A question that often comes up in the community is what’s the best way to get involved in bike track days, a road bike, hire bike or track bike? In truth they are all perfectly viable options but different people want different things from their track days. In this article I have covered some of the aspects of track days and how they apply to each option. This I hope should help you decide on either a road bike, hire bike or track bike for your future track outings.
Road Bike – This is a fairly simple affair when using your road bike. All you need to do is perform your usual pre-ride checks and make sure the tank is filled with fuel and you’re good to go. If you ride your bike on the road and you know it’s roadworthy then there’s little else to worry about. The only extra thing you’ll need to do is prepare it for the track once you’ve arrived at the circuit, so that’s taping up lights, tape up/take off mirrors and change tyre pressures.
Hire Bike – Paid for your hire bike? Yes? Then you’re good to go. Just make sure you remember your compulsory items (see Track Day Check List), other than that there’s little else you need to do to prepare for your day.
Track Bike – The preparing routine when you own a track bike will be different for everyone, depending on how much stuff you take to the circuit and what vehicle you use, but it’s fair to say that there is a fair bit more to it than the road bike and hire bike options. Mine consists of checking the bike, putting together my trailer and strapping the bike to it, then getting together all the things I take with me (too much) and loading it into the car. Oh and I also have to go out and fill up a Jerry Can with fuel, making it look like I’m panic buying because the Prime Minister told me to.
Road Bike & Hire Bike – Again a very simple affair for the road and hire bike options. Either jump on the bike or in the car and make your way to the circuit. That’s as much as you have to worry about.
Track Bike – Not quite so simple here. You’ll need to factor in the cost of a tow bar for your car as well as a trailer – or if you want to splash out you can buy a van – because you won’t be able to ride your track bike to the circuit because it’s more than likely not road legal, plus you need the space to carry all the extra bits and bobs you’ll no doubt end up buying like paddock stands, tyre warmers, wet on wheels etc. If you already have a van or can borrow one from work then that’s a big plus and an expense you don’t have to factor into your decision.
Road Bike – Taking your road bike on track is a great way to test its capabilities and really use it for what it was designed for. You’ll also more than likely know your road bike inside and out so you’ll have no trouble getting to grips with it on the track.
Hire Bike – Hire bike’s lose out the most in this area. Every time you hire a bike there’s a good chance you’ll be given a different one, meaning you’ll never really get to learn how one particularly bike behaves on track and you’ll never be able to really tailor it to your style and needs. This may take some of your time away on each day because you’ll need to get comfortable on the bike for the first couple of sessions.
Track Bike – By far and away the winner in this category and in my opinion the main benefit to owning a track bike. It’s your bike, you can change it however you want to make it look good and/or perform better. You get to learn just how it rides, where it’s limits are, and if you find a problem you can tweak it to smooth out the roughness. Eventually jumping on your bike is like putting on an old pair of slippers. When you get a bike that looks good, rides well and is tailored to you, you feel almost proud to own and ride it around the track.
Road and Track Bike – When using a road or track bike, it’s your machine so it’s up to you to keep it in tip top condition, checking it over for any defects, as well as keeping your tyre pressures correct and putting on and taking off your tyre warmers if you use them. Though I will say this is by no means a hard task and doesn’t take much of your time.
Hire Bike – Sit back and relax, because when you hire a bike for a track day you are not just paying for the bike, but a service as well. You’ll usually have someone there to look after the bike for you all day, and if you’re lucky they’ll be waiting to put the bike on paddock stands when you come back in and maybe throw some tyre warmers on too.
Road Bike – The downside of taking your road bike on track for a lot of people is the fear of crashing it because of the costs involved and inconvenience it will cause, not to mention if it’s badly damaged you might not be able to ride it home. I’ve been a victim of this and ended up having to call someone out to take my bike and me home.
Hire Bike – You won’t find yourself dealing with the repair work on the bike you’ve just crashed, nor will you have to worry about how you’re going to get home, but you will have just lost the damage deposit which can be from £500 upwards with most hire companies.
Track Bike – It’s all on you. Any damage you do to the bike is down to you to repair. Thankfully though, most of the time it’s a lot cheaper to do with a track bike than the above, and sometimes it could just be a case of replacing a peg or lever if it’s a slow speed get off.
Road Bike – If we’re just talking about initial outlay and further running costs then using a road bike would be the cheapest option if you’re happy to take it out on the track.
Hire Bike – As with using a road bike there would be no initial outlay if you want to do track days on a hire bike, but you will find that if you’re doing more than 4-5 track days a year then it starts to become less viable over a dedicated track bike.
Track Bike – There will obviously be an initial outlay for a track bike, plus you will have to consider how you are going to move the bike around, but if you’re buying a track bike for around £2500-£3000, it would only take you around 8-10 track days before you start to see the savings over using a hire bike for every track day. If you’ve got a road bike you want to convert into a track bike then even better, you’ve already got a bike ready to go and you can even sell the road bits to cover the cost of the conversion.
You will obviously have to pay for things throughout the season like tyres and servicing items like oil, filters, brake fluid etc, but in the grand scheme of things these aren’t massive costs and even tyres can be had for reasonable money (scrubs) if you look around or have people in the know.
Each of the three options are perfectly viable ways of getting on and enjoying track days, which is why before making a decision you need to look at your own circumstances and think how deep are you going to get involved. For those that have a road bike and think they’d like to try a few track days just to see what they’re like then that is a great way to do it. Many people still bring their road bikes to the track and for good reason.
If you don’t have a road bike you want to take on the track, but still feel that you’re only going to dip your toe in to see what all the fuss is about, then a hire bike is probably going to be your best bet and you can always get a track bike further down the line if you get hooked (like most do).
If you want to take bike track days a little more seriously, maybe do more than a few a year, then a dedicated track bike is the way to go. Yes it would mean more time and effort looking after it, as well as some sort of initial outlay and a little more for servicing, but in time you would start to see savings over hire bikes. You would also be learning the bike inside and out, both mechanically and on the track, and turning it into your own pride and joy.
So look at what you want from track days and what you can afford, but whether you decide on your road bike, a hire bike or track bike, I hope to see you on out there sometime soon.
How to Get the Most from Your Track Time: Pre-Ride Prep & How to Approach Your Day
How to Deal With the Panic When Someone Takes Your Line
Learning to Trust Your Tyres Through Technique & Experience
Using Other Riders to Gauge Your Speed and Uncover Weaknesses