Five mistakes for newbie track riders to avoid

Get a head-start on track with our five tips

Five mistakes for newbie track riders to avoid

By Alan Dowds

GETTING on track is great for your riding, whatever level you’re at. The freedom to explore the performance of your bike at high speed, in relative safety, means you’ll be better prepared for road riding, and will also give you a chance to improve your braking and cornering skills.

But there are some mistakes that new track riders make which can be avoided. Best plan is to get some proper instruction at the track – most track day organisers offer basic help for a small fee. But here’s a few things to think about before heading to the circuit for your first few times.

1. Going too fast

Okay, there’s no speed limits, and you want to make the most of all that power. But the laws of physics still apply here… Build up the pace slowly and carefully, sticking to a speed you’d be happy with on the roads to start with. Don’t be tempted to see another rider going faster and simply follow them. Getting a drag off a slightly quicker rider can help build your pace, but if you tag onto the wrong person (a racer who’s instructing in the slow group, say), you can get into trouble…

2. Going too slow

It’s the Goldilocks syndrome of course – you can go too slowly just as easily as too fast on your first sessions. Being over-cautious can be dangerous for you and other riders, especially if you’re not sure about your lines. Coming out of pit-lane at dawdling pace and drifting over to the racing line could earn you a Fireblade up the jacksie. Try to remain confident, and ask an instructor to get you up to speed if you’re not sure of your pace.

3. Braking too early

Try to be precise and consistent about your braking, and aim for a braking point each lap to start with. Braking too early, then having to speed up again for the bend is a classic novice error. Later, as your speed picks up, you’ll be braking harder, and might need to adjust your braking point to suit.

4. Using road lines

Staying on ‘your’ side of the road is a habit worth sticking to on the road, but you must use all of the track when riding at the circuit. Precise racing lines is a bit of an art, which you’ll develop over time. But on most trackdays, there’ll be instruction on how to take each bend, and cones marking the entry-apex-exit points on each corner. This makes it easy – just aim for each cone in turn, and you’ll not be far off in terms of line.

5. Not leaning and hanging off enough

You might not want to be getting your knee down first time, but there’s a reason races hang off a bike in a bend. Moving mass towards the centre of a turn reduces the lean angle required for a given speed. That takes some pressure off your tyres, giving more of a margin in terms of grip and ground clearance. You don’t need to go mad, but moving the inner bum cheek off the seat and positioning your body towards the inside of the turn will help, and comes naturally after a short while. Again, ask a trackday instructor for tips on body positioning.