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Pigs can fly!
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My First Trackday Experience, Courtesy of ZoomZoom!


Disclaimer: It’s a lengthy read if you’re bored enough to read about my day. If you don’t care, feel free to just enjoy the pictures and comment if you care. :)

I spent the last week giving my R6 extra attention in anticipation of this exciting day. My bike got new front brake pads, a new rear rotor, oil change, coolant flush, brake bleed, a new front tire, and even got the bugs cleaned off of her!

I hooked up with a Z2 worker, Kyle, who offered to help get me to the track and back. He told me to be at his house in San Leandro by 4am since we were going to pick up his friend Cody (and also a Z2 worker) on the way. I left home at 2am to give myself ample time to get there, fill up gas in my bike and the spare gas can, and still get there in time to remove my mirrors and disconnect my taillight fuse. We left at 4am, picked up Cody, and were on our way to Thunderhill. I ended up catching up on some sleep in the drive up, and woke up in time to see the sunrise over the horizon. It was nice to be able to ask both Kyle and Cody any questions that came up on my mind, as they both have done this time and time again.

We get to the track and park. I was told where the bathroom was, and then to go registration booth afterwards. I’ve seen many pictures of this place, but finally being here and seeing it with my own two eyes was surreal. Finally, I’d get to experience what I’ve been reading all about!

After registration, I went back to the truck to help unload the bikes, and then brought my bike over to tech. I was really hoping that I wouldn’t have to do anything additional at the track since I spent the prior week going over my bike. The inspector looks under my front wheel and I’m embarrassed that I forgot to tape up the weights on the rear rim, only the front is taped because of the recent tire change where I remembered to ask for tape. Luckily, that was the only flaw, so he let me go on the promise that I’d get it taken care of. Glad to see that even as a newbie, I was still trusted. I rode my bike over to the registration area and proceeded to track down David. I emailed him a few days prior to clarify on what we spoke about back a few months ago, and he told me to stop by and he’d put a splash of water wetter in my radiator to help with the lubrication. He seemed to remember me and was more than willing to help me out. Afterwards, I brought my bike back to the truck and taped down my wheel weights like I promised.

I then went to the riders meeting where we were given the basic lowdown of things from what to expect to what each flag meant to how the day was going to be run. Because of what I presume to be a lack of interest in the B group, they decided to do a 2 group session with some of the B group joining the C group. This meant that we had 30 minute sessions on the track, instead of the standard 20 minute sessions! Can’t complain about that!

We get let out, and before I put on my leathers, I warmed up my bike slightly, and double checked that my oil filter and drain plug weren’t loose. I had done 2 rides since the oil change, but it never hurts to check again. I lowered my air pressure to 29psi in the front, and 32 in the rear. I was warned that I should set the pressures at the track because of the elevation change. I then got suited, and went out to the grid.

Back at the classroom, we were instructed that our first session would be a follow the leader type drill to help familiarize us with the track’s layout and surroundings. It was 3 riders to 1 instructor at this point. We were told to follow the instructor’s lines the best we could, no matter what the rider in front of us was doing, as most likely, the instructor is taking the best line. In the middle, we’d do a switcheroo so that each person would be able to have some time following directly behind the instructor. After 15 minutes of this, we were let loose to enjoy the first session of the day. I learned that track riding isn’t easy at first. There were some turns like the second turn, or the 6th, 7th, and 8th turns that just felt so nice. They were all easy curves where I didn’t need to apply brakes before entering and could enjoy my bike without much worries. Then there were turns like the 5th, 9th, 11th, 14th, and 15th turns that would catch me off guard each time. The 5th and 9th are both turns where you drop over the horizon and have to know which way the track is going and where to point your bike. Granted after a few laps I knew which way the ground was going, trusting that knowledge was easier to say than do. Before I knew it, the checkered flag was flown, and I was surprised that the session ended so soon. I got back to the pits, grabbed a Gatorade and some snacks to much on, and squeaked on over to the classroom for the first session on reference points.

In the classroom, they had a nice presentation on the track’s layout with an interactive map and gave us good reference points for turns 5 and 9. They also clued us in that there are other reference points around to use for each turn, but they were giving us the ones for the 2 hardest turns as to not overload us with information. At the end of the session, we were told that we had 5 minutes left to prepare to go out for our second session of the day.

Things smoothed out in the second session. My first lap was very messy as I was spending more time looking around for hash marks, orange dots, and the reference points we were told to find. I missed both reference points we were told to look out for on my first lap around. Second lap, things started making much more sense. I spotted orange dots, hashes, and made use of the braking markers to use as my turn-in points while I figured out where I had to point my head and eyes throughout the track, and especially for turns 5 and 9.

After coming in from my second session, Cody approached me and asked how I felt. I was feeling better than the first lap, but still wasn’t used to the track at this point in time. I know that there was much to improve on. He asked me if I had a favorite turn yet, and that was easy, turn 2. He told me to try to take it easier by staying in third gear for some laps so I don’t have to worry about shifting and can concentrate on working on perfecting the optimal lines. We were still chatting and then I heard the 5 minute warning for my next session. Wow, half hour periods are fast!

Since I was already out by my bike and still in my leathers, I was first on the grid to head out. When we got the okay to go out, I took off as the road was open for me. It was an unbelievably nice feeling to just focus on the empty road ahead of me and not have to worry about any riders behind me as I trusted that if they would pass me, they’d do so when it’s safe. I came around turn 10 and saw a black flag waving from turn 11’s corner worker. As I got closer, I saw it pointed at me and got scared. I thought my oil was leaking or something was wrong with my bike. I lifted my left hand up to signal to anyone behind me that I was getting ready to enter the pits. I get closer to the front of the grid, put my bike in neutral, and hit the kill switch. They asked me if I knew why I was black flagged. I told them truthfully that I honestly did not have any idea. They informed me that I apexed turn 1 on that first lap. Damnit! They instructed against that in the briefing, and I totally forgot about that in the hype of being first on the track. I sincerely apologized and promised to not do it again and they let me go back on the track. They told me that I was lucky that I was first on the track, but I am not to have that happen again. How embarrassing. I got back on the track, and within a few laps, I was passed by an instructor on an R1 after turn 9 and they looked back at me while pointing to their tail indicating that they wanted me to follow them. They told us during the briefing that some instructors would do that if they saw something they wanted to work with us on. I was there to learn, so of course I followed the instructor. I was surprised how easy the track felt while following the instructor named Reilly (stitched to the back of their leathers). She would look back every few turns to make sure I was still behind her and set the pace accordingly. For me, the largest benefit was following her through turn 5 which showed me how far to point my bike over, and when to countersteer to start the right hand turn in the middle of the drop. It was also a nice refresher on which lines were the ones I was supposed to take. Her lines mimicked the instructor that I was following in the morning, and I took note of which turns I was supposed to cut in especially close to the curb on. When the checkered flag flew, we exited the track and she told me why she asked me to follow her (I was all over the place on turn 9, not sure where to go). We had a small chat and she recommended that I go to the body positioning classroom session after lunch as it talks more in depth of what she was explaining to me.

It was now noon, so time for the one hour lunch break. I figured with an hour and a half before getting back to the track (half hour classroom session beginning after lunch), it’d be a good time to remove the leathers for a bit of comfort. Ate my lunch and drank some more Gatorade. With all of the free time, I spent it walking around looking at the interesting things that some people did to their bikes. I slowly found my way over to the staff pitting area. While admiring David’s FZ1, the instructor who worked with me earlier walked out of the nearby RV asking if I was the R6 rider. I learned that her name was Cathy, and ended up chatting with her and some others for the remainder of the lunch break. David saw that we were poking at his FZ1 and seemed to be flattered by the comments given to its uniqueness. I left to go back to my bike to double check that I still had gas in the tank, and while leaving, David asked me by name how I was feeling. I thought it was nice that he remembered who I was and cared about me as an individual. I then went to grab another bottle of Gatorade to sip on during the classroom session.

During this classroom session, they brought in an R6 and put it in a wheel chock and rear stand so they could use it to demonstrate what they were talking about. We went over reasons why riders lean off, and then they went over how the body moves when a corner is being maneuvered. After that, they slowed it down and took each point piece by piece explaining why they were doing what they were doing. Normally they have more time for the classroom session, but because it was half hour sessions, they were short 10 minutes they usually had to teach. We ended with a short discussion and example of riding crossed up.

Going back the track was exciting as ever, as I wanted to practice what Cathy and I talked about while work on pointing the heel inwards when leaning to help point the knee out. I reminded myself to not apex the first turn on the first lap this time. After the third or fourth lap, I noticed a familiar looking R1 ridden by an instructor enter the track. I upped my speed slightly and played catch-up. They passed some riders. I passed some riders. I finally got up behind them, and sure enough, it was the same Suomy helmet and the stitching on the back said Reilly. I proceeded to follow her lines again while working on my body positioning. She looked back on one of the straights, and finally noticed me following her, and I think she got the clue that I wanted to be towed again. Round and round we went. Lap after lap, I followed her while she checked back to make sure she hadn’t lost me yet. With a couple minutes left in the session still, she motioned for me to pass her on the front straight. Aww crap. Now I have to work for myself. I rode out at a pace that I was comfortable at, and then reached turn 5. I got distracted and lost focus, and as a result, I missed the turn-in spot and wasn’t looking where I wanted to go. That was messy. The rest of the lap was better, until I got back to turn 4. I took it easy, and made myself setup for turn 5. Well what do you know, focus and setup, and it’s not such a scary turn. Turned-in where I wanted to, apexed where I wanted to, and countersteered at the exiting point where I wanted to. It was a great feeling. At the end of the session, I had a nice chat with Cathy about more things I can work on, from improvements to body positioning to having a sharper turn-in. She noted that I had improved much from the previous session and was surprised by how much more speed I was carrying in this session compared to the previous one. I figure that going fast is a product of being smooth, and have definitely noticed that I was smoother in the last few laps with Cathy as opposed to the laps in the session before that.

When I went to start my bike to bring it back to the pits, my fuel light came on. Well, time to fill up gas. After I parked, nature was calling to me, so I answered the calling, and bumped into a guy I was talking to earlier. I learned that his name was Joe, and he’s well known for being an AMA corner worker. I had a chat with him about his bike, while admiring his creative mounting for his GoPro. I then remembered that I had to go fill up gas before the next session, so went to take care of that. I filled up 1.15 gallons in the spare tank that I brought earlier in the morning, so I poured all of that into the bike, hoping it’d last me until the end of the day. I heard the 5 minute warning over the intercom informing us that our group had 5 minutes until the track was ours, so I start suiting up. All of a sudden, the thundering sounds of motorcycles roaring down the front straight (where we were parked next to) stopped. I looked, and coming out of turn 1, we could see a rider down, rather far into the dirt. Emergency services were already on the way by the time I figured this out. I finished getting ready and brought my bike to the grid and waited in the shade. Kyle drove his truck and trailer down to the grid in case David wanted the bike towed, but as they mentioned earlier in the briefing, they usually leave downed bikes out until the track is cold (lunch time or after the last session). They stuck to this policy and left the bike on the kickstand at the end of turn 1.

I then went out for the 6th session and worked on trying to smooth things out. I reminded myself to not apex turn 1 again. Instead, I casually cruised along and did a quick visual assessment of the downed bike. It was a red bike with gold forks. I didn’t have time to pay attention to what model it was, as I was caught off-guard that the front of the bike was missing from the headlights to the fairings. Definitely a sad sight to see each time I came around turn 1. I noted that at the first two sessions, I was being passed more than I was passing. It didn’t bother me much, as I am already aware that there are many riders more skilled than myself. But I noted that by the end of the day, I was doing more passing that being passed, which was a nice confidence booster, reassuring me that I’ve been improving throughout the day. All of a sudden, I see the riders in front of me slow down and come to a stop as I’m preparing to get ready for turn 5. I notice a red flag and decide to come to a stop on the top of the hill so I don’t have to worry about the bike rolling backwards. Less than a minute after I stop and look around, I see the ambulance going the opposite direction of the track and then it hit me that another rider just went down. I went to go turn off my GoPro HD and noticed that it was already off. I turned it on to be greeted by a message indicating that the memory card was full, and the battery was near empty. A few short minutes later, we get sent back to the pits with yellow and black flags waving. Once we all enter the pits, they send us out again to finish up our session. I noticed that there wasn’t another bike up on display for all to see, and wondered about it since I didn’t see any towing vehicles out to get it. There was a good amount of shattered debris brushed to the edges of the track around the straight after turn 8 that looked new.

This last break wasn’t so eventful. I went to park near the staff pits, and talked with Joe some more. He was ready to call it a day, so I helped him load up his bike in his trailer. I was looking forward to a 2-up ride with David since he’s passed me twice with different riders going 2-up, but I didn’t spot him, and didn’t want to go bothering him. I figured that I’d be back again and would have more opportunities.

I was told that the last session would be shorter so that the racing students would be able to practice race starts. That’s fine. I just wanted to end my final session with the shiny side up and kept working on body positioning more and more. I’d scratched my toe twice in turn 2, so that was one of my minor goals, to not scratch the toes anymore, as that wasn’t a comfortable feeling. As I pull out of the final lap, I notice that my gas light came on again. Perfect! I brought just enough gas to not run out and still have some left so I’m not pushing my bike. I kind of wished 4theriders was still taking pictures by the end of the day as I felt that there was a large improvement by then, but I learned during the last break that they already sorted the pictures and that was that. I’d like to have comparisons between the beginning of the day and the end of the day, but my GoPro ran out of juice just around when 4theriders stopped taking pictures. Guess that’s the one downside of longer sessions. I’ll definitely have to come back again, but at least I’ll know what to prepare for better.

In short, I had a wonderful time and was glad that my first trackday ended with me not crashing while improving. Yet it has shown me that I still have much more to improve on. My only real regret is not going out of my way to ask for even more instruction. All in all, it was a successful day, and I look forward to attending another trackday in the future. Maybe I can score more freebie days in the near future!



This picture is from the beginning of the day.




This picture is from the middle of the day. I’m closer to the tank and leaning further. Yet, I feel more comfortable and focused. You can tell that it’s not at the beginning of the day as one set of my LEDs burnt out. Oh well. My riding improved, so that’s something to be happy about!




Here’s another angle from the same pass.




Here is how my tires look like as of earlier today when I just went outside to take pictures of it. I rode home from Cody’s house and smoothed out the middle 2/3 of the tire on Highway 17, but the edges of the tires have only been touched at the track. I changed out from the stock size of 120/60 to a more popular (and taller) 120/70 front tire recently. I figure that because I was riding on the edge of the rear tire on both sides and the front tire is taller than normal, the chicken strips in the front are acceptable. The rear tire has a darker rim on the top of the sidewall. I’m guessing that’s due to the rubber not used to being put to the edge so much. If someone with more experience wants to chime in, I’m listening!




Here’s a video comparing me from the very beginning of the day (a few laps after the sighting laps) to the middle of the day (just after lunch, before my GoPro HD ran out of battery & storage space).
While riding, I wasn't concentrating on the speedometer or how fast I was riding each lap, but coming back and going through the video, it seems to be a nice improvement from the beginning of the day to the middle, shaving off over 20 seconds. Still no record, but definitely an indication that progress has been made :)
I know I still have much to work on. My lines are still not ideal. My outside leg during a turn isn’t really anchored onto the tank. I’m not used to being that high in my powerband, so my shifting and throttle control isn’t as smooth as I’d like. In short, there is still much more to work on. If there is something obvious that I’m missing that can be seen from the video, feel free to mention it. I take constructive criticism well!





  • Thanks to David & ZoomZoom for providing the free trackday prize to the Livermore Police Motorcycle Safety Day raffle and being a great resource for my questions. He was more than willing to answer the simple questions I had, and answered them professionally without making me feel stupid or inferior.
  • Thanks to the guys who hosted the Livermore PD Safety Day and bestowing me with the free trackday to make my first trackday happen sooner than if left to my own limited funds.
  • Thanks to Kyle for towing my bike to and from the track, being a great resource for questions, and for being an overall nice guy.
  • Thanks to Cody for being very supportive to me throughout the day while giving me bits of advice for what to expect.
  • Thanks to Cathy for working with me throughout the day by giving me tows and advice to help me improve so swiftly.
  • Thanks to Joe and Toe (sounds cooler than Joe and Thomas, right?) from 4theriders for being there to snap pictures all day long, while selling them at an affordable price.
  • Thanks to everyone else who helped make the trackday happen. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and look forward to more improvements on my next one!
 

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Lookin good man! Especially for your first track day.
 

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nice read! i really wanna goto the track, maybe next year.
 

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Does every track make you tape up your lights? I've just always seen the typical tape over them....
 

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so I didnt read the post but I hope you took full advantage of the instruction. Z2 had a lot of really great instructors (both on and off the track) who helped me advance quicker than I could have ever imagined.

Congrats on joining the addiction, tho!
 

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Pigs can fly!
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
sweeet. so you got the hook up from your co worker for a free track day?
I won the trackday at a public motorcycle-centered event as a raffle prize. The raffle tickets were given out for participating in demonstrations such as riding cone patterns.



so I didnt read the post but I hope you took full advantage of the instruction. Z2 had a lot of really great instructors (both on and off the track) who helped me advance quicker than I could have ever imagined.

Congrats on joining the addiction, tho!
Yeah, the instruction in the classroom and on-track were both stellar. I do wish that I asked for more on-track help though. I know what to do for next time though :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks for all of the positive comments and remarks!

I finally got a video of two laps for comparison purposes together and stuck it at the bottom of the first post. Feel free to view it at your leisure and comment on it if you'd like :)
 
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