In this post I am going to provide you with the beginners guide to track days. What to expect, what to bring, and the overall do’s and dont’s. If you are interested in going to a track day but are too scared or nervous, keep reading. By the end of the article you will hopefully have all the information you need. If not, just send us your questions in the comments section below.
Most circuits out there have what they call “track days”. It is generally not organized by the track owners, but rather by external companies that rent the track from the owners for a day.
These external companies advertise the date when they will host a track day and people can sign up either before hand on their website, or on the day at the track. This will depend on the popularity of the track and how the company prefers to run their events.
At the bottom of this article we will post links to some of the companies in South Africa that arrange track days.
What to bring
Here is a list of things to bring to the track for the day:
- Bike (Obviously…)
- Kit (leathers, gloves, helmet etc)
- Extra fuel
- Chain lube
- Basic tools for quick repairs
- Some snacks for lunch if you don’t want to buy at the track
- Water or energy drinks
- Cell Phone
- Camping chair
- Bicycle or Car Pump – You might need to adjust your tire pressure. Only take advice from the instructors!
- Bike Stand (Optional)
- Tire Warmers (Optional)
- Friends and Family (Optional)
What happens at a track day?
When you arrive in the morning, the first thing you will do is unpack everything. Most tracks will have pit facilities that are covered so that your things does not get wet in case it rains. Always make sure that you get to the track as early as possible to avoid missing out on a nice spot in the pits.
Once unpacked, make your way over to the registration desk, where you will need to fill out an indemnity form and pay for the day, if you haven’t done so already.
You will then need to take you bike for scrutineering. This is where one of the instructors will inspect you bike to ensure it is “track worthy”. This means that the tires should not be worn out, there are no loose bits on the bike, no oil leaks, the chain is tensioned correctly and the brakes work correctly. You should do your own check the day before to catch any problems before you get to the track!
Before any group goes out on the track, the marshals will have a briefing with all the riders to go over the rules for the day, the various flags and their meanings etc. Make sure you pay attention here!
Many people think that by going to the track they are putting themselves in danger because they will be riding faster. Although there is an element of truth in this, generally, it is actually much safer than riding on the road. All track have decent run off areas, so the chances of going into the barriers is quite low. Also, there are no cars, potholes and other dangers that you will normally find on public roads.
At all the track days that I have been to, there are medical staff on hand who will help you out in case you have a crash. In fact, if all the medical staff a busy attending to someone, the sessions will be stopped until such time that the medical staff are ready.
Remember, out on the road, there are no rules. On the track, there are very strict rules.
Track days are normally split up into various groups or sessions. When you registered for the event, you will most likely be asked in which group you belong. Most track days are split into 4 groups, namely “A”, “B”, “C” or “D”.
The “A” group are the super fast riders. You will most likely not be in this group, and definitely not if it is your first time at the track. In this group, there are basically no rules in terms of overtaking.
The “B” group also consists of fast guys. Here, the lap times are a bit slower than the “A” group, but are still high enough that most people wont be able to ride comfortably here because you will most likely be overtaken by faster riders all the time. In this group, there are stricter rules when it comes to overtaking, such as, only pass on the outside of another rider.
The “C” group. This is where most of the everyday and occasional track riders are. Lap times are not too fast, and most people can comfortably ride without to much pressure from other riders. In general this should not matter on the track, since everyone is there to learn and have fun, but one cant help thinking of other riders behind you.
The “D” group. This is where all beginners start. From people who are climbing on a bike for the first time, to the people that are more experienced, but ride on the specific track for the first time. Here, there are very strict rules when it comes to overtaking. For example, you can only overtake before the corner starts and only after the corner ends. Even though its the slowest group, be careful here since novice riders can fall more easily, break unexpectedly or run wide in corners. Rather stay clear of them if you are a bit more experienced.
In all of the above groups, instructors will ride on the track along with the “students” in order to provide advice or comments after the session, and to make sure no one is riding dangerously.
Each session normally lasts about 20 minutes. Only other rides in the same group as you can join this session. You might think that 20 minutes is too short for each session, but you will be glad that it is only that long. The track takes its toll on your body especially if you are pushing yourself. After a day of riding, it will feel like you hit the gym for the first time in years!
Since they are about 20 minutes long, they run 3 sessions per hour. This means that roughly every 1.5 hours you will go out on track. In total you should be able to get about 5 to 6 sessions per day.
Again, it does not sound like a lot, but most riders will be completely finished by the end of the day and looking forward to going home and resting a bit.
Getting out on the track
When it is finally your turn to head out on the track, make sure you have kitted up and have the bike running about 5 minutes before. If you have tire warmers, use them to put some heat into your tires while the bike is in the pits. If you don’t have tire warmers, take it easy for the first two or 3 laps so that your tires can warm up. Swerving all over the track like formula 1 drivers does not work for motorcycles. Rather, accelerate hard and brake hard in a straight line.
Once you are out on the track, you will normally need to stay behind the instructors for a few laps. Use this time to watch their lines and get familiar with the track. Look for markers around the track you can use as braking points, viewing points in corners etc.
Eventually the instructors will allow the riders to pass them, and this means that you can open up and have fun.
That is pretty much how most track days work! Obviously each company that arranges such an event does it a little different than the next, but this is pretty much what you can expect.
Remember that going to a track is not just about looking cool and going fast. Its about improving your riding skills, which will benefit everyone on the road!
Links to Track Day Events
Check out the below websites for more information about events coming up!
http://www.zwartkops.co.za/zwartkops-events-card/ Check out “Brunch Cruise for Motorcycles”
More to be added…