good I was. While I never vocalised it, I was sure I was going to be blasting past everyone in the novice group and astounding them with my natural talent.
Well, it’s safe to say it didn’t work out like that.
It’s funny thinking about it now, knowing just how intent I am on learning every single facet of track riding today, but back then the amount of effort I spent studying how to ride on the track amounted to a grand total of…
Not for one second did I think “…I should probably find out what I should be doing out there”.
This was ultimately my downfall.
To tell you the truth I was actually going pretty well by the afternoon sessions. My technique and lines were no doubt a shambles, but my pace relative to the other riders in the group was pretty good.
But it was my complete lack of knowledge (and youthful exuberance) that would eventually bite me in the arse.
In the penultimate session of the day while chasing for my first knee down, I committed the cardinal sin of throttle and lean at the exit of Druids hairpin bend, which ended the way it had for countless riders before me.
The rear end lost traction, swung round, and I was on the floor before I had any clue of what was happening.
Here’s a one in a million snapshot my girlfriend (now wife) captured the moment before I hit the deck.
And the obligatory walk of shame she was so eager to capture too.
After this, my ego came crashing down to the ground and I was left with the thought that perhaps I didn’t really know what I was doing, followed by the realisation that my £500 crash deposit was down the toilet!
My 2009 track season ended before it really began, with a broken wrist keeping me off the bike for the remainder of the season.
Over the winter I had decided I was going to learn from my mistakes and begin educating myself on what it really takes to be a good track rider, the plan being that I’d hit the ground running in 2010 and be straight back up to speed.
However, once again, things didn’t go according to plan.
I DID spend the winter learning all I could, picking up various training resources that were around, and I did learn a lot.
What didn’t happen was me hitting the ground running.
Reset. Second Attempt
I’d booked myself back at Brands Hatch at the start of the 2010 season. This time on my Suzuki Bandit road bike, with the intention of using the day to practice technique, not set the world alight.
Even so, I still had small visions of me riding around the outside of much more track capable machinery and blazing a trail.
The reality was quite different.
I was the slowest of the slow. I wouldn’t even be surprised if I was the slowest person on the track that day.
My confidence was in tatters and I couldn’t seem to trust the bike, the tyres, the track. Anything.
Here’s me on that very day. I don’t look much like I’m blazing a trail, do I?
I gained very little from that day, only the realisation that getting to a decent level is by no means a quick and easy thing.
After that, I booked myself on for a coaching day with the California Superbike School to continue my learning and hope that it would coax some confidence out of me.
It was a good day and I learned a good number of things about riding and how to put them into practice. I was ready for more.
In early summer I booked myself on for another day at (you guessed it) Brand Hatch to once again take a stab at making some good progress.
This time with a new bike. A mint condition 2004 Yamaha R6 road bike that I had purchased to be my road and track machine. The thing was immaculate.
This time my ambitions were a lot lower. My goal was to make steady progress and to finish the day happy having learned something and/or improved.
However, with a now almost clockwork regularity, once again the day did not go according to plan.
In the second session of the day I was heading down the start finish straight just fine, but when I came to hit the brakes I got the overwhelming sensation that the bike wasn’t slowing down as well as it should. Almost like brake fade.
I later discovered that I hadn’t fully closed the throttle as I started braking, but the reason didn’t matter because it sparked the same reaction.
Massive panic set in as I experienced an all-consuming sensation that I was going into the corner too fast.
This lead me to target fixate on the gravel on the outside of the track and completely freeze up on the bike.
I made some effort to steer the bike into the corner, but with the front brake fully applied the bike went down and I went tumbling into the gravel trap.
Here’s how it went down:
And how the bike looked after…
Thankfully I can say that that was the lowest point in my track life to date, and things only got better from there.
The rest of the 2010 summer was spent fixing the bike, which I had decided to turn into a dedicated track bike, before heading out one last time toward to the end of the season.
This time I opted for Snetterton (which still had the old layout at the time) to be my repaired bike testing ground.
I completed the day without a hitch and came home unscathed.
Once again the winter was spent learning all I could, knowing in myself that in the following season things were going to get serious.
2011 saw my first full season doing track days (I completed about 12 in total) and it was a slow confidence building process which thankfully ended without incident. I had the pleasure of meeting many great people and really saw myself getting more involved in the community.
My First Knee Down!
That year in particular also saw a huge highlight for me. I achieved something I set out to do on that disaster of a first track day, but still hadn’t managed.
My first knee down is not something that came easy for me.
I had been trying for over two years by this point, and while I could see riders all around me with their knees decked out, for me it just didn’t come.
At one of my days at Snetterton I had a session with Neil Hodgson, who was coaching at the time.
I told him flat out that I wanted to get my knee down, expecting to be laughed at, but he totally understood and said he would help me get there.
After following me for a couple of laps he pulls me in and says my technique is there, I just need to increase my speed a fraction and I’ll make it.
With that he instructs me to follow him out and trust him to take me into the corners at the necessary speeds.
Sure enough after a couple of laps, I felt the unquestionable sensation of a knee slider scratching against the rough asphalt.
I couldn’t tell you how happy I was, and it’s safe to say that I spent the rest of the day caressing the harsh abrasions on my knee slider.
‘Fast Guy’ Status Achieved
So, being pleased with my progress throughout that year, my goal for 2012 was to become a confident fast group rider, something I’d set out to achieve when I first got involved in track days.
Due to continued learning and practice, I very much met that goal and was kicking it with the fast boys before the year was out.
That year was a massive lesson for me as it showed me that by learning what is expected of us on track, along with putting that knowledge into practice in the right way, we can reach a high standard of track riding through our own efforts.
From 2012 onwards it has been a continuous journey to better my own track skills, as well as how I can take that deep understanding and use it to help others tread the same path I did in a safe and efficient way.
Why I Created This Site
With anything we do in life, by reading and studying information on a particular subject we usually hope to make something more enjoyable, easier to undertake or easier to understand, and in the end all I want to provide you with is the information to do just that.
Be it broadening your understanding of certain aspects of track days, or simply helping you complete a task with less effort (on or off track) every piece of information provided on this site has been put there to enrich your track experience in some way, shape, or form.
What I’m Not
However, now would be a good time to declare I am not an elite level rider with a world championship to my name. For many riders that's enough to disregard my material, which is absolutely fine, I get it.
But something you have to realise is that being a good practitioner doesn’t automatically make you a good teacher, or that you even understand what’s actually going on in the first place. I've had a good number of coaching experiences over the years and they've shown me that there is little correlation between the coach's speed and their ability to help you improve.
So while I haven’t raced on the world stage or won any championships, I do have a very good awareness of the struggles riders face and how to overcome them on their quest to reach a fast and competent level on the track. I encourage you to approach what I produce with an open mind, and I feel confident in saying you'll take something away from it at the very least.
What You Should Do Next
With that, go off and enjoy the site for what it is, a chance to get your track day fix and improve your personal track day knowledge pool. To do that, I recommend you take two steps in particular.
If you have any questions regarding the site, its content or anything track day related, please do not hesitate to contact me, I would love to hear from you.
Talk to you soon.