James Hillier Track Day Guide
Whether you're a track day connoisseur or ultimate track virgin this is worth a read as I am certain it will aid you in getting the most out of your bike and track experience. There's no hiding the fact that more and more riders are now turning to the track, and if you haven't yet experienced it then you're missing out!
The track day scene is growing fast so if you haven't already, then get out there and give it a go. It will without doubt will make you a better rider and help you understand what your bike is actually capable of! I have written a bit of a guide below to try and help any newbies out there. I'm sure current track day riders or even amateur racers will also be able to take something from this!
Choosing your track day and group
Choosing a basic track for your first experience is strongly advised as it can be intimidating enough without going to somewhere without alot of runn off like Cadwell or Oulton Park where there alot of blind crests and turns that will only make your first experience tougher.
I would advise the likes of Snetterton or Silverstone which are nice and wide with good visibility of what your approaching! For the more experienced rider, I think getting down to Spain is a massive advantage if you want to improve your skills. What often happens when riding in the UK is you have periods between track days and you may subconsciously forget skills learnt.
Doing 3 or more intense days in pretty much guaranteed sunshine can really move you forward with your riding. The repetition of riding day after day really helps you learn and log new skills helping understand yourself and how to get the most out of your motorcycle.
Yes Spain is more expensive but if you add the costs of 3 or 4 separate UK track days then compare that to an inclusive combined 3 or 4 days on track on Spain then there won't be a lot of difference!
Group selection is important. I've never done a track day without seeing some dreaming moron creating a mobile chicane in the fast group just so he can go back to the pub flashing his fast group wrist band and brag about being in the quick group.
Then the other end of the scale where riders intentionally go in the slower group so they can be fastest! doing this is not cool nor clever! Number 1,it's dangerous for you and the other riders and number 2, you look stupid!
If you're in doubt then go with the slower class and if you have an issue or you find you're being held up way too much then request to be moved up. It's your benefit to be in the right group!
Track day preparation
You need to give your bike a good check over and with plenty of time to spare in case you require any parts that need ordering or work completed!
Track days aren't cheap, so put the time in and prep your bike properly. The last thing you want is a failure on track or a mechanical fault to leave you sat in the pits watching your mates enjoy the day!
Below is your checklist:
- Chain Ensure the chain is clean and lubricated. Are the sprockets worn? Check the tension and adjust accordingly. Ensure the rear wheel is aligned correctly. If your back wheel is not sat straight in the swing arm it will really effect the steering of the bike. If you are at all unsure, then invest in a laser alignment tool. Manufacturer swing arm markings are not always 100% accurate!
- Brakes– Check brakes are clean and are bled correctly. They will get far hotter being used on a track, so any air in the system will only cause you problems. Also check disk and pad wear. If low then replace with a decent brand - it's NOT worth scrimping on cheap brake components!
- Oil – Maybe treat her to some fresh oil, if not ensure levels are correct and sump bolt is tight, preferably lock wired to ensure you don't dump your load and ruin everybody's track day!
- Overall check - Its worth running a spanner/ Allen key over the entire bike checking the likes of fairing screws, rear sets, handle bars and levers etc. The last thing you need is your bike falling to pieces during a session on track!
- Comfort – Riding on track you will find you're having to move around a lot more on the bike and may require some tweaks to help you feel comfortable!
- Tyres – It's worth thoroughly inspecting your tyres before hand. Check for excessive wear or screws/nails. You don't want to be discovering these on the day! Road tyres are fine and there are plenty to choose from, just ensure whatever you are going to use has plenty of tread and correct pressures! (more on this further down)
- Lights, mirrors and number plate - If its not required then remove it or tape it up. Mirrors will not be required what so ever, concentrate on what's going on in front, you should NOT be looking behind you!
- Tape up your speedo - You will not need this! No racer refers to a speedo whilst riding! you should be using track markers as references. The less you have to distract you the better!
What to take
One thing I will say is that it's better to be over prepared than under, so if you're indecisive of taking something and have the room for it then get it in the van! Obviously, it depends on how you're travelling to the event, but below is a list of things I feel you shouldn't go without!
- Food and hydration – It's important to keep your body fueled up and hydrated, so get yourself a decent breakfast, nothing to heavy or greasy!! Start buildign up the fluids the day before then constantly keep drinking throughout the day! If you use energy drinks then try to hold out until the afternoon so you don't peak to early! With food I would also say its better to snack throughout the day, take some snack/light bites rather than eating a large meal at lunch that will only make you feel sleepy and bloated!
- Tools – If you're going with a mate then decide between you who's taking what, but make sure you're covered for the basics. Duct tape and zip ties should be near the top of the list but also remember lubricants and cleaners with some clean rag to clean your visor!
- Driving/Licence – Make sure you put this somewhere where it cannot be forgotten, maybe even tape it to the bike!
- Keys - Very Important!, and happens more than you think. Make sure they are either in the bike, or if you're worried then hide them somewhere in the van your taking. Forgetting your keys is not a good start to the day!
- Fuel - Ensure you have enough fuel to get through day, most tracks have fuel to buy onsite but often at an inflated cost.
- Kit - Make sure your riding kit meets the requirements of the track day your going on. Give it a good check over and maybe a clean! If you have dark and clear visors make sure you take both! Knee sliders got enough life in them? Having good Kit is crucial in my opinion, Buy the best you can afford and think of the bigger picture of how much it could cost being off work due to an injury that could have been prevented by better equipment.
- Chair - Take some sort of folding/camping chair so you can chill between sessions.
- Camera/Phone - to capture all the excitement on the day!
- Pen/Paper - Sounds daft, but worth having to take notes of anything you need to get for next time, or contact details of someone you meet on the day!
All the above is purely advice from myself that may help you in the future when enjoying your motorcycle on the track!
To do on the day!
You’ve arrived at the track, now what? Use the time in the morning to prepare your bike for the track. It’s ideal to get there with time to spare so you can get this done.
- Sign on - get this done asap as there will undoubtedly be a large queue. you will then know what time your expecting to be on track!
- Riders Briefing - It can be tedious listening to things you already know, but always pay attention in case there have been changes - especially if its your first track day or first visit to a certain track as it's important to understand the circuit pit entry, exit and flag locations etc! If you're unsure on anything then just ask, better to be sure than not know and risk a mistake.
- Check tyre pressures are correct - Different tyre brands require different pressures due to different constructions and compounds. It will also depend on the weather/temperature on the day. When asking advice be certain that the pressures you are given are either hot or cold.
If you run warmers I would advise to work by hot temperatures and if unsure its always worth checking as soon as you return to the pit following a good session and note your pressures. You will soon get an understanding of running temperatures and pressures.
You will see a lot when watching racing on TV that teams are forever checking pressures as it is crucial to grip levels and balance of the bike. Another thing worth doing is having your pressure gauge calibrated or checked with a proven unit. When I started racing we did nearly the whole season with a pressure gauge that was 4 psi below!! Remember to reset your pressures after the track day if you're taking your bike back on the road!
As a guide, below shows the rough pressures the team set on my Metzeler Sportec for the Isle of Man TT, these are pretty much identical to Pirelli. Other brands will vary but this should help you get in the ball park with your set up!
(Cold) Front - 31 Rear- 22 - 23
(Hot) Front - 35 Rear- 26 - 27
- Prepare the bike - Hopefully you have yourself a nice little garage space, get the warmers on, if its a cold day I always put my gloves on the warmers too! Give the bike a visual once over again in case you have missed anything!
- Relax - This is very important, you are about to ride on a circuit with everybody going the same direction, nobody is going to pull out on you and there are no police! It's a much safer environment than riding out on the open road so stay calm and enjoy it!
- Warm your Tyres - This is key and can turn things bad very quickly (see image below). If you're running warmers then not so much of an issue but be wary if you have been sat at the end of pit lane waiting for your session to start! If you're not running warmers then go nice and steady for at least 3 laps, take your time and build up braking, corner speed and lean angles slowly!
It also needs considering when riding at circuits like Donnington Park with hardly any left hand turns that your left side of the tyres will take longer to build the temperature!!It's easy to get carried away then before you know it you're on your arse and your pride and joy is in about 25 pieces !!
- If you're serious about track days then its well worth investing in some decent warmers, (not cheap shite chinese ones) Bikes aren't cheap so don't risk wrecking yours by scrimping on cheap budget warmers, stretch to what you can! (call me, I can help with this 01202 810480)
Lap 1, Knockhill British Superbike 2012, myself (James Hillier) paying the price for asking too much too soon on a new tyre! Pic - Mongrel17
I have tried to cover most aspects of track days in hope it can aid you in being prepared and get the most from riding on track,
Please do not hesitate to get in touch at www.yourmotobike.co.uk, we offer a good range of quality bike parts and track products 01202 810480 Feel free to comment below if you have anything to add or ask?
All the Best James Hillier