While we place a fairly heavy focus on safety over here at Lean Angle, we’d be lying if we said that our rides never got a bit more…”spirited” than appropriate for public roads. That’s the beauty of sportbikes right? Purpose-built machines designed to take corners fast, and come out of them faster. But we know that these bikes aren’t really made for the street, in fact, its pretty common knowledge that some manufacturers build bikes to compete in the AMA/ WSBK racing leagues, and then throw some lights on to make them “street legal”. So last Friday, some of the Lean Angle crew decided to do exactly what everyone says…”Take it to the track”. So we loaded up the bikes, dusted off the chase rig and headed west, to take in the turns at Summit Point Motorsports Complex.
Going to the track has been on our to-do list for some time, but anyone who has never been to the track knows that one of the largest limitations is convincing yourself to spend 200-300 dollars to go to a single stretch of asphalt and beat on your own bike for the day. Especially when you consider that with most insurance companies, damage accrued on the track wont be covered under your policy. But when we came across an offer from the folks over at N2TrackDays for a free half-day at Summit main, we just couldn’t resist.
We arrived late on Thursday night, due to a couple of last-minute setbacks with regards to getting the bikes to the track. After a few tie-down scares, and a swapping of chase vehicles, we finally made it to our destination around 11:00. As we scouted our surroundings and un-loaded the bikes, we began to notice that just about everyone around us had dedicated track bikes, with small fortunes spent between the liveries, and most rider’s living quarters for the weekend. We quickly found that many of these riders would be riding in the novice group along side us. Our confidence was quickly shaken as we were humbled by crews who clearly do this every weekend, but are technically in the same riding group as us. Much to our pleasure, as we voiced these concerns to the other riders, they reassured us that everyone has to start somewhere, and that making it to the track was just the first step on a long journey. I’m not sure if you are familiar with the old Honda ad, but you really do meet the nicest people on two wheels. We erected our sun-shade, threw a tarp over the back of the truck and hit the hay, hoping to get some rest for our big day to come.
We awoke in the morning at the butt-crack o dawn to find the days activities already beginning. The paddock was buzzing with riders prepping their bikes and making last-minute adjustments to their steeds. We took this time to go ahead and tape up all of our lights and mirrors before heading over for tech inspection. It really was reassuring to be riding with an organization so focused on rider safety. In additional to checking the bikes to be sure they were ready for the track, they checked the riders and gear too. Making sure we all had current helmets, safe boots and gloves, and full leathers that would protect us in the possibility of a closed-course binning of the bikes.
After tech inspection, we had some last minute adjustments to do on one of the bikes. Although we had neglected to bring a socket large enough for a rear-axle, one of the nearby teams gave us free-reign on their tool chest. Just reassuring that everyone was here for the same reason: to enjoy motorcycles and have some fun. We stood through a riders meeting where 1st time track riders were welcomed with a round of applause before heading into the classroom for a short walk-through of the course, and what to expect. As first-time riders, we would be assigned to a control rider for the day, Judy, a soft-spoken woman who made a bunch of gung-ho street riders look liker amateurs on 50cc pit bikes.
After the advanced and intermediate classes had their first 20-minute sessions of the day, it was our turn to finally get a taste of this track thing. We lined up in the pits behind Judy where we were reminded “Cold track, cold tires, cold bodies..lets not make it 3/3”. That’s right, both the advanced, and intermediate groups both had wrecks in the first session of the day. We slapped the visors down and followed Judy out of the pits onto the long front stretch. The first two laps would be sighting laps to learn the track, followed by a pit-stop on the third lap, as this is apparently the most dangerous portion of the track and practice makes perfect. We left the pits again, careful to stay to the right of the blend-line as other riders zoomed past us at 150mph. They Judy opened it up a bit, and before long, we saw the checkered flag waving to end our first 20 minute session.
We returned to the paddock and peeled out of our leathers. Flushing ourselves with water, lest we lose more than 50% of our own body weight on this brisk upper-70 degree day. We tinkered with the bikes and chatted amongst the paddock awaiting our call for our next session. We finally heard our call and suited up for session number two. For the second session, we followed Judy for the first lap one more time. Coming out of turn 10 she peeked over hr shoulder and waved me past. This would be my opportunity to “turn it on” while Judy observed body positioning and line choice. On the third lap, she waved the next rider past to observe his form. This pattern continued until she could give us all some pointers once we came off the track. After about 7 or 8 laps, the checkered waved again and we peeled into pit lane. We sat with Judy for about 20 minutes discussing tips, pointers, and just generally discussing our new-found obsession. And of course, checking our tires to make sure we had gotten rid of those pesky chicken strips.
We finished the day of with a 30 minute class session on body positioning inside the classroom at the track. We went over tips like where to put your feet on the pegs, how to apply weight in a turn, how to keep you head down, and the myth of holding on to the tank with your legs in a corner. All said and done, this was one of the most informative and enjoyable days we’ve ever had on two wheels. We can confirm, without a doubt, that all the rumors about track days are true. You will be humbled, you will go fast, you will find things out you didn’t even know existed before, and most of all, you will have he most fun you have ever had in your life. A special shout-out to all the folks at N2 and Summit Motorsports Park for a safe and enjoyable day. If you don’t believe how much fun riding on the track is, we dare you to try it for yourself. Sign up, tape up the lights, and lean the bike over.