After the most appalling winter and a three month long illness, it was great to be at Bedford Aerodrome on a bright sunny morning for my first day of riding on track this year. The track day was organised by No Limits and was run on the South West circuit.
As this circuit doesn’t usually feature in the bike track day calendar, I wasn’t sure that it was going to be such a great venue or circuit. However, the £69 (US$106) price was too tempting to pass up. As I was still recovering from an illness, I intended to do one session to see how I felt, and if that was too much, I would quit. If I felt OK, I would continue until I started to get tired.
Apart from being quite hard to find by road, the circuit turned out to be the same high standard that you expect from MSV. The facilities are good but the pit area is small, and all vans and vehicles have to be moved to a car park a short distance from the pit lane after the bikes are unloaded in the morning. Meals and briefings also took place in the main reception building a short bus ride away – although you could walk there in less than 5 minutes if you wanted.
The circuit itself is great. The surface is really good and there is plenty of run off area everywhere. As you can see from the circuit diagram, it features a few chicanes and a lovely long back straight. The other great feature is that you can wear out the left hand side of your tyres as this is a circuit that runs anti-clockwise unlike many of the other UK circuits.
A friend delivered my bike to the track in his van and we unloaded it into one of the garages. The good weather forecast combined with the low track price meant that there was a good turnout. I estimate that there were up to 120 bikes divided into three groups; fast, intermediate and novice.
This was my first day with No Limits, and I was impressed by their professionalism and relaxed attitude. That probably sounds like a contradiction but they were strict on the things that mattered and relaxed about the things that weren’t important. One nice feature of No Limit’s is that you can ask any of the instructor’s for help and guidance, both on and off track. Not only is this extra service free but it is high quality and the instructors actually genuinely seem interested in helping you improve.
As this was my first outing for 2013, my intention was just to get used to being on a bike again and to have some fun without taxing myself too much. I was booked into the Novice group and found the pace about right. There were some pretty quick riders in our group and I felt that I was running in the lower half of the group in terms of lap times. That was fine with me – just being outdoors in the sunshine, on a bike after nearly 10 weeks in bed was a fantastic feeling!
Although I suspected that I would have to retire early because of tiredness, I managed to do six sessions in all; only skipping the final one as I was starting to get tired. My lap times ranged from 2:53 to 2:49 – so although I wasn’t particularly fast I was at least reasonably consistent.
Overall, I think that the South West circuit at Bedford is pretty good. Sure, it’s flat being based at a disused airfield, but the track has a decent combination of slow chicanes, fast corners and a great and fast back straight to keep you amused.
I would also choose a No Limits track day again – I liked the staff and I like the way they organised the day. What a cracking start to the 2013 season!