Track Day: Are You As Ready As Your Bike?

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Are You As Ready As Your Bike

If only I knew then what I know now…

Nearly a decade ago, an older, wiser rider named John dragged me to a local track day, after witnessing me push the limits too far, too many times on our group rides in Kentucky. In the week leading up to the event, I was a bundle of nerves. Naively, I couldn’t stop wondering if the bike was ready, and spent hours poring over the entire thing. I changed the oil, lubed the chain, upgraded the drivetrain, changed the brake pads and added stainless steel braided lines. I washed it, waxed it, even safety-wired a few bolts.

I was such a basket case the night before the track day that I slept for only an hour, hovering over the bike until the wee hours, trying to make sure everything was perfect. The next morning, when we rolled into the paddock at Putnam Park in rural Indiana, the bike was gleaming, immaculate, and meticulously prepared for a day in which it would tool around clumsily in Novice, mostly missing apexes and braking far more than is necessary. But it looked good doing it!

I, on the other hand, was a total disaster.

My new girlfriend (who inexplicably agreed to marry me some years after this debacle) drove all the way to the track so I could pass out in the passenger seat. We arrived with a rented trailer, a smattering of tools, a rear stand, and two jugs of Gatorade we had picked up at a gas station just off the highway. No cooler, no canopy to block the sun, not even a chair.

Ah, youth and inexperience.

Today, my routine is far more polished. I try to stay at or close to the track the night before, get a full night of sleep, and bring plenty of tools, spares, shade, chairs, gas cans and more. My track day checklist is pages long, and it should be. But the most crucial reform I’ve made over the years has been to prepare myself as meticulously as I prepare my equipment.

In the coming days, I’m going to try and save you, whether you’re new to the track this season or a veteran of many, from the mistakes I made. We’ll talk hydration, nutrition and fitness, and have you fueling and maintaining your body as attentively you do your machine. When you do, you’ll find that you are able to enjoy your track experience that much more. Stay tuned!

  • Scheffy

    Hurry up and post these articles – first track day of the season is this Friday!

  • Clint Keener

    Should I do a school before a trackday? Or can I use the instruction at the day of the event? I’m not a total noob, but I don’t know what I don’t know.

    • PyroRick

      Google lee parks total control. See if there is a class near you. It is a great prep class for track days….or any riding you do. In addition use the trackday instruction…but it can be hit or miss on how good the instruction is at the track.

      • Piglet2010

        Total what??? http://www.totalcontroltraining.net/

        Even better is a TC-1 one class (which you have to have done ARC 1 to take). Lee and another lead instructor man the hot pits, which other TC instructors man selected corners on a supermoto track and radio in their observations. Do a few laps, get waved into the pits for feedback, go back out, etc. Speeds are much less intimidating to the newbie that on a full size track, but everything you learn translates to faster speeds.

    • Divino Paran

      some groups have free intro schools as part of the track day. They won’t let you out on your own until you finish the class and get assessed. check with the organization you are going to ride with.

    • Mugget

      (I think this didn’t post correctly on 1st attempt:)

      In the theme of this post, “if I only knew then what I know now…”

      Iwish I had done CSS as soon as I could ride a bike, best training I have ever done by a long shot!! I would highly recommend the same to anyone else, specifically to do CSS if you can, as soon as you can ride. Don’t get me wrong, any training is better than nothing. I did lots of different training before I went to CSS, I learned some valuable points from each lot of training I undertook. But nothing even came close to being so thoroughly improving my riding like CSS.

      The thing that alot of people don’t appreciate is that motorcycling is not natural, and it’s not intuitive. You don’t learn to be a good rider by just riding and getting “seat time”. Most likely you’ll just learn bad habbits and scare yourself in the process. I just mention that to highlight the importance of training! Go get some!

  • Chris McAlevy

    So I’m signed up for my first trackday/school at the local track early next month. I plan on riding my ’97 Duke. My issue: I don’t have a trailer, and I don’t have a good way of storing anything on the Duke. My plan was to fill a backpack with as much water and food as I could carry. Do I need to get a friend to drive there with me and bring supplies? This article makes it sound like I’ll be miserable if I don’t bring a canopy and chairs and the like, but I have no good way of doing that on my own.

    • PyroRick

      Figure out a way to get your bike there by trailer if you can. Uhaul rents trailer…borrow/rent a truck to tow it. If not, yes have a friend drive there with supplies….cooler, food, shade, tape, tools, extra gas..etc.

      • Dan

        Rick’s right. Riding to the track is risky business. A simply lowside could leave you stranded, and even if you don’t have an off, you’ll be exhausted at the end and in no mood to ride home.

        In terms of gear, whether you need a canopy, food, fuel, etc. partly depends on what’s available at the track. For example, my local track (NJMP) rents garages and sells gasoline, food and drinks. So if you’re a novice you can get away with a lot less stuff than you might need at other places. If you’re in a school, they may have classroom space set up for you (so no need for a chair, etc.). So see what’s available at your track, and you can allocate backpack space accordingly.

        You’ll find that people who go to the track a lot have an appocalyptic approach to packing. This is because (as you’re about to learn) track riding is among the most fun things you can do on earth. So to limit the number of things that can interfere, you bring basically an entire extra bike’s worth of spares.

        I wouldn’t let this deter you at first, though. Rent a pickup truck if you can, or bribe your friend to ferry stuff there for you, or just put what you can in a backpack. After you go once or twice, you’ll have a good sense of what you need. Don’t forget sunblock and ear plugs!

    • runnermatt

      I haven’t participated in a track day yet, but having done many Autocrosses in the FedEx Field parking lot I can say that driving 2 hours home afterwards sucks, especially on a 95 degree day (130 degree pavement) and changing tires twice. Knowing that I’m not going to ride to my first track day.

      But rather renting a truck and trailer rent a work van. The have a lower load height no need to worry about backing up a trailer, room for everything. Lastly, if you go for a van try and get the tall version of a Mercedes Sprinter or the new Ford Transit (not the Transit Connect, that is the little one). The extra height of the tall ones will be very welcome when loading your bike as you won’t have duck while pushing you bike up the ramp.

      Lastly, look for the ride apart video on how to load a bike. The watch all the bike loading fail videos so you know what not to do. Thrower thing you want to do is crash your bike while loading it the night before or morning of your first track day.

  • Ryan Deckard

    Ah good ole Putnam Park. Decent place, just upgraded facilities there

  • Divino Paran

    subscribed!

  • Mugget

    I’ve just got to mention that there’s no reason why a track day has to be a big deal with trailers, trucks and vans, motorhomes etc….

    Every single track day I’ve done over the years I’ve ridden out there, except for one. Yeah it’s slightly more comfortable to be able to take all your gear off at the end of the day and drive home or to a motel. But there is also more hassle in loading and unloading bikes and gear.

    You don’t really need much – a tank bag and a backpack, plenty of room to carry what you need. A small fold up stool in the backpack, a 5L jerry can in the tank bag if needed, some basic tools (basically your bike tool kit plus anything extra for aftermarket parts), food – how much do you really need? Planning a 3 course lunch or something? Water – I thought water was supplied by all good track day providers?

    To me that’s so much easier, ride there, ride for the day, ride home. What’s the problem? I like riding, so there is no problem!

    I will mention that as soon as my van is fitted out (mobile workshop, fridge, lounge, sink etc.) I will absolutely be using it for transporting the bike to track days. But that is only so I can enjoy the luxury that it provides. People gotta realise the difference between luxury and necessity. You’re not going to be miserable just because you ride to a track day!