Advanced Riding

How to get ready for a trackday | Part 3 – your first sessions

Taking the plunge and riding at a trackday can be a daunting experience. Here's how you can make the whole event much more enjoyable ...

THE day of your first trackday has arrived! You’ve completed you bike prep, and got yourself mentally and physically ready by prepping yourself.

Now you just need to get out on track and get some sessions under your belt – this is probably the most nervous you’ve felt sat on a motorcycle since passing your test – here’s how to get through the next few hours!

So, sign on is done, you grabbed yourself a light breakfast and are now sat warming up the bike ready for session one. At this point most companies will come around and sort the riders into groups. Most trackday providers will ask you to place yourself in one of three groups – Novice, Intermediate and Advanced – sometime called the fast group. It’s sensible to always go in novice for your first trackday and leave your humility intact. Regardless by how much of a hero you are on the B4445, or how many times you’ve seen this track on the BSB TV coverage – getting out and riding it with a group of other riders for the first time is completely different!

When it’s time for your group to be called you’ll be asked to file down to the end of pitlane and asked to wait to be sent out. On some occasions you’ll be asked to lead out and follow an instructor for one or two sighting laps. Most of the time it’ll be requested that no overtaking happens on these laps. In my experience it’s always best to head out at the rear of the group, where you wont feel pushed into riding faster than you should by a more experienced rider from behind. Take your time and try your best to just get an idea of which groups of corners follow one another. Look out for brake lights ahead as a marker of when you need to start braking.

Once the sighting lap is done you’ll probably be brought back into the pits and then let out on track again for the first time. This might be done by sending you off in pairs or it could be a mass start. Either way, placing yourself at the rear of the group means you’ll probably have at least a few laps of clear track before the faster riders come around and begin to lap you – which they probably will.

How to ride your first trackday session

There are many ideas as to how you should ride your first trackday session, my preferred technique is like the way the Ron Haslam school use to train their novice riders. The idea is to ride the track in one gear, mainly second of third. Only changing up if the bike is bouncing off the limiter on the long straights. The thinking behind it is that it frees your already frazzled brain from having to select the perfect ratio for this circuit you’ve never ridden before. Instead you can focus on where the track is going, your line through the turns and when you should be braking and getting on the gas. It makes the first sessions on a new track much calmer, and I still use the technique for the first laps on a track I’ve not been to when riding on a press launch.

As the session progresses and you begin to learn the track more you’ll notice that your speed in the corners will naturally increase, with your braking points becoming later as you begin to understand the grip level better.

Should I get riding instruction on a motorcycle trackday?

Yes, absolutely! Having a sit down with an experienced instructor will massively improve your chances of enjoying the day and going quicker than you will if just left to ride around alone. For one thing most instructors are ex-club or even BSB racers and that means they’ll know this place like the back of their riding glove. They’ll be able to tell you the best braking points, turn in points and also importantly when to get on the throttle. They’ll also be able to give you a really good indication of how much grip the track will give you, helping you to improve lean angle and corner speed.

As well as the on-track help, an instructor will also help you to get your body position sorted, as for most of the time they’ll be sat behind you on the circuit watching your every move. Turning down this assistance, especially as most provide some instruction for free, is going to hinder your progress massively.

How to ride your second trackday session

Now you’ve ridden the track and have a pretty good idea where it goes – and hopefully had some instruction – you should start to use all the gears the bike has on offer. Most novice trackday riders will fall into a habit of not using all the revs offered by the engine. A good example of this is not using a low enough gear at corner exit. To ensure you are selecting the correct cogs, head over to the track map with an instructor and get them to talk you through the circuit advising what gears you need to be in and where.

Now you have that info you’ll probably be surprised that you’re only using three of four of the six ratios on offer. Don’t worry about that, even most sportsbike have ratios selected for road riding first and foremost so not using a couple of gears is not an issue.

You’ll probably also have found a place in the group where you can ride a pace you’re comfortable with and they’ll likely be some other riders who are about the same pace. Obviously what you now want to do is start scything up the inside of them in the braking zone really showing them how it’s done. In reality, rushing to out-brake another rider in your second session could see you miss you braking marker completely and see you end up lying in the gravel trap.

How to overtake on your first trackday

If you can, try and get your overtakes done on the straights and try and avoid surprising another potential novice rider by placing your bike on the apex of the corner they are turning into. Most trackday companies ask for a six-foot buffer around a rider to allow everyone out on track some room to ride. It’s also good to think that is a rider has tipped into a corner, they have claimed it and any overtaking effort beyond this point should be avoided.

Instead of pushing it in the braking zone, try taking and wide line in the first part of the corner, turning in later and catching a later apex. Doing so will allow you to straighten the bike sooner and get on the power earlier. In most scenarios this alone will see you sail by at the next long straight.

Your first trackday checklist

  • Prepare yourself and your bike
  • Take in the briefing and safety procedure
  • Pick the novice group
  • Hang at the back for sighting laps and the first session
  • Simplify your riding for session one to learn the track
  • Get some instruction off the bike – gears and body position
  • Get some instruction on track with an instructor following you
  • Make room for overtakes
  • Enjoy it – there is no point riding around shitting yourself!
  • Ride at your own pace

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