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Old 02-24-2017, 10:21 PM   #1
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The Beginner's Guide to Trackdays

Beginner’s Guide to Trackdays

So you want to ride your motorcycle on the track, huh? Great! Not much else on this planet is more addicting than going fast on a motorcycle in a safe environment. Now that you’ve made the decision to venture into this wonderful world, there are a few things you need to know.

This post is designed to be a sort of walkthrough for those interested in riding trackdays. It is not an all-inclusive list, and there will be things you realize you like/need as you participate more and more.

Select your trackday provider. There are a ton of them out there that run at different tracks on different dates. Find one that suits your needs and sign up. If this is your first trackday, I recommend signing up for the beginner group (usually named C group or B- group). You might be a fast street rider, but this is a different sport. If you get there and are too fast for the group you signed up, ask an instructor to move you up a group. They might want to follow you for a few laps and make sure you’re ready. Conversely, if you sign up for B/B+ and it’s too fast, there’s no shame in bumping down a group provided there is room. Just ask the instructors and they will try to accommodate.

Remember…. there isn’t any room for ego at these events though. There’s no trophy at the end of the day. The purpose of these events is to have fun and build your skill set. It doesn’t matter what group that happens in.


Assuming you’ve already found a trackday provider and selected a date for your first experience here is what you need to do before you get there:

Preparing your motorcycle:

Most trackday providers require a basic level of preparation for a motorcycle to pass technical inspection and be suitable for riding on the race track. These tasks generally include:
  • The motorcycle must be in good, working condition and is current on maintenance including serviceable chain, sprockets, oil change, and brake fluid.
  • Double check your oil drain plug.
  • It's a good idea to go over the motorcycle and check for loose bolts also. Not only can losing a bolt result in catastrophic failure, but a bolt flying off a motorcycle at 100+mph is a dangerous projectile to other riders on the track.
  • Motorcycle should not be excessively oily or dirty.
  • Taping of glass parts including mirrors, headlamps, tail lights.
  • Removing bulbs or fuses from tail and brake lamps.
  • It is recommended to replace antifreeze with non-glycol coolant such as Water Wetter.
  • Tires in good condition and designed for roadway use (road tires or slicks, no knobbies).
  • Taping wheel weights (duct tape works fine).
  • Triple check your oil drain plug.
  • Valve stem caps in place.
  • Brake and Clutch lever must have the ball ends still attached.
  • Working kill switch.
  • Kickstand spring loaded, fixed, or removed.
  • Stock exhaust or dB inserts are required for Laguna Seca.

Required riding gear:

Now that your motorcycle is ready to hit the track, let’s make sure you’ve got all the equipment necessary to ride safely. The following is a list of riding gear that is necessary or highly recommended:
  • An uncrashed full face DOT approved helmet with visor.
  • One piece or two piece leather (must zip together all the way around) riding suit.
  • *Some providers allow a 2-piece zip together textile suit similar to an Aerostich for C group.
  • Leather full gauntlet style (overlap suit sleeves) motorcycle gloves.
  • Full ankle motorcycle boots.
  • Back protector.
  • Medical insurance.
  • Bring your motorcycle keys or any other keys you may need to ride your motorcycle (cable/brake locks, etc...). You may laugh, but it wouldn't be on the list if no one ever forgot it!


Recommended packing list:

Here are some other things you may consider bringing to make your experience more enjoyable:
  • Canopy (EZ-Up)
  • Folding chairs
  • Sack lunch
  • Cooler with bottled water
  • Tool kit
  • Motorcycle ramp
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Air pump/compressed air
  • Emergency contact information (in case you’re by yourself)
  • Duct tape
  • Zip ties
  • Cash $$$

As you progress into faster groups, you may consider adding the follow items to your equipment list:
  • Front and rear stands
  • Generator
  • Fan to plug into generator
  • Tire warmers to plug into generator
  • Spares kit (some providers will let you back on the track if you crash after you re-tech the bike)

Days prior:

Alrighty… Now that you’re motorcycle is ready and you’ve got all the riding equipment and gear you need, let’s talk about what to do in the days coming up to your first track experience.

First things first: HYDRATE!!!!

You’re about to use muscles you never knew you had, and riding a motorcycle around a race track for 20 minutes straight can be physically and mentally exhausting. Your body will need all the fluids it can take.

Drink plenty of water for the few days prior to your trackday. For hydration at the racetrack facility, I recommend coconut water and Pedialyte. I generally drink water throughout the day and also add on coconut water and/or Pedialyte in between on-track sessions. If your trackday is at Thunderhill Raceway in the summer time, you’ll really appreciate having liquids in your body because temps can get to 110*.

It’s also important to eat a healthy and full meal the night before. Again, this stuff is physically demanding. Your body will need the carbohydrates to burn so you don’t get mentally and physically gassed (pun intended) on the track.

Planning the trip:

If you’re traveling far to the track, it might be worth it to look into local hotels so you can leave the night before and get a decent amount of rest before getting up bright and early to head to the track. Buttonwillow Raceway is about 4 hours from San Francisco. Thunderhill Raceway is about 2.5 hours. Sonoma Raceway is about 45 minutes. Laguna Seca is about 2 hours.

Some providers open the gates the night before the event so you can camp inside or outside the gates if you're the outdoorsy type.


The day of:

If you’re planning on leaving the morning of the event, make sure you leave early enough that you can arrive between 7:00am and 7:30am. The facility gates, registration, and tech usually open at 7:00am. The earlier you get there, the less of a line you’ll have to deal with.

If you’re there early (before 7am) and you see a bunch of trailers or tents set up, don’t make a racket while unpacking your gear or revving your motorcycle. Some folks might still be sleeping.

When you arrive, find a spot in the pits and it’s time to set up your pit for the day. Most pit spots are lined with white paint. Be reasonable with the space you take. Depending on the day, it might be full and you’ll look like a jerk taking up 3 pits with a single cab Tacoma and one motorcycle.
  1. Go to registration and check in. They will give you a tech slip that you’ll need to bring with you for tech inspection.
  2. Take your motorcycle and helmet to technical inspection. The tech inspectors will look over your motorcycle. They may ask questions or tell you to fix something and bring it back. When you pass tech, the inspector will put a sticker on your bike indicating which group you’re in and that you’ve passed.
  3. Rider’s Meeting. THIS IS MANDATORY FOR ALL RIDERS. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been to this track 100 times. During this meeting, they go over the flags, track conditions, rules/procedures of the day, and track entrance and exits. They will go over the format for the day (order of groups), when lunch break is, and introduce some of the vendors and services that are provided at the track (massage, photography, suspension services, tires, etc…)
  4. After Rider’s Meeting, you’ll have maybe 15-30 minutes to prepare for the first session of the day. Different providers run different formats. Some start with A group. Some start with C group. Just listen to the PA announcements.

Next, the PA announcer will call the first group of the day. If it’s C group, get ready! The addiction is about to begin!


Time on the track:

Most trackday providers offer a sighting session for C group riders who are new to the track. This will be 1 instructor assigned to 5-6 riders and the pace will be very relaxed. The purpose of this session is to get you comfortable on the track, show you the lines to take around the track, and make sure you’re capable of riding a motorcycle at slightly elevated speeds. Pay attention to the instructors.

After that initial session, it will be on you. Report for C group, go out, and have a blast. If you want to improve your pace, you are encouraged to pull an instructor aside and ask for help, ask for a tow, or ask any questions you have.

What to do between sessions:

Before your group is called, it's not a bad idea to start your bike a few minutes early to let it warm up a bit Going out and putting a full load on a cold engine can cause damage down the road. It's recommended to do this prior to every session to get the oil circulated and warm up the metal internals parts.

Make sure to hydrate after each session on track. Dehydration and heat exhaustion creep up quickly! Drink after every on-track session, even if you're not thirsty. "If you ain't peeing, you're dying!" I like coconut water because it is rich in potassium, which can help with muscle cramps. I also drink Pedialyte throughout the day because it has electrolytes yo!

It's also a good idea to get some calories in between sessions. Something light such as an energy bar, trail mix, fruit, etc... Eat cheeseburgers and chili fries at your own risk! There's nothing worse than having a track session cut short because you had a bathroom emergency. At some point, there will also be a lunch break and the track shuts down. Some tracks have a concession stand that will have stuff like burgers, sandwiches, fries, etc... Some folks pack a lunch. Don't eat too much during lunch, because that first session after lunch isn't far off and we don't want a bathroom emergency.

To stay cool in between sessions there are lots of things you can do. I like a wet towel over my head/neck. If you're at a track with power hookups, perhaps plan on bringing a fan with you to get air moving around. Try and stay in the shade as much as possible also. You're in the sun in a 10lb leather suit working your body strenuously. Any down time should be taken advantage of.

Most trackday providers also have track photography services on site. It doesn't hurt to check in with them throughout the day and check your body position and line on the track to see where you might be able to improve in future sessions or trackdays. If you like a picture, PAY FOR IT! Don't swipe it for free from the photographer's website or take a picture of the monitor with your cell phone. It's poor form. That's how these folks make a living.

Once the day is over, it's time to pack up. Make sure you pick up everything you brought and throw away any garbage you had in your pit. Don't leave the pits a mess. If you brought someone with you (like a significant other, husband/wife, brother/sister, or non-riding friend), it might be smart to let them drive home. You're going to be tired.


Final Thoughts:

BARF is a huge resource available to you. If you want to get into trackdays but still have questions, don't hesitate to search old threads, post questions in this thread, or reach out to experienced riders. There is a REALLY good chance that there will be dozens of other BARFers at the track when you're there. This group of experienced track riders can be a fantastic source of information. If you feel you might need some guidance or want to meet cool new people, arrange to pit next to another BARFer who can guide you through the day and give tips and tricks for making the experience more enjoyable and making sure you learn as much as you can.

The whole purpose of riding on the track is to have fun. No one would pay this much money for a hobby if they're not having fun. Keeping that in mind, remember that riding a motorcycle is dangerous and the dangers can be elevated in a track environment. If you don't feel safe, be it because of your skill level, actions of other riders on the track, track conditions, or something else, tell an instructor and remove yourself from the environment by exiting the track through the designated pit exit. Be considerate to other riders on the track also. There are dozens of other people that paid the same money you did for the same experience.

Have fun and ride safe!
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Old 01-21-2018, 01:56 PM   #2
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Are there any providers that rent leathers? I have everything but the suit ready to go
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Old 01-21-2018, 02:05 PM   #3
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Nick, this is excellent. May I repost it (with due credit) to another forum?
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Old 01-21-2018, 02:27 PM   #4
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You go to another forum?

Honestly thanks for asking. The proper protocol IMO is to ask permission as you have done. Once granted hit the individual post link and copy that to the other forum. If people click it it brings them to barf but they don’t have to to view the info.
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Old 01-29-2018, 03:45 PM   #5
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Are there any providers that rent leathers? I have everything but the suit ready to go
Most trackday organizations have some suits. I borrowed one on my first trackday. Just give them an email or phone call to set it up.
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Old 03-27-2018, 09:25 PM   #6
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Are there any providers that rent leathers? I have everything but the suit ready to go
Yes, just send us a message (find our email at www.z2trackdays.com) and we'll do our best to get you suited up to ride!
(Note that for our C group we allow 1-piece or 2-piece suits with at least 6 inch zipper on the 2-piece suits)
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Old 03-29-2018, 01:16 PM   #7
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Most trackday organizations have some suits. I borrowed one on my first trackday. Just give them an email or phone call to set it up.
Feel like a pro rents leathers. My friend forgot his and rented a set at thunderhill day of for $75.
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Old 08-26-2018, 11:52 AM   #8
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Great Information! Just to make sure I don't forget my Key, I keep the spare in the truck that tows the trailer. Never thought I would need it...until I did!
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