5 Reasons Motorcycles Are Better Than Cars For Track Days

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Powersports enthusiasts love taking machines to their limits. It’s part of our DNA and is seen in every subsection of motorsports, with racing as the pinnacle of mastering one’s craft. Track days are incredibly fun, whether you’re just learning to better control your vehicle, or racing against your friends or striving toward your own personal best. At RideApart, we think that motorcycles are better than cars for track days; here’s why.

It Costs Less

Let’s put aside the cost of the actual vehicle, since you can prep pretty much anything to be ready for the track and everyone knows a guy who knows a guy who got a great deal and only spent $4 for their Miata or Suzuki SV650. Outside of the purchase of the vehicle, it costs way less to do a track day on a motorcycle than a car.

Assuming you own your own vehicle, a track day at Laguna Seca in a car starts at $350 (average track day elsewhere costs around $200-$250) whereas on a bike, it starts at $290 (average track day elsewhere costs $125-$150).

The average set of track tires for a car costs between $800-$1200 and they will last three or four track sessions. The average set of track tires for a motorcycle cost $300-$400 and lasts five or six sessions. Likewise, brake pads will be twice as expensive for a car than a motorcycle.

Lastly, you’ll use quite a bit less gas on a motorcycle, the average being about $75-$100 for a motorcycle and close to $200 for an automobile.

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You Go Faster

This is obviously comparing apples and oranges because there are no equivalent bike to car comparisons. However, the Porsche GT3 RS forums list averages at Laguna Seca in the 2:00 range, with 1:45 as the benchmark for being “fast,” and 1:33.62 as the fastest time on record. A Corvette forum listed similar numbers. In comparison, 1:40 is considered the average rank of skilled motorcyclists on the same track, with the “fast” guys in the mid 1:30′s and the fastest in the high 1:20′s. Or here, at the famed Nurburgring, where the Suzuki GSX-R1000 has a time of 7:46 which is faster than BMW M3, Chevy C6 Z06, Ferrari 599, and Lamborghini Murcielago. There isn’t a faster car till you get in the Pagani Zonda range.

Plus motorcycles, generally speaking, accelerate a whole lot faster than cars. While only a few of us can push a bike around Laguna Seca at times faster than a car, we can all enjoy the added acceleration.

Obviously this will vary with the rider, vehicle, equipment, set-up, and weather, but you get my point. Let’s not forget, too, how much faster 140 mph feels on a motorcycle than in a car.

Motorcycles Are Easier To Transport

You can fit your motorcycle into just about any truck, trailer, or van to get it to the track. With a car, you either have to drive it there and do the prep then, or have a giant trailer and something to pull it with. Not only is it easier to get your bike to the track, it’s also another area that’s much cheaper.

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You Get To Drag Parts Of Your Body On The Ground

Sure, feeling the G-force or drifting around a corner is cool. I’m not gonna lie and say that track days in a car aren’t fun. But let’s get serious here, what is cooler than dragging a knee, or even better, an elbow or helmet? There is just a level of connectedness and excitement that exists when sitting on top of a machine, controlling it at it’s limits, and doing it really, really well.

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Life In 3D vs. 2D

When you sit in a car, you control the forward/backwards motion (or more accurately how fast you go forward) and the side to side motion of the car. Sure, some G’s are felt as you round corners, you may feel like you’re going to flip at times, you may even get a wheel or two off the ground. But when you ride a track on a motorcycle, physics tug at the light machine in all sorts of directions, allowing you to control not only the forward and side to side motion, but also the lean angles required to corner quickly. It’s a much more dynamic experience requiring the rider to control a higher level of variables.

Which do you think is best on the track, cars or bikes? Be sure to tell the guys at MotorTrend

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  • Piglet2010

    For cheap track day thrills, pick up a used Ninja 250 for $2-2.5K – accelerates about as fast as an older Miata, uses about $25 in gas a day, tires last relatively forever, and parts are cheap when you do crash.

    • bammerburn

      Or even better, a SV650. Healthy little vtwin = carrying corner speed. Also cheap all around. Better aftermarket. Plus, SVrider.com is superior to Ninja 250 forums. :P

      • roma258

        Yup, and unless you’re an A group rider, a quality set of Supersport street rubber will easily last multiple track days. Something along the lines of Dunlop Sportmax Q2/Q3.

        Downside, getting stuck behind liter bikes parking it in the corners and taking off on the straights :)

      • Stephen Mears

        SV650. The miata of motorcycles.

        • bammerburn

          Is this a good or bad thing?

          • Admiral Slow

            I consider it a good thing… I’ve run an SV on the track from a beginning track day rider to an “A” group track day rider to a terrified amateur racer to a regional championship this year and on to being a back of the pack expert next season.

        • runnermatt

          The Miata is one of, if not the lightest cars, for the money, available in the U.S. currently. I don’t know how much a SV650 weighs, but I doubt close to being one of the lightest motorcycles. CBR250R is probably the better comparison to the Miata. Ninja 300 would be equivalent to the Subaru BRZ.

          • Stephen Mears
          • Chanson

            I think his reference was more in line with what people do with these vehicles, not their spec sheet. Most of these machines (Miata and SV) end up on the track, or in the canyons and take a beating without worry.

            • runnermatt

              I can see and understand that point.

      • Piglet2010

        Well, at least one can get better tires for the SV650 than the pre-gen Ninjette.

    • Jason Smith

      Or a supermoto, because dirtbike…
      In all honesty a 250 or 450 single is going to be torquier than a 250 twin and with appropriate sliders, it takes a pretty gnarly crash to really do any damage. They do leg-out in a hurry though so they’re most fun on tight tracks.

      • Piglet2010

        If I come across a used WR250X that has not been beaten or badly modified, I might consider it.

        • Jason Smith

          How did you know I happen to have a WR250X? I’ve gotta say, it’s not the fastest bike you’ll ever ride, but it is a lot of fun on the right roads and a damn good commuter.
          Right now I’m looking at possibly a pre-2012 Street Triple R (I know the new one’s better but I just don’t really like the look of them) or maybe a FZ-09, once I see one in the flesh. I’ll admit, I want to see how they look in person. They have potential for some hideous angles.

          • Piglet2010

            My Triumph dealer has been putting the lights from the Thunderbird on Street and Speed Triples for customers who do not like the “insect eyes” headlights.

  • Justin McClintock

    5 reasons? I figured for bikes vs. cars at the track you’d have a good 50 reasons or so!

    • Kr Tong

      I’m surprised he needed any.

      I am still waiting for the motorcycle lemons race series. With a course at Sonoma that combines the two tracks with a creamy gymkhana middle.

      • Justin McClintock

        THAT WOULD BE AWESOME!!! And my DT175 would qualify! (And proceed to come in dead last….)

      • Danny Horein

        We took a stab at hosting one this year, but not enough teams finished their bikes. Our criteria was the bike could cost no more than $600 including repairs and had to be 1985 or older. It was a relay race with a grid start. First rider comes in after 5 laps and hands the bike off to the next rider. 3 riders total.

  • disqus_SB5uBoEFy2

    Wow, $75-$100 in GAS per track day? That’s at least 300 miles.. where are these track days that you get to ride that much in a day?

    • Stephen Mears

      That has to be high. A full day at Summit Point, being 6-7 15 minute sessions usually uses 1 3/4 5 gallon tanks for me, and that’s on an 1125R.

      • Brian

        I guess it also depends on whether you are paying for VP-20 or one of the other high octane race specific fuels AT the track versus just regular pump gas, but I do agree that the estimate for $75+ for fuel for a bike is a little on the outrageous side.

    • Stuki

      They’re motojournos, who get to wheelie Panigale Rs at 200mph around empty MotoGP tracks all day………

  • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

    Was a national average, and California is slightly higher, but Streets of Willow is $135/$145 depending on what club you go through. Buttonwillow is $160, Chuckwalla $170.

    • Stephen Mears

      Nice tracks at nice prices. We get $199 trackdays (before any discounts if you qualify) out here at Summit Point in WV.

      • disqus_SB5uBoEFy2

        What organization are you going through? Motorcyclexcitement keeps sending out emails about the $175 track day this weekend – it’s normally $225 (plus $25 membership fee annually). NESBA did a day at Shenandoah Circuit for $75 awhile back !!! and I still can’t figure out why the fuq I didn’t jump on it.

        • Stephen Mears

          I typically go with Roger and his folks at Motorcyclexcitement. They have put out a few great deals at the end of this season, but I was just quoting their usual price.

  • NoneMoreBlack

    An important difference I would point out is that in a car at a track, you are trying to learn “performance” driving techniques that have extremely limited applications on the street. On a bike, learning to control tire slip or keep the front from tucking could save your life on the street.

  • Stephen Mears

    I’m expecting Jalopnik to counter with an article titled, “The 1 Reason Cars Are Better Than Motorcycles For Track Days”.
    What’s with the Motortrend link? Am I supposed to be responding to an article?

  • Brian

    so, what about the comparison to the amount of damage and logistics surrounding dealing with it between a car and a bike? I know it is a gruesome thing to think about in certain circumstances, but I’d bet the costs of dealing with the aftermath can be quite eye opening for the casual person(s).

  • Stuki

    I’d also add maintenance costs. Hammering a “street car” around a track on racing tires, exposes it to all manners of loads it was never designed to handle. Even something as well sorted as a Miata just ends up needing all kinds of care and attention once the tires get sticky and the going gets fast.

    Bikes are both made for that kind of treatment (the most popular sportbikes are fairly close to full on racers out of the box), and generally limited more by rider skill and balls, and by physics/geometry (lean, stoppies, wheelies limits forces imposed on it regardless of tires); than cars are.

    And that’s for paved tracks. Offroad, the maintenance difference between even the most high strung KTM and a similar Baja truck (or any truck fed a steady diet of jumps), isn’t even on the same planet.

  • TP

    All I can think about is how I can’t f-ing wait for the RC390. Do we have any clue when that’ll be coming out stateside?

    • Piglet2010

      I asked my KTM dealer, and they have not yet been told if the RC390 (or Duke 390 for that matter) is coming to the US. But something that weighs about the same as a pre-gen Ninjette with 50% more power and better suspension and tire choices would be fun.

      I am not up on the gray market, but you could likely import one as a track only bike (but the shipping on replacement parts would be a killer economically).

  • Sebastian Koch

    On the track I prefer a car with a well sorted suspension set-up, but that is because if I fall off a bike it seriously hurts, in a car you just end up in the gravel pit if you overdid it.
    I don’t have to push my limits on a motorcycle, I prefer to have my bones in on piece and the chances in a car are “slightly” higher that they stay that way.

    PS: car for the track BMW 318iS, and on the Nürburgring this is faster around the corners than 90% of the bikes…I don’t care much about straight-line acceleration, any idiot can do that.

    PSS: MX-5s are hairdressers cars :P

    • Robert Horn

      How do you like your MX-5?

      • carbon

        Zing!

      • Sebastian Koch

        with 1.88 metres I do not fit into an MX-5 without looking over the window frame…and really nobody drives these cars here on a track, they are parked in front of cafés.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Learn to ride, I think you’d like it.

      • Sebastian Koch

        You asked, I answered ;)

        I rather use my motorcycle for touring and exploring, tomorrow I’ll go to Southern France to ride one week in the Pyrenees, that will be heaps of fun.

        btw: I learn everytime I ride, but I think I do rather well with my riding skills, managed to stay out of the trouble since I made my license last year

      • Piglet2010

        It is a lot harder for some of us – getting up to speed and finding the limit in a car happens more quickly for me, even though I have had 10 times the advanced training on a bike. But the learning part is fun in appropriate doses.

        And at least last time out I was faster on my Ninjette around the track than the guy on the BMW G650 Xcountry.

  • roma258

    To me, car track days are almost the exclusive domain of rich guys. I could be wrong and I realize there’s autocross, etc… But no way could I afford to store, maintain, transport and track a dedicated track car. With a bike- $2k for a track prepped SV, sharing a garage with a couple dudes, split a trailer and you’re good to go! Plus I can’t imagine car track days being anywhere as thrilling or involving.

    • Chris McAlevy

      Who says you need a dedicated track car to do track days?
      There’s obviously a point of involvement where you can’t just use your DD, but for occasional HPDE’s, go have fun in your daily.

  • Frank Lee

    One test I’d like to see. Take a Superbike w/rider and GT car w/driver and have them make a lap, Then put the driver on the bike and the bike rider in the car. My bet is the bike rider will come closer to matching the lap time of the driver than visa versa. The point, it takes more talent to push a motorcycle around a track at it’s limit than it does a car.

    • Chris McAlevy

      Or that a fast motorcycle rider is more likely to have sginificant experience driving a car fast than a fast car driver is to have significant experience riding a motorcycle fast.

      • Frank Lee

        Maybe, but most racers I know have never taken a car around a track at speed, or even drive one at speed on the street. Of course I would pick a car driver with bike riding experience to make is reasonably fair. My point, I think, aside from F1, pushing a bike to the limit takes more raw skill that a car, especially in the GP/WSB level. Just my opinion.

  • Judy Faass

    At Pueblo Motorsports Park in Pueblo Co, a full day of lapping 8am to 4pm is $150. Half day is $100. Lots of seat time for motorcycles!

  • zombarian

    This article would be more complete if it mentioned supermoto/scooter track days and autocross.

  • Mark Jarvis

    On a bike expensive body parts can be fixed at a hospital, unless you are American without health insurance in which case better to have the car, which gets fixed at a body shop

  • Luis Taracena

    All I know is that my $5,000.00 SV650 does a 1/4 mile faster than a Corvette Z06 that cost I do not know how much…

  • runnermatt

    I found this article this morning. I remembered reading years ago. Thought everyone would find it interesting. From the December 1996 issue of Car & Driver, “Dodge Viper GTS vs. Yamaha YZF1000R” Car & Driver drove the Viper, Cycle World rode the Yamaha.

    http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/dodge-viper-gts-vs-yamaha-yzf1000r-archived-road-test