What's the Cheapest Way to Sharpen Your Track Skills?

The first step in a roadracing career should be a small one.

motorcycle rider turning
Starting small helps you learn the importance of choosing a line, staying consistent under pressure, and initiating safe passes.Nathan May

In Europe, it's common to see adult riders circling a kart track on tiny motorcycles. If you're accustomed to watching MotoGP, the scale seems all wrong, but some of the world's finest road racers use small, track-prepped bikes for training purposes. If 50, 85, or 150cc is enough for Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, they're probably worth your attention too.

Minimoto racing doesn't require a pro-level salary; the relatively low cost is a major draw here. Used small-bore machines can be had for as much as a nice helmet, and it doesn't take much wrenching to turn one into a track-ready machine. Basic modifications—like decent road tires and suspension upgrades—go a long way. Minimoto trackdays can be had for tens of dollars, and with only a handful of horsepower on tap the consumables like tires, gas, and brake pads last many times longer.

Shorter wheelbases mean minibikes are quick to respond to rider inputs and track surface inconsistencies, which helps a rider develop reflexes that are useful—if not downright necessary—for riding larger bikes. Learning bike control through body position and repetition is easier on a bike that you’re not particularly worried about crashing, and the risk for serious injury is lower, due to slower speeds. Together, it’s a combination that makes minibike racing an ideal launching pad for motorcyclists looking to improve their riding.

Despite the low threshold for entry, mini-racing still feels high-stakes. Mini-specific organizations offer club racing just as intense and competitive as full-fledged superbike races. You learn the importance of choosing a line, staying consistent under pressure, and initiating safe passes. If you want to dice with your buddies, the smaller stature of these bikes makes it easy to transport more of them at once. They won’t take up too much extra space in the garage—that is, until you bring a whole fleet of them home.­