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  • Your first track day what to expect Part I

    Part 1

    In my discussions with numerous people about this topic some of the main concerns are all the same, what if I crash my bike, I am nervous, I am not that fast, I never rode on a track before and I don’t know what I am doing. All of these concerns are normal and justified as well.

    Riding a motorcycle on a track with other people does involve some risk. The possibility of crashing is very real, and it does happen. But there are ways to mitigate this possibility. If this is your very first time on a track, the best advice I can give is to first check your ego at the door. No matter how fast you think you are on the street, riding on a track is very different, and there will be people a lot faster than you. Even if it their first time as well, they might be dragging knees and putting down faster laps then you are riding. The key is NOT to get caught up in that. RIDE YOUR OWN RIDE. Ride at your own skill level. You need to understand that you are in control of your own actions, and not get caught up with racing other people or friends. You goal of your first time on the track is to just get out there and do it. Pop your track cherry sorta speak. Once you try chasing someone faster, or think that you are an experienced track rider is when you get into trouble and will end up off the track or on the pavement. The best advice is to just learn the track, and get used to the feeling of riding on it, learning the correct lines of the track and the overall feeling of being out there. Again this is a dangerous sport, and we want everyone to have a fun and SAFE time. If you think safety first, and don’t let an inflated ego get the best of you, then you have a great chance of loading you and your bike up in one piece at the end of the day. That is the second goal, after getting the feeling of what is like to be on a race track, you want to load your bike and yourself up in one piece at the end of the day. Remember there are no prizes for a track day, no first place trophies…… NOT CRASHING is a goal for the day.

    Being nervous the first time is normal, realize that and accept that, this is something new, and you don’t know what to expect hopefully we can give some insight into what you will expect and that will ease some of your nerves. If you have friends who have done this before try to plan a trip when they go, having friends who know the rules, what to expect and have done this before is a great way to ease your nerves. They can offer advice; you can ask your friends questions and get good advice. One little trick I used to do is to bring a sleeping pill for the night before I ride. This will help you get a good night’s sleep since you are nervous and excited. It is so important to be well rested. Don’t be fooled this isn’t a casual ride the street, you need to be fully rested and alert when you get out there, especially for your first time, you’ll be on sensory overload. Again that is normal, but being well rested will help you focus better and be mentally prepared to absorb what you are going to learn.

    Since this is your first time, accept that you will not be that fast. Most tracks or track day organizers offer three different groups, Novice, Intermediate and advanced. These are determined by experience and lap times (lap times are the amount of time it take a person to do a lap around the track. A lap timer is used, but at a novice level isn’t needed and can only get you into trouble). Don’t concern yourself with what your lap times are, you’ll hear more experienced riders talking about their times. Don’t fall into this trap, being a novice track rider you’ll get sucked into trying to beat your own times and it could end in a crash. I have seen this happen to several people during their first or second time on the track. You will naturally get faster just by riding on the track more frequently, your last session of the day you will be faster than your first. So don’t worry about lap times. Most tracks and track day organizations will do a control ride or a lead/follow ride for the first session for all the novice riders, and first time riders at that track. Also some tracks require intermediate and advanced riders to also do this control ride if it is their first time at this track. This ride is a very slow paced ride, the purpose is to show new riders, and riders who have never ridden there before where all the corner workers are, the lines of the track, and how to properly pit in and pit out. Corner workers are people who work for the track, and are stationed at points all over the track; they will signal to the riders (through the use of colored flags) what is happening further up on the track. It is important to know where their stations are so you can see if a Yellow caution flag is being used. Pitting in or Pitting out is when you enter or exit the track. When you pit out, you are entering onto the track, and when you pit in, you are exiting, or leaving the track. Some tracks have spots where you need to signal before coming off the track so those behind you know that you are doing so, Pitting in. This way once you know how and where to pit in and out, you can communicate to riders behind you what you are going to do, and again, provide a safe day for everyone.

    Ok so now you have arrived at the track, got your bike and everything all set up. You got a good night’s sleep and now it is the morning of the track day, what will happen??? Depending on the track or the group organizing it this will vary pretty much. Most tracks and promoters will do a morning riders meeting. In this meeting they will discuss things such as Flags, what each flag means and what the riders need to do in the event of each flag being used. You will also hear about the rules of the track, or the track day, such as passing rules, pit in and pit out rules, rules of the track or organization and how everyone will be divided into groups and the amount of time each group gets on the track. Remember you are on sensory overload now, the time is getting closer so try to pay attention, this meeting is very important, and you need to know exactly what to expect and how to react in each situation. Usually after the riders meeting there will be a novice riders meeting. This meeting is for all the novice riders, and some tracks or promoters will do some classroom discussion. Again, yes you are excited, but you need to listen to what is being said during these meetings. I have seen a lot of new riders making a lot of first time mistakes on a track that can upset people, or endanger others… Yes we all make mistakes, but if the person had just paid attention during these rider meetings, those situations could have been avoided. So LISTEN!!!!!! If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for the others on the track around you.