No matter how long you have been riding, your first track day will be your first and everyone makes mistakes their first time at anything.
This is a quick list of the biggest mistakes made on that first track day. (Not necessarily in order and not necessarily complete)
- Not getting enough sleep the night before. It is tough to fight the excitement of your first track day, but try to get enough sleep. ( Sometimes I still get excited and wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep) Staying up late drinking with friends is OK as long as the night ends early enough to get enough sleep, and making sure you don’t wake up dehydrated (drinking alcohol will dehydrate you) the next day.
- Skipping the riders meeting. There is important information to be heard at these meetings. Sometimes track day organizers will have special classes and this may change the rules for some groups throughout the day that you were not made aware of until the day of.
- The bike is not ready. This could be anything from a dead battery to worn out tires. Make a checklist of “your” stuff. There are generic track day checklists online, but sometimes they have extra stuff that you may not use, or they may be missing items that you like to have on hand.
- Not drinking enough water. Drink enough fluids throughout the day (non-alcoholic). Make sure your drinking enough fluids so that your urinating a minimum of once every hour. If your not urinating every hour, your not drinking enough fluids.
- Forgetting ramps, bike stands, or gas cans. This can make a busy day even busier, add stress, and cause an excessive amount of running around.
- Signing up for the wrong group. Signing up for the advanced group when your a novice track day rider will not win you any popularity awards. Groups are set up so the pace from rider to rider is similar. This makes it safer. If you feel the pace is to slow or to fast you can ask a Control Rider (CR) for a bump up and there is no shame in asking for a bump down if the pace is to fast and makes you uncomfortable. I have learned a ton from riding in a slower group. Going at a slower pace helps your brain better concentrate and absorb on what is happening and helps your actions become automatic rather than always being in panic mode.
- Ignoring advice from control riders or senior track day riders. Your at the track to learn skills that are hard to learn on the street safely. Listen to the guys that are more knowledgeable than you.
- Thinking that sessions cannot be skipped. Thinking that you have to get your moneys worth by hitting every session when your tired is a surefire way to make poor decisions on the track or worse crashing. What will cost more, a wrecked bike with possible medical bills and loss time at work, or a skipped session? If your slightly dehydrated and still tired from the session before, skip the next session. I personally have skipped out on 5 of the 7 sessions of the day, not because I was tired, but because I was not feeling it that day. I had other things on my mind, and I just did not feel like riding that day. Leaving probably saved me thousands of dollars in repair and thousands of dollars in medical bills and let me earn thousands of dollars in revenue because I wasn’t laid up with an injury.
- Getting frustrated with the slower guy ahead of you. Don’t get frustrated. Work on something else like body position, weighting the inside peg, lines, braking points, turn in points, or corner speed. Pull in and ask the pit lane marshal for a gap or make a clean pass on the straight or outside of a turn.
- Target fixation and going off track. When your turn comes up, LOOK THROUGH THE TURN AND TURN!!! Unless you are having a major front brake failure you and your bike will better survive the outcome of a possible low-side than going off track and possibly laying it down and flipping a couple times. Something to think about— When a car goes off track and spins or whatever, the car makes ruts, these ruts are hard to navigate on a bike. The bike can catch on the ruts and throw the rider. Unless you are having a major brake failure, it is much better to stay on track and take the corner.
We all learn from mistakes, whether we make them ourselves or we learn from the mistakes of others. If you would like to share your experiences doing trackdays or want to share your mistakes so we all can learn, COMMENT BELOW.