After over a decade of motorcycle riding (on and off the track) I decided to compile a top 5 must haves list for riders looking to take a leap of faith from the gnarly street to the smooth symmetry of the track. First things first! Before we can enjoy that first cherry pop of dragging a knee here’s a list of what any rider would need before their epic campaign can begin.
1. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Yes. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news for you but safety is numero uno (#1). Motorcycle gear keeps the road rash to a minimum. Having a good quality helmet helps keep the face beautiful (LOL)…anyone want to swap their nose where their ear? (Cricket Cricket). Safety is paramount when it comes to riding. Some of my most epic crashes are within my first three years of riding. I recommend gauntlet gloves, an approved helmet, full leathers, race boots, back and chest protector to start. Quality is definitely a factor but I’ll post a feed later on each.
2. Ohhh the Mighty Bike!
Some have the misconception, I have done this, that since I ride everyday in the street I can just off ramp it to the track. Ahhhh..not quite. There are a million and one changes your bike will need to keep you from making love to the asphalt. So if you’ve followed step one here are a few basic necessities your steed will need before you and it do battle. Safety wire the mess out of it. Ensure your caliper bolts, oil drain plug/bolt, and rear axle bolt have been drilled with a 1/8” hole. This will allow you to apply safety wire to these areas. If possible, safety wire the oil filter. This is an optional step but K&N makes a safety wire friendly filter for the motorcycle community.
I recommend race plastics. To each his or her own here but I prefer Woodcraft race body work. They produce a strong quality product without racking those pockets. If your new and just want to tape up the head light and tail light please do not crash. I repeat Do Not Crash. OEMs are grossly expensive. To help your urge to do more at the track because you are “getting your grove” tape a price list on your windscreen as a reminder to what you will have to pay once the dust settles. Trust me on this! Buying new OEMs is not a fun time.
Now probably the most important list on the second item are tires. When I first started I thought tires are tires. Right? I couldn’t be more wrong. As mentioned before about “getting your grove”, well I crashed in the second half of the day because I was asking too much of my tires. My body position was wrong. Track reference points all jacked up. I had way too many negative inputs that my tires couldn’t take the load. This was due impart that they were street tires. Race and street tires are completely different. Without them at the track is like wearing Chuck Taylors to play Lebron James in a one on one game. A completely flawed concept. Do your research and even ask someone if you have to. Also check the manufacturers recommended tire pressure. A heated track can overinflate your tires making them lose grip.
3. Suspension is King
Suspension has got to be the most under rated, least talked about, must have change in the motorcycle world; period. It’s as easy as this:If you are uncomfortable on the bike, you will not improve or be fast. The body gives off triggers when it’s in a pressured state not wanting to be in. If you push beyond those physical factors you will experience a very bad day. A bike with out a tuned suspension is like riding on a cobble stoned street ~ no bueno. You must make adjustments to your front forks and rear shock before you start to find new limits. I equate a great suspension setup as lying on a nice recliner watching the track gracefully come to you with minimal efforts.
Ironically this space in time is where you will be your fastest. Some may be fooled by all the bike gadgets, trinkets, and gizmos but the truth shall set you free. Pouring endless amounts of power into a motor will not produce results if that raw power cannot be **transferred** to the ground efficiently. It is an absolute that one throwing a leg over any two wheels vehicle can deny. This is not only a tip for track and race days but for all enthusiast who seek glory. It will also save you in those tough moments in the street keeping your pants dry. Learn all you can about suspension and traction. It will help you immensely.
4. Spare Parts
Having spare parts at the track will keep you on track for all your sessions. If you do have an off, hopefully minimal, spare parts are good to have. The biggest replacements in a crash are motorcycle clip-ons. Either stock or aftermarket ensures you have a second set.
Broken brake and clutch levers is also an easy way to stay down at the track. If using an aftermarket lever try a foldable option. It will save you time and money down the road. Rear-set components play an essential part as well. Nothing like grinding down a foot peg to a sharp point. Keeping spare foot pegs and shift rods is a must have. Duct tape is also a quick fix to a crash. Being able to patch a hole or separation really quickly is key to recovery times. Duct tape can be applied effectively to OEMs when bolts are grind off during intense crashes. Trust the tape.
5. Bring a Friend!
Lastly, having someone with you at the track either on the track with you or in the paddock is a great way to experience the track. Both bring a huge plus to the day. Two is always better than one when turning laps at the track. It helps bring a different perspective to what you, the bike, and the track is doing throughout the day. Riding with another rider also gives you a better reference point as track conditions change. Believe it or not, growth happens when you are not on the bike. Being able to talk about the many variables of your experience will strengthen your understanding of the ride allowing you to make room for more input. Keeping your cup empty around experienced riders is always advisable as the new guy/gal. It’s how you compress a year’s worth of learning into a month. The application of what you’ve learned from others will transition to the seat mo’ better. On the flip side having someone under the canopy keeps items tied down. This can be a friend or family member. Accidents do happen and you don’t want to be caught out in the ER with no one to watch your six. These people can also ensure your stuff stays put. Although I’ve never been a victim of theft at the track, things sometimes grow legs every once in a while. Don’t get me wrong though, I’ve done a few solo trips myself but I will honestly say my best experiences have been with others at the track.
Hope you enjoyed my two-clicks on what I feel every rider needs at the track.
See you at the next turn!
For a detail parts list check out MRA Track Part List