Riding on the track is a terrific experience that every enthusiastic motorcyclist should try at east once. Unfortunately, some common misconceptions about track riding keep many from even considering it. They miss out on a great learning opportunity and a fun day on the motorcycle.
I'd like to set the record straight and hopefully entice you to venture out of your comfort zone and enjoy another side of motorcycling.
A lot of people think that Track Days is Racing. The most common reaction I get when telling others that I ride my motorcycle on a racetrack on so-called 'track days' are that they assume it is a competitive race and that sounds dangerous. Here's the truth: Track days are not racing events. There are no official lap times. There are no awards. Everyone is there to learn, to hone riding skills, and to have a good time. A whole staff of control riders, corner workers, and a track marshal ensure that the event happens in a safe and responsible manner.
Participants are placed into groups depending on their skill and experience. Track time for the different groups is broken up into 15 to 30 minute sessions, and they are rotated throughout the day. Control riders supervise the participants, enforce the rules, and provide feedback and tips to the riders. Corner workers observe from a distance as another means to maintain safety.
The track is a controlled environment to practice riding skills. Repetitive cornering on the same stretch of road allows riders to consistently improve braking, steering, body position, and throttle control on every lap. Regardless of your background, a track day will make you a better and more confident rider. And the enhanced skills transfer directly to street riding.
The second misconception is that people think that track days are just about high speeds. The fastest way around the track is not necessarily archived by a constantly open throttle. Proper technique is far more important. That's why you may see a 1000cc sportsbike struggle to keep up with a seasoned rider on a 300cc Kawasaki Ninja 300 sportbike (until the straightaway). Braking late into a turn allows a rider to go fast longer, and hitting the apex correctly sets the motorcycle up to accelerate out of the turn sooner.
Typically track day organizers have three to four groups based on skill level, which means newcomers are in an environment that doesn't pressure them to ride at speeds beyond their comfort level.
The third wrong idea is that people think that track days are only for Sportbikes. A lot of motorcyclists assume that a sportbike is needed when, in fact, many organizers allow all sort of motorcycles in certain groups. I have seen a Honda Gold Wing drag footpegs right behind someone hand off a BMW F800GS through a chicane. The track is a great place to explore what a motorcycle is truly capable of.
We witness how advanced technology has found its way into a variety of current production motorcycles, enabling us to push the motorcycle and ourselves even closer to the limit, while still holding full control. Multi-compound tires afford the best traction at each lean angle and allow for maximum grip when accelerating or braking hard. ABS helps prevent overloading the tire and losing traction when abruptly braking. Traction control ensures that the rear wheel does not slip when accelerating too hard while the motorcycle is leaned over in a curve.
Regardless of the type of motorcycle, the riding technique remains the same when it comes to braking, cornering, and accelerating. A track day on any motorcycle is a valuable learning experience that will noticeably increase any rider's skill level.
Another thing people think is that track days are too expensive. The presumed high cost has kept a lot of riders from venturing onto the race track. With respect to typical motorcycle-related expenses, track days are actually quite affordable.