Track days for me began with what we called performance riding days organized by a group in Colorado called V.R.O.O.M. Veteran Riders of Old Motorcycles. We would alternate riding with working corners and flag stations. Most of the members were vintage racers and playing with their vintage race bikes and street bikes. At the time I had built my airhead BMW and used that and had a great time. From that group and working with a mechanic who was racing I got introduced to race school and performance riding schools. A racer taught the school that amounted to both class time and track time. In the classroom we learned some basics of going into and exiting corners, braking zones and more stuff I don’t remember anymore. But, I do remember our first track session. We were split up into two or three groups then followed our instructor or one of his assistants as they showed us the lines on the track. Then they had us each pass them and we were followed and they would pull along side to motion us where the real line was if we were missing it. After this session we debriefed in the pit, then back out for more sessions. We did braking drills that had us working up to sliding the front from about 60 mph to a stop along the drag strip section of the track. It was two days of hard work and fun that gained me a great deal of confidence in my motorcycle and abilities.
Those performance training classes, set the hook for me. That BMW did trackdays in Colorado and California. Back in Colorado a test and tune day at the track included a stint or two of working the flag station. The cost was around $25. Lots of fun. The performance riding schools cost more and were hard work since the instructor/s would have drills for us, and work on our techniques and skills, by watching them, then watching us, then hearing where we were going right and wrong and trying again and again. Fun work.
Then we moved to Southern California. For the first seven months I was on my own as the kids were finishing up a year in school and my wife was finishing up a contract. I spent the first two months working twelve hour days six days a week, then exploring and looking for a new home in any spare time. Once I found a house and got moved in, my spare time grew. That is when I discovered some other track days while shopping for gloves at a Ducati shop. I could buy five days at a time for sweet discount. And at the BMW shop they found me vintage racing tires to provide sticky rubber for that old airhead.
I had taken enough riding schools to know what I needed to work on and thanks to hanging around with fast track guys I picked up more tips and skills. I almost always rode my bike to and from the track. I always had a plan when I got to the track for what I wanted to work on. I would play a bit here and there, but I planned on how I was going to work on a particular problem. I took notes and kept them. Though I lost them somewhere in clearing paper or moving. I used to keep track of suspension settings, tire pressures and weather. I knew what pressures I liked and which tires I liked. I once had a pair of tires I got a deal on, that I rode two sessions on, and had them changed for Pirelli. I could not stand how bad they felt compared to the Pirelli I was used to. I gave them away. From that point on I stuck with Pirelli.
The airhead went away and was replaced with a 1997 CBR900RR, because it would make an acceptable two seat commuter and be fun on the race track. There was a point where I had two or three track days a month. That was fun. I got a lot of riding in. I even won a free track day for my 50th birthday.
I would load up my luggage with a duffel bag filled with my motorcycle cover and my leathers if it was hot out, and put a couple of six packs of water and some food bars and spare clothes in the saddle bags, then head to the track.
Typically I would ride up the evening prior to the event and stay at a motel when I couldn’t camp. There were only a couple of times I was able to camp and ride. I’d make sure to have sunscreen and water. It was always hot and there was almost always little shade. As I did these more and more I got to know several others there. And groups I rode with on the street, I would encourage them to participate in a track day. It became a group thing.
Loads of fun with a group of friends.
With friends there we kidded each other and learned and taught. Lots of laughter and smiles all around. Some brought family along and there would be kids running around the pits. Mom’s and dad’s and wives and girlfriends and non-riding friends. Slowly people would get the itch and give the track a go. Usually these became new converts who would begin planning how to get to the track more. There was a smaller number who caught the competition bug and went racing. That was great to see. Someone who had recently begun riding the street, then as they gained confidence and experience they tried the track, then got some expert instruction and ended up racing.
It has been almost twenty years since I rode my last track day. I miss the fun and riding with those friends. Most of those friends have all moved on with life outside motorcycles, but a few are still riding the track and even racing. Others have switched to adventure bikes like me and like me only get one or two big rides in a year. But, we all have those memories of all that laughter and fun and fright from leaning and learning and sliding and saving.