Are you considering making the jump to the track? Are you nervous about looking unprepared? Maybe you are worried about the costs or about meeting the safety standards. Are you asking yourself what the hell you should pack or what tires to bring to the track?
If you are like many newcomers to the sport, you have a plethora of questions! I’ve been in that same position and understand the emotions that go through a rider’s head. The good news is, I’ve got you covered.
In this “Ultimate Guide to the Track for Beginners”, you’ll reap the benefit of all the experience and learnings I have under my track racing belt. I will lay it out all for you in a way that is simple and user-friendly. Don’t fret! I’m not going to advise you to go buy a thousand dollar suit off of Revzilla.
Who is this guide meant for?
This guide is tailored to the new street rider wanting to test the waters of the track.
This guide will go over:
• Finding a track near you
• Preparing the bike
• Transporting the bike
• Extra items to bring
• Typical Track Day
• Common Questions
Finding a Track
First things first, you need to find a track near you. Use this website here (US ONLY) http://www.cornercarving.com/track-finder/.
Once you have located a track near you the next part is to find their website. Luckily the site will also show here:
Each organization runs their events a little differently, but each will have an introductory class for the new track rider. This information will be listed on their website. If for some reason you cannot locate the introductory class information, contact the organization and mention that you are a new rider first time on the track. They will be happy to provide you with details on the course.
The class will allow you to learn the inside scoop on how to be best prepared for your first time on the track. Learning the ins and outs of the sport will boost your confidence and enthusiasm so you’ll be a functioning member of the community.
On a personal note, one of the first question the instructor asked during my introductory class was “Who is nervous?”. You bet your ass I shot my hand up and was met with appreciation for being honest. You won’t be the only one that is anxious or nervous to dive into the exhilarating sport of riding on the track.
During this class, instructors will cover the basics such as entering the track, inspecting your bike, and properly taking corners. And while it may seem overwhelming at first, the instructors are trained to provide information at a pace you can handle. Believe me, I have never met an instructor that was not passionate about what they do. Remember, track instructors are using their own track time on the weekend to teach you how to ride safely at your level. They are the experts and welcome your questions!
Every organization will require you to have a set of leathers such as featured below.
These are suits designed to protect you in the event of a crash, breathe well, and make you look cool as fuck for those Facebook photos. There are two-piece leathers as well as one-piece leathers and this will be based on personal preference.
Organizations will have leather rentals for new track riders like you. The rental costs can vary but it is much cheaper than buying a whole new suit. Make sure to contact the track organization and let them know you are interested in renting a suit ahead of time. Just as a reference point, the leathers I rented were $75 at the organization I joined.
DOT APPROVED HELMET
DOT-approved (Department of Transportation) helmets are the minimum standards for all motorcycle helmets. You can almost guarantee that if you ride on the street you already have one. Just check the back and you’ll see in the letters “DOT”. Obviously, you’ll need to procure a helmet if you don’t already own one.
OVER ANKLE BOOTS
Depending on the organization, they may or may not rent out boots. If they do not, I highly recommend getting a real pair of over-the-ankle boots. The organization MAY allow basic over the ankle boots, but I’d invest in some real track boots to protect your feet. In the event you do not continue to attend track days, you’ll still have the best protection around for riding on the street.
Gauntlet gloves protect the hand all the way down to the wrist. They overlap with the end of your leather suit. Regular gloves will not be allowed, so make sure to purchase a pair of gauntlet gloves.
Preparing the Bike
Preparing the bike for the track usually boils down to a few basic actions. Each organization will vary slightly, but most have a very similar protocol. This may include:
• Removing mirrors
• Taping lights. Tip: make sure to use painter’s masking tape. It is very easy to remove and won’t leave a mess.
• Disconnect tail light
• Remove license plate
• Taping wheel weights (get picture)
• Check for leaks/all bolts are tight
• Proper chain tension
• Inspect tires
An often-asked question is regarding what tires to bring the track. The short answer is, as long as your tires have enough tread from daily riding then you’ll have no issues riding on the track. You’ll see other regular track riders with what are called “slicks”. These tires are made for the track and have no tread. You won’t be needing these until you reach that higher level of speed.
I’ve personally gone onto the track with street tires for over a year because I never reached a pace that would require slicks. Make sure to lower the pressure in your tires to allow for more grip on the track. The general rule is 30 psi front and 28 psi rear, but the track techs will be glad to help you adjust pressure when you arrive.
Typical Track Day
The typical track day will consist of an early morning check-in and inspection around 7 a.m. During registration, you will select between different groups based on your experience, which starts at “novice” and end at “expert”. At 8 a.m. your group will join together for a safety briefing. The track will be hot around 8:30 a.m. and the first group will head out to practice.
The sessions will alternate between each other throughout the day and you can come and go as you please. Sessions are usually about 20-30 minutes in duration and each organization may vary. Since you will be in the beginner course, the instructors will be on call to assist you the entire day.
Loading and Transporting the Bike
For the best explanation, check out this video that demonstrated how to properly load a bike into a truck:
If you own a car, a small U-Haul trailer will still work but be sure check your vehicle manual for towing requirements. This is actually very common and affordable method for motorcycle transport, as bikes are very light and easy to tow. For example, see the Ford Fiesta below: (Credit to Reddit user “spotted_peegle”)
If you have no transportation, considering asking in location forums for someone who is willing to help out. Many riders are always willing to stow an extra bike in their trailer if they have room. Another option is to ride to the actual track, but in the event of a track crash it may be a bit hard to get home and can be quite exhausting.
Extra Items to Bring
· Extra Fuel
· Snacks (lunch can be purchased on the track, bring cash)
· Polyester/Under Armor shirt so leather suit doesn’t stick to your skin with sweat.
· Flip flops
· Pop up shade canopy
· Basic toolkit
· Sunglasses and hat
· Keys! (You wouldn’t believe how often keys are forgotten!)
If I could offer one piece of advice, I would caution against stressing out too much. A track day is meant to be engaging, fun, and exciting.
Bring the basics and don’t overdo it. You may see or receive a lot of advice from regular track riders to bring a load of items, but they fail to remember this is your first time. Over time you will adjust your items and your prep ritual to suit your preferences.
Lastly, have fun and go conquer!
I hope this guide has been useful in preparing you for the incomparable sport of track days.
If you have any questions please feel free to email me in the contact section of the website.