Do you want a track bike? Silly question, of course you want a track bike. Because the track is the best place not only to see what you and your bike are really capable of, but to hone your motorcycling skills to the Nth degree. But it can be difficult choosing the right track bike, with so many options out there. Do you go for the latest, greatest streak-of-lightening superbike to chase the lap-times and impress your mates? Or do you go for the budget option and buy yourself a bullet-proof bandit from the days of yore? What spares do you need? Does it need to be road legal? If you’ve ever found yourself pondering questions like this, hopefully the following will shed some light on things.
You don’t have to spend tens of thousands of pounds to get a half decent track bike. A couple of grand will get you a serviceable bike that any half decent rider ought to be able to hold their own on in the fast group in any trackday. I’m talking about things like mid-noughties 600s, mini-twins (Suzuki SV 650s and the like), and that kind of thing.
Of course you’re more than welcome to spend five or ten times that on a track bike. If you could afford to, there’s nothing stopping you buying, or building, a trick-as-you-like superbike with all the bells and whistles. You’ll be the talk of the trackday.
At the other end of the spectrum, it’s also possible to buy a couple of quid’s worth of tat, that’ll probably get you round. You might find though, if you go down that route, you spend more time on the spanners than you do on track.
Personally, I like the mummy-bear option. 600s are great to ride on track, and there’s always plenty of them for sale. They’re easier to ride than 1000s, they don’t go through tyres as rapidly, and you’ll probably find you enjoy yourself a lot more when you’re riding a £2,000 bike rather than a £10,000 bike; partly because it’s five times more painful when you write a £10k bike off.
When you’re perusing the market for a track bike to buy yourself, it’s a good idea to look for one that’s either got a bit of a spares package with it, or one that you know spare parts are going to be (reasonably) readily available for.
There are certain things that you really should have, like ‘wets on wheels’; if you live in the UK, you’re going to get rained on at some point, so it’d be a real shame to miss a bunch of sessions on track, because you haven’t got the right tyres.
Likewise, it’s always good to have things like spare handlebars, levers, footpegs, windscreen, that kind of thing. Chances are, at some point you’re going to have a little crash, and chances are that little crash is going to break something, so you might as well cover all the obvious bases. If the bike you’re buying doesn’t have a spares package with it, don’t forget to include a bit of a budget for one when you’re pricing it up.
Power and Performance
How fast do you really need to go? Generally speaking, the faster you want to go, the more money you’ll have to throw at your new track bike, but let’s assume money isn’t an object, just for a moment. Even if you had all the money in the world, a superbike might not necessarily be the best track bike for you. They’re a right old handful, and unless you’re used to riding one, you’ll probably find you’ll enjoy yourself a lot more (and probably go quicker anyway) on something a bit more sensible.
I know a lot of people worry about being out of their depth on a smaller bike on a trackday, but you really needn’t worry. Ok, it’s probably not the best idea to book your Honda Monkey into the fast group, but as long as you can manage a half decent amount of straight-line speed, you’ll be fine. Yes there will be people with 200bhp there, but a reasonable rider could probably lap just as quick as most of them on something with half the power.
At most trackdays, there isn’t a requirement for your bike to be road legal. (Some trackdays are for road bikes only, but it’ll be clearly stated when you book if it is). So if you’re buying a bike solely for the track, it doesn’t need an MOT, tax or insurance. It doesn’t actually need a V5 (registration document) either. If you are buying an unregistered bike though, make sure you exercise extreme caution. Find out exactly why it’s not registered and make sure you’re happy with the reason. It’s always good to know the bikes history before you part with any cash, too. And if the engine and frame number look as though they’ve been faffed with, give it a wide berth.
You’ll save a load of money by buying a bike that’s not road legal. And if it’s running race bodywork, with no lights etc, it’s liable to be much more suited to the track than a road-going version of the same bike. You’ll save loads of weight and, crucially, it’ll be a lot cheaper to repair when you crash.
There’s always the option of going for a road registered bike, with a ‘daytime MOT’… more on that here.
But remember, it might be cheaper to buy, but it’ll also be more difficult to sell. And you won’t be able to ride it to your favourite track, you’ll need a van (or a trailer) to transport it. So it might not work out that much cheaper in the long run.
Deciding which is the best track bike to go for depends completely on your circumstances and your budget. And the right bike for you isn’t necessarily the same as it would be for anyone else. Don’t be peer pressured into getting something super-fast, just so you can beat your mates; it’ll be more satisfying beating them on something slower!
Whatever you go for, you’ll have a blast. Good luck.