Having once made the step up to both the Intermediate and Advanced groups during my time doing bike track days I know full well the concerns raised inside someone’s head when thinking about moving up to a faster track day group.
Different people will be thinking about it for different reasons, but in the end the same points are always raised.
Here I’ll detail some of the things worth considering before making the move, what signs show you’re ready, and the benefits that can come from moving up a group, to give you that little nudge you might need.
The gap isn’t as big as you think – Some of the most common worries that come with making the step up to a faster group are the fears of being completely out of your depth, getting annihilated by the faster riders and generally getting in the way.
Straight away I must tell you that the gap between your current group and the next up is not as big as you think. In fact, the fastest riders in your current group would make it as the slowest in the group above, so technically, there is no gap! However, this point leads nicely on to the next…
The fastest in the group above will be quite a bit faster – Knowing you’re thinking about moving up means you are more than likely going quite well in your group, but when you make the step up to the group above you then become one of the slowest.
This means the faster riders will be quite a bit faster as they themselves could be worthy of moving up to the next group above them (or going racing if you’re thinking of moving to the fast group). The main point to take away though is that there is a good chance you will NOT be the slowest in the group if you are going quite well (one of the fastest) in your current group.
No one says you HAVE to move up – If you’re thinking about moving up because you feel you’ve been in a lower group for too long and feel it’s the ‘done thing’ to move up, wipe that out of your mind now! I know of people who have spent their entire track day lives in the novice group, because they enjoy being there and don’t feel the need to push to go any faster. This is perfectly acceptable.
Don’t forget you can move back down – Pretty obvious when you think about it. Spaces always open up during the day so if you don’t feel like you want to be in the group simply ask the organiser if you can move back down. There’s no shame in it and I know of many instances of this happening.
You might get some closer passing in higher groups – Something to bear in mind, as you go up the groups, riders become more accustomed to slightly closer passing and no matter how many times the organisers tell them to leave a big gap, there will be times when this is not adhered to.
Get an instructor assessment – Don’t forget instructors are there for you to use and ask for advice free of charge throughout the day. Why not grab an instructor and ask them to follow you and see if they feel you’re ready to make a step up?
There’s not a massive amount to this point really. If you can comfortably say you are one of the fastest in your current group (or even THE fastest) then you are definitely ready to move up. By this I mean if you are finding that you are getting held up by traffic a lot of the time and find that you rarely get overtaken, it is time to make the step up to the next group.
Also if you are comfortable with the closer passing and can accept the fact that there will be some people considerably faster than you, then this is another indicator that you are ready to step up.
We’ve covered the considerations of moving up and how to determine when you’re ready, now to give you a little nudge in the right direction, here are some of the benefits you can expect to see.
Similar pace to you means more room – If it has got to the stage where you are constantly getting caught in traffic in your current group, moving up will give you some much needed space to get into your stride and string together some clean and consistent laps. You can also start to think more about your riding as opposed to how you’re going to get past the next gaggle of riders.
More consistency from other riders – As with anything, experience in something means (hopefully) you will only get better. As you move up the groups you will encounter riders with more experience and with that experience comes a better understanding of how to ride on the track. While it may not be true for everyone, this experience in track craft and etiquette translates into more consistent, and ultimately predictable riding from the others on track.
Faster people will bring you on – For a lot of people, the very nature of riding with and following faster riders makes themselves faster. We see a slightly faster rider come past and think “if they can go through there that little bit faster, why can’t I?”. When I first moved up groups, I saw an instant increase in overall speed, and the same again when I moved to the fast group. The other riders almost ‘pull’ you along.
It’s worth mentioning though, don’t get caught in the trap of focusing too much on the rider in front and using them as your only reference. Make sure you are still aware of your surroundings and position on track. I’ve seen it countless times, a rider is following another rider, the person in front makes a mistake, maybe running a bit wide, then the following rider does the same.
Even professional racers can be guilty of it. Use faster riders to bring your riding along, but continue to use your own references and surroundings to guide you around the track.
All of the above should have you thinking pretty clearly about whether or not you want to make the step up. If you’re still unsure then maybe you should have one more go in your current group and ask an instructor to assess your riding, but just know that everyone whose goal it is to go faster moves up at some point. If you feel you’re comfortable with the points raised above and believe you are ready to move up based on your current group performance, then in the words of Yazz, the only way is up!
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