The pros and cons of riding on track with a lap timer



Why we ride on track? “Everything for that one damn quick lap”, we say loudly. But there is some truth hidden in that joke. Because fast lap times make us happy. So many of us ride with a lap timer. Is that thing such a holy grail? We give you the pros and cons of riding on track with a lap timer.

When you just start to ride on track, your lap time might be the last thing you think of. First priority; get around safely. But after a few laps, it all starts to sink in. The nerves disappear for the most part and you start to truly enjoy it. And then the curiosity kicks in.





Let’s first discuss what a lap timer actually is. It is a little device which records your lap time through a GPS signal. This little device comes in many shapes and sizes. And one holds more features than the other. This device may be an add on to your motorcycle or may be built into your bike. And even when it is built into your bike, you can add a separate lap timer device to it. 



More luxurious sport bikes often have a lap timer built into their electronics. One you have to activate yourself, by pushing a certain button. Newer motorcycles like the BMW M1000RR have a build-in device that activates itself automatically when it finds a GPS connection on track.

But the most used lap timer comes in the shape of a stand-alone device. You place it somewhere close to your dash and install it onto the electronics of your bike. There are several lap timer manufacturers. Think of Starlane and Solo. You’ve got luxurious variants and more basic models.



This device is also connected with GPS. Alongside the start-finish straight, there is a module that sends a GPS signal on track. This way, a lap timer can connect with that signal and thus determine the starting- and endpoint of a lap. The bigger circuits have more than one module that send GPS signals. These different modules define sectors on track. So your time can be recorded per sector.

Your lap timer connects with those signals. This way, you know exactly how fast you are per lap, or even per sector on track.



Riding on track with a lap timer comes with certain advantages. It gives you a very detailed insight of what you’re doing. And allows you to train more efficiently. A few pros of riding on track with a lap timer are:

1. You know exactly how fast you’re riding

The biggest advantage of riding on track with a lap timer might be a bit of an open door. You just know exactly how fast you are going. Where lap time stickers seem to fail too often (mostly because you have been a bit stupid yourself and you stuck it on carbon or metal) or get blown off your bike, and where transponders run out of battery, a lap timer hardly ever fails. Unless you forget to charge it, in case it is not connected to your bike’s battery.

Also, the records done by a separate lap timer are often more precise than the ones one by lap timer stickers. Which is no surprise, since a real device can send and receive stronger GPS signals.

Is the speedometer on your bike showing funny numbers due to a different setup of gears? You know, the amount of teeth etcetera? Then the more fancy lap timers help you out. They also record your actual speed based on GPS. So they also function as a stand-alone speedometer.


2. You don’t have to depend on the organisation or local systems

A lap timer works on its own, so you don’t have to depend on the organisation you are riding with. Most organisers of track days work with lap time stickers and communicate those lap times through an online app or on a big screen in the organsers pit box. But that is not the case with every organisation. Some organisations don’t communicate your lap times due on privacy reasons. And keep them to themselves just to properly divide the groups according to speed.

And when they decide to stop the timekeeping for some reason, or when the local system has a malfunction, your lap timer often will still work. So you will still know how fast you’re going.

3. You know exactly what is still to gain. And where

The most luxurious lap times will show you your lap time per sector. This way, you get an insight of in which sector you are the fastest and where you still have time to gain. Therefore, you can train more efficiently. You can tackle certain sectors, turns or braking points.



Riding on track with a lap timer also comes with a few disadvantages. Where you first maybe rode around without a worry, you get more and more focus on performance. Which can be a good thing, but a trap at the same time. A few cons of riding on track with a lap timer are:

1. You start paying more and more attention to your lap times

Paying attention to your lap times can be a positive thing. But it can also work against you. Especially when you are a novice rider on track. When you just start with riding on track, you simply don’t want to focus on your lap times.

So don’t be persuaded to buy a lap timer right away. You simply don’t need it yet. Do a few track days just to ride around and gain experience. Start in a beginners group where you get instruction from experienced riders or racers. Pay attention to your lines, your riding technique and where to look when riding on track. And don’t forget your behaviour and position on the circuit. You get much more out of that than just focusing on your lap times. That speed will come naturally. No worries.

But solely focussing on lap times isn’t just detrimental for novice racers.

riding on track with a lap timer / circuitrijden met een laptimer
Ron's very first laps on Portimão

2. Getting less pleasure out of riding on track itself is lurking

It is a well-know pitfall for experience racers as well, that you only achieve a feeling of success or fun when you have improved your lap time. This should not necessarily be the case. That you only get off that bike with a huge smile on your face when you have ridden a faster lap time. And get off disappointed when you didn’t.

It takes away some of the magic of riding on track. Of just ‘enjoying the ride’. Lap times can put a certain amount of pressure on your shoulders. And that pressure can even cause you to slow down. Because you – knowingly or unknowingly – start to force it. You just have to ride fast. 

In this case, it sometimes can actually do good to turn off that lap timer. It can help you relax. Go out there to ‘just enjoy the ride’ again. Head off with the boys (or girls!) and just enjoy the circuit. Everyone knows; a relaxed rider is a fast rider.

3. Stress and misery when you forget your charger

Is your lap timer not connected to the ECU of your motorcycle? And do you have to charge it with a separate charging cable? And did you forget to bring that charger with you to your track day? Then that sucks, big time.

Believe it or not, I have seen many track riders get stressed out by these kinds of situations. And that is such a shame. Fortunately, you often still have the local timekeeping through the lap time stickers from the organisation. Or a pit box buddy runs the same lap timer and will lend you his or her charger. But starting your track day stressful due to this kind of nonsens is just a shame.


There are several pros and cons to riding on track with a lap timer. You are completely independent of the organization’s timekeeping and you know exactly how fast you are going. This allows you to train very efficiently. It is a favorable advantage, especially for experiences track riders or racers.

But riding on track with a lap timer also has its disadvantages. You often start to pay more and more attention to your lap times. This can affect novice track riders in particular. While they actually benefit the most from focussing on lines, riding technique and where to look while riding on track. 

Focusing too much on lap times can also have a detrimental effect on experienced track riders and racers. We know it’s part of the game, but only getting off the bike satisfied when a certain lap time is achieved or broken, is such a shame.

So don’t get carried away and keep enjoying riding on track. Whether you ride with or without a lap timer.