10 essential tips for your first track day

Our tips for getting the most from your first time on track

10 essential tips for your first track day

No matter what type of rider you are or what type of bike you ride, it's definitely worth having a run out on a race track. You'll learn more about how your bike performs than you ever can on the road, in an intense, yet safe environment. Plan it right, with these tips, and you'll come out safer, quicker, happier, and much much cooler than before…

1. Book the correct event

Perhaps the most important thing is to pick the right time and place. A normal trackday will be fine of course – they all have 'beginner' groups where you'll start out. But consider finding a trackday that's aimed specifically at novices, so will have plenty of 'slow' groups and instruction aimed that way.

All the track schools – Haslam, California Superbike, and the like, do beginner courses too of course: some aimed at people who can’t even ride on the road! So you 'll be really fine there.

It's easily the most frustrating way to ruin your track day; turning up without your driving licence. So make sure you’re got it with you. paperwork out of the way nice and quickly and get more time to prepare before you're out on track.

If you fill up with fuel at a petrol station near the circuit, you'll guarantee you won't head out on track only to look down and see your reserve light blinking at you. Most circuits sell fuel but it's often expensive, so fill up before you get to the track.

This will be moral and practical. Go with pals, ideally, and have a van or a trailer if you can. Tipping off isn't impossible, and if you have to ride home, then a bust lever or smashed engine case can make it all very difficult. Having mates, spouses or siblings along will make it more of a laugh too.

Basic safety checks go without saying: brakes, tyres, chain, controls – they should all be working and in top condition. You'll use the brakes and tyres far more intensely than on road, and any weaknesses will show. Take a tyre gauge and (ideally) a small foot pump or similar to adjust your tyre pressures: the settings will vary by bike, but you basically want a bit less air in there. Try 28psi (cold) front and rear to start with. The trackday organisers will be on hand to advise you on settings for your bike and tyres. Don’t worry about suspension adjustment for your first track sessions – though if you have softened anything off for the road, consider putting it all back to stock settings.

If you're doing a track school with bikes provided, you're all set.

For almost all track events, you'll need proper leathers, lid, boots and gloves. Some training courses might let you wear textile kit, but this is rare. Leathers need to be one-piece or zip-together two-piece, and in good condition. Most places ban sparking knee or toesliders, so dump these where they belong – 2003.

You'll be working hard, so a wicking technical material undersuit will be useful. If it might rain, bring a waterproof over-suit.

Getting your mind in the right place is crucial. You're not going here to be a race hero – so put lap times out of your head completely. There's always someone (much) faster than you, so don't be disheartened by how far off the pace you are. Get tuition sorted beforehand if you can, and pay attention to what you're told by the instructors. You might have to pay extra for proper lessons at some trackdays – and it's usually well worth it.

A bit of time on Youtube can help you learn the track layout beforehand. Or if you're a PS4 demon, get onto one of the driving/riding games.

People can put themselves under pressure track days by thinking they need to be fast. You don't. If you're on your first track day, you should be in the novice group. In this group you'll be in with people who are of a similar experience to you. You wouldn't be nervous before a Sunday blast on country roads, so why be nervous about riding on track? Treat it like a Sunday ride, relax and enjoy the thrill of riding without having to look out for cars pulling out of T-junctions and caravans doing U-turns on blind crests.

Most track day organisers will have instructors on hand to give you advice. Don't be shy, go and ask them for some pointers. If you come in from your first session tense, shaking or feeling like you're lucky to be alive then you're trying too hard. Relax and let the track come to you.

Ideally you'd remove your mirrors before you go on track but this isn't always possible, what with them holding the top fairing in place on a lot of bikes. If you can, fold them in and if you can't, then tape them up. When you're out on track, you want to focus on everything that's going on in front of you. Even if you're confident you won't use your mirrors, another bike's headlights flashing into them and catching your attention will only distract you from what you need to be concentrating on. Which leads us onto another small but important point: put some tape over your speedo - you don't need to know how fast you're going, it won't help you, might scare you and will definitely distract you.

With adrenaline rushing through your veins, you'll work up an appetite pretty quickly and the temptation to fill your face at lunch will be huge. After all, you've worked hard you deserve it, don't you? Well, yes and no. Instead of a massive greasy lunch, keep yourself topped up through the morning with fruit (try a couple of bananas) and plenty of fluids. If you scoff down a greasy burger at lunch your levels of concentration will rapidly diminish in the afternoon. Not only will you feel sluggish out on track but you're more likely to make a mistake too.

Where next?

We've got some great archive articles for you, no matter what your level of riding.

Check out Niall Mackenzie's guide to mastering overtaking on track. Mackenzie's top tips for track day confidence. Raining? Don't let it dampen your fun with our track day wet weather riding tips. Want to get better and faster on track? Check out Mackenzie's guide to circuit riding techniques and the best way to learn circuit lines.