My first track day was August 6th, 2017 on my 1998 Honda VFR 800. At the time the bike was 19 years old, and seriously lacking in the track-tech department. 😅 Despite weighing 460lbs, equipped with sport-touring tires, and linked brakes it was hella fun to ride on the track!
My current track weapon is a 2018 R6, though I still miss and reflect fondly on my time with the VFR.
If you're contemplating attending your first track day, in this post I'll share some of the items I got right and certainly some things I didn't.
Let's get into it!
A few do's and don'ts for your first track day.
Riding a motorcycle on a race-track has been a dream of mine since I was a teenager. So when the opportunity finally arrived nearly 20 some years later I wanted to make sure I was ready. This excitement encouraged a few good and bad choices.
Things I got right: 👍
- Purchasing the right gear for the track. While it's tempting to go on the cheaper side since you're not even sure if you're going to like it. Avoid this temptation. It's not really something to go cheap on, get the gear first that is safe and comfortable. Pick up an under-suit-layer is key for getting in and out of the leather suit.
- Picking a good organization to ride with. If it's your first track-day, be sure to find an organization that is going to cater to helping you have a fun time at the track. I stumbled across Sport Bike Track Time, which was a perfect fit for me. A novice group that focused on class time in the mornings and let you apply what you learned in the afternoon.
- I upgraded my brake lines to braided steel lines. Arguably I didn't have to do this, though it gave me peace of mind to mitigate the potential for brake fade.
- Swapping out the engine coolant to a non-glycol option. Typical engine coolant contains Glycol, a very slippery substance that you don't want to spill onto a race-track. While the organization I rode with didn't require it in the Novice group, ensuring my bike didn't contain any of this stuff made me feel better just in case I had an off,
- Tape any clear plastic with painter's tape and removed my mirrors. It wasn't required I remove my mirrors though I liked the streamlined look + one less thing to tape up. This includes headlights, taillights, and turn signals.
- I safely wired my oil filter + oil plug. Arguable overkill for your first track day in the mid-pack novice group. Though again I was thinking of others here. Anything I could do to reduce the chances I was going to be the one leaking fluids on the track. It's a quick thing that could save some headaches on the track.
Things I got wrong: 🤦♂️
- I removed my kick-stand thinking it was "cool" and would reduce the weight of the bike. In reality, this caused way more fatigue throughout the day. I wasn't running tire warmers and it required additional energy to remove the stands each time I left for a session. Which eventually led to my bike falling over in the pit. Fast forward to today on my 2018 R6, in the advanced group, I still have my kick-stand on.
- I cut off my license plate holder with the mindset I was done with the street and would never return! A couple of years later, I was searching e-bay for a replacement part. :(
- I didn't know the track. Though it was a local track, it never occurred to memorize the track. :( All of a sudden the bathtub scene in Cool Runnings made sense. Learning the track is the easiest thing to prepare for a track day: print a track map from Google + watch YT videos of others going around the track. You should be able to run through the entire track with your eyes closed before you attend your first riders' meeting.
- I thought 20 years of riding on the street meant I was going to be fast. While I was still humble enough not to raise my hand for group one in Novice, I did end up in group four, though I should have been in group six or eight. I'm a fan of learning on the job. 😅 Though in truth I quickly realized within 20 years of riding I've never experienced anything like this. I had never even come close to pushing myself or the motorcycle to its potential.
Exiting the track after my first session I was breathing heavy, my mind locking up trying to process what just happened: is this something I really wanted to do again?
Yes, please! I'll be the first to admit it scared me and still does each time I grid up. I'm a subscriber to do things that scare challenge you. Avoid the "get comfortable" or caught in "cruise control".
Riding on the track is ridiculously exciting, makes you feel alive, presenting a whole new life challenge to take on. A new skill to learn, a ladder to climb, and a community to get involved in.
If you're looking to attend your first track day keep the above in mind, and I'd love to hear your thoughts below in the comments. What are you concerned about, what do you think it will be like?