I woke up at 4AM a stranger in a strange land, excited and nervous for what was to come. I was about to do my first track day at MSR Cresson. No matter how much I had read about track days, nothing prepared me for the impending moments of actually pulling out of the pits and heading down the track. I managed to get faster throughout the day and not throw my bike down the track this time around. I attribute my success due to excellent coaching and the fear of riding the train to work. Riding the DART train to work being special kind of punishment that should be reserved for people the drive slowly in the left lane, and those that are offended by literally everything.

It’s Intense

“Track days are as addictive as heroin, and possibly more expensive.” Know the feeling you get when the roller coaster is going up the big hill?  You’ve got butterflies in your stomach, and you’re strapped in tight. The point of no return. The first couple of sessions will be like that, for 20 minutes at a time. I’m not sure anything can prepare you for the first couple of sessions. It’s like a carnival ride, and you’re driving. It’s intense and addictive. If you’re a certain kind of adrenaline junkie, you’ll be hooked. Hard.

On the track there’s so much going on at once. You’re focusing on the track, your lines, your braking points, the other riders. A lot gets thrown at you. I didn’t look at my speedo once, and my tach maybe twice. I was so focused on all the other things, that looking down just wasn’t an option. If some yahoo asks “how fast did you go?” you know they’ve never been to the track. Top speed is irrelevant anyway. Lap times and learning are king. There’s no reward for being the fastest guy in session 2.

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Prep Your Bike

Being on the track will stress your bike like most street riding won’t. Especially your front brakes. Being on the track is no time for mechanical surprises. Go over your bike, or have a pro look it over. I took mine to European Cycle Sports in Plano for a once over. Chuck there used to be a race mechanic, and he sees things most others miss. I’m still not sure what all he did to prep my bike, but it felt FANTASTIC.

At the track you’ll need to tape or remove your mirrors, and tape over turn signals and lights. You’ll need to change your tire pressures to track specs. Fortunately at Cresson, they had a tire guy there that had a serious knowledge of tire pressure specs. He dropped my tires to the low 30s, and I was good to go.

Get Coaching

The coaches are there to help. And very likely, they are a hell of a lot faster than you. They’ll tell you what to work on, where you can improve your lines, and overall knowledge.

Ridesmart has a system where you grab a colored jersey and put it on over your leathers to let others know you’re being coached. I was advised by others that had done these days before to grab a jersey as often as possible, and pick up as much coaching as possible. I did exactly that.

On the video below, you’ll see Quan video me, then we pull into the pits for a quick discussion. This was session 2 out of 7 of the day. I got better and faster later on in the take. Yes, I know I have a lot to work on. Be gentle in the comments.

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Be Progressive..Be Be Progressive!

They warned us in the morning riders meeting, about bring your speed up progressively. The morning was about 46 degrees when I woke up, and about 50ish when we went 0ut for the first session. Tires are cold, the track was cold, and the grip levels were low. One guy didn’t heed the advice and threw his brand new R1 down the track in the first session of the day. Don’t be that guy.

As the day went on, I learned the lines better, braked later, and leaned the bike over further. I didn’t drag knee this time around sadly. I was dragging my pegs well before that pretty often. I’m going to switch out my footpegs for the next time around, as they are fine for street riding, but drag way early on the track. I do have some well scuffed toe sliders on my Gaerne race boots though.

Your Bike Can Handle More Then You Think

MSR Cresson is a 1.3 mile twisty track with 2 basically blind corners, and a lot of elevation changes. It’s no cupcake track. Several people during the day found that out, by throwing their bikes down the track or going offroading by accident.

As someone who rides on the street daily, I was well amazed by how much front braking the bike would take, and how much grip the front had. I always try to leave a lot on the table on the street, in case I need it. The downside or upside of that is I didn’t know what the limits of the bike were, as I never got anywhere near them. The track lets you brake much harder and later than you can on the street. You can lean a lot more than you should be doing on the street.

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I swore I smelled something cooking a few times while lapping. Pretty sure it was my front brakes. “I love the smell of napalm..I mean cooked brakes in the morning. “

Schedule a Track Day

There’s a prevailing saying that “I cant take my bike to the track, because I don’t want to wreck it.” I get that, because I thought that too. I was scared of doing a track day, as my bike is my main transportation.  After doing a track day, I wish I had done one a long time ago. I’ve learned several bad habits in 60K worth of road riding that I may not have acquired, had I done a track day much sooner.

The Ridesmart folks who put on the track day I attended were all very helpful, and pretty cool. I didn’t get any “holier than thou” attitude from anyone.

I plan on doing more track days over the coming year to get better as a rider. I’m even looking for a dedicated track bike. If you have a well loved R6 let me know. I promise to ride it well.

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