Tempted to take your bike on a trackday?

honda-on-track

Why take your bike on a trackday?

Many assume trackdays are purely for sportsbike riders and those who want to try their hand at racing. But while there is certainly a proportion of attendees who come armed with tyre warmers and track-prepared bikes, these people tend to hang around in the ‘experienced’ group whereas the ‘novice’ and ‘intermediate’ (it’s not a race, so fast, medium and slow aren’t appropriate terms) are often populated by road riders who have ridden to the circuit on the bike they are about to lap on. These riders aren’t fussed about going banzi, they simply want a safe place to explore the limits of their bike’s abilities a little further. And that’s the best way to view a trackday. It’s not a race, it is a safe place where you can get your tyres up to a proper working temperature, don’t have to worry about speed limits or oncoming traffic, the surface is free from diesel spills and the corners remain the same lap after lap, meaning you can gently increase your pace as you become more confident throughout the day. If you want to improve your riding ability, there are few safer places to do it than on a trackday.

Can I get track day Insurance?

We are happy to say we are one of only a few insurance comparison websites that offer track day insurance as an option; as we have teamed up with a specialist broker for this and it is such a specialist area please call us on 0330 022 7970 and mention that it is track day cover you are looking for and one of the team will be able to advise if cover can be arranged.

Do I need track day Insurance?

You do not have to have trackday insurance in order to take part in an event but you will be unable to make any sort of claim for an incident without it. Nobody wants to crash their bike and the fear of chucking your pride and joy down the road is the biggest obstacle when it comes to signing up for a trackday. But the truth is if you are sensible about how you approach one, you are very unlikely to crash on a trackday. If you are worried, you can always get trackday insurance with our specialist broker so, please call 0330 022 7970 and a member of the team will advise if cover can be arranged.

Alternatively, you could even sign up with a trackday organiser who has hire bikes on offer or a school such as the Ron Haslam Race School where the bike is supplied. So yes, crashing should be a consideration, but don’t let it stop you venturing out on track. Ok, ready to take the plunge? Well if you have booked a date, here is what to do next.

Preparing your bike for a trackday

Fairly obviously, your bike is going to get ridden quite hard on a track and so you need to do a bit of work before you leave just to check all is well. A few weeks before, and most certainly NOT the day before, check your bike over. Inspect the condition of your tyres, brake pads, condition and lube on the chain and sprockets, oil level, all the things that may ruin your day if they are worn or require replacing. There is nothing more annoying than spending £150 on a trackday only to find out your brake pads are shot when you arrive. Also, and this is very important, check if the trackday has a noise limit (most will) and if you have a race can fitted, either invest in a baffle or fit a road legal system. Trackday organisers won’t turn a blind eye and every bike will be noise tested. If you fail, you won’t be getting your money back as you have had plenty of warning, don’t risk it.

If you are happy with the bike, consider fitting some form of crash protection, which isn’t a bad idea anyway for road riding. Using a plastic storage tub or the like, fill it with some essentials. A few spanners, gaffa tape, cable ties, spare engine oil, tyre pressure gauge, foot pump, just items that may help you get back on track if something silly works loose or a fluid level drops. And fill up a few fuel containers with petrol as you don’t want to be rushing around looking for a nearby fuel station during your trackday between sessions and also fill the bike to about ¾ of a tank so it is ready to go as well. A lot of riders panic about tyres on a trackday, but a decent sports touring tyre has more than enough grip once up to temperature for all but the fastest of riders. A lot of riders hire or borrow a van to transport their bike to the circuit, which removes the worry of getting home again should you crash and is a cost you can share with a few mates if they are also on the same trackday, but if you decide to ride to the circuit, and many do, taking a load of kit can be tricky, so just pack a few essentials. But still turn up to the track with fuel in your bike!!!

Essential trackday tips for riders

During a trackday you will get as much of a workout as the bike, so consider your needs. Pack a few bottles of water and some snacks. Avoid caffeine drinks as you get a brief high then a terrible slump in concentration afterwards and the same goes for sugary drinks or treats. Fruit, cereal bars and the like are the best fuel for your body. Now check your riding kit, you will need either a one-piece or two-piece set of leathers, but the two-piece ones must have the ability to be zipped together. Boots, gloves and a helmet are obvious (not all tracks allow a flip-front helmet to be worn, check if you own one), but a back protector is a very good idea and a lot of riders also invest in a chest protector. Kneesliders are also generally recommended, but some riders never use them so don’t bother, it’s up to you and your riding style. Check your kit fits, consider wearing a wicking under layer or base layer as you will probably be getting sweaty and leave it all out in one place so you don’t forget anything. Don’t worry about a dark visor, it isn’t mandatory for a track day!

What happens at a trackday

A trackday begins with signing on and often you are required to show your bike licence, so remember to pack it! There are generally three groups – novice, intermediate and experienced – and while you may have been asked before what group, always be honest. If you are inexperienced at track riding, say so and go in the novice group. Organisers are more than happy to shift people around in the groups if you are in the wrong one. There is no shame in admitting you are a novice, we all had to start somewhere, and ending up in an ‘experienced’ group that is full of racers who are practicing at the track is terrifying if you aren’t that experienced at circuit riding. And by the same token, riding in the inters when you are experienced just to be the big man and overtake everyone also isn’t cool. Next up is the briefing.

The organiser will run you through a few basics – flags, where to join the track, the format of the day. Pay attention as you may need to know this stuff, doing an extra lap because you haven’t listened and don’t know where the pit entrance is makes you look like an idiot. And the same goes for failing to slow down for a yellow or red flag or missing the chequered flag that signals the end of your session. Briefings are for your safety as much as they are for the safety of other riders and marshals. Once the briefing is over you will probably get a wristband to confirm you attended and once your bike gets a sticker to confirm it isn’t too loud after noise testing (usually a static engine running test at a set rpm), you are ready to head out on track.

The first session

honda-track-day

Trackdays can be scary and intimidating and for that reason most organisers run ‘sighting laps’ at the start of the day. These are slow paced laps in your group just so everyone knows the way around with an instructor showing the correct lines. The trackday hasn’t started, take it easy, don’t ride like an idiot and pay attention to the entrance and exit of the pits. You will be amazed how many people crash on a sighting lap through pure stupidity. Once these sighting laps are over you will be allowed out on your own so you need to pay attention.

If you are new to track riding, the first few laps on track can be a real eye opener, but remember all that matters is what is happening ahead! Ignore anything behind you (folding in your mirrors is a good idea) and also ignore the speedo. Treat this as a session to understand where the track goes and remember to use all the tarmac! So many road riders forget they don’t have to stick to one side! Always ride at your own pace and avoid being lulled into following another rider as they may be faster than you or equally clueless as to the correct lines. Use the first session to get a feel for the track and where it goes, not to set a superpole lap! And the same goes for experienced track riders, ease yourself into the day as your brain won’t be up to speed yet and crashing on the first session as a result is really annoying.

Improving your riding skills on a trackday

All trackdays have instructors and they are more than happy to help. This is the best way to learn how to ride on track and a few one-on-one laps as you follow the instructor around are worth their weight in gold. If you are new to the track you will be shown the correct lines before you start to pick up any bad habits and the instructor will also give you a few tips on body position, lines, using the gears etc afterwards. It is amazing how many people think they know best or are too embarrassed to ask the instructors for advice – instructors are always happy to help – use them! You will learn more in a few laps behind an experienced instructor than a whole day lapping a track on your own making mistakes.

Ready for more? Buying a cheap trackday bike

Trackdays are addictive and as a result many riders end up returning time after time. At this point it may be worth investing in a cheap trackday bike such as an older supersport bike or even a litre bike as you start to push your boundaries. If you are considering this route remember that it isn’t the bike that will make you fast, it is the rider. Often you will learn more on a slower bike with good suspension and sticky tyres than you will on a machine with cutting edge electronics flattering your skills. An older Suzuki GSX-R750, Honda CBR600RR, Yamaha YZF-R6 or Kawasaki ZX-6R makes for an ideal trackday bike and you can buy a dedicated track bike for less than £3000 with little effort. It is also worth bearing in mind that it is far cheaper to buy a track bike that has trick kit already fitted than attempt to spec-up a road bike.

Common trackday mistakes and how to avoid them

Cold tyre crashes

Use the first two laps of the session to build some heat into your tyres and then gradually increase your pace.

Follow my leader

Don’t get stuck in a chain of riders. If you are faster don’t be afraid to safely overtake or if you are unhappy doing this, slow down or ride through the pits to give yourself some room on track.

Carb-crash

Don’t have a massive meal of chips at lunch, you will feel sleepy during the afternoon. Eat a light lunch.

Drink

Always keep yourself hydrated, it is very easy to forget to drink and that will reduce your concentration levels.

Target fixation

If you get a corner wrong, don’t focus on the gravel trap, instead focus on getting around the bend. 99 times out of 100 the bike will make it.

It’s not all about kneedown

Riders get fixated about getting their kneedown. Focus on your riding, hang off and kneedown will happen naturally, don’t fixate on it or you will go slower.

Avoid aggression

Some riders get all testosterone-ed up on a trackday. If someone cuts you up or is riding dangerously in your opinion, don’t get steamed up. Find an organiser, mention the rider to them and they will sort it out. If that rider has cut you up, the chances are they have done it to someone else and a quiet word from the organiser is required for everyone’s safety.

Panic isn’t your friend

If you miss your session’s call out, don’t go into a mad panic, take your time, get ready and join the session part way through if necessary. Or even miss it. If you get into a flap you will be in no state to ride the circuit and that’s when crashes happen.

Listen to that voice in your head

We all know when we are doing something stupid or pushing our limits too far, but many of us choose to ignore the voice in our heads that says ‘stop being stupid.’ Listen to it and if necessary, pull in early and take a break.

The last session

If you are feeling tired, don’t be afraid to miss the last session of the day. Physical tiredness leads to a lack of concentration and a potential crash. It is better to sacrifice a session than leave with a bent bike.

Track day Insurance?

We are happy to say we are one of only a few insurance comparison websites that offer track day insurance as an option; as we have teamed up with a specialist broker for this and it is such a specialist area please call us on 0330 022 7970 and mention that it is track day cover you are looking for and one of the team will be able to advise if cover can be arranged.

Interested in whether the style of bike you ride alters your insurance premium? Read our next article here>

Go back to our insurance guides>