First Track Day, maybe next year.
November 14, 2010 at 8:21 pm #4271JtownJJAParticipant
With all the unusually sunny weather this week, I had the chance to do quite a bit of riding. As the week progressed, I found my self taking the freeway more. I usually want to stay away from busy freeways, especially the outer-belt around Columbus. However, this week I found myself jumping at the chance to take the freeway, enjoying every minute of it! It must be the high-speeds and the no-stopping. I told the folks I work with that I’m starting to enjoy riding my bike more when it gets dangerous!
That made me start thinking about trying to get into a track day up at Mid-Ohio next year. I was wondering if some of you track guys could tell me what I would expect to get into for a first-ever track day event as a novice. I was reading the mid-ohio website for details. Looks like I may need some more gear, and some bike changes? Tape over plastic and glass (mirrors)?? Remove center stand? Does all that sound familiar? Some requirements do not apply to the novice group, only the intermediate and advanced groups.November 14, 2010 at 10:54 pm #28787Jeff in KentuckyParticipant
By a guy with a lot of experience (not me for track days):
You do not need to own a truck or a trailer to get your bike to the track. Uhaul rents trailers for as little as $15/day that you can tow behind a Honda Civic. You would be able to fit everything on this list in a small vehicle with a trailer.
-THE KEY – Make sure you have the key to your bike. It sucks getting to the track without your key. I keep a spare in my truck just in case.
-Tires – Must have “at least 85% tread life” is what most organizers ask for. Race tires are not needed or required, especially if you are riding in the novice group. If this is your first track day you should be concentrating on learning proper track etiquette and technique, going fast enough to really push the limits of your street tires will come later. Once you start doing more track days you’ll know when it is time to switch to race rubber. If you have the money then by all means you can run race tires but they’re really not needed.
-Remove or tape over the mirrors – Check with the organizer to see if they require the mirrors completely removed.
-Tape over all lights/reflectors – Also disconnect and/or remove the headlight bulbs so they don’t melt the adhesive on the tape and make it harder to remove. Use painters masking tape to do this, as it will not leave behind a sticky residue when you remove it. Ensure that there is enough tape over the taillight that no light can be seen when the brakes are applied, it’s a good idea to do the same to the signals so you don’t distract other riders if you accidentally bump the signal switch.
-Oil – Fresh oil and a new filter is cheap insurance for your motor. Your bike is going to run a lot harder on the track than it is on a street ride.
-Chain Adjustment – Make sure the chain is properly adjusted. If it is too tight it will impede the suspension and if it’s too loose it can skip and will pre-maturely wear out your sprockets. Either way if it’s out of adjustment, and the tech inspector notices, they will make you fix it before you can pass tech.
-Bleed the Brakes – Also change the fluid if it’s more than a year old.
-Safety Wire – Check with the organizer to see what, if anything, is required to be wired for your skill level. Although not required for novice/intermediate skill levels by most organizers you should at least wire the oil drain plug and oil fill cap. You don’t want to be the guy whose drain plug comes out and causes the track to be shut down for a half hour (or much more) while they clean up the mess.
-Replace coolant with straight water – Check with the organizer to see what, if anything, is required to be wired for your skill level. Also not usually required for novice/intermediate skill levels but it’s still a good idea. Anti-freeze is very slippery stuff and if it gets on the racing surface it will take a while to clean up, during which no one will be able to ride. Some tracks (i.e. VIR) require this.
-Wash Your Bike – Especially if there is any grease or oil on the engine from any recent maintenance, it will make tech inspection go smoother. Oil and other fluid leaks will also show up better on a clean engine. If the tech inspector sees a nice clean machine they will know that you stay on top of your maintenance.
-Tape over the speedometer – You don’t need to know how fast you’re going, it will only distract you.
-Remove the license plate and kickstand – May or may not be required. Again, check with the organizer.
-Steering Damper – I’ve heard that some organizers require them, I have yet to encounter one but check to be on the safe side.
RIDER GEAR – Get the best you can afford. Your safety is NOT the place to be cheap.
-Helmet – Duh. A full face, un-damaged, SNELL approved helmet. Check with organizer and see how new it needs to be. Helmets have a build year on the inside. As far as I know most organizers require 5-7 years or newer.
-Leathers – A full suit or at least a separate jacket and pants made of LEATHER. If you have a 2-piece suit most organizers require it to have a full circumference zipper at the waist, again check to be sure.
-Back Protector – Not required by all but it should be.
-Chest Protector – Not required by any organizer i know of. I wear one anyway, they are starting to get a bit more popular and it could save you some body damage in a tumble.
-Gloves – Leather with a gauntlet that covers your wrist.
-Boots – Motorcycle boots that come at least midway up your shin.
-Under Suit – Something to wear under your leathers is a must. It should be long sleeve and long legged. Your suit will be a lot more comfortable if you don’t stick to the inside of it.
-Ear Plugs – Personal preference. I like wearing them.
-Mouth Guard – I know people that swear by them. I don’t wear one but I probably should. Once again, up to you.
-Shade – Some tracks have garages available to use for track days, some don’t. Even if they are available they will fill up fast and you are not guaranteed to get one. Bring a canopy for shade just in case. There is nothing worse than getting off the bike and sitting in the hot sun between sessions.
-Sun Block – Hopefully it will be nice and sunny. Make sure to apply some sunblock to the back of your neck and face, you WILL sunburn through a tinted or mirrored face shield.
-Chair(s) – Bring some type of folding chair to chill out between sessions.
-Tools – At least a socket set, common sized wrenches, screwdrivers and whatever else you think you might need for your bike.
-Air Pressure Gauge – You will run lower air pressure on the track than you would on the street, even if you’re using street tires. A good starting point for most tires is 32 front/30 rear. Check with the tire manufacturer or your local shop for their recommended setting. Set the pressure when the tires are cold.
-Brake Fluid/Bleeder – If you go out the first session and your brakes aren’t working how you’d like them to it’s good to have the stuff to fix them.
-A Friend – It’s a good idea to have someone come with you, whether they are riding too or not. If for some reason you get injured they can drive you home You can also send them to remote corners of the track to take pictures while you’re riding.
-Camera – See above.
-Cash – There probably won’t be an ATM at the track. I try to have at least $250 on me for unplanned expenses.
-Cooler/Food/Water – Some tracks have food available, some don’t. Even if they have it it’s usually expensive and not very good. Make sure you have plenty of water and/or sports drinks and make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day. I pick everything up at a gas station close to the track the morning of the track day.
-Fuel – Show up with a full tank of gas and a spare 5 gallon can full of fuel. Fuel may be available at the track but it will likely be expensive race fuel that you do not need for a stock motor.
-Oil – It’s a good idea to bring an extra quart, especially if you just changed it.
-Fire Extinguisher – Some tracks require one in every pit area. Check with the organizer.
-Pit Bike/Bicycle – Not required but they sure are nice to have. Most tracks have pretty large pit areas and walking around in your leathers sucks.
-Bike Stands – Also not required but they are nice to have, especially if you are using race tires. Tires, especially race tires, can develop flat spots if the weight of the bike sits in one position when they are hot.
-Spares – If you have any spare levers, pegs, clip-ons, bodywork, nuts/bolts, etc. brings them with you. You never know what you might need to repair crash damage or help someone else out.
-Rags/Paper Towels – Easy to forget and a very useful.
When you decide everything you need, make a checklist to be sure you don’t forget everything! I keep a list of every item I need to bring stored on my laptop and the night before a race or track day I open it up to make sure I have brought everything I need. My friend forgot his helmet before leaving for a race this summer, dropping $400 on a helmet at the track sucks. Double check that you have everything you need before you pull out of your driveway.
Once you get to the track, talk to people. No matter how serious some people might look everyone there is super friendly and more than willing to help out beginners. You will be able to pick up tons of good information from the people around you.
-Sean LRRS/CCS #683 Expert WERA #683 ExpertNovember 15, 2010 at 10:24 am #28789eternal05Participant
More power to you! I’d love to see you getting into this stuff, though do be careful on the public roads
Here are the most important things for a hobbyist track day rider.
1) Have your bike in order:
– The tech requirements you’ll have to meet differ from track day organization to organization, so you’ll have to double check with your host at the track. On the west coast, you usually only have to tape your lights. Your tech requirements may differ.
– TIRES!!!! Get some decent rubber on your wheels and make sure there’s plenty of tread left!
– Chain tension: make sure it’s within spec. If anything, err on the side of slightly too loose. Few things are more dangerous than an overly tight chain.
– Reasonably recent oil change.
– Check torque on all major bolts, especially those that prevent fluid leaks (e.g., oil plug).
2) Have your gear in order:
– Get good gear. Period. You know what that means. After that it’s all a question of how much you want to spend.
3) If you don’t have one, rent a trailer. U-haul is super cheap (~$15/day). Not only do you preclude the possibility of taking supplies with you, you’ll also be in no condition to ride on public roads by the end of the day.
4) Get some solid supplies:
– Extra gas. Get a good 5 gallons of gas to take you with you on top of a full tank in your bike. Don’t bother with race fuel. It’s a waste of your time. Depending on your bike (you have a GS500, right?), you may not even need premium.
– TOOLS! If you have them, bring all the tools you can to fix anything that could go wrong. You wouldn’t believe how often something needs tightening, loosening, removal, installation….and on and on.
– Stuff to drink, and perhaps also to eat. I usually bring a cooler full of water and gatorade and a couple of power bars. The track day orgs around here tend to provide lunch, but if yours don’t, you’ll need lunch too.
– If you have them, bring a canopy (think E-Z Up) and some folding chairs. Sun/rain can get oppressive after a while.
5) DO NOT FORGET EARPLUGS!!!!!!!!!!!!! The wind noise at 120+ mph will make you deaf in no time.
Definitely let us know if you have any other questions!November 15, 2010 at 7:02 pm #28788TrialsRiderParticipant
What! you still have the center stand on ?:o …that’s like about 20lbs. right there
+1 on the make friends with other racers and you might need to remind yourself occasionally, you are there to have fun and meet new people, only the Pros and Track Officials are there to make a living. One of the great things about racing is, seeing how you and your bike stack up. You might be way better than most at handling your bike and not even know it, or maybe a lesser rider on an equal but far better prepared bike will blow away the competition in straights and on acceleration, the Race Track is the ultimate place to discover these things. Being a beginner Novice does not assert you will perform badly, so prepare extremely well and approach it with a desire to do well and you will have a far better experience. In retrospect, my passion for amateur Trials competition is likely a result of doing so well at my first modern event. My bike was mint and I tried so damn hard not to place last, I ended up taking second place in a 2 day National event, may you do as well and become similarly addicted to Go Fast racing;)
Jeff and Eternal gave a pretty good check list, so just to expatiate on a few items; Things that might be slightly worn or operate less than perfect may get by on the road, but fail miserably under the stress of racing. I think I’d be installing a new chain if the original is the least bit stretched and inspect the countershaft sprocket teeth while you are at it. Maybe see if you can buy different sized counter-shaft sprockets and with some advance research, you might gain an advantage by going up or down one tooth size depending on the speed of the track. New brake pads are in order, but wear them in before the race. Make sure your handlebar grips are perfect too, you don’t want the left one spinning loose in the middle of a heat. When was the last time you changed your front fork oil, I’m guessing never ? New spark plugs for sure and I don’t know anyone that does this, but my bike manual actually recommends replacing the spark plug cap after every 3 races New air filter might be in order and a carb cleaning at the start of the season, under constant full throttle your bike may not perform 100% and that might never become apparent on the road. +1 on removing mirrors, passenger pegs, signals, reflectors or anything else that might save ounces or catch on things. Clean your bike! …Jeff said it and I reiterate that one, get out your old tooth brush and go over every square inch with an eye for detail.
New helmet visor and maybe even visor tear-offs are a great idea, spare gloves and socks too, you know it just might rain, speaking of which, how do you feel about riding very fast on wet pavement ? If you need an AMA or whatever competition license, acquire it at the start of the year, don’t wait until you arrive for the first event, you don’t need that extra stress and your bike might need to wear a big number on a special colored background ! Ear plugs or not, be very deliberate with your shifting, lots of guys miss a shift in the heat of the moment and that is hard on your engine and your lap times, in a race you will hear everyone else’s bike, not your own.
Start early in the season because as the season advances, so does the level of competition. This is very much the case in Trials where the sections become progressively harder. Hydrate ! …your body will need water far more than usual and leg cramps, arm pump and headache are symptoms of de-hydration. Stick with food that is easy to digest before and during Race day.
Shade;) …you need the pretty girl with a big sponsors umbrella, for when you are waiting on the start grid.November 16, 2010 at 1:18 pm #28793JtownJJAParticipant
A LOT to think about. Much more than I had thought… but still interested. At least there is plenty of time between now and the next track day to see what all I would need to do to get ready. I also picked up a recent special edition of Sport Bike Rider at the store last night. It is full of articles on Riding Technique for the track and the street.November 17, 2010 at 12:19 pm #28803eternal05Participant
Everybody at these things thinks they know what to do. Most of them don’t. Take all the advice you get with a whopping pile of salt. If it sounds wrong or dangerous it probably is.
One more thing: DON’T LET ANYBODY MODIFY YOUR BIKE. Do NOT let anybody touch your suspension. If there’re guys providing track-side support (i.e., vendors who come to the track to sell tires/services/etc.), find the one that all the local racers use and let him work on your bike.
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