Let’s get to know it.
Signing up for a trackday is not a daunting task. There are lots of providers out there and circuits to conquer. Your bike does not need to be the latest and greatest, and it doesn’t need to have every factory race component available to do it right. As my grandpappy used to say, “There is more than one way to skin a cat.” The following will put you on the track with a solid setup that will help you responsibly push your limits in a safe environment, on a machine that will keep going even after some minor get-offs—and all without breaking the bank.
You’ve probably seen the majority of trackday bikes prepped with the usual taping over of lights, turn signals, mirrors, etc. A growing alternative for trackday enthusiasts, however, is to purchase older machines that are mechanically sound, rip the lights and license plates off, and dedicate them to track-use only. This is actually a good idea for a couple of reasons: The less invested you are in this machine, the less focused you’ll be on the (emotional and fiscal) costs associated with crashing—meaning you can focus solely on riding. Another great advantage is that you don’t have to reconfigure the bike from street to track. You never know when a last-minute opportunity to hit the track might come up, and having a bike ready to go reduces the stress of track prep enormously.
Of course, nearly all of the prep tips mentioned here can also be used on your street-going bike. And many of them can help save you a trip on the back of a flatbed tow truck or in a friend’s van if a mishap occurs on the street.
There are three ways you can create an anchoring point for safety wiring: Use a simple P-clip (shown), or a pre-drilled bolt sourced from a company such as Pro-Bolt, or drill the bolt yourself.
For our test mule, we are using a 2016 Suzuki GSX-R600. Yes, this is a brand-new machine, but the age of the bike is far less critical than you might imagine. The truth of the matter is that nearly all sportbikes built in the past 20 years are technologically advanced beyond almost every rider’s core abilities. Raw horsepower is more detrimental than not enough, and a good-working stock suspension will suffice. After you have done a fair number of trackdays and you are not shedding the seconds off of your lap times the way you once were, then you should consider more trick components like suspension and engine tuning. The goal of trackbike version 1.0 is reliability, safety, survivability, and a cost-effective build with room to grow as your skills develop.
Add swingarm spools. These little bits pull double duty as swingarm protectors and as lifting points for tire changes and chain maintenance.
Let’s face it: There is some risk involved with riding. This is a hazard all riders face every time we flip up the kickstand. The good news is that on the track, there is much less chance of a major accident happening. There are no multi-ton objects trying to cross your path, and rarely are there small furry things to get in your way. The most common accident on the track is a lowside that involves the bike slipping out from under you and you skidding along for a bit and coming to rest in the dirt. Once you have determined that you’re not injured and brushed yourself off, you’ll surely want to keep riding.
By following the tips in this story, it’s very likely the bike will be as ready to go again as you are. Three protective items we suggest are: frame sliders, bar-end sliders, and an exhaust protector. We chose to go with the same kit used by the California Superbike School from R&G Racing, gear so well built that in England it is the only brand of crash protection mandated by UK law to receive an insurance discount.
Besides what we think to be the protective minimum, you might also consider replacing your bodywork with “race plastics,” which are made from materials that are both flexible and repairable. We called Eric Wood, president of Woodcraft Technologies in Winchendon, Massachusetts, who specializes in track-riding equipment, and he pointed out a few solid reasons to use aftermarket bodywork: When installed, the motorcycle is much easier to service with race plastic and can be converted back into its original pristine street form when it comes time to sell the motorcycle. Wood also mentioned that most aftermarket bodywork has an incorporated fluid retention pan on the bottom that helps prevent oil and water from being deposited on either the racetrack or your rear tire in the event of a leak.
Frame Sliders are the absolute minimum protection you should add to your trackbike. These protectors will keep a fair portion of the body out of harm’s way.
Wood suggested for our build the Supersport Kit from Armour Bodies (MSRP $699.99), which installs easily and retains the OEM seat that gives you quick access to the battery and other electrical components. A $700 price tag may seem like real money until you pull out an OEM parts catalog and look at what it would cost you to replace broken bodywork with stock livery.
For the most part, stock controls are perfect as long as they are in working order. One item to seriously consider is a set of folding levers. Should you go down, a quality folding lever will fold back away from the crash and can be flipped back into position so you can get back out there and have more fun. Not all controls are built equally. Consider this when choosing an aftermarket lever.
We selected the Pazzo Dual Pivot Folding Levers distributed here in the United States by Pro Gear Industries ($199.99). The build quality and materials are superior, the anodizing will hold up to UV, and they fold instead of breaking during a crash.
We suggest full-length levers as well. Yes, shorty levers will avoid the pavement more often than not, but the reduced length offers less…well, leverage.
Protect your investment: Aftermarket exhaust protectors like this one from R&G Racing are substantially cheaper than a replacement silencer.
We opted for the Pro-Bolt titanium drain plug bolt, which allowed us to safety wire the bolt. The direction of the wire is positioned to keep the bolt from backing off under heavy vibration.
Safety wiring provides a locking mechanism on different fasteners and odd bits on the bike that could potentially fall off due to vibration, twisting, and other more destructive forces. The most common items are oil filler caps, oil filters, and radiator caps. You can find tons of illustrations on the web on how to do this (including our article). The one concept you should understand is that you want the wire to be providing tension in the direction that you tighten the bolt, to keep the bolt/item from spinning off or loosening.
Maybe the most critical item to wire would be the oil filter. If it were to loosen, even a little, the weeping oil could eventually coat your tire and cause an abrupt and unscheduled trip to the pavement. Trackday organizations all have different requirements, and we suggest that you investigate ahead of time and show up prepared. If there are no requirements, we suggest, at minimum, the oil filter.
Here is an old racer’s trick: Strap a hose clamp around the oil filter and you now have a tie-down point for safety wiring.
We installed a set of Pazzo Dual Folding Levers that will fold back in a crash. Bring the original levers with you for spares. You or another rider may need them, and, boy, would it suck if they were at home on your workbench.
Once you have gone through the machine and prepared it for a day of fun and learning, go back and give it a complete and thorough exam. Make sure all bolts are properly torqued, fasteners fully seated, the tires have a decent amount of tread, and fluids are fresh and at proper levels. Since this is the first time you will be doing this it might not be a bad idea to create a checklist to execute one last time before you load up for the track and again before the morning tech inspection. Another thing to do when you arrive at the track is to speak with the trackday provider or a tire vendor to learn about the proper tire pressures to run at that circuit. You might be surprised to learn that a lower pressure somewhere in the ballpark of 30 pounds is suggested (and even lower if you spent the money on DOT race rubber).
Bar-end sliders like these have a sacrificial pick that will absorb the blow and leave behind a solid weight that continues to reduce vibration to the hands.
We installed Dzus fasteners on key panels to make body disassembly fast and easy.
We pre-fit all of the Armour Bodies panels and found the drill points to be spot-on. The bodywork was also easy to drill. A step bit came in handy once the pilot holes were punched. Tip: Use new drill and step bits for peace of mind.
The basic plan we laid out here will get you out there with a machine that is ready to go. As long as your machine is mechanically reliable, and well protected, you won’t really need much more than this to be successful. Don’t try to execute this plan the week of the trackday; take at least a few weeks to complete all of your tasks, and check that all of your installations are done correctly.
Remember, the goal here isn’t to build a cutting-edge performance racebike. The purpose is to have a track-ready machine that can handle the minor get-offs without ending your day or draining your wallet, while providing you with enough performance so that you can work on your riding skills and, most of all, have major fun.
The Hindle exhaust stripped almost 10 pounds off of our trackbike.
Hindle Full System: $844.99
Woodcraft Technologies, Inc.
Armour Bodies Supersport Body Kit: $699.99
Dzus Fastener Kit: $30
Pro Gear Industries
Pazzo Dual Pivot Folding Levers: $199.99
Exhaust protector: $63.99
Bar-end sliders: $46.99
Racing Frame Sliders, “No-Cut”: $532.50
(“Cut” version: $199.99)
Pure carbon-fiber brake lever guard: $252.50
Titanium sump bolt, magnetic
M14 x (1.25mm) x 12mm: $25.78
Aluminum P-clip, 6mm: $2.40
Aluminum paddock stand bobbins, pair, M8: $23.86
Aluminum oil filler cap: $26.66