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post #1 of 62 Old 02-16-17, 12:04 Thread Starter
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Your first down at the track

Please describe your first time going down at the track and what happened. Also please state your years of experience with that specific bike and, if applicable, how many time have you been to any track previously.

I personally have not ridden any track, yet, due to financial reasons (transporting bike, repair costs if I go down, etc.). But If money wasn't an issue, I'd be there every weekend if I can.

My friend and I are now seriously considering selling both our bikes and buying 2 track prepped bikes and a old pickup truck. So that may all change very soon.

We've already accepted the fact that we will go down. We just want to sort of gauge from all your responses (assuming enough) approximately when and how we will go down.
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post #2 of 62 Old 02-16-17, 13:53
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My first crash was kinda fun, actually. I had been doing track days on my 06 675 for a few months and this was something like my 5th or 6th track day. Chasing a slightly slower R6 in the B group, I tried passing him on the gas around the outside of a long sweeper and my rear slid out. I was surprised how easy the crash was - since I already had my knee down, I only really fell a few inches, slid off into the grass and brushed myself off. I broke a footpeg, clip-on and clutch lever so no big deal, I was back at the track a couple weeks later.

If you're a fairly experienced rider, your first crash will probably be similar to mine - finding the limits of your tires the hard way. The Pilot Powers I was on were cutting edge at the time, but they lost traction without much warning. More modern tires like Q3's, Rosso III's etc, tend to give a little more warning when you're nearing the limit, so if you keep a level head and don't chop the throttle, you can get away with a minor slide. A dirt bike is great training for this.

If you're a true novice and you panic easily, your first crash will likely be different. The most common crash is giving too much brake or too much throttle in the first lap of any session. If you don't use tire warmers, your tires are cold generally until one FULL lap into the session. Yes, even if you're at Thunderhill and it's 110 degrees out, your tires are still "cold" the first lap. Variable temp warmers are a great investment, even for street tires (run them on the low setting).

The second most common crash I've seen is from panic reactions. I've taken a lot of friends to the track and I've only seen 2 of them crash on their first day (they're now married to each other, lol). Typically it's towards the middle or end of the day as they're figuring out where the track goes, when they go into a corner a little too hot for their skill level and freak out. They mash the brakes while leaned over, or they stand the bike up, run off into the dirt, and don't know how to stop because they have no dirt experience. The key to all fast-paced riding, street or track, is to stay smooth. Take a school to learn proper technique and you'll know what to do when sht goes pear-shaped and believe me, at some point it will.
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post #3 of 62 Old 02-16-17, 14:36
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Sheesh, first crash? I do not remember, but it was in my first season of racing for sure. My most memorable was the day I borrowed a friends's bike. Lowsided it in the bowl at Loudon, fixed it up, borrowed it again same day, and crashed in the bowl again! The second crash was nasty as I was pinched off track making an aggressive pass around the outside. Cartwheeled the bike and was forced to buy it.

I would say that it took 5-8 crashes before I could really even understand what my mistakes were. Even still, sometimes it is not possible to say definitively why some crashes happen. traction is mysterious at times.

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post #4 of 62 Old 02-16-17, 15:02
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Originally Posted by SunnyEveryday View Post
We've already accepted the fact that we will go down.
I reject that as a given. I accept that probability is high of an "off" but it is not a given. I am at 16 track days and no offs (well, not off the bike anyway, I think I've had three off-the-tracks :-)

If you want to race, and you have a target/deadline, then I accept that you will need to push limits more quickly and that will increase risk of an off. Also, the fact you want to race means that you need to understand where the limits are for you and your motorcycle, and that will almost certainly involve an off here and there.

But if you are simply a track-day enthusiast, there is no reason that (by your own hand) you must have an off. Ride within your limits, take your time, follow the group captains' and the trackday manager's advice and you'll have a great time with no offs.

The times I went off the track were my fault. And yes, I was following my own advice when they happened, just had three brain farts and lost concentration. But those were early on and I practiced discipline and improved.

The only times I really had a scare were caused by other people riding recklessly. Which is why I always skipped the session when they open it up for passing (when in Novice group). I figured by the end of that session Darwin's theory would have prevailed and the worst of the lot would be nursing injuries - or if no injuries then by the next session they were more comfortable with their bikes and able to best contain themselves.

All I am saying is that yes you should have a plan for an off (what if bike is messed up, what if you are messed up, etc.) but don't focus on it. Ride within your limits, have fun, and think of 'offs' as something that happens to other people :-)
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post #5 of 62 Old 02-16-17, 15:06
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Originally Posted by SunnyEveryday View Post
We've already accepted the fact that we will go down. We just want to sort of gauge from all your responses (assuming enough) approximately when and how we will go down.
I don't have a crash story but most of the expert level club racers I've met will tell you that there's absolutely no good reason to crash at a track day. I'm not an expert racer but I agree with them.
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post #6 of 62 Old 02-16-17, 15:22
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Ok, My professional advice as a trackday coach, organizer, racer and MSF instructor is, once decided go ahead an sell the nice streetbikes, get the track mules (SV650 or similar) and cheap truck. You will have a lot less stress about the whole topic and will likely learn faster.

As stated, you CAN go many days or seasons without falling off, but in my experience, if you are there to learn to go faster, it will happen eventually. There is no shame in it. Reckless abandon is no good, but the occasional mistake will happen. I still fall, and yes, even at trackdays although I'm not supposed to. It's part of the sport. No need to really obsess about it. But being prepared is the best thing.

However, you may want to try it out on the bike that you have before you commit in a drastic way.

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post #7 of 62 Old 02-16-17, 17:18
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The fact is that you don't necessarily need to go down. But if you ride on the competitive edge, and you have an insatiable desire to win, then yes, leather and asphalt will bond. I have done many track days and races over the years and my first crash was a minor low side and the result of a poor tire choice. It was back in the days of the AMA CCS (Championship Cup Series) on a Yamaha RZ 350 in Colorado racing with MRA. Everyone else was running Metzlers and I tried a set of Pirellis. It was a genuine, slo-mo surreal experience. I heard that familiar scraping sound before I even realized I was down. I looked up and saw the flagman and I remember the look in his eyes. Puzzled. No harm to body and just minor scraping on the RZ, I remounted, started it up and rejoined at the back of the pack and still finished 9th.

Years later, at Loudon it was a much different story. I was riding an RZ500 V4 with the expert class, not realizing that that WERA had three classes in the NE. The experts actually were experts. AMA Pros. I was not. I had done a lot of late night work on the RZ, and after removing the oil injection pump found I had run out of gasket material so I cut a piece of rubber sheet and fashioned a substitute. It held for all of practice and for exactly 13 laps. I came out of one of the bowls and as I opened the throttle on that wicked bike, the seeping oil hit the back tire and I was introduced the the dreaded high side. I remember locking eyes with a pro named John Battencourt, as he came around the inside of me and he had that same puzzled look as the flagman, just as the 500 spit me off. I was airborne and hit the asphalt fast and hard. Luckily no one hit me. But my day was over. I was bruised and battered and the RZ was done. My girlfriend helped me pack the van and we drove until the first motel with a vacancy where I licked my wounds and nursed my damaged pride.

There were many others, but those two stay with me. You should have asked about the first win. That's a much better story. ;)
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post #8 of 62 Old 02-16-17, 17:48
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I've been street riding year round for about 10 years now but only started doing track days on a mini supermoto over the summer and went to my first "big bike" track day in November. Let me tell ya, riding a small bike on a tight technical gokart track is an incredible learning tool!! You will be come a demon in the corners and a full size track feels like a fwy. If you want to get into track days without breaking the bank, it's the way to go. I probably have about $1,700 into the bike; and if you crash it, you typically just pick it up and continue riding.

Anyway, in November I went to Laguna Seca and rented a race prepped Ninja 300. I didn't think I would be very fast and ran in the novice group. To my surprise, my minibike skills REALLY paid off. I was passing liter bikes in the corners and even lapped a few people. I seriously surprised myself! Unfortunately it was also the first crash I've ever had since I made the EXACT mistake MGFChapin pointed out: too fast on the first lap of one of the later sessions (no tire warmers). There was zero warning, the front end just washed out; it felt like I hit an oil stain or sand but it was most likely just cold tires. I went down at about 70mph in turn 6; there was no real impact with the ground since I was already close to it; I just rolled a bunch of times once I hit the dirt. It very much felt like being stuck in a big ocean wave but with dirt instead of water LOL. Definitely a lot of force on neck and back but I walked away without any injuries; just very sore on the drive home that night and pretty much back to normal the next day.

If you've never done a track day, I'd say forget about speed, start slow and learn the lines, braking points and Apexes to hit. Once you get consistent on your lines, you can slowly start picking up the pace. If you hit your markers and are smooth and consistent, the risk of going down is limited (unless you're on cold tires apparently ).
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post #9 of 62 Old 02-16-17, 19:47
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I was riding at Jennings GP in North FL. I had a couple of drops of rain hit my visor. I figured "this is psychological rain, just a little drizzle, the track isn't really that wet, I'll get off if the surface starts getting darker." Turn 13, suddenly I'm sliding along and so is the bike. We end up in the dirt next to the track. Once there, I think, "hmm, the asphalt looks a little darker--I guess it is getting wet!" I'm fine, the bike is mostly fine. (2014 Daytona). This was the beginning of my second track season. Probably 10ish track days in. Hard to say.
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post #10 of 62 Old 02-16-17, 20:03
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^^All great points by everyone ^^

I will second the motion on not selling your bike right away. You probably have a greater chance of wreaking your bike on the freeway with moderate traffic then in a beginner group at well run trackday. I know the pain of wanting to go to the track and not having a way or the means to get there. I now have a vehicle that can tow a trailer and I'm always willing to pick anyone up who needs a ride. We got a nice group of guys (most are forum members) up here that track together and try to move things around to make sure everyone has a ride. Just about everyone I've met over the years at the track are willing to help, so if you don't have something, there's a good chance someone will and they'll let you use it. No need to go out and spend a crap load of money on stuff just yet, that will come over time. You might have some local forums/bookface type of sites to reach out to the local guys going to the track or this site is a good one as well. On your first day, pay attention to the instructions that are given and don't be afraid to ask a controlled rider to follow you for a bit. Remember, everyone at the track is there to help and I personal get joy out of someone new coming to the track and seeing the progress they make and the excitement in there eyes. It brings me back to my first trackday and I cant believe how much I have improved, but I still got a ways to go. So, go do a couple trackdays on your current bike, then you'll be able to make an educated decision on your transportation and choice of track weapon. There are some other good threads on here about prepping you and your bike for trackdays.
Have fun out there.

EDIT: 3 years at the track without an off with one off track excursion but that was JD's fault.

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