Beyond Your Gear: How to Be Prepared for Your First Track Day

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Besides proper riding gear, there are other requirements and tips that will help ensure you and your bike are both ready and prepared to make the most of your first track day.  Every track will have its own requirements and conditions, so be sure to confirm with your local track before heading out.

TAPE YOUR LIGHTS!

blue painters tape

Stick it to The Man! … er, bike!

Almost every track requires that you have your lights “taped up” for a track day.  Brake lights, headlights, and turn signals must not be visible during operation.  That’s right- no brake lights.  The best way to accomplish this without leaving a sticky residue on your plastics is to get a roll of blue painter’s tape.  To save time the morning of your track day, it’s best to tape up your lights the night before.  Your bike will be inspected by tech during check-in.  They will have the final say on whether your lights are still visible, so bring extra tape just in case!

 

SAFETY WIRE ALL THE THINGS!

Many tracks also require that certain parts be safety wired.  This is an added failsafe, in case a bolt, support, or closure fails.  With your engine screaming at 15,000 RPM or more, that’s not a good time to lose, say, your oil filler cap.  In the unfortunate event of a crash, it can also mean you’re not digging through the sand for a lost part.

safety wire

Safety [wire] first!

One track day, a friend forgot to properly re-install one of his front brake calipers after minor maintenance.  He also wasn’t using any safety wire.  His caliper came loose and fell off while he was riding.  Unable to brake before a turn, he totaled his bike in a wild crash.  He was lucky to walk away.  If he had used safety wire, he would have noticed the missing bolt during installation, or at least the safety wire would have prevented the caliper from falling off.  Motorcycle Closeouts sells safety wire and related tools.  You can find it all here.

 

CHANGE YOUR OIL!

It’s best to change your oil before and/or after a track day.  Track days put a lot of strain on your motor, so you want to have fresh oil.  The heat and pressure of the track day will also be hard on the oil, so it’s recommended to change your oil again after a track day.  It may seem like overkill, but it is an ounce of prevention (okay, maybe as much as 135 ounces, depending on your motorcycle) that is worth a pound of cure.  For the minimal effort and cost, it’s a great way to improve your engine’s longevity.  More important than which oil you use (one of the most hotly debated topics on motorcycle forums) is the fact that you do change it.

 

GIVE IT THE MECHANICAL ONCE-OVER!

Make sure the essentials are mechanically sound on your bike:

  • Tires should have good tread and not be flatspotted.
  • Check the tension of your drive chain (refer to your owner’s manual).
  • Check the play in your levers and your throttle.  For example, if you can pull your front brake lever all the way to your grip, you have an issue.
  • Be sure your brake pads have plenty of pad left and your rotors and calipers are in good condition.
  • Check your fork seals for leaks.
  • Check your coolant levels and brake fluid levels.
  • If you haven’t bled your brake lines in a while, now would be a good time!
  • Be sure your bike is up-to-date on all factory scheduled maintenance, including all fluid changes (fork oil, brake oil, coolant, etc).
  • If you need a tool or two to do the job, you may be able to find it here.

If you aren’t 100% comfortable performing any of these checks or repairs yourself, take your bike to a professional.  You’re about to push the limits of your bike.  You need it to be in top condition.

 

IT’S A GAS!

Bring gas!  Most tracks do not have an on-site gas station.  Whether you are planning on running race gas or pump gas, bring your own!  You will be riding your bike hard and your gas mileage will be far below what you are used to.  One full tank will not be enough to get you through a track day.  Generally, you will have to fill up at least once, if you begin with a full tank (not recommended).  So, plan accordingly!  Having spare gas also gives you the luxury of not having to run a completely full tank during a track session.  A less full tank saves weight and improves handling.

 

BRING TOOLS AND STANDS!

Have the basics with you to check tire pressure, tighten the major nuts and bolts, and make minor adjustments.  If you have ensured your bike is properly prepared, there should be little to do the day of, but minor mishaps do happen.  Throw in a roll of duct tape and some zip ties.  You’d be surprised what duct tape and zip ties can fix in a pinch.

Ideally, you will also want a set of front and rear stands for your bike.  At the very least, invest in a rear stand.  This makes repairs and adjustments between sessions a cinch, such as lubing your drive chain or installing tire warmers.  They aren’t necessary, but they would make your life a lot easier, especially if your local track requires that you remove your kickstand (some do!).

 

KEEP YOUR TIRES COOKING!

tire warmers

It’s like an electric Snuggy for your tires.

Tire warmers are the same as tire stands:  they aren’t technically necessary, but they will make your track day far more enjoyable.  They will also improve the longevity and performance of your tires.  With tire warmers, your tires are kept at or near optimal temperature between sessions.  This means less time at the start of each session spent taking it easier and warming up your tires.  You’ll have near-optimal grip and better peace of mind out of the gate.  It also means your tires will go through fewer heat cycles of heating up and cooling off, which wear down a tire’s integrity.  You can check out tire warmers here.

 

BRING YOUR OWN SHADE AND PROVISIONS!

Shade!  Garage space at the track is usually limited and reserved.  I recommend bringing a pop up tent, a tarp, a large beach umbrella- anything to keep you out of the sun (or rain!).  If it’s windy, be sure your stuff is properly secured down.  You may want to bring your own lawn chair to chill on, too, unless you like sitting on the ground.

Of course, you’ll want to walk around and visit, not hang out under your tent all the time.  So, bring sunblock.  Sunblock is like bringing the shade with you.  In fact, be sure to use plenty of sunblock on the back of your neck, especially.  The back of your neck can get roasted during track sessions, as it’s one of the only exposed areas while you’re in full gear.

Also, you’ll want to bring food and plenty to drink.  Pack a lunch, and bring plenty of water and healthy snacks.  Track days are physically demanding.  Take staying hydrated seriously.  Light, healthy snacks can help you keep up your energy and stay alert.

 

OTHER ESSENTIALS

Don’t forget to bring a spare key for your bike.  A towel is recommended, as you’ll probably sweat a lot.  Never forget your towel.  You may also want to throw a Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad in your cooler.  These things are great for cooling off between sessions.

Ear plugs are highly recommended.  Some tracks require that you use ear plugs during each session.  The track is a very loud place, especially if you are riding in a session.  Not only are you contending with engine noise, but with winds up to 180mph.  It sounds awesome, but it’s not worth permanently damaging your hearing.

Bring money for snacks or souvenirs, if the track offers either.

Keep your stuff locked up.  We would love to be able to trust our fellow motorcycle enthusiasts, but stuff can and does go missing at track days.  All valuables should remain locked in your vehicle when not in use.

Obviously, bring your driver’s license and any documentation related to your motorcycle (registration, insurance).

And, most importantly, as one of our local track day coordinators likes to say:  Bring a good attitude and a willingness to learn.

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