Taking It to the Track

Someone asked me a crazy question last week. My good friend and riding partner asked me why I ride. Almost immediately I responded with "I love the freedom it gives me," but after spitting that out I realized it's so much more than that. Motorcycling, to me, is about all I need for a hobby after my loving wife, caring family, like-minded friends, and a good meal. Motorcycles have been part of my life for so long I couldn't bear the thought of not having one.

Even on travels half-way around the world, I'm scouring every phone book and bike shop looking for a place to beg/borrow/steal/rent a ride, if for but a short time. It's in my blood, and I do not think any amount of repair will right that. It's just who I am.

Motorcycling hooked me at a young age. It didn't matter what kind of bike rode by, it had my attention. It was one of those things that I knew would catch up to me once I was of legal age, but a few short years later I realized that was just to ride on the street. At 14 I spent my first weekend at a racetrack, and the addiction hit a whole new level. The track was where it was at, for me. It might not have taken such a hold on me if it weren't for the other like-minded people I met there. As if it were a family weekend gathering, I met a few other kids around my age that were there to ride, not just watch, and I was green with envy. It was just a matter of time and money after that.

Many people are hesitant to get out on a track, thinking that they don't want to go all-out, or that it could be dangerous. Truth is, there is not a better place to hone or fine-tune your riding skills. The track brings an element to riding that can't be found on the road: a controlled environment. At the track, everyone is traveling the same direction. You won't find soccer moms talking on their cellphones and making broad, sweeping lane changes without checking the blind spots. There are no street signs, or stop lights. No dogs running across the road. And most importantly, you are surrounded by people who want the same thing you do. How can you go wrong?

Finding a track day (some like to call them Rider Development days) to work on your skills is an easy proposition, and there are many groups out there that provide education and supervision for your first track experience. The key to surviving your first day is to keep it cool, ask any question you might have, and remember to learn all you can.

Track days do cost some money—I don't know about you but if I put my hard-earned dollars out for a day of fun and learning, I'm going to take away all I can. Costs can fluctuate depending on how many are in attendance, how you like to travel, and how demanding you will be on your motorcycle. Typical single track days range from $100 - $200 a day just to participate, depending on the track and the head count for the day's events. You still have to factor in all the incidental costs related to the day. A new set of tires, travel money, accommodations, and anything else you could think of on a road trip.

The biggest rule for a first-time track experience is to trailer your bike to the track, and the reason is simple: If at any time you have an issue, you can still drive home at the end of the day. Even a gentle low side can puncture your engine case and leave you stranded if the bike is your only source of transport. As simple as it sounds, it's been known to happen.

A typical track day set-up will have you sign up for the group that most resembles your riding skills: Beginner, intermediate, and advanced are usually the choices. Then it's off to the riders' meeting where the day's events will be given, rules will be gone over, and track coaches will be pointed out. Then there's a motorcycle inspection that'll show whether your ride is ready for the track. Last, try to be ready to go when it's your turn. Wasted time turns into wasted money when you are paying good dollars to ride on a track. If all goes well, by the end of the day you will be beaming from ear to ear, and you will be more tired than you could ever be riding on the street.

If you are looking to improve your body position, lean angle, or braking skills, any seasoned rider will tell you to take it to the track. Having a venue where you can explore the limits of you and your bike only make you a more capable rider in the long run, and that is a fact. Get out and enjoy...

Ben Steinberg hails from Canada and is an experienced racer, with many years racing everything from two-strokes to superbikes and even F-1 sidecars. He was so dedicated to the sport that he opened his own printing business to support his racing endeavors. Currently, Ben is employed as the general ma