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Advice

How to prepare for your first track day

If you’ve never been on track you should – but how? By following our guide and a few simple tips, that’s how…

There’s no doubt that Riding on track is one of the most fun, exciting and educational things you can do on two wheels but especially for novices, it can also be one of the most daunting as well. But with the right research, preparation and approach it needn’t be.
But how? Here’s our top tips for preparing for your first track day…
Plan ahead
If you’ve never done a track day before start researching now. There are plenty of companies online operating at different circuits across the UK and Europe. Most divide participants into three categories; Novice, Intermediate and Advanced and many provide instructors who can give advice. Get recommendations and check ratings and feedback. Also pick your circuit carefully, both for proximity and the sort of track experience you want and bear in mind the likely weather at the time of year you’re considering. Some track days are also aimed specifically at Novices and will be geared that way. There are even some ‘Women only’ track day providers.
Once you’ve selected your event you should learn as much about the circuit as you can, such as through YouTube and even plan how to get there and how long it will take as many events start at 7am. If you’re travelling a long way consider staying overnight in a B&B. Finally, remember to fully read and sign all booking forms and waivers in advance, if possible, and make sure you pack both parts of your driving license – if you fail to bring these chances are you won’t even be allowed on the track.
Sort your riding gear
You’ll need need either a one-piece set of leathers or a two piece set which zips together all the way round the waist. It’s also wise (though not compulsory) to also wear a back protector and even a chest protector. In addition you’ll need appropriate gloves and boots and a good quality helmet. Some organisers also require that this is race approved with an ACU gold sticker so check in advance. Remember your earplugs if you use them and it’s also sensible to take an oversuit in case it rains and a visor demister. Ideally you have a big kit bag all of this can be packed into so you can grab and go.
Prepare your bike
Assuming you’ll be using your own bike (you don’t always have to – some track day companies provide rental track bikes – although these have to be arranged in advance and can be expensive) you should prepare that, too, for the track.
First, give your bike a good check over. Ensure all controls work properly, brake pads and tyres have plenty of life left the chain is decent and correctly adjusted etc, the oil level is topped up and that nothing is loose. Most track days have a maximum noise limit, usually around 102dB, so if you have an aftermarket exhaust you’ll need to check the noise level before you go. It’s also advisable to either remove or at least fold in your mirrors and tape over your speedo – both are unnecessary distractions on track. Finally top up your fuel tank and, if you can, take with you a jerry can of fuel and a decent funnel. It’s also worth taking at least a basic tool kit – some sockets, spanners, flat and cross head screwdrivers, pliers, tie-wraps, wire, duct tape and a tyre pressure gauge – to cope with any mechanical gremlins that might crop up. People will usually help out if you get stuck for tools but it's always better to take your own.
Getting there / transport
As long as it’s road legal, there’s nothing stopping you riding your bike there but we’d recommend using a van or trailer instead. It’s more comfortable (especially after riding all day), safer and, if going with some mates, more fun and cheaper, too. It also means you can easily transport your track gear, tools, food and so on. If the worst should happen and you damage either your bike or yourself, it’s a more surefire way of getting home, too.
On the day
Assuming you’ve prepared everything correctly and you’ve found the circuit in good time, what happens next?
First you should follow signs or directions to the paddock and find a good base for the day. Depending on the circuit you may be able to use one of the pit garages. Otherwise a spot in earshot of the tannoy will be fine. Next you’ll need to register or sign on (which is when you’ll need both parts of your driving licence and completed event paperwork). In return you’ll usually get a sticker for your bike (denoting which group you’re riding in) and a wristband, which will be checked before each session. After registration you’ll need to get your bike noise tested and will receive another sticker to show for it. After this there will be a mandatory safety briefing for all participants, often in the café/restaurant or one of the garages. When your first session comes you’ll line up usually in the pit lane or track entrance on your bike with all your correct gear on. Your stickers and wristband will be checked and then you’ll collectively be led out on track. The first two or three laps are usually conducted at a reasonably slow pace with no overtaking so you can warm your tyres and learn the circuit. Following this you’ll usually re–enter the pit lane, form up again and are then released to enjoy the remainder of the session at your own pace with overtaking now permitted. Take your time to learn the track and when you build up confidence start increasing your speed. Above all: enjoy it.
More track day tips
  • Take a mate or relative to help. They’ll make it more of a laugh, too.
  • Bring a change of clothes – on a warm day you’ll get sweaty. On a cold one you’ll need warmth afterwards.
  • Pack some food, lots of water and a few creature comforts such as a camp chair – between sessions you might want to sit down.
  • Ride within your abilities and make small, gradual improvements. Getting carried away will only end in disaster.
  • Know when to come in or stop – if you get tired your riding will suffer and you’ll be more likely to crash.