Attending a track day for the first time can be daunting. Luckily we’re here to settle those nerves: here's everything you need to know about Track Days and some simple tips and tricks to get you started!
With bikes flying down the track at blistering speeds, you’ll be on the sidelines either watching in anticipation to get on the track yourself, or have a sick feeling in the pit of their stomach at the thought. Luckily we’re here to settle those nerves and give you all the information you need to get on your bike and pretend you’re Leon Haslam! It doesn’t matter what kind of bike you own: a track day is an absolutely essential day out for any rider: young, old, new or returning rider!
There are some requirements you’ll need to follow and preparations you’ll need to make, but pretty much anyone who has a motorbike license can do a track day. But if you follow these simple tips and tricks, you’ll be ready in no time!
What is a Track Day?
Track days are events specifically designed for high-performance riding. These events allow regular joes like me and you to ride around an established racing circuit at speeds that would normally breach regular speed limits. In fact, there are absolutely NO restrictions on speed, so the only limits you have are your own - as well as the regulations set out by the track to protect everyone!
Track days are split into five or more 15 to 20-minute sessions spread throughout the day, where you will ride in groups of equally skilled riders based on your level of track experience: Novice, Intermediate and Advanced/Fast groups. Shorter track evenings are also available, typically made up of 3 sessions.
You can pick to participate in any of these groups depending on where you feel most comfortable to ride in: for example, if it’s your first time, you might want to consider riding with the other new riders in the Novice group. However, if the instructors on the day feel you belong in a different group whether you underestimate or overestimate your ability, they will move you. Bare this in mind if you think you’re the next BSB superstar but have never raced before!
Track days are an absolute must for any rider, regardless of the bike you own or your age, once you’ve done your first knee-down, you’ll be hooked for life.
What happens at a Track Day?
A typical track day will start with rider registration at around 7:30-8:30, where your motorcycle licence will be checked (don’t forget it, refer to the checklist below!), an indemnity form will need to be signed, and then you’ll receive a bike sticker and wristband.
Then it’s off to noise testing. Now the noise limit will be outlined when you book the day as it can change depending on the circuit. Most tracks will have a limit of 102db or 105db, but some circuits will run a lower limit of 98db. If you’re unsure, you can always give the provider a call, but unless you have a stupidly loud pipe then the typical 102/105db limit is easily passed. If you have a bike with removable baffles then it’s probably best to take them along just in case.
After you’ve done that, it’ll be time for the safety briefing. This will cover everything important you need to know about the day from flag and circuit rules, through to helpful hints, tips and circuit information. For the experienced track day rider, this might be a bit like a frequent flyer hearing an aircraft safety briefing, but we’d say its super important for you to pay attention, as it will definitely improve your time there!
Most companies will start the day off with some sighting laps at the beginning of your first session. This is your opportunity to experience each bend behind a pace bike at a reduced speed, and it also gives you a relaxed chance to note the marshal posts and circuit conditions.
After that, the day usually continues with 20-minute sessions on rotation with a break for lunch. That equates to lots of track time, and the time will fly between sessions as you excitedly discuss your last adventure with fellow travellers.
Some providers will give a little more attention to their novice groups and they usually have extra off-circuit get-togethers to give advice on body position, riding techniques, bike prep and anything else you would like to know about so that day becomes informative as well as fun.
What license do I need for a Track Day?
As I mentioned before, anyone with a motorbike license can go to a track day, though this needs to be either a fully unrestricted one, or a current ACU license. If you’re under 18, you will need an ACU license and be able to prove you’re fast enough to an instructor at the event, so you can keep up with the group.
What should I bring to a Track Day?
As well as the aforementioned bike license, you’re going to need a roadworthy bike (make sure to read on for bike preparation). You’ll need to wear a set of leathers either one-piece or zip together (full zip only, not just a back closure) two-piece leathers, a decent pair of leather gloves and boots must be worn, and finally, your ACU gold stamped full-face bike helmet. They don’t allow MX style lids, your boots must reach the bottom of your calves and go over (or under) your leathers, and your gloves must go over your wrists and cuffs.
Metal knee or toe sliders are not allowed and no textile clothing (no matter how good it is!) is permitted either. Armour fitting isn’t required, but most providers recommend you use them, especially a full-length back protector such as the Forcefield Evo or the Dainese Wave.
If you’ve ever attended a track day as a spectator, you’ve most likely seen a variety of folks with minimal gear to riders with full traveling garages. If it’s your first time, we’d recommend just operating with the basics instead of overwhelming yourself by trying to bring everything you think you might possibly need. Some of the basic necessities you’ll need are basic tools, lots of water, and spare fuel.
Start off with a few basic hand tools to make simple adjustments like an air pressure gauge and anything you might need to remove or tighten different components on your bike, like spanners or Allen keys. When it comes to petrol, it's a good idea to top up your tank. That’s not to say you won’t be able to fill up on the day, but the fuel will be more expensive for the convenience. You could bring a few extra gallons of petrol with you if you are planning on tackling every session.
If you’re towing your bike it’s always smart to bring a camping chair, snacks, and a cooler full of water as a minimum. You’re going to be pouring a ton of sweat into your leathers and you need to put fluids back into your body, so you need to make sure you stay hydrated. If you aren’t going to be trailering your bike, make sure to ask about the availability of water at the track.
There are always more items you could bring, but I recommend not getting mired down by trying to bring the kitchen sink along for your first day. There are almost always friendly people at the track willing to help out a rookie. Once you get one day under your belt, you’ll get a much better sense of what items are important to you.
Can I bring food and drink to a Track Day?
Remember to take some food and drink with you. Most circuits have something to offer but a couple of litres of water is a must as you’ll need to keep hydrated throughout the day and you’ll be amazed how much you’ll sweat on the day.
Don’t eat anything heavy or greasy, as it’ll make you lethargic for the remainder of the day. Prepare yourself some nice, light snacks that’ll provide you energy and keep you on your toes for the remaining sessions. The odd chocolate bar isn’t the worst thing to take either, but try to avoid anything too sugary, especially energy drinks, as your excitement levels will be fine without them.
How do I prepare my bike for a Track Day?
Before you take your regular street bike out on the track, you’ll need to make some preparations in order to fit the regulations set out by the track provider. Unlike the more experienced classes, Novice riders will only need to make a few tweaks to their ride, but be aware of the rules set out by your track organizer, and ensure you follow the following universal requirements.
Firstly, you’ll need to tape up your bike lenses from your headlights, signals and taillights - this is to keep glass debris off the track and to keep your lenses intact if they break. We would recommend using blue tape to do this, as it’s designed to be applied to glass and can be removed without leaving any residue on your lenses. We also recommend taping up your speedometer while you’re at it, as your speed doesn’t matter on a track day, it will only serve to distract you on the day.
When it comes to removing unnecessary accessories on your bike, you don’t need to go overboard and remove your license plate or anything – but remove loose bits like phone mounts and the like and you won’t have a problem. When it comes to your mirrors though, it’s worth folding them in or taping them as well, as you’ll only want to focus on the track in front of you, and you simply don’t need the distraction! Luggage has to go too, so no panniers or top boxes but these can be taken off in the paddock.
One of the most common subjects that comes up is tyres, and a lot of people talk a lot of nonsense about tyres. The bottom line is that if you have a decent set of modern road tyres then as a novice track rider, they will have far more ability than you. One of the great things about doing a track day is that you can build up your feel for the tyres and the bike in a controlled, gradual manner. Have a look at them at the start of the day and see where the edge of your wear pattern is. It’s likely that it’ll grow closer to the edge by days end without scaring yourself if you’re sensible.
Try not to get involved in the hype surrounding tyre pressures, even if you’re on sports-oriented road tyres - leave them at the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. Tyre and bike manufacturers spend a lot of time working very hard together to get these things right, and they know what they’re talking about. If you have the wrong pressure in your tyres, you’re only going to wear your tyres out faster so it’s worth double checking. If you’re in doubt, its worth asking the race marshals on the day what they recommend, especially if it’s a sweltering hot day.
Another thing you’ll need to consider is your tyre tread, especially if you’re thinking of riding to the circuit. When you’re racing round the track, you’re going to be burning rubber, so you need to be aware of how much tread you have on your tyres. And if your riding there, you also need to consider how much tread you’ll have to ride home. You don’t want to be riding illegally or have a blowout!
Of course, you should also undertake the more general checks, but keep in mind – you’ll be pushing your bike to its limits, so be thorough! On the day, your bike will undergo a tech inspection to ensure its fit for the circuit. The kinds of things they’ll look for are leaking fluids, mainly around your fork seals, brake master cylinder, coolant hoses and overflow, and engine cases. The techies will also check for any missing screws securing fairings or fenders, your chain tension, fluid levels, signs of wear and corrosion, and ensure your brakes and suspension are in full working order. It’s always good to check these things in advance so you don’t spend the money for a track day only to find that your bike can’t pass the tech inspection.
Can I ride my bike to a Track Day?
Another thing you’ll want to consider is getting there and back; will you be trailering your bike there or simply riding it there? If you don’t want to fuss around towing your bike around or don’t have the money to, you could always do the latter.
If you can fit everything in a backpack and wear your leathers there, you can by all means do that! Though this will leave you in a sticky situation should you total the bike you rode in with…
However, you also don’t need a big truck to lug your bike around like the pros: all you really need is a car and a motorcycle trailer. You can buy these new or used on eBay or Gumtree, or you can even hire one out for the day to save the hassle. The trailer will not only save you worrying about a lift home, but you will also be able to pack all supplies and gear without the need to wear your leathers all day – imagine the stench!
Can I hire a Track Day motorcycle?
All kinds of bikes are welcome at track days, but if your bike’s in the shop or you’d rather not risk it, you can hire a track day bike out instead. Some providers will offer hire bikes at the same time as your booking online or over the phone, though you can also hire elsewhere, and a lot of them will deliver to the circuit on the day! Keep in mind though these bikes can range from £199 to £350 to hire, depending on the model you’re happy with, and you will need to sign a bit of paperwork to get it cleared, as well as a damage excess form just in case…
With that in mind, you may want to consider taking your own bike if it’s your first time. On a novice track day, your aim should be to improve your skills riding, as well as building up the confidence to reach those blistering speeds. Plus, you wouldn’t want to spend all that money on a superbike if you’re not going to use it to its full potential, would you?
People don’t rise to the occasion; they fall to the level of their training. Learning to handle your motorcycle closer to the edge without being hampered by the rigmarole of road riding, will give you greater control and understanding of your machine if you so require. Knowing where those limits are will make you a much more confident motorcyclist, especially if you have practiced on your very own road bike.
I’ve never done a Track Day, do I need to go to a beginners class?
If you're new to this whole thing, we would recommend participating in a Novice-Only track day to get yourself warmed up. These days are specifically designed for riders with little-to-no track day experience, and not only will you be trained alongside other equally inexperienced riders, but you will also be trained under friendly and attentive professionals who instruct newbies every day.
In the novice group, not only will you start on a wide, safe stretch of tarmac to grab your bearings, but you will be instructed via mini briefings spread throughout the day to help you get on your way. If you really want to improve your game, at selected circuits you can also sign up for a coach to instruct you between sessions and highlight areas of your ride for improvement.
And once you feel ready, you can move up a group to really test your bike!
What companies do Track Days?
If you live in Northern Ireland, you can book a track day at the California Bike School: https://www.superbikeschool.co.uk/
Another one to look at, especially for anybody looking to seriously improve their riding ability, is the famous Ron Haslam school www.haslamraceschool.com. Here they offer their elite experience to get you ready for the track, whether you’re a novice or have ridden for years.
Not only will they get you all the equipment you need to learn including helmet, leathers, boots, gloves and back protector, but you’ll also have three sessions on a Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP with an expert instructor, who will offer their advice and coach you to Intermediate level.
All of these companies are reputable and experienced, as are the instructors they employ so you can’t go wrong.
How much does a motorcycle Track Day cost?
Prices for track days depend on a number of factors, from venue and the number of people in the group, to the time of day and your level of experience. It varies enormously depending on the circuit, but an evening at a track can be found from as little as £45 and a single 20-minute taster session can be bought for £25.
Most Novice track days can cost anywhere from £105 to £139 but a Masterclass Track day would cost from £449 to £599.
Do I need Track Day insurance?
Track day companies do not require you to have insurance as the nature of track day is that you are doing so at your own risk. Accidents are not that common, but of course they occasionally happen, though mainly in the advanced group. Spot the oxymoron there?
It’s unlikely that your policy will cover you for any incident on track, in fact most policies specifically exclude track day use, and often this will include visits to the Nürburgring but there are specialised companies who offer insurance for track days.
Track Day Checklist
Leather Suit ☐
Either a one-piece leather suit or zip-together two-piece leathers. Consider base layering and a full-length back protector
Leather gloves that must be long enough to cover your wrists and cuffs.
Leather boots that must reach the bottom of your calves and go over your leather suit.
An ACU gold stamped. Full-face motorcycle Helmet. Motocross-style helmets are not allowed.
Driving Licence ☐
A fully unrestricted motorcycle license, or a current ACU license.
Motorbike (obviously) ☐
General checks and serviced, taped up bike lenses, remove any unnecessary accessories. Rentals are available at selected providers.
Bike Trailer and Tow ☐
Can be rented for the day or purchased new/used.
Including air pressure gauge, wrench, screwdriver.
Check tread, and top up tyre pressure to manufacturer’s recommended pressure.
Noise Limit ☐
Varies from circuit to circuit, but the average limit is between 102db and 105db.
Food and Water ☐
Stay hydrated and bring your own, or ask about availability at track.
Ensure fuel is topped up, and bring a couple extra gallons in fuel containers.
Additional Clothes ☐
Spare clothing to change out of your leathers at end of day.
This article was written by Jonah Son, Digital Marketing Executive at Infinity Motorcycles.