Bike Track Day Preparations

Before going out on track with the Daytona for the first time, these were some of the things that I needed to attend to:

  1. Basic Maintenance
  2. Crash Protection
  3. Tyres
  4. Suspension
  5. Other Odds and Sods

Basic Maintenance

This involves checking the following:

  • Lubricate and adjust drive chain tension
  • Tyre condition and pressures (what pressures are you going to run on track?)
  • Check brake disks and pads (will they last for the track day?)
  • Fluid levels; brakes, engine oil and coolant
  • All fasteners and fixings
  • Look for any oil leaks

Sounds obvious, but it’s easy to overlook these basic checks. On a track day the bike will be worked hard so it’s worth giving it a thorough check up. Depending on what needs doing, it shouldn’t take more than 15-30 minutes of your time, and it is a worthwhile investment ahead of a day spent on the race track.

Crash Protection

If you intend doing more than one track day and you’re intent on learning to ride faster (which means that you’ll be pushing yourself out of your confort zone) then you should probably accept the fact that you will come off the track at some point.

On that basis, you might want to try ensuring that you cause the minimum amount of damage to the bike. What tends to get most commonly broken in a crash are the fairings, tank, levers and pegs. The fairing and tank are big ticket items while the other parts tend to be (much) less expensive.

My long term plan is to remove the fairing, headlamps, indicators and other non-track day items from the Daytona next spring and replace them with a “cheaper” race fairing. In the meantime, adding crash protectors to reduce damage caused to the bike seems like a sensible precaution.

As a result, I visited the T3 web site and order a complete set of engine covers and protective mushrooms. While these won’t actually protect the fairing or tank they should help reduce the total repair bill should I be unlucky enough to take a tumble on track.

I had also been debating the merits of buying carbon fibre tank protectors but figured I would be better off getting a replacement second hand tank from ebay for around £100 (US$ 160) when I needed one compared to spending £90 (US$ 144) for the protectors that might never be needed.

Tyres
Tyre choices are very subjective. Because my on track riding is not good enough to warrant race tyres (yet), I wanted a compromise tyre that would meet the following objectives:

  • Soft compound for track use
  • Safe to use on the road (riding to/from track days)
  • Good handling characteristics in the wet

I spent a few hours researching using the internet before finally decided to on a pair of Michelin Pilot 2CT tyres; a 120/70 ZR17 TL 58(W) for the front and a 180/55 ZR17 TL 73(W) for the rear. The 2CT is a two compound tyre that’s been around for a few years, but which consistently has good reviews. I was looking for a tyre that would be good on track but that would also work well in cold wet weather … we get a lot of that here in the UK! The Michelin Pilot 2CT seems to meet all of my tyre objectives.

For the road I run 36psi front and rear. On a warm track day, I’d drop the tyre pressures to 32 front and 30 rear (depending on the temperature). On a cold or wet day, I’d run my normal road pressures as the tyres are unlikely to generate enough heat to warrant reducing their pressures.

Suspension
Apart from the manufacturer’s handbook for your bike, there are a multitude of guides on the internet on how to set up your suspension. The first thing to do is to note your current settings for compression, rebound and (if you have it) high speed damping. Write them down! Then note the full range for each of these settings (normally a number of clicks).

To adjust your preload, you will need to “switch off” all your damping in order to determine the correct preload setting for your suspension. This is really a two man job and it is best to consult a reputable source on how to do this.

Because I’m not skilled at suspension adjustment, I paid a race mechanic to help me set up my suspension.

It turns out that I’m too light for the springs in my front forks, so those will have to be replaced at some point in the future.

Once you’ve set the preload correctly, you’ll need to adjust the damping settings back to a sensible value. Typically the middle of your range setting is a good starting point. It’s worth getting the suspension set up correctly because along with tyre pressures, it can make a MASSIVE difference to how your bike feels on track.

Other Odds and Sods

The other thing that I urgently needed to add to the bike were a set of tank grips. These are a sticky polymer pad that sticks to each side of the tank where your legs and knees sit. They are vital to helping you to support yourself on the bike using your legs, especially for track use. Without them trying to get any kind of purchase from the tank is nigh on impossible in leathers!

With all this done the bike was ready for its (first?) track day. Will I be as ready?

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