There is nothing that can replace the one-of-a-kind adrenaline rush that accompanies pushing the limits of a modern motorcycle. Having accepted that the most appropriate setting in which to do so is in a controlled environment, I dedicated the 2016 season to the track. After investing time and resources into preparing the bike, accumulating gear and equipment, and completing a race school, the next step was all about getting seat time, and for me that means track days.
The premise of a track day is really simple. For a fee you get to take your bike out onto the track and put in as many laps as the allotted time or your personal stamina allows. This particular type of adventure starts when you register for the session. For those who have never participated in a track day, the cost may seem steep, as much as $250 for the day, depending on the track and organization putting on the event. However, the math is really quite simple. If you get pulled over doing 160 km/h on the street you will, after a mandatory court appearance, incur fines that could reach a thousand dollars or more, plus legal fees. Conversely, when you hit 160 km/h, 200 km/h or even faster on the track, you get an ear-to-ear smile.
The other thing that typically happens during the registration process is that you are asked about which group level you will be riding in, usually described as novice, intermediate or expert. Some organizations provide very specific criteria while others leave it to you to assess. Basic rule of thumb is to be honest. If you are new to the track and have never completed a high performance on track school, you need to be in the novice group. At the same time if you are an expert level racer with black number plates on your bike, lapping in anything other than the expert group will quickly become a frustrating experience.
Upon arriving at the track it is time to focus on unloading and setting up your bike, gear and equipment. For those of us who transport our bikes in the back of a pickup truck, unloading and loading can be a challenge. The good news is that motorcyclists being motorcyclists, there are always multiple people ready and offering to help. If it is your first track day or a new track, one piece of advice is to ask for a pit area close by the organizer’s tent or booth, and let them know. Their business model is built around you becoming a repeat customer, so they will definitely want you nearby where they can make sure you are having a good time and finding everything you need.
Once you are setup and have signed in, the next item on the agenda is the rider’s meeting. This is the time when the organizers will welcome you, tell you what to expect during the day, review current track conditions and cover procedures and safety protocols. It doesn’t matter where you are or how much experience you have, these meetings are not only mandatory but they are important. Not every group or track has the same rules, and something as universal as a red flag can have different implications for riders on the track at the time of the incident.
With all of the formalities out of the way, take some time to walk around the pit area to say hi to old friends and make some new ones. Then head back to your pit, get into your riding gear and warm up your bike. Before you know it they will be calling your group and it will be your turn to head out in the track, which is where we will pick up next time.