RIDING DIFFERENT BIKES. RACING SOME
To ride on track sounds exciting and a bit scary when you haven’t done it yet. That wide racetrack, the fast riders and the even faster bikes. Every man feels like a king and the few women like queens. It is intimidating. And yet, you take the step. You book your first time to ride on track.
Like a blanc canvas, you go on your way for your first track day. There is a lot you don’t know yet, when you first start to ride on track. Not only is it still somewhat of a mystery how a track day works, but also what is actually involves. We give you 10 things you didn’t know before you started to ride on track.
To ride on track seems quite scary at first. Fast boys and girls, racing on even faster bikes. Everything is about speed. It can be intimidating. “Am I fast enough? Can my bike handle this? Can I handle this?! Isn’t this super scary?” All those questions come up and make you nervous.
The racetrack is an impressive sight when you arrive. You share your first track day with beginners and advanced riders. The latter park their campers, caravans, and tents and put their fast machines up for display. A few paddock stands here, a set of tire warmers there. And above all, a whole lot of cable drums. There you are, with your street bike, resting on its side stand.
When all those stimuli start to sink in, it all calms down a bit. You go to the pit box of the organizer and sign in. The cheerful ladies and gents of the organizer put you at ease. Maybe you even have a little chat with your instructor already. And you realise it is not that scary as it seemed. In reality, the threshold is not so high after all. To ride on track is for everyone, not just for speed demons.
Your first track day begins. Your first session, the first laps on track. The nerves start to rise again and start to race laps of their own through your body. You give your bike an encouraging pat on the tank. There you go. The first laps are always a bit uncomfortable. You need to get used to the track, to the lines and to the speed and technique. And it makes more sense with every lap. You find your flow. And the nerves calm down again.
Your first track day ends before you know it. There you are. With a sweaty forehead, clammy from all the adrenaline, the hard work and the necessary excitement. And with a huge smile on your face. That was awesome! You just can’t get enough. You immediately book three other track days.
And then it starts to sink in. Riding on track isn’t just fantastic. It is also insanely expensive. To ride on track for a day begins with €200,- to €250,- to book the day. At first, you have to find your pace and you are not that fast yet. So your tires last quite long. But then you start to ride faster. And faster. And again, a little bit faster. And you will use a set of brand new tires every two track days. Blink once and you use a set of tires every day. Intense enjoyment and a crying fit go hand in hand.
Because that is the thing with tires. They aren’t cheap. And they don’t keep themselves warm when you get off the track. So you need pair of good quality tire warmers. To be able to put those tire warmers on, you need a pair of solid paddock stands. The cost of the cable drum are a trifle. Oh, and it is also nice if your bike stays dry when it rains and stands in the shade when it is sunny. So you also buy a tent.
A set of track fairings is also a great idea. Those street fairings are way too expensive to ruin and hard to come by. You also want to make your life easier when shifting gears and have a bit more confidence in braking. So you get yourself a pair of fancy rear sets and a better braking pump. Some racy brake pads and nice braking disks and you are good to go. Oh, and don’t forget about petrol. You use petrol faster than a family pack of toilet paper after an evening with an Indonesian buffet.
Next up is you. That old two piece motorcycle suit isn’t that comfortable when you start to ride faster and faster. It has seen better days too. Your new track buddies are lyrical about their new airbag suits, so you have got to get one too. And it hangs inside your closet before you know it.
We don’t have to do the math to tell you riding on track is expensive. And leaves you broke most of the time. It costs way more than you’d like. Still, we rather work four extra weekends in a row than skipping a few track days. ‘Cause we like it a bit too much.
Luckily, there is a different side to riding on track as well. What you loose in money, you gain in friendship. When you just start to ride on track you’ll notice you will connect with the others in your group straight away. All of them are beginner track junkies with the same questions, the same excitement, and the same nerves.
You come around more often and you recognize the same faces. You chat for a bit and remember that first time you have met them. Slowly, a friendship arises. Not just one. You meet a whole new family.
Whether it is your first track day or your 50th, you connect with other riders. Do you need a spare part that you forgot to bring with you yourself? Just walk around the paddock and someone will have it. And will let you use it. Did you come to the track by yourself? Then the neighbours will offer you a cup of coffee in the morning and invite you for dinner in de evening.
That sense of brotherhood on the paddock makes you forget about all the financial struggles. You forget you almost had to sell a kidney to get your bike race-ready. And you submerge in the big, heartwarming family. That warmth, those people. Priceless.
With every track day, you realise more and more that road riding becomes a bit dull. Not really dull. It stil is fun too. But the adrenaline kick it gives was bigger when you didn’t ride on track yet. It’s just no the same anymore. Of course there are some exceptions. If you are a lucky bastard that lives in or close to a mountain section, then this might not apply to you.
But for us – regular folk – that live in the very, very flat country of the Netherlands, it just becomes less fun. You can’t enter a turn like you do on track, thanks to that tar strip or gravel on the road. And the surface doesn’t give you the same trust to enter it with a decent amount of speed. To fully open the throttle during your exit also doesn’t feel the same, when Hanny on her electric bike decides to cross the street suddenly. All because she wants to photograph the tulips.
The charm of riding a motorcycle on the roads changes. I still enjoy a ride with the girls. And love every second of it. Or a shameless hooligan ride through the hills in Germany. But riding on track did change the way I ride on the roads. I ride less fast and keep a bigger safety margin. It is not worth it to me, to wreck my bike on the roads while I could use that money for other matters (remember point #2?),
Chances are, that you start to ride on track with your street bike. You ride your first laps with caution. You don’t want to wreck that handsome street bike of yours. And that totally makes sense. When you want to ride on track more often and take this hobby to another level, then you are offered the following choices; constantly chance street fairings for track fairings and back around, or buy a track bike.
Many of us choose the latter. So the search for a track bike begins. Preferably one that is not too expensive. You’re jumping with joy, while your wallet rather hides itself in the darkest corner of the room. One motorcycle just isn’t enough, sadly. That track bike has to get there.
Are two bikes a bit too much? Then the choice gets a bit tougher. Going for constantly switching fairings? If you ask any fanatic track rider, you will get a different answer. “Get rid of that street bike. Trade it for a decent track bike.” they’ll say. Can’t get rid of that old and beloved street bike? And does it suit you on track? Then rebuild it into a track bike.
Number six on the list of 10 things you didn’t know before you started to ride on track; a racetrack never gets boring. No matter how often you have ridden it. It stays fun somehow. When a track first seems impressive and a bit scary, it becomes more fun with every lap you complete. And that one track that felt like home straight away remains fun as well. It often becomes your go-to track to test a new set up or some new riding skills.
A racetrack just never gets boring, not even after 100 laps. You might encounter a track that doesn’t suit you. And maybe you will never ride there again. But boring? Nope, not boring.
We often troll about “Why do we do this, exactly?” And then you get the answer “We do everything for that one fast lap”. I always said to myself, that riding on track wasn’t just about the lap times. But more about the adrenaline rush, the shared passion, the huge smile and the gained experience. And for a while, that was the case. Until that moment arrived.
I got off track after a session and secretly checked my lap times. And there it was. Boom, out of nowhere. The disappointment. I didn’t ride faster than I did before. And although I rode a perfectly fine session, I just didn’t feel the same like I used to. After some sulks and grumbles, I got myself back together. But at that moment, I realised that – despite my resistance – I also fell victim to the lap time bug. That bug that bites you and gets you addicted to taking seconds off that lap time.
One gets bitten by the lap time bug straight away. For others, it takes a while. But eventually, we all fall victim to it. Whether we want it or not. Whether we admit or not. We all do it. We do everything for that one fast lap.
Point #2 already made it very clear, and point #5 only added strength to it; you need money to ride on track. To finance that way too awesome hobby of ours, you start to live differently. Other hobbies go on hold, the groceries are done more efficiently. And you try to score some solid deals. You, with your talent for web design, build a website for the local motorcycle parts shop and get some parts in return. Or you repave the road to a motorcycle shop in exchange for a set of new tires.
Everyone who has been around the race world for a while now knows it’s not just about riding on track. The magic also happens off the track. That is what makes this sport and hobby even better. And it definitely makes it that much more addictive.
The cosiness off track is hard to catch in words. It is celebrating your new lap record, when no one thought you could go faster. It is the love and care from that thoughtful cup of coffee to calm you down after your first crash. Or the concern when one of your pit box mates didn’t make it back after the session. It is almost a game of push and pull who goes first to the Medics to check on him. And it is the hug from a fellow rider after your boyfriend crashed – and is perfectly fine – but you got scared none the less.
It is toasting those cold beers after a successful track day when everyone completed the day unscathed. It is laughing about mistakes you’ve made, the friendly handshake that lays an incident on track to rest and it is the drooling over the freakishly awesome track bike of your neighbour.
Riding on track is magical, in many ways.
It is probably quite obvious that we are smitten with riding on track. So we end the list of 10 things you didn’t know before you started to ride on track with “You never get enough of riding on track”. Not everyone will be a true track junky from the start. There are also lots of riders who ride on track once and leave it at that.
But the itch always sticks with you somehow. They don’t want to take the risk, invest the time or money (very understandable too) or have other priorities at the moment. But that experience of your first track day is something you will always remember. And won’t get enough of.
When you start to ride on track it is all exciting and a bit scary. But you will soon discover that that world filled with aggressive-looking riders is actually a world fulled with cosiness. It is not just about speed, although we do everything for that one fast lap. Riding on track is addictive. And it is a financial disaster. But also a beautiful hobby and a fantastic sport.
Do you want to book your first track day? Then take a moment to absorb this list of 10 things you didn’t know before you started to ride on track. Think carefully about what you are about to do and then book it. Book that track day and join the family!