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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

First Track Day

I heard a lot of talk about how much a rider learns and how much fun he/she has at a track day.  Several friends had participated in one or more track days and highly recommended it.  My son had been riding his own since he was 15 (ridden on the back since he was 7) and was pretty good, but I thought improving his skills and adding to his knowledge would likely improve his safety.  So on his 18th birthday (in February) I signed him up for a RideSmart track day (in June).

I was later convinced I should participate in the track day with him and share the experience.  On June 11, 2015 we loaded up his Kawasaki ZX6R, my Honda VFR1200 and a close friend's, Sergey, VFR1200 and headed to Motorsports Ranch in Cresson, TX for a RideSmart Track day.
Two VFR's and a ZX6R heading to the track

We spent the night across from the track so we did not have to get up so early the next morning.  We arrived at the track at 6:40 to unload and make sure the bikes were ready for the track i.e. no lights, light lenses and reflectors taped...(list of requirements)

Richard make last minutes adjustments
Once the bikes were prepped we checked in and signed appropriate paperwork, picked up leathers (first timer get 1/2 priced registration with appropriate coupon code and free leather rentals) and proceeded to "tech" inspection.  Once "tech" places an inspection sticker on the bike it means we may enter the track (at the correct times).

Richard and I both decided to have the suspension adjusted by Roger of OnRoad OffRoad Cycles before hitting the track.  We left the bikes with Roger while we rode in a truck for the "track preview."

The preview consistent of several trucks with Level 1 riders in the beds.  We would stop at each corner or series of corners and an instructor would discuss the correct line for the corner and point out markers on or beside the track to shoot for.
Richard relaxing between sessions
After the preview we had a few minutes to grab a drink, snack and/or visit the restroom before the first class session.  (For Level 1 riders each hour consisted of roughly 20 minutes class, 20 minutes prep time and 20 minutes on the track.)
Rob and Richard in class
The first class session covered safety, awareness, cornering and a few more things.  After class we picked up our bikes from Roger.  We could tell an immediate difference in the suspension of the bikes.
My fellow VFR 1200 rider, Sergey pushing the Honda
Track session #1 was "round-robin" - riders were lined up behind an instructor (about 8-10 per instructor) and we followed the person in front of us at a reasonable pace to see the "line" for each corner.  After one lap the rider directly behind the instructor moved to the side and slowed down to take the end of the line.  Now a different rider was directly behind the instructor.  Before the session was over all riders had ridden behind an instructor.
Quick pace around the track
We then repeated the pattern  of class, break, track in 20 minute increments. The next few sessions had riders in groups of three sign up to wear a numbered colored jersey and a specific instructor would follow a rider while the other 2 followed instructor for a lap.  The group would briefly exit and instructor would give advice/instruction to the rider.  A different member of the trio would then take lead.  Riders not in a trio for that session were allowed to ride and work on their skills independently.

Richard, Sergey and I wore orange for our trio session.  Afterwards during the class session our instructor showed us video he recorded during our time and discussed in greater detail points to work on.  It was productive seeing myself on video.  Certain concepts became clearer.
Sergey leading the instructor around the track
This Youtube link shows me following an instructor following Richard.  (At 2 minutes we exit and the rest is of the instructor talking to Richard, so stop or you will be bored :) )

Starting about 11:30 hamburgers for lunch were provided so we took a longer break.  We were back on the track by 1:00 and continued the routine until 4.  We were all pretty tired so we skipped the last session (4:00 to 5:00) and started loading the bikes.

Inspecting the tires told the story of a lot of left hand corners.

My overall impression is this:  It was fun, informative, educational and I improved as a rider.  I also gained an understanding of my skill limits and my tolerance level (I know the bike can handle more than I am willing to do).  I did NOT become "hooked" on track days as some riders have become.

I will probably do another one.  I think once a year or so will be beneficial.  I do think if a rider has not experienced a track day they should.