Discover how to become an amateur road racer.
What could possibly top the feeling of getting on a two-wheeled machine and riding off into the sunset? For me, it’s road racing.
In the beginning, I thought this was something that I definitely wanted to do...someday. You see, I was initially exposed to amateur motorcycle club racing when I signed up to be a turn worker for the AFM (American Federation of Motorcyclists). At the time, I took my crotch rocket to the twistier roads that Northern California had to offer.
Dreams Do Come True
I always daydreamed about being in the action with the other racers, but didn’t think I would ever be suited to compete with any of these (mostly) guys. I mean, I was just some newb who started riding in her mid-twenties. I’m sure these guys had years of riding under their belt, and maybe when I was 40 I could take a shot at racing.
Fortunately, later on I found out that copious amounts of ride time isn’t necessarily what’s needed to become an amateur road racer. I’ve met people with all kinds of riding experience—everything from a few months to 20 years.
I know that some of you reading this that currently race or have in the past may be thinking, “How did I get into it? I just simply did it.” And you know what? That’s pretty much the gist of it. However, I needed a bit more convincing because I didn’t think it was that easy. There's a small amount of work involved, especially if you want to be competitive. I mean, after all it is racing!
There are TONS of moto racing clubs around the US, so if you’re reading this and never considered road racing, but maybe hold onto it as some far-off dream, you should really start considering it now. Make that your New Years resolution for 2016!
Get Ready to Become an Amateur Road Racer: Checklist
Below are some tips on how to get started. I want to emphasize that these tidbits of advice are based off my own personal experience. I want to welcome you (the ever-so knowledgeable RideApart reader) to submit any additional words of wisdom in the comments section.
1. Do Track Days and Work with an Instructor
Photo by 4theRiders.com
This is an obvious tip, but I must emphasize how important it is. A lot of instructors actually do race or previously have, and they are going to be knowledgeable about the current track you’re riding, how to hit your apex, and how to just overall be predictable.
Predictability is key when it comes to road racing. For me, It didn’t matter how fast I was when I was getting my new racer license. Speed comes later, especially after you start racing. I was able to obtain it because I was a predictable, safe rider. I have to thank all of my track day instructors for that.
2. Do...You May Need to Start Small
Just me and the lawnmower. Photo by Oxymoron Photography.
I emphasize the word “may” because this is subjective. Not everyone will need to start on a 250cc motorcycle. However, if your racing club of choice offers a small cc class, I highly recommend trying that out first, especially if you want to just test the waters when starting out. This is exactly what I did, and I plan to race another season on my lawnmower (aka-my Ninja 250R) before going up in cc size.
3. Do Private Coaching
A small group of us at Ken's dirt school day. Photo by 4theRiders.com.
Even though I was a predictable rider that knew my lines around the track, I wasn’t necessarily a safe one. It actually took me two tries to successfully obtain my racing license. My first attempt ended in two crashes the day before at a track day. I was broken, although more mentally than anything else.
I knew I needed some one-on-one instruction, and sought the help of Ken Hill, who is also the lead instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School and Rickdiculous Racing. Ken also hosts occasional small group dirt schools that are fantastic for people who road race as his drills are more fine-tuned with that in mind.
After working with Ken, I definitely started putting the pieces together and things began to make more sense. What's also so cool about his teaching style is that he teaches motorcycle braking by throwing you in car...
4. Do Drive a Car...Aggressively!
Watch out cone! Just kidding, I may have only flattened one or two that day. ..
Driving a car on a race track definitely helps when it comes to learning how to trail brake, and it really does translate to motorcycle riding. After working with Ken, I had the opportunity to attend a PCASDR (Porsche Club of America, San Diego Region) autocross event at Qualcomm stadium. It was there that the final puzzle piece was put in place, and I decided to try and get my moto racing license.
At this point, I had become a more confident, smoother, safer, and predictable rider. I obtained my license in the morning and was off racing that afternoon. Who would've known? It took driving a Porsche 944 to help me gain my moto confidence!
5. Do Nail Down Some Sponsors
I was able to get Suomy as a sponsor through Hookit. Thanks Suomy for making rad helmets!
This part is easier than you think thanks to the help of Hookit. This site helps to provide sponsorship for any type of athlete—from bowling all-stars to archery warriors. Oh, and of course they offer amateur moto racers some sweet deals. After only two races, I was able to secure three sponsors that really benefited me, and helped to keep my racing budget somewhat sane.
As an amateur road racer you get trophies! I swear these $3 dollar trophies make you feel like Bill Gates (sort of).
You see, it's not that difficult to get a road racing license, and to be honest, it was an awesome journey to get to where I am now. This past year, I raced the entire AFM 2015 season and had the best time of my life. If you decide to go for it, congratulations! Make sure to be safe and race your heart out.
Feature image by Oxymoron Photography.