So, You’ve been riding your bike around for quite some time now; or maybe you’re still a new rider, but you don’t live under a rock and you’ve gotten wind of these events called trackdays…and you’re intrigued.
I don’t blame you! Attending a trackday with your machine has become the logical next step in learning how to ride said machine better these days.
Some 20 years ago, if you wanted to ride on track you had to man up and race. These days we are fortunate enough to have the privilege of experiencing for ourselves what so many professional racers have been privied to—don’t waste that opportunity! However there’s still a common fear and hesitation that I hear from people when you mention trackdays. Most people don’t want to crash, which is a very realistic and understandable concern. When we watch racing or see trackday footage we often see crashes and even more so we are told that crashing is just part of the sport, so of course people are hesitant to get out there.
I’m here to tell you to put that thought out of your head and get to it. Crashing is a part of riding when you are pushing out of your comfort zones, learning new techniques, figuring out you and your bike’s abilities and generally getting more aggressive. These are all things encouraged to progress in your riding skills, however they don’t have to be applied over night and when done properly, crashing is limited. Your first trackday will be overwhelming enough in just the sensation of being out on track and trying something new. This alone is enough to immerse yourself within your machine and see what it’s made of. I always tell people to put crashing out of their mind and just focus on what you’re doing out there.
Here are a few key things to focus on your first few trackdays for a successful time:
1-Not all track organizations and coaches are created equal. Finding a good fit can be tough so don’t get discouraged if your first experience isn’t super positive. There’s a big difference in a control rider and a coach so if you have friends that can suggest a solid organization that would meet your needs that’s a great place to start. If you are located in the middle/south east of the US, then I highly encourage trying out with SportBike TrackTime.
2-Get into a group you are comfortable in for your pace and work with a coach. Ask questions and LISTEN to what the coaches are telling you. Some of the stuff may seem like you’ve heard it before, but if a coach is instructing you on something it’s because they see something and are trying to help you. A good coach will notice your struggle points and work with you on them. There are NO stupid questions when it comes to riding—so ask away. Chances are other people are wondering the same thing.
3-Do not worry about “being slow” or slowing other riders down. This is one I hear ALL the time. I totally understand this concern as I’ve always had it myself. But trust me when I tell you that this is most definitely the one place where you don’t have to worry about it. Everyone at track is there for the same reason—to learn and better themselves. Everyone is also at different levels skill wise and mentally. When I was frustrated with my pace Jason DiSalvo told me: Remember, you are riding YOUR best. What you are experiencing on the track is the same as that of an Expert rider that is giving their all because in this perceived moment you are giving it your all too. You both are at the peak of your performance. You should never compare your pace to anyone else’s because it doesn’t matter, you are at your fastest right now. This will change over time as your pace increases, and the good feeling and emotion will always be there. Furthermore, a more skilled rider can get around you safely if they want to. If they can’t then that’s their problem, not yours (provided you’re riding safely).
4-Don’t override your skills right out the gate. This one is a little tough because logically if you’ve never tried it then how will you know you’re overriding your skills? I personally struggled with this one for a couple of years and as a result I was quite timid my first year riding track because I didn’t want to hurt myself finding that limit. However eventually you figure it out because you start chasing people and you may get in too hot. This will be a moment where your adrenaline spikes and you realize you just did something new—what you do in that situation will be up to you. Either you realize that you didn’t die and handled the situation properly or you’ll run off track/make mistakes. A good rule of thumb is to chill out if you start to run off the track more than once. At that point you’ll need to assess why you’re running off and what you should do to make the corner.
5-Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Most of us aren’t used to doing 120mph and then plowing it into a corner under heavy trail braking while dangling a leg out for stability and feeling the bike chatter. Most of us aren’t even used to that after many many trackdays lol! So don’t come into a trackday thinking you’re just gonna send it full speed. I’ve found that ramping up slowly makes much smoother riders and that smoothness translates over to predictable skills, smooth bike inputs and a steadily increasing entry speed into corners (which is how you get faster). So remember, it’s better to slow down and take in what’s happening than blindly keep trying to go as fast as possible.
So now that you’re mentally prepared, what about the physical stuff? Trackdays themselves are pretty expensive, so adding on the costs of necessary items for the first time can get pretty overwhelming. Before I purchased my truck (and yes I bought a truck just so I could get myself to the track) I would borrow people’s vehicles or rent U-Hauls. That got tiresome and expensive real fast so I made the decision to commit and go all in after about a year. However I try my best to save money where I can. Instead of renting a hotel room I invested in a good tent and a comfortable deluxe air mattress and sleep in the paddock. The initial investment paid itself off after just 2 trackdays. Another thing I do is bring my own food, I make sure to pack 2 gallons of water per person instead of buying cases. I pack all sorts of snacks and dinner food to avoid buying last minute stuff and spending extra cash.
Then there are things you’ll just have to save up for that will make your life so much more comfortable at track:
- An EZ up is a necessity to keep you cool from the sun or out of the rain. Get a good chair to rest in.
- A folding table is really invaluable when trying to keep things organized and off of the ground if it rains.
- Get yourself a good large fan for when the weather gets above 80, it’s amazing how fast you get over heated even when staying hydrated.
- And speaking of hydration, invest in a solid product you can mix with your water to keep your body and mind sharp. I suggest a product like Precision Hydration. Sports drinks are full of tons of empty calories and sugar so they actually work against you. One a day is ok, but you would need a lot more to keep your electrolytes up. And as a rule of thumb, if you aren’t using the bathroom every other hour then you aren’t drinking nearly enough water. It’s amazing how dehydrated your body gets with the exertion you put it through at track.
- And lastly, don’t forget your tool box with necessities. You want to be able to tighten any bolts that come loose or change a tire. We often joke about zip ties and duct tape but they truly are lifesavers at times!
There’s a ton more that you can bring and is super useful, but the above are some necessities and basics to get you by. Above all remember that the track is generally a very friendly environment. As you gain experience you’ll figure out what you need and tailor your requirements. However help is always there if you should need it, don’t be afraid to ask. I still ask for help loading/unloading my bike for instance. I just don’t have the balance and strength combined to do it safely myself so I ask a friend or a coach—so girls, no excuses for not going by yourselves!! If I can do it, so can you!
Hope this was helpful and eased some of your concerns!