WHAT CHANGES DO I NEED TO MAKE TO MY BIKE?
Two rules that every provider will enforce are the covering of lights and the removal of mirrors. Disabling the tail light is the first priority for bike prep, whether it be by covering it with tape or pulling the fuse. It’s important to eliminate as many distractions on track as possible, and seeing your fellow riders’ lights flashing certainly won’t do you any good in the focus department. Add to that, seeing bikes moving around in your mirrors will tempt you to take your eyes off the course, which is a recipe for disaster. Be sure to bring extra tape with you, just in case you miss a spot. Aside from those two universal rules, many providers have their own requirements, most commonly safety wiring, that they will post up on their website.
Steady hand required. Photo credit: Morgan Britt CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Safety wiring is an interesting way of keeping your bolts and oil filter in place, but it requires some know-how to get it done. The oil filter can be kept in place with a hose clamp whose end you can attach to a solid structure on the bike, making it impossible for the filter to break loose with engine vibrations. Even less commonly, some organizers will ask that you safety wire your brake caliper bolts, but that is a requirement reserved mostly for competitive races. To properly secure your calipers you’ll need special tools and wire, and most importantly high performance bolts are made to be safety wired.
Obviously, a track day will be extremely hard on your bike, so it’s important that you’re up to date on all regular and major maintenance. You’re going to push your bike very hard, so everything needs to be tip top if you want to make it through the day. Don’t be the guy whose engine blows and covers the track in oil.
Before you’re allowed on the track, your bike will have to pass tech inspection where they’ll check your chain, brakes, lights, tires and general condition. The tech will look at your tires and make sure you’ve got a reasonable amount of tread left, or if you’re running racing slicks that the rubber is fresh and intact. Your chain should always be clean, lubed and properly adjusted, so there should be no reason for you to do anything special here (right?). Brake pads should have a healthy amount of meat on them; likewise, your oil, coolant and brake fluid should also be fresh enough to take a beating, but not necessarily brand new.
Tracks used to require that coolant be pure water, for fear of radiator leaks which are common in track crashes. Most track day providers will now agree that the typical antifreeze/water mix we normally run is acceptable for anything less than professional racing.
WHAT TIRE PRESSURE SHOULD I RUN?
The only answer I can give to this question that won’t set off some portion of the motorcycle community is this: lower than what you’d run on the street. If you take a look at your owner’s manual you’ll see that the recommended tire pressures are absurdly high. I’ve seen recommendations above 40 PSI, but those pressures are just there for the manufacturer’s legal department to sleep well at night.
For high performance riding where you want the largest contact patch possible, a cold PSI of 31 is a great starting point. As you develop as a track rider you’ll naturally want to play with different pressures, at which point you’ll find what really suits you best. The tech inspectors will rarely (if ever) check your tire pressure, so whatever you choose to go with is entirely up to you.
HOW DO I GET MYSELF TO THE TRACK?
Unless you live within spitting distance of the track, you’re going to want to tow your bike. Not only will it make the trip to and from the track more pleasant, but this way you’ll be able to pack everything you need for the day as well. If you think you’ll be able to ride home after going all out at the track the whole day, you’re in for a rude awakening. Another benefit (should you have a trailer that can fit more than one bike) is that you and your buddies can split the cost of gas since loud racetracks are usually positioned far away from population centers (i.e. you’re in for a long drive).
Nothing but the best for these guys. Photo credit: vlklwood/Photobucket
WHEN SHOULD I ARRIVE?
This depends on how far you live from the track and whether it allows overnight camping, but the early bird gets the worm here. The earlier you arrive, the better position you’ll get to set up in the paddock, and if you’re lucky you might even be able to score some shade. If you live more than a couple hours away from the track and the organizers allow camping, then I highly recommend it. Being sleep deprived for a track day sucks, so don’t waste your money if you’re not going to have a good time. The alternative is to get a motel room for the night before, but motels in rural areas can have a certain…charm.
WHAT DO I TAKE TO THE TRACK?
Hydration. Hydration. Hydration.
Pack a cooler with ice and load up as many bottles of water and Gatorade as you can stuff in there, because you’ll probably need every last drop. On a hot summer day you could cook an egg on the track’s surface. You’re going to roast in those leathers, so at least a couple gallons of water per person will be necessary. Food is rarely provided by the organizers, and if it is, it’ll be overpriced cafeteria food. A loaf of bread and some deli meat will satisfy you, and granola bars will keep you going the whole day. You can be real fancy and pack yourself a whole picnic, just be ready to have the rest of the guys in the paddock circling you like vultures.
The paddock may have some shaded areas but don’t count on scoring a spot unless you arrive the night before. It’s best to bring a foldable canopy and some folding chairs to rest your weary bones between track sessions. The last thing you want is to suffer heat stroke in the middle of Farm Country, USA.
Bring a tire pressure gauge you trust, since you’ll want to make sure your PSI is exactly where you want it. A set of basic tools, one that you can use to pull your body work, patch a tire or adjust your chain may come in handy, or you may just save some guy’s day. It’s always best to be prepared.
Gasoline at the track is usually available but way overpriced. It’s best to bring a 10-gallon can and fill it up at a gas station on your way out. If you bring too much, it’s not like it’s going to waste–you’ll use that gas eventually.
WHAT DO I WEAR?
Obviously, since this is a track event, you’re going to need full track leathers. A one-piece suit will look great, but a two-piece that zips together is just as good. Your full-faced helmet should be either SNELL or ECE approved, on top of the normal DOT standard. Full gauntlet gloves that cover your wrist will keep your hands safe, and strong, high-performance boots will keep your ankles in place. After the day is over, you’ll probably want to get out of your sweat soaked and foul smelling leathers, so bring a comfortable change of clothes for the drive back.