Fastrack Riders Trackdays
Safely riding at 180 mph!
As sportbikes continue to evolve, they are drifting away from versatile streetbikes and toward sharper-edged machines developed to excel on the racetrack. Some OEMs even claim to have built a racebike first, then made changes to transform them into streetbikes with the requisite EPA and DOT regulations.
This is most evident in the liter-sized sportbike category. Revving any of these inline-Fours to redline in first gear will bring a rider dangerously close to 100 mph – and there are still five gears to go! Although they are competent enough on the street, exploring their huge performance potential on public roads is a recipe for disaster.
That’s why Motorcycle.com is a strong proponent of trackdays. Not only can you ride way faster at a track than is possible on the street, the consequences of overcooking it are far more benign than the road environment of gravel, curbs and oncoming cars.
The most recent trackday we attended was hosted by Fastrack Riders, one of the originators of holding public trackdays. Fastrack has been around for more than 10 years and has held hundreds of events, giving sport-minded riders the opportunity to wring out their sportbikes in a relatively safe arena.
“For us, the most important thing is to get riders out of the canyons,” underlines Matthias Jezek, Fastrack’s operations manager. “One-hundred-thirty miles per hour on the racetrack is nothing. One-hundred-thirty miles per hour on the street is suicide.”
This is a philosophy we wholly endorse, as riding on a track is not only safer than you might imagine, it’s the perfect venue to expand your skills behind the handlebars. If you’ve never scraped a footpeg or dragged a knee or experienced threshold braking, you’re missing out on a thrilling part of your bike’s performance envelope.
We’re not the only converts. There are currently about 50 organizations doing trackdays across the country, and tracks that a decade ago had plenty of open days in their schedule now are almost fully booked. Fastrack, operating out of tracks in Southern California and Nevada, has 40 events on tap for 2008, more than any other company on the West Coast.
Being one of the originators of the bourgeoning trackday movement, Fastrack pretty much has their gig dialed, producing events that maximize ride time and rarely have serious incidents. You’d do yourself a favor if you arrive early to scope out a prime pit spot and be prepared to run your bike through registration and tech inspection when they open at 7am. As is typical of trackdays, your bike must have its breakable items (lights, turnsignals and mirrors) covered in tape or removed. Fastrack also requires removal of license plates and taping of wheel weights so they don’t get flung off on track. No safety wiring is required.
Attendance at the 8am riders’ meeting is mandatory, and then you’re ready for action when the track opens at 9. Divided into three skill levels, Level 3 (the fastest group) goes out every hour on the hour. Riders are let onto the track in clusters of four so the course isn’t clogged. Level 2 takes to the track 20 minutes later, and so on. Level I allows passing anywhere on the straights and on the outside only in corners, and any passes must be made with a 6-foot margin. Rules for overtaking get more lenient in the faster groups, but the 6-foot gap is still required.
Fastrack’s paid trained staff makes sure sessions operate like clockwork, and corner workers positioned all around the track keep an eye out for trouble. The whole crew is equipped with radios so important info can quickly be relayed. Aspiring stuntahs should be aware that mile-long wheelies are neither encouraged nor allowed. And don’t bother waiting for a lunch break because there is none – eat when you can. You’re there to ride, right?
If it’s your first time at the track, Fastrack also holds a Novice Riders School. Typically, Fastrack has a student/instructor ratio of three to one, so there’s always a skilled coach around to dole out riding tips. The school is mandatory if you’re a track newbie. We’re happy to report that they frequently are sold out.
Fastrack also offers some options and bonuses. At the event we attended, Fastrack gave away a free trackday and a coupon for 50% off a Shoei helmet at the riders’ meeting. A trackside photographer is there to capture all your knee-down glory, and a tire service truck from Michelin travels with the show. Leathers, boots, helmets and gloves are available for rent if your kit isn’t up to snuff. Don’t have a truck or a bike? SportbikeRental.com brings a fleet of current sportbikes to Fastrack events. Transponders to log your Mladin-beating lap times can be rented for $20.
Fastrack events are held in California and Nevada throughout the year, mostly on weekends. Many events sell out weeks in advance, so the $50 you save by pre-registering is a smart plan. Prices range from just $125 at the Streets of Willow to $269 at Auto Club Speedway (nee California Speedway).
We had a blast time unleashing a quartet of eye-watering literbikes at Califo... er, Auto Club Speedway and have the shredded rubber to prove it. The event went off without a hitch, and we emerged unscathed and with huge grins on our faces. We’ll be back. Hope to see you there!