“Take it to the track.” I’ve said that dozens of times here, but it bears repeating. There are scores of schools and track-day providers operating in America for your riding enjoyment and improvement. They are operating at roughly 40 tracks throughout the USA—one of them is close to you.
If you are wavering on this subject, get off the fence and do it! If it makes you nervous just thinking about it, take another look at the potential benefits and what you can expect. Here’s a partial list:
Race facilities are between 1.5 and 4.5 miles in length and average 12 turns per lap. You are quite likely to see the same corner coming at you 25 to 40 times a day. How fast you get to the next one is up to you and your right wrist. Depending on the provider’s format and your speed, you will ride between 300 and 500 corners in one day. If you count up how many really satisfying turns you experienced on your best-ever road ride, the track will provide multiples of that.
Everyone is going in the same direction; there are no intersections or driveways, no cars to pass, no gravel, no center lines; there are advance warnings of problems from corner marshals, emergency medical staff close at hand, lots of riders to chat with between sessions, and there’s always someone to catch and pass (if you can). The riding surface varies but stays mostly between 30 and 40 feet wide. Riders are usually divided into groups of at least two, and often three experience levels.
The track is a loop, so there will be riders approaching from behind. Fortunately, you don’t have to pay attention to them. It is rare to get clipped from behind at the track, because the trailing rider is far more likely to go down than the one leading.
The primary concern should be your riding. Thinking or worrying about the fellow behind and stealing a rearward glance now and then is a significant drain on awareness—significant enough to be a catalyst for mistakes you wouldn’t otherwise make. This is good advice, backed by decades of experience. I’ll be honest: You are going to have a good time! Maybe five out of the last 150,000 riders we’ve seen at the California Superbike School couldn’t cope with all the freedoms track riding has to offer.
I know some motorcycle hooligans who live in and around Manhattan, and they’re a great bunch. Not many corners in the five boroughs of New York City, though. On the street these guys are crafty and fearless—passing cars, trucks and busses; lane changes are their “corners.” Seeing them have the very same riding problems everyone else suffers from, I twigged on their situation. They ride really well, urban traffic-wise, not in spite of but because of the distractions. They’d be lost and lonely without them.
At the track, many dangers are eliminated and the rest are reduced, leaving you to attack
You have to admire it; they are in total disagreement with the idea that those other things they share the road with are dangerous. They don’t watch out for cars, they crave getting to the next mobile chicane; without them there’d be no game, nothing to attack. A ride provides an amazing number of short-term targets which they weave together and make flow with apparent grace and skill. I’m not saying you should do this, or that it is good PR for riders; it most definitely is not good in that sense.
The point is, we all have some notion of what is good and what is safe or what is a fun riding environment. That is very subjective and cannot be argued about.
The only prerequisite for going to the track is this simple thing: Did you, at least once, challenge yourself to go through a turn a little faster, and like what happened and how it felt? If the answer is yes, then, objectively, you have to face the truth of the matter. And that is, the track is the ultimate cornering environment. MC