Saturday, October 11, 2014

Lakeside Track Days, And The Ability To Learn... From Mistakes.

Tyres & Temperatures.
Nowadays, I don't think many riders would dispute the importance of warming a tyre before hard use. Thirty years ago you'd just be glad to see a bit of tread around the entire circumference, you didn't expect them to stick to the road as well - but hell, it was always a nice bonus when they did!
So fast forward, and what do we have? Pretty cool tech that is positively bursting from the race scene. The bike manufacturers now make bikes that are almost impeccable, delivering huge amounts of linear power, quietly, through a frame and swingarm strong enough to hold a tank together... and they are very, very hard to improve on. Where once you chose a JMC swingarm, or Harris frame, for better handling, now you just keep it standard and wonder how you ever managed on the steel cradle, flexi-frames of yesteryear. 
On top of that, the rubber things that transmit everything to the road, or you, are designed with the actual bike in mind, not just a rubber ring forged in the dimensions to suit your wheels. 

And these tyres let you get away with murder...

Track Day Junkies.
"A lot of the folks at track days are pretty well equipped", he quipped (OK he didn't, but he might've).

Carpets go down in the pits, the bikes are lifted on paddock stands, and the tyre warmers and generators come out. Hmm, I'm lucky if I remember the deck chair, I have no spare carpet to lie on and my tyres have to warm up in the sun! Disadvantaged from the start. Even if you have the pace to stay with those riders, you're going to be doing two steady-ish laps to get full grip (ask me how I know). Meanwhile, they're well on their way round to catch you again.

But how good are these [modern] tyres?
In a word, unreal. Four of us were on track, Dave and I using Dunlop Q3's, Will and Bryan using Bridgestone S20R's and BT016 Pro's respectively. Can we, the average riders, say anything bad about them? No, they all work superbly. Given a slick, we couldn't do any better because we're nowhere near the limits - of bike or tyre. Will's front tyre on the FZ8R was getting hammered because of a lack of rebound, but otherwise they took it like a walk in the park.
Top of the range, quality tyres just get on with the job and, if you think a particular brand isn't up to scratch, it's probably all in the mind... or you're a pro racer.
The CBR was the only other bike I rode this weekend, and the only moments I had with the rear losing grip was on an uneven/broken part of the track on the carousel. As long as you stayed away from that section, it was fine.

But are we improving? Can we measure it?
We're all veterans now, strewth I've done four track days. It's the second time at Lakeside and my best before was a 1.12 on Bryan's CBR - yes, quicker on the six than my thou. Today though, we all began to push. I was able to run 1.10's on the Gixer with a serious power deficit (a possible fuelling issue leaving me with no top-end). The old girl could just about hang on to a SRAD 750 and a CBR600RR down the straights - not good but, even so, I was impressed with my times. 
And how did we measure so accurately? The iPhone. Yeah, it's a bit hit-and-miss hitting the lap button as the rider passes, but over five laps you get a pretty good idea. Maybe it's time to invest in one of those transponder timer thinga-ma-bobs.

Unfortunately, not too many pics were taken this weekend, but here's a few from our spot in the pits.

Here's a new Q3 parked on a 990 Superduke R. 
Such a nice looking tyre, you'd think he'd want to use all of it!

Me getting wasted on the straight by another K5/K6 Gixer thou. Damnation, more fuel Igor!

Another beautiful day at Lakeside. No carpet, just tarmac, it's how we roll.

The CBR, FZ8, 990 and a Gixer. Trackdays are brilliant whatever you're on. 

A look of happiness, a look of pride and a look of disdain. In that order.

The Duke stole the limelight in the pics front. There's something about it that's just right. Mid-afternoon and lots of riders are leaving. That just means more room to play on track!

Champions Ride Days.
If you're still thinking about giving it a go, do it. The guys and gals that organise these days are just brilliant. $199 on a weekends isn't much to flog the f#$k out of your bike and feel like you're actually making the most of it. With tuition on hand too, you'll be getting quicker, and safer too.

Roll on the next one, anyone got some old carpet?