A lot of people opt for hiring a bike for their early track days as a kind of bike insurance on their own steed, but don’t be afraid to do a track day on your own bike. Many, many people do track days on road bikes all year long without any issues and if you go into your day with the attitude of taking it easy and learning the ropes you won’t have any issues either.
Here’s a little guide to help with bike preparation for a track day and hopefully extinguish any doubt.
Is my bike good enough? – Almost any bike will do, within reason. You would be surprised by the wide array of bikes I have seen on track days from dinky road going 125s to Adventurers to Motocross green laners. I’ve even seen a cruiser on track too, and he wasn’t the slowest! If your bike is capable on the road, you’ll be fine on the track.
Before you set off it’s worth going over the bike to make sure it’s in good working order. If it’s your road bike then no doubt it will be as tight as a nut. This is worth doing a few days in advance in case you need to buy anything.
You want to check:
Chain – Check for slack in the chain and adjust accordingly.
Brake pads – Have you got plenty of meat left on the brake pads? If not get them replaced, but not with cheap rubbish. Stock pads will be fine for a track day.
Oil – Is the oil at the right level? Track days use more oil than road use so if it’s looking low (very unlikely) top it up, or if it’s black get it changed.
Check fixings – Make sure everything is tight. Things like fairing bolts, calliper bolts etc that can come undone through vibrations should all be checked.
Levers in comfortable position – I imagine this will have already been done if you ride all the time, but make sure they are in a comfortable position as you’ll be using them all day. Everyone is different but having them positioned so you don’t have to bend your wrists will see you on the right lines.
You should be able to find instructions for all of the above in your owners or Haynes manual if you have one. If not, simply ask Google and it shouldn’t take you too long to find a How To.
Tyres in good condition – Tyres take the biggest pounding on a track day. As long as your road tyres are not too old (less than 4-5 years) and have plenty of tread they should easily provide plenty of grip for a day’s track riding, and yes, even road going tyres are good enough for track days.
When was your last service? – Has your bike been serviced lately? If it’s been a while – i.e. you missed a service interval – then it might be a good idea to get it serviced beforehand. Track days put a lot more strain on a bikes engine, brakes etc, so make sure they’re up to the task with a good service.
Do I need protection? – Though it’s not something you want to think about, crashing can cause quite a bit of damage to a bike if it’s not protected. Think about crash bungs or crash bars as a little extra security for keeping your pride and joy safe.
Assuming you haven’t got 19 different sets of panniers, you’ll most likely have a rucksack to take your bits with you. With that in mind, here are some of the more important things to take with you that will fit in a rucksack.
Food and Water – Track days use a lot of energy and fluid, keep them replenished with frequent food and water throughout the day. Also taking sugary drinks and sweets/chocolate is a good idea for keeping energy levels up – that’s my excuse anyway 🙂
Gaffa/Electricians Tape – It’s highly advisable to tape up mirrors and lights on the day. Pack this so you can do it in the morning at the track.
Tools – If you plan to take off the mirrors and/or different trim pieces, take the necessary tools to do so. You can also take tools if you need them for other jobs, but you will have no trouble finding any tool you may need from someone else attending the track day. Just ask, they won’t bite.
Driving Licence and Indemnities – These are important because if you turn up without them you will find it very hard to sign on, they may even send you home.
Visor Wipes/Rag – Keep those bugs off your visor by having something to wipe your visor with throughout the day.
Money – You may want to buy food and drink from the circuit if they have the facilities, or if the track photographer is there you might want to buy a few for the wall. Take some money for the various services that can now been found at track days.
You’ve arrived at the track, now what?
Use the time in the morning to prepare your road bike for the track. If you get there early like I advised in my track day guide you should have a bit of time to get this done.
Tape up lights – Tape up your lights front and back. This serves two purposes. The first, in some cases you can’t help but reach for the brake mid corner (though it’s not advisable most of the time). If the person behind sees a brake light flash in their face it might startle them and cause them to do something silly. Second, in the unlikely event of an off, it will keep the glass/plastic intact.
Tape up or take off mirrors – The only purpose of this is to stop you looking in them when you’re on the track. You only want to focus on what’s going on in front of you, not what’s coming up behind.
Check tyre pressures -You will want to have the right tyre pressures for track use, this will mean lowering them. This is because your tyres get to higher temperatures on track with the greater loads put on them, so having tyre pressures suited to the road will make them feel like they’re over inflated on the track.
Ask the tyre specialist there on the day what tyre pressures he would recommend for your bike and tyre combination. Different manufactures will have different recommended pressure, but a good base to start from would be between 32-34 psi front, and 30-32 psi rear. Pressures should be set when the tyres are cold.
Bike is prepared, you’ve signed on, got noise tested and been briefed. Now the fun starts, it’s off to the track.
Warm your tyres up – The fact you’re taking your road bike on a track day, I would assume you aren’t using tyre warmers. Use the first 2-3 laps of each session to build up your speed and lean angles to allow the tyres to heat up to a good operating temperature. Cold tyre crashes catch even the best of us out; stop this happening by allowing a little time to warm them up.
Lunch time checks – Use the lunch break to go over your bike and check everything is still intact and working fine. It’s a good idea to check nothing has vibrated loose and tyre pressures are still correct. If you need more fuel then there should be a station nearby if there isn’t fuel at the track. Ask one of the track staff and they can point you in the right direction.
You’ve had a brilliant day I’m sure, but unfortunately it’s time to go home. Put your bike back to road trim ready for the journey home. Don’t forget the tyre pressures; they’ll need to be raised back to road levels.
The adrenaline will no doubt be pumping but take it easy on your way home. You would have become accustomed to a lot higher speeds than road speeds. Don’t let your day be ruined by an over eager officer who pulls you for flamboyant riding (I may have made that offence up).
Lastly and most importantly, get your next one booked!