Folks: if you ride a motorcycle, it behooves you to take it to a track day. I know you’re going to say, “but it’s not a race bike!” That’s fine, a track day is not a race.
Yes, there will be racer boys there, and yes, they will find a way to make it a competition, but don’t stoop to that. You are there to learn your motorcycle and its capabilities, not to get the smallest track times. That's what racing school is for.
There are a bunch of things to look for when it comes to a track day. There are probably organizations in your area who sponsor track days at a local track. Read through their online literature and see if their ideals and methods align with your own philosophy. The more information they publish the better.
I attended a track day at New York Safety Track and was reminded of a few things that are great about a track day, and things to look out for.
The first person you will probably encounter is one of the rider coaches, and they will hopefully give you feedback about your riding throughout the day. If they come find you, be open to the information they’re giving you. It’s not a competition and they’re there to help you get better at getting around the track. They will go out with every group and be the “cops” on the track, keeping people from doing stupid stuff. If any of your sessions have no rider coaches, that’s a problem.
The Track Controller
There’s a guy who stands in front of your group and lets you out onto the track in small batches. He should be extremely clear with his signals, and you should have no question at any point about what he’s trying to tell you. You should know exactly when it’s your turn to go. This guy is also the gatekeeper, and should be checking to make sure you’re safe for the track. We all have brain farts, so he should be making sure everyone’s zippers are zipped, everyone’s helmet straps are secured, and visors are down. If he’s ignoring any of this, make a mental note to maybe try a different organization next time.
After each session, especially in the novice class, you’ll come off the track directly into the classroom where the trainer will review each of the turns in the track and how to best navigate them. The more you learn the track the more context you’ll have and the more you’ll learn. It’s worth attending these classroom sessions since each on-track session will teach you as much as talking about negotiating the track afterwards. The combination gets you talking to yourself inside your helmet to remind yourself about what the track markers mean, where to be on the entry, apex, and exit of each corner and where to watch for irregularities in the track pavement.
The Corner Workers
These are the people “in the trees.” They’ll be sitting in stands along the track keeping an eye on everyone who comes through. The corner workers have radios, and will report anything they see back to the organizers. If anyone crashes, all of the corner workers will be alerted and will hold out the appropriate flags to make sure everyone on the track knows what to do. If the corner workers are not paying attention, have their feet up and their faces in a book or their phones, you might worry about that. If only every third stand has a corner worker in it, that’s not great either.
The opportunity to get your motorcycle onto a well-paved course with a bunch of twisties so that you can learn what your bike can do, is one of the best learning experiences you can have. Don’t get goaded into racing, and don’t let the red mist cover your eyes. Work on your body position, purposeful counter steering, and learning how the bike handles in extreme situations. It’s going to get you out of your comfort zone but it can be the most fun you’ll have on your bike all season!