Putting on the Brakes
Could a day at the track make you a better rider?
A great line in the critically acclaimed 1985 film Spies Like Us goes like this, “A weapon unused is a useless weapon.” That line also applies to motorcycling. Most riders never use their machines to full potential, but those extremes of performance capability could save your life one day. Getting to know your bike’s maximum lean angle, throttle response and braking potential will undoubtedly make you a better rider, and will help you escape trouble when it arises.
The only way to safely — and legally — push yourself and your bike to the limit is to take part in a track day. Most racetracks have track days set aside for the public to ride. It’s a major source of income for them. Riders may be separated into different classes (beginner, intermediate and advanced), and some tracks have whole days set aside for novice riders. Riding with others of your same skillset keeps traffic flowing smoothly, prevents backups (and pileups), and cuts the intimidation factor dramatically.
Many riders are unaware that most tracks will allow practically any motorcycle onto the track, if certain precautions and preparations are taken care of first. It is best to check with the track before you go to find out what to do. You may be taping your headlight, tail light and turn signals, as well as removing or taping your mirrors. Some tracks require you to safety wire important bolts, though others do not. Or, you may simply be allowed on the track with your bike more or less in street dress. And speaking of street clothes, some tracks allow you to wear your street gear, while others may require full leathers. Each track has its own rules.
Those rules will extend out to the tarmac as well. There will be rules for passing and rules for being passed, and if you follow them everyone will have a safer experience. There’s no pressure to finish first, because it isn’t a race. The goal is to learn to operate your machine at a faster pace than you normally would on the street, either because of laws or traffic, none of which exist on the track. No cars, no cops, no unexpected surprises, just you and your machine.
Making a track day is an experience, and it will put you in tune with your bike in a way you have never been before. You will learn, and you will laugh in your helmet, because the fun factor goes ballistic when the only restraint is your own skill level — and your sense of self preservation. When you leave the track, you will likely have made new friends, and you will have a tenfold better command of your motorcycle’s controls and potential. The skills you learn will stay with you for as long as you ride.
Going into a track day unprotected would be foolhardy to say the least. There is risk involved every time we mount up, but the possible damage to rider and ride obviously increases when we are pushing our limits. 1MOTOSHOP has quality, track-ready safety gear such as riding suits, boots, and gloves. Some tracks that require full-leather gear allow two-piece suits, so check out our selection of jackets and riding pants.
Many riders know track days are available, but they skip them anyway. For some, intimidation may be a factor, but for others it comes down to affording the considerable expense involved. Do you avoid track days for these reasons? Do you feel they’re worth the investment of money and time? Tell us what you think in the comment section below.
Here is a to-do list for a track day at RideApart.com.