Now that we’ve discussed preparing and outfitting yourself for your day at the track, it’s time to make sure your bike is track-ready.
Crash protection, such as frame, axle and exhaust sliders, engine case covers and crash bars, are an inexpensive form of insurance when it comes to saving your bike from serious damage. A lot of riders choose to use some form of crash protection, even if they never plan to go to a track—all it takes is one garage tip-over or encountering some gravel in a slow-speed turn to ruin your day.
At the track, you’ll be pushing your limits, and possibly those of your machine as well, so spending a couple hundred dollars on some easy-to-mount crash protection is a no-brainer.
Tires are possibly the most important piece of equipment for your bike; those rubber hoops are the only connection between you and the pavement, and as such most track organizations are adamant about the condition of the tires you have on your bike when you show up for a track day.
If there’s a time not to skimp on tires, this is it. If your tires have more than a couple thousand miles on them, I recommend springing for a new set of quality rubber from a name brand manufacturer. If you’re taking your sport-tourer, cruiser or adventure bike to the track, mount up a fresh set of your street-oriented tire of choice. If you’re bringing something more sporting, opt for a sport-biased tire such as the Dunlop Qualifier 3, Michelin Pilot Power 3, Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S-21 or Pirelli Diablo Rosso.
Just remember to “scrub” them in before you hit the track!
Unlike riding on the street, track day tires will wear out faster on the sides than down the middle. The upshot is that, even after a hard day at the track, your new tires will be ready for a normal lifetime of street use.
Pro Tip: Always check the manufacturing date of the tires you buy, especially if the price seems too good to be true. Tires degrade even in storage; if yours are between five and 10 years old, consider leaving them at home. If they’re 10 years old or more, pitch ‘em.
It’s a good idea to inspect your brake system before you head to the track. You should be changing the brake fluid every two years, and if your reservoirs have sight windows, take a peek and make sure the level is within spec.
Using a flashlight, take a look at the pad thickness both front and rear. Remember that you’ll be riding harder at the track than you normally do, so your brakes will get an extra workout. If the pads look a little thin, it’s a good idea to swap for fresh ones—especially if you’ve already got the wheels off for new tires.
Oil & Coolant
Fun fact: glycol-based engine coolant is slippery. Very slippery. Encounter some of it spilled onto the roadway—or right in the racing line on a track—and there’s a good chance you’ll be sliding along the tarmac before you can say “Water Wetter.” For this reason, some track organizations require you to flush the coolant from your bike and replace it with distilled water.
Most track schools, however, especially those geared towards street riders, don’t require it. In either case, make sure the system is filled within spec and there are no leaks. You don’t want to leave a dangerous trail of slippery coolant behind you!
If you’re approaching your bike’s scheduled oil change interval, it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and change it. As with coolant, check for any leaks and make doubly sure you’ve tightened the drain plug (with a new crush washer) appropriately.
Pro Tip: Organizations vary on their coolant/water requirements. Be sure to ask BEFORE you get to the track—there’s nothing worse than failing tech because you forgot to check the rules.
Wait, why am I worrying about lights at a track day? It’s not like we’re going to be signaling lane changes, right? Most track organizations and schools will require you to disconnect or tape off your headlight and brake light, and they’ll likely want you to tape off the turn signals, auxiliary lights and any reflectors, as well as removing or taping over the mirrors.
The reason is two-fold: one, your brake light can be distracting to riders behind you, and two, in the event you take a spill, they are trying to minimize the broken glass and plastic debris that might scatter across the pavement and become a hazard to others.
You can tape the lights at home if you’re trailering to the track, or, if you’re riding your bike there, just bring a roll with you and allow some extra time in the morning to get taped up.
Pro Tip: Use blue painter’s tape—it’s easy to trim to fit and it will peel off easily, leaving no sticky residue behind.
If you’re trailering your bike, you’ll have the luxury of bringing some extra items that might come in handy:
- Pop-up tent (i.e. an EZ-Up)
- Folding chairs
- Bike stand
- Cooler for water and food
- Extra gas, oil, chain lube, etc.
Even if you aren’t trailering, it would be a good idea to pack a backpack or bike luggage with these essentials:
- Tire pressure gauge
- Extra brake and clutch levers
- Basic tools (screwdriver, sockets and/or hex head wrenches in sizes corresponding to commonly reached areas: battery, side panels, mirrors, etc.)
- Drinking water
So now we have covered outfitting yourself and preparing your bike. The final part of the story is the track day itself!
Part 3: Your First Track Day: Getting Schooled: Reg Pridmore’s CLASS Motorcycle School