Have you ever done a trackday? If you have, you’ll know how bitchin’ they are. If you haven’t, then you really need to. It’ll be one of the best things you’ve ever done, but that first one can be a little bit daunting. Fear not though, because we know that everyone has to start somewhere. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of five top tips for novice and first-time trackday goers. Hope it helps…
1- Make a List
I’ve been riding bikes on track for more years than I can remember now, but it’s not uncommon for me to forget an essential piece of apparatus. I’ve arrived at circuits with a single boot missing, no ignition key, no license, the list goes on. So, to avoid the stress of having to source a replacement whatever-it-might-be, it’s a jolly good idea to make yourself a checklist before you set off. Include everything on it that you’re going to need like all your riding kit, licenses, tools, tyre warmers and (very importantly) the appropriate cable-age, and every single thing you can think of. Chances are, you’ll still forget to put something on the list, but if you find you arrive at the track and there’s something missing, you can put it on the list for next time. Keep hold of your list – you might find it comes in handy at a later date. Lists are good. We love lists. Long live the list.
2- Talk to People
If it’s your first trackday you might, understandably, be a bit nervous, but don’t forget everyone has been there once upon a time. Even if they don’t look it, you’ll find that most people on a trackday are actually pretty friendly and they’ll be more than happy to point you in the right direction of you get lost, or give you an idea what’s going on if you stare at them with your confused face. And don’t be shy when it comes to chatting to your neighbours in the paddock as, like you, they are just there to have a good time. If you can put a smile on someone’s face with an amusing anecdote or two, you might just find yourself making a few new friends. And the more friends you make in the paddock, the better, because there’s a very good chance that one day you might need to borrow a spanner, or need a hand fixing something. And anyway, if you get on with the bloke that’s parked next to you, he might watch your kit for you whilst you go for a piss.
3- Check Your Bike
I know this one’s fairly obvious, but trackdays aren’t cheap, so you’d be really pissed off if you missed a session because your bike wouldn’t start, or you got black flagged on lap one because your fairing started falling off. You’ll put your bike under more stresses and strains on the race track than you ever would on the road, so you need to know it’s in tip-top condition, not only so it stays in one piece, but to give yourself peace of mind when you’re giving it some welly. Make sure any wearing parts like brake pads, chains and sprockets have got plenty of life left in them, and all the nuts and bolts are tight – paying close attention to things like faring fixings, exhaust hangers and footrest bolts. You’ll be pulling the front brake harder than you ever have before too, lap after lap, so if you’re brake fluid is as black as the ace of spades and as old as you, you’ll boil the fucker up quick sharp, so bin it off and get some fresh stuff in there. It goes without saying, but your tyres want to be in decent nick, and set to the correct pressures, too. If you keep on top of all of that stuff, with a bit of luck, your bike won’t let you down.
4– Learn the track
This one doesn’t just go for first time trackdayers, it goes for anyone who is going to a new track for the first time. As previously mentioned, trackdays aren’t cheap, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to waste the first session trying to figure out where the track goes left and right. Thanks to every man and his dog having a GoPro these days, there isn’t a racetrack in the world that you can’t find on YouTube with umpteen onboard laps. If you’ve never been to a track before, it’s always very difficult to get a scale of things and trying to learn lines, braking markers and things like that from video isn’t always advisable, unless perhaps you know the rider behind the GoPro and you consider him to be competent rider. No, what’s important is learning where it goes left and right, where it’s fast, where it’s slow, and where the pit exit and entrance is.
5- Enjoy It
If it’s your first trackday, you’re never going to break any lap records, so there’s not a lot of sense in getting the stopwatch out and putting any added pressure on yourself. Take each lap as it comes and concentrate on riding smoothly and safely. If you’re smooth, you’ll be safe, and the speed will come. If you try too hard, too soon, you’ll make mistakes, you’ll wear yourself out and there’s a good chance you’ll crash. If, or should I say when, someone passes you, don’t get stressed about it, rather try and learn something from them. Were they taking a different line, a better line? What was their body position like? MotoGP riders aren’t made over night, so don’t worry if you feel like you’re still off the pace by the last session, it really doesn’t matter a shit. If you get to the end of the day having kept the bike upright, and feeling even just a tiny bit more comfortable on your bike than you did at the start, you’ve not done bad. Now it’s time to get dressed, pack the bike away and go and have a beer; you deserve it.