Learn to Race

So you want to start racing a motorcycle?

A few years ago I decided that I wanted to try racing and, like most people, had little clue on how to get started. What I did know was there’s a club in town, so I made a few calls and found out when and where their meetings were held. That was the best move I’ve made in years. I met a group of guys who bent over backwards to get me on the track. The knowledge that is available to a novice through a club like this is worth its weight in gold. I would like to pass along a few key points that were made to me.

Take a Race School! This is a given. You need a license to race. A school is where you get one. School will also show you how little you really know about controlling a bike. Swallow your pride and open your mind.

Racing your street bike is not advised! Do yourself a favor and get a race bike that is that and only that. Thinking you’ll switch back and forth from race to street with one bike will end your racing dreams fast.

Start off with as good a bike as you can afford! Don’t blow your whole wad on your first bike. Budget for spare parts, tires, plastic, and race related costs, etc.

You will crash! We all crash sooner or later. You will too. If you don’t you’re not trying hard enough.

Get to know a race friendly bike shop! You’re going to need parts [maybe lots] and it helps if your dealer supports local racers like you. That said, you should also learn to shop around and network with other racers. Spend only what you have to.

Do not take your girl/guy to the track! Sounds dumb but trust me on this one. They will find your racing takes your attention away from them. They will not like that. Enough said.

Track time! Track time! Track time! Track time will become your drug of choice. As of now it’s legal. So go crazy! But remember this. It’s not practice that makes perfect. It’s the practice of perfection that makes perfect!

Don’t go cheap on your protective equipment! The old saying ” If you have a $5.00 head buy a $5.00 helmet ” goes for all your gear.

Buy a couple of helmets! Your race outings can end with a minor damaged helmet so buy a few and save yourself the embarrassment of wearing someone else’s. Don’t forget visors as well. Include a tinted one so you don’t need to wear sunglasses.

Experiment with your bike’s suspension adjustments! Modern bikes have infinitely adjustable suspensions. Look in your owner’s manual and see what set-up is suitable to you. By all means play with settings but, do yourself a favor, keep track of your adjustments on paper so that if things go wrong you can go back to a set-up that works.

Adjust the bike to fit you! A often overlooked aspect of bike prep’ is adjusting the bars, pegs, hand and foot levers to fit your body position when racing. Find the settings that work and stick with them.

Race shift pattern or street? Bottom line: whatever works for you. The advantage of the race setting is that you can shift easier in a race tucked position. The disadvantage is that if you forget the shift pattern you can blow your transmission or worse …..

Look after your bike and it will look after you! Basic maintenance is just that, basic. A little goes a long way. So, unless you have a mechanic wrenching for you, do all you can to keep your bike working as it should.

Keep your race bike clean and tidy! Tech inspectors really hate dirty, ill prepped bikes. Fail tech and you don’t race! Avoid this scenario by spending some time finishing off the little details like trimming zap straps, pig tailing your safety wired bolts, etc., before you get to the track. Don’t forget to wipe down any old oil and fluid leaks that may be mistaken for a current one.

Clean your discs between track sessions! Think about this. A couple of hard laps use as much pad as hundreds or so street stops. The dust left on your discs and wheels act as an abrasive. Clean it off! You’ll notice an improvement in stopping power and save money in the long run.

Drink lots of water! Throwing a bike around a racetrack will wear you out in no time. Replace lost fluids to keep cramping and heatstroke at bay. Soda pop is no good. Water only. If it’s hot, a single bottle of a sports drink in the afternoon might help. Water is best.

Avoid racetrack concession food! That greasy pit burger will come back and haunt you soon after you eat it. Pack a healthy lunch that feeds your body and mind.

No sex for a week before a race date! [just kidding] But I know of a few racers who would abstain if it was proven to shave a few seconds from lap times …….

Well I think that’s enough for now. I hope I’ve got you thinking. If you’re still interested in joining us out on the track, do it now. Don’t be one of those people who leave it too long and never get a taste of speed. You’ll love it!

Stefan Medlicott
WMRC Expert racer