The days and weeks leading up to your first track day are exciting! Gathering your gear, prepping your motorcycle, and telling all of your buddies you're going to be dragging knee like in MotoGP... Not true! 😅
During this preparation, it's easy to overlook and or perhaps undervalue the following three steps that will help contribute to you having a positive experience at the track.
Looking back on my first track day I did 0/3 of these because nobody told me to! 😅
1. I didn't learn the track
During my first session, I was so excited to get out on the track, it never occurred to me that I should memorize the track: was the next turn left or right, is this a long straight-away or tight is this turn? Not knowing these facts, then required me to focus on them instead of allowing room for body position, braking points, apex... what the hell are those things?
While I survived and quickly learned the track, I could have easily avoided this frustration and mental energy by becoming familiar with the track. Saving me stress and reducing my distractions while out on track.
Thankfully it's an easy thing to do!
- Visit the track's website to download their track map, layout, where are the bathrooms, and do they sell gas there,
- Search YouTube videos of other people riding around on the track, preferrable on their motorcycle and with the record date closer to the present day. I'll typically watch videos for the various groups: Novice, Intermediate and Advanced to see the speed disparities and lines taken.
- A trick I use at night to fall asleep at night is to see if I can make it all the way around the track with my eyes closed. I always start at leaving the paddock entering the track and then running through the turns: where am I braking, what gear am I in, etc..
- Purchase a track-map guide. ($) While these may cost money, they're usually jammed with zoomed-in prints of turns to take notes of your gear, line, braking points, and more. Some guys are simply not interested in getting this granular, though I'd argue if you're trying to get better at something you first must realize and understand where you're at. (Stay tuned for StickySpeeds track map guides!)
2. Memorize flag basics
Each organization you ride with may have a slightly different interpretation of a flag, though for the most part flags: yellow, black, white, green, checkered, yellow/red typically mean the same thing.
Flags are the only tool track safety officials have to communicate to you while on track. Having general memorization of what they mean going into a track day again reduced what you need to be thinking about, allowing more space to focus on riding.
I typically ride with Sport Bike Track Time, so I'm sharing their flag definitions from their site.
- Red Flag: The track is closed due to an event or hazard that needs to be cleaned up. Raise your arm in the air and stay on your gas to get off the track as safely and quickly as possible,
- Yellow Waving Flag: Slow your pace and lookout for a possible trouble spot in the area. The track remains open, no passing in that in the area of a waving yellow flag,
- Yellow Static Flag: There is something going on off track or off race-line in that area. Maintain your pace and passing rules for your group. Typically a knee-puck fell off and is on the edge of the track,
- Black Flag - this will be pointed directly at you, following you through the corner. Raise your arm to acknowledge you've seen the flag and get off course to speak to the track control official,
- Yellow/Red Striped Static Flag - Or rain flag will be displayed at corner stations when rain is present
- Yellow/Red Striped Flag pointed at you, pulling you off the course typically means you're dumping fluids on the track and you need to get yourself off track as quickly and safely as possible,
3. Drink Fluids
You'll typically hear if you start drinking water on the day of the track day you're already behind. I've found If I consciously begin drinking fluids the day before I'll have fewer muscle cramps and overall more energy through the track day.
- Some people swear by having a V8 the day before and morning of the track-day,
- Plan water is fantastic. During the track, day be sure to be drinking water before each session. Wearing a full leather suit, helmet, gloves on a 90-degree day, while in the sun riding a 220F degree motorcycle on black tarmac tends to make you sweat a little bit.
In the end know your body, and how you're feeling. Track days are not cheap, so you're motivated to attend every session, but it's okay to sit one out. I typically always sit out the one after lunch so I ride the last sessions of the day. A bonus to this means more open track in later sessions as people pack up and go home, or simply run out of energy.
4. 💯Bonus: Be in a growth mindset.
The worse thing you can do is show up to a track day with something to prove. While it's tempting to catch your buddy as they buzz by you, that's not what track days are about. Focus on you, focus on fundamentals, and the speed will come. In the end, it's about enjoying the sport, having fun, and coming home with a shiny bike.
Do you have any other track rituals you like to do before a track day? Share them below.