Track days are a great environment to learn to ride safer, test the boundaries of you and your bike, and not worry about tickets and such. There are a lot of different ways to approach a track day for the first time, and if you've already done your fair share of track days, maybe there is something you'll get from this article that you didn't know.
I did my first track day at Portland International Raceway here in Portland, Oregon, back in spring of 2008 on a 1967 Honda CB160. I was just 13 years old. I'm 22 now, so although it might sound odd, I'm a seasoned track day veteran. Now as far as the gear goes, it's pretty simple to see what people are using and what works well. If you are looking to go all out, the initial investment can make you cringe, but believe me, if you're serious about track days, it's only a matter of time before you accumulate at least some of this stuff. But for the casual guy or gal who takes their street legal sport bike out to the track, don't worry, I have tips for you too.
Casual Track Day Goer or First Timer
I'd describe this person as someone who takes their full blown street legal bike, with street tires out to the track, entering a "C" Group or Beginner level session. You're not looking to make the jump to bike stands and tire warmers quite yet, or at all, but you want to be comfortable and have a good time. Here are a couple things I'd recommend:
A high quality tire gauge is a must have. Tire pressures are very important to set properly on a sport bike. Most likely at the track day event, a tire vendor will be there and able tell you where to set your cold pressures at. Ride with the peace of mind knowing that your tires are ready to ride on. You'll definitely need a tire gauge if you decide to get tire warmers down the road.
Gauntlet style gloves are required for track days, so if you don't have a pair, you'll need some. These ICON Hypersport Pro gloves are the exact same gloves I use when I race at MotoAmerica. They are super comfy, affordable, and seriously durable. I've had my fair share of high speed get-offs, and I've never had to trash a pair of these gloves.
Dunlop Q3 tires are seriously amazing on track, and they are DOT rated for the street. At the Rickdiculous Racing School, we ride on bone stock Yamaha R6s equipped with Dunlop Q3 tires. I can do lap times on a stock bike with these exact street tires within a few seconds of my MotoAmerica race bike with Dunlop GPA-Pro race tires. Crazy!
Intermediate Track Day Goer
The intermediate track day goer would be someone who is "B" group or Intermediate level, who is ready to take the next step and invest more into their track day experience. Here are some essentials:
Tire warmers, there's a lot of options. But they all do the same essential thing, heat up the tire. If you're buying your first set, there's nothing wrong with your basic single temp tire warmer set. Even the pro's use them. All the brands MotoSport.com carries are brands I'd trust to heat my tires, so you can't go wrong here.
To get warmers on your bike, you'll need stands. These Pit Bull stands are exactly what I use. You'll need spools installed on your swing arm for the rear stand obviously. These stands will last you forever, too.
Protect your bike. If you have a crash, you'll wish you had these if you didn't. I run GB Racing products on all my road race bikes.
Track Day "Pro"
The typical track day "pro" is usually a serious track day goer, with bikes setup purely for the track. This rider can be both "A" or "B" Group level. If you consider yourself a track day pro, you are well equipped with everything I've listed so far, and then some probably. But I'll take a shot at you with this:
Lap timers, must have if you are looking to keep track of your progression. Without a lap timer, I feel lost if I can't see my lap times. A lap timer is great for knowing your pace, setting pace, or trying to achieve a certain pace. This basic XT Racing lap timer (which requires the transmitter because it's not GPS based) is what I first started out with, and it's so easy to use, a caveman can do it. You'll need a small 12-volt battery to hook up the transmitter to. I also have the XT Racing GPX Pro 4 and 8 if you are looking too really up the ante.
Tank grip. It's not to protect your tank, it's to grip your legs. Engage your core when leaning off the bike, by weighting your outside leg on the tank when hanging off in the turns. This will take pressure off your arms on handlebars. This technique is used by all the pros.
If you're a track day pro, you're no stranger to changing out wheels and tires. This tool makes that process a bit easier. It helps push out the axle, while keeping your rear brake caliper in place.
Motorcycle track days are a lot of fun, and an addiction for some. There will always be something you'll want or need, that never ends. But hopefully there was something in this article that will make a small difference for you at the track next time. Ride safe, and ride hard!
Andy DiBrino is a MotoSport-sponsored rider competing in the MotoAmerica Superstock 600 class