RIDING DIFFERENT BIKES. RACING SOME
You booked your first track day. After weeks or months of waiting, the day has finally arrived. You will attend your very first track day. Curiosity, excitement and nerves all race through your body. What to expect on your first track day?
You ride your bike to the circuit on the day of the event. Or bring it with you on a trailer or in a van. As a novice track rider, you don’t have to worry about stuff like tyre warmers yet. So you just get your bike, your motorcycle outfit and you head over there.
You roll through the gates of the circuit and will probably see some vans, bikes and people already. And many of them will greet you with a smile. The people of the organisation will give you a warm welcome in their pit box. So what now?
Table of Contents:
1. Camp at the circuit or get there in the morning
2. Let them know you are there
3. Check your tyre pressure and fuel level
4. Listen up. Attend the briefing
5. Four to seven sessions of pure fun
6. Debrief after each session
7. What if it rains?
8. Extra tips to get through your track day safely
Most intermediate and advanced racers attend the event the evening before it actually starts. And camp on the parking lot or sleep in a hotel nearby. They already prepared their bikes with tyre warmers etcetera, so they just have to plug them in and are good to go whenever their tyres are warm.
As a novice track rider, you don’t necessarily have to camp there overnight. Or stay at an hotel the night before your first track day. You can. It will give you more time to sleep, since you don’t have to get up early to get there on time. But if you live close to the circuit, you definitely don’t have to. You could just go there at the day of the event.
Once you got to the circuit, you park your motorbike somewhere and head over to the pit box of the organisation. You let them know you are there and pick up your riding number.
This number is a set of stickers which you stick on the front of your motorcycle. Some organisations work with stickers that show your entire number. For example; your riding number is 183. Then the sticker will show that number. Others work with separate numbers and stickers. In that case, you will receive a sticker with the number 1, one with the number 8 and one with number 3. Which you stick on your bike in the right order.
You might also receive a time registration sticker or transponder. Not every organisation works with this sticker or with a transponder in the novice group. But some do. In that case, you stick the time keeping sticker somewhere on the front of your bike. The crew will tell you where exactly. Just don’t stick it on carbon or steel parts.
The crew will tell you which group you are in. You will be in the novice group (also called ‘Group 1’) of course, but based on which riding style you opted for, you ride in a certain group within the novice group. They are often indicated by a letter. For example; group 1A. This is the fastest group in the novice group. 1B will ride a bit slower, 1C a bit slower than B etcetera.
At least, that’s the idea. It can go all the way down to H. You often ride in groups of 3 to 6 people.
Next up in ‘what to expect on your first track day’ is your tyre pressure. Which is something you don’t want to forget to check.
Did you ride your bike to your first track day? Then make sure you drop the tyre pressure a bit before you go out on track. Not too much. Especially if you want to take it easy and your bike has real road tyres. Road tyres like the Michelin Pilot Road’s need a certain tyre pressure to work well.
On average, a cold pressure of 2.2 to 2.3 bar in the front tyre and 2.0 to 2.3 bar in the rear tyre works well for road tyres.
Are you in doubt? There is a tyre service present at basically every track day. This is where one can buy new tyres. Or switch tyres in case it starts to rain. Those guys and girls are happy to give you some advice, specialised for your specific pair of tyres.
Also check whether you have enough fuel. You can often get fuel somewhere on the circuit, or close by. Do you go to the circuit by car, with your bike on a trailer? Then you could bring canisters with fuel with you. Keep in mind that buying fuel on or close to circuits will almost always be a bit more expensive than in your local town.
So you got to the circuit safely, registered at the pit box of the crew and checked your bike for tyre pressure and fuel. What’s next in what to expect on your first track day? The briefing!
When you attend your first track day, you will start the track day with a briefing. The crew will tell you which rules apply on track. How to get out of pit lane safely, to enter the track. But also how to safely exit the circuit at the end of your session. Or when something is wrong with your bike.
They will also tell you what the different flags mean, which can be actual flags or big screens that show a ‘digital’ flag.
This briefing is mandatory. You often receive a little sticker afterwards, which you stick on your helmet. This way, the crew knows you ‘know’ the rules when you enter the circuit.
After the briefing, it is time for some rock ’n roll!
You will ride 4 to 8 sessions per track day, depending on your organisation. Most track days consist out of 5 session of about 15 tot 20 minutes each.
Before your very first session of your first track day, you head to parc ferme or pit lane (depends on the track and/or organisation) with your motorcycle and park it at the right cone or sign. The cone or sign will wear a certain letter. If you are in group 1E, you search for that ‘E’. There you will meet your instructor and fellow riders.
You will do a little introduction round, the instructor will tell you a few more things and then you all head out on track one group at the time.
Within the novice group, overtake maneuvers are only done on certain parts on the circuit, always only when the instructor says so and are done with the whole group within the formation you are riding.
So if your group C is faster than group A (happens more often than you’d think. Has something to do with ego, they say), you will take over group A when your instructor says so. If you are riding 3rd in line within your group, you keep that place. Also during the take over maneuver.
Your instructor will show you the most ideal lines to ride, maybe even where to look, shift or open the throttle.
But mostly; you will have a lot of fun. Guaranteed.
After each session, you debrief for a minute. Your instructor will share with your group what he or she has seen. Things he or she noticed, specified per person. So each of you get tips and something to work on.
After the debrief, you heard back to the paddock with your bike, and park it again. Probably where you parked before you went out. Then the other groups – the intermediate and advanced ones – go out. And you wait until it is your turn again.
I can’t remember how many times it has happened to me by now. You book a track day in the middle of summer. You live up to that day with great excitement. You wake up the day before the event, or even worse; the day of the event itself and boom. Rain is pouring down. What now?
The event will go on, also when it rains. Of course, track days are most fun when it is sunny and warm outside. At least, that is when most riders feel comfortable working on their technique. And picking up some speed.
Does it rain on your first track day? Then we fully get it if you don’t want to ride on track. It can be intimidating as it is, even without rain. And a wet track only adds to that intimidation. So you might want to cancel immediately, but you won’t get your money back. You do have the option to resell your track day to someone who doesn’t mind rain. But before you through a post online to resell your spot on certain social media platforms.. Can we please have your attention for a moment?
Because riding on track in the rain is really, really helpful. And interesting. Scary, yes. But very, very good for your technique. We even dare to say, that riding on track in the rain often makes you a better rider in general.
Because you have to ride fluently. No motorcycle is a fan of abrupt and sudden moves or interventions in general, but even less so when it’s wet. You have to be subtle on the throttle and on the brakes. And you have be very aware of your position on track. So it all adds to the dynamics of track riding.
We know a lot of (hobby) racers who are like cats. And don’t go out when a single drop of rain starts to fall. But we do want to encourage you to ride, even if it rains on your first track day.
Besides learning even more on your first track day, you will gain a huge amount of confidence. We promise you. And not that it really matters, but also a lot of respect in the track day community. Do you have regular road tires on your bike? Then just go, even if it rains. You won’t regret it. (We know there is a slim chance you will actually go, but at least we’ve tried).
So that’s mostly it, in terms of what to expect on your first track day! Last but not least, we’ve got some extra tips for you.
Since you will probably be overwhelmed at your first track day, we’d like to give you some tips to safely get through that day.
1. Take a moment for yourself in between sessions
While we know chatting with your group-mates is real fun, also take a moment for yourself in between sessions. To sit down, let it all sink in and catch your breath for a bit.
You will learn a lot during your first track day. And will hear a lot too. Let is all sink in. Pick a few things you want to work on and focus on those things. Don’t go crazy and try to work on everything at once. And also take a moment to slow down, let your mind and body get a rest. Maybe even close your eyes during the lunch break to take a little nap.
This is your day. So take care of yourself.
2. Drink up and eat something
Riding on track is intense. Especially when it’s hot outside. But also when temperatures are nice and doable, riding on track requires lots of focus. So you focus, all the time. This might let you forget to drink and eat something. Which is a shame, because both are important to keep you energized and focused.
So put your water and food in plain sight, so you can’t forget about it. Your instructor will also remind you to drink and eat something after almost every session. Take that advice to heart. It will do wonders.
3. Ask for help if you are in doubt
Not sure which tire pressure to run? Of whether the current pressure is still suited for rising temperatures? Just ask one of the instructors to help you out. They are very willing to do so.
Also let your instructor know if you are riding above 80% of your limit. Don’t let it linger for one more session.
For example; if you notice during session two that you have to force your limits to keep up with the group, then make this known to your instructor. You can do this during the session by creating a gap between you and the one who is riding in front of you. Your instructor will notice and bring down the pace.
In case you were able to keep up with the pace, but did have to ride above 80% of your limits, then also tell that to your instructor after the session.
It is very exhausting to ride on your limits all the time. Which can result in dangerous situations, whenever you loose focus for a second. Don’t feel ashamed, bothered, or insecure. There is absolutely no shame in this. We are not racing here. We are riding our first track day. Which should be fun, helpful and safe. For everyone, including you.
What to expect on your first track day? Well, mostly a whole lot of fun. And a warm welcome. Because when you take the leap to ride on track, you run right into one big, happy family.
The crew will do everything they can to provide you with the best experience. They will tell you where to put all the stickers, where to go for the briefing and where you head to when your session is about to start.
Your instructor will take you safely around the track and give you personalised advice and tips. Take it all in and work on one thing at the time. And mostly; don’t forget to enjoy the heck out of the day. Your first track day. You’ve got this!