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Trackday Preparation PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jimmy Schrage   
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:52

Here are some helpful tips on preparing your bike (and yourself) for the next trackday:

1. Always try to have your bike prepped and ready to go at least two days in advance of the event. The earlier, the better. That way if you need something, you'll have time to get it. You have no idea how many “20 minute projects” turn into two day projects that require extra parts. Do not save the aftermarket part installs to the day before. It never works out.

2. Check your tires.  Check their overall condition; they shouldn't be "squared off", no dry rot, plugs, patches, or cuts.  If they are “blue” (from multiple heat cycles and the oils leaving the rubber) consider if they are track worthy or not.  Blued rubber does not mean throw the tires away, but more of a cautionary statement.  Check the pressure.  Most bikes work well on the track with 30-32 psi. front, and 28-30 psi. rear, cold. What you are looking for is a 4-6 psi. "grow" in pressure after you come of the track. If you get more than 6 psi., raise the pressure a pound or two. If you're getting less than that lower it. This all varies by tire and suspension as well.  Feel that back tires slipping out from under you? Drop a pound of pressure in the back and see how that feels.  Make sure you keep all your adjustments written down somewhere.  It is easy to forget. Get a good quality tire gauge, not a .99 cent one from Wal-Mart. A good $5.00 pencil gauge that has a 1-2% accuracy is fine. I don't like digital gauges. Some of the dial gauges are good. What you want is consistency, i.e. you want it to read the same pressure every time.  It may seem like a little overkill, but tires are one of the most important aspects of your bike, especially at the track.

3. Now it is time to check the brakes.  Check the pad wear; I like a maximum of 50% of pad wear.
After that the stopping power is significantly diminished. Get on your knees and (on almost every sport bike out there) you can view the pad with the tire still on.  Just look inside each of the front and back calipers.  Does it look a little thin compared to last time? Replace them.  Check your fluid. If it's dark or you've done a couple of track days, flush and bleed it. Go with any DOT 5 or above.  That fluid rating can handle quite the heat load and you will experience less fading as the day wears on.  The 2 main reasons for brake fade are; old fluid / worn pads.

4. Head to the back of the bike and check the chain and sprockets.  Check your chain for proper tension and for tight spots, look at the sprocket for wear on the teeth. As far as tension, I recommend 1-1/4" to 1-1/2" total up and down movement.  It should be able to hit the bottom of the swing arm of the bike.  This is so the chain does not stretch or impede the suspension when it is fully compressed or uncompressed.  If you have any doubt, sit on the bike and have a buddy check it. It should still have a little slack in it when it's fully loaded. While you're down there give it a good cleaning / lube.

5. Make sure your suspension is up to par.  For your forks and shock, make sure there are no leaks, set up sag / rebound / compression if you have those adjustments. If you're unfamiliar with making those adjustments, have a professional do them for you. Please be careful in this section.  Many crashes have happened due to “bench” racers giving bad advice on suspension settings. If you do not know, ask a pro and not the guy you are pitting with (unless his name is Nickey Hayden).

6. When was the last time you changed your engine oil and filter?  If you've got over 1500 or so miles, change them. Your motor will be spending a lot of time at high rpm; oil is cheap, motors aren't. While you're there, safety wire the plug and the filter. Although it's not required by most track day organizations, it's highly recommended.  Check your engine coolant level and top it off if necessary. Be careful not to overfill it though, antifreeze puking out of your reservoir bottle onto the track surface is guaranteed to make you lots of friends back in the paddock. You actually should not even be using antifreeze.  Invest in some Water Wetter and distilled water.  Flush that system and fill it using the recommended specifications.  That way if you do crash, the staff does not have to spend two hours soaking up one of the most slippery substances on the face of this earth.  Save everyone some time and sweat, change it out.   

7. You want your bike to run correct?  Fuel it up! Fill your tank and bring two 5 gallon cans too. You may not use it all but it's better than running out. Check in between sessions how much gas you have left in the tank.  There is not much worse than sitting in the hot sun watching your friends ride by while you sit in the dirt holding your bike up because you ran out of gas.  Someone does it at every track day.  Since you read this, it will not be you. 

8. Lights and turn signals have no place on the track. Remove or tape up your turn signals, tape up your taillight and headlight, remove the fuses or unplug the wiring, most bikes have a plug in the tailsection for the taillights. I use blue painter’s masking tape. You can get it at most auto parts stores or Sears Hardware / Home Depot. Please make sure that if you do not actually disconnect the lights that you cannot see the lights through the tape.  If you can, throw some duct tape over the painter’s tape. Remove your mirrors. Who cares who is behind you at the track.  That is not your responsibility.  You are required to look forward and have as much fun as possible.  After you take them off, you can fasten the upper back down with bolts and washers, zip ties, or mirror block off plates. Put the bolts and other parts back into the holes you got them from.  It is harder to lose them that way.  It's not required, but I recommend removing your license plate. It's one less sharp thing to bump into if you go down, and if it comes off, you'll be spared the experience of searching for it in the dirt.

9. This one always gets me. Chassis and fairing bolts. Grab a handful of Allen wrenches and sockets and check your bike to make sure everything is tight; there's nothing quite like going into turn one with your shifter dangling because the bolt backed out.  Been there, done that.  Searching for the magical lost bolt during a track day is not fun.  Neither is driving to the nearest auto parts store trying to explain the bolt to the salesperson.

10. Here are some general tips. Get to the track early, bring food, refreshments, Advil or something similar, chairs, EZ-Up, a fan, change of clothes, tools (if you have them), leathers, boots, back protector, gloves and helmet, extra shield and ear plugs. If you have any questions, or need some help, don't be afraid to ask, there are a lot of people who are more than willing to lend a hand. Enjoy the day, don't try to push too hard and it will actually come easier. Remember, no one ever won a track day. When you get home, untape your bike. The next day,(or as soon as you get a chance) wash it and check all your bolts and fasteners again, stuff tends to rattle loose after extended high rpm operation. Like I said in the beginning, this isn't the be all end all, just my system that has worked for me.

 







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