10 tips for doing your first track day

Many times I am teaching Track Drill 1on1 students according to their skill level in the slow group. This is typically group C, or B-, depending on the track day organizer and race track we’re going with.  While my student is pretty much safe and in control, I see almost every time a total disaster for a whole lot of other inexperienced riders all over a track day.

The spectrum I’ve seen in all the years I have been doing this ranges from $300 scratches on the bikes up to totals in material, and with the stuff you can’t repair, it goes from bruises to broken bones, lost jobs, and even up to a lost life. All of that, 99% of the time, for super dumb reasons… panic attacks, target fixation, and overreacting, which are triggered by a ‘moment of instability’ in confidence.

Whoever attends my programs knows what components are the essential nutrients for building ‘confidence’: knowledge, training & correction, practice. Instead, those riders skip all of that, hurting themselves, and even worse… involving other riders in their crash as well. Mostly, their excuses are totally off reality: someone else, the tires, the suspension, or their bike are the top excuses for f..’ing things up massively.  This video is a perfect example, which is a YouTube pick from thousands of clips like it:

The gentleman on the video comes out of the pit lane on cold tires on the Laguna Seca Raceway, and starts with not much “foreplay” with more or less useful hanging off exercises. At that point I should mention that one rule of the Laguna Raceway is to not to go on the race line on turn 3 if you’ve just entered the track. But anyway, he feels obviously “ready” to follow a faster rider into turn 5. His track day is done right there, and his friend behind him seems to go down as well… just because of these things: ego, cold tires, target fixation, panic, and overreacting.

So I thought I’d give some tips for less or inexperienced riders who are up to attacking their first track day, in the hope that this will help them and others stay healthy:

  1. If you don’t have a decent amount of street miles under your belt, and you are still working on essentials such as shifting, throttle and brake control… don’t come to the track!
  2. Take a race bike rental to the track. Feel Like A Pro—or we also have track-ready bikes you can rent and insure. These bike are small, and learning comes before torque.
  3. Don’t watch videos from other riders to “learn” the track you’ve chosen. At the end of the day, you’ll feel lost in reality anyway, and videos like the one above will just freak you out.
  4. Be careful whose advice you take, and which friend and riding buddies might accompany you. There is a German saying… ‘too many chefs mess up a meal’.
  5. Don’t change to ‘better’ tires, but stick to the ones you know. Nothing is wrong with them. They are made for millions of riders, and you can go with ‘better’ ones later.
  6. Same goes for the suspension—where many experts deliver advice. Just know that your suspension is totally fine, and that an experienced rider would get a 20 second faster lap time out of your suspension without any ‘adjustments’. All of that stuff you won’t feel for now and it just makes you more nervous. Do it way later, when you begin to feel these things—and then you can really appreciate and use them.
  7. If you are not able to find or keep the race line, stop riding before things get worse and ask the right people for advice. You and other inexperienced riders will freak out because you are extremely hard to pass.
  8. Take advantage of riding with a track day instructor, which is free of charge, or get everything you need from our Cornering School Days or even Track Drill 1on1.
  9. Don’t do 20 mph sightseeing laps. Other inexperienced riders don’t know how to pass safely and quickly. I’ve seen clusters of 10 – 15 riders which f’s up an entire 20-minute session for pretty much everyone. Don’t be the guy!
  10. It’s not your bike! It’s all good—it’s made for millions of riders world-wide. Trust in what you have, and understand that you are the component making the mistakes. Don’t look down to the asphalt or target the dirt outside the track. Relax your muscles and breath out while going into a turn.

I could keep going forever, but that would get into individual issues and problem solving “between your ears”, which is my favorite subject! So why not take it easy, for you and others?!

Can Akkaya

Headcoach, Superbike-Coach Corp

6 replies
  1. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    It seems like this came almost directly out of our experiences the other weekend at Laguna Seca with the 20mph sightseeing through the Corkscrew. I’ve been re-watching some of the footage I captured over the weekend and it’s clear that, while a number of people are clearly working on their skills, a lot of people are stopping it up on the track where you come upon them with a massive delta-V. It’s downright dangerous (and a fair bit scary)! It makes it harder for other riders building up their confidence to be backed down a few.

    Reply
      • Andrew
        Andrew says:

        Which? The people going for a nice Sunday Drive though the Corkscrew? Either take it off the track, or maybe take up with a good Coach like Coach Can so they can learn better how to ride the track! :-) To the people actually working on their skills that come up on the Tourists? Breathe. Focus on following their own lines (even if a lot slower) and pass them when they have room to do it safely.

        Reply
  2. Dean Lonskey
    Dean Lonskey says:

    Coach, I agree. Even though I’ve never taken a track day or riding course, other than your wheelie clas, what you’re saying also applies to street riding. Unlike the bikes of old, standards and sportbikes these days are so advanced, the average rider won’t come close to the bikes limit so any crashes that happen really do tend to be more pilot error than anything. There’s also a saying here “helmet on, brain off”. Depending on track size, 1 lap isn’t going to be enough to get your tires up to temp so you have to realize this and be really smooth to avoid this kind of crash. For a first timer at a track, I can understand Coach’s advice about not watching videos of others. However, I also somewhat disagree. If your going to watch a video, make sure it isn’t a crash video and make sure it’s someone who knows what they are doing…keeping in mind to watch more the track layout then what he/she is doing. Chances are you won’t be able to mimic that riders lines and methods. Another example is watching race footage. Again, just remember this is to get familiar with the track and that’s it…just my opinion.

    Reply

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