Get­ting to grips with new­cir­cuits isn’t al­ways easy, but it’s sim­pler than you might think if you ap­ply this process.



We’re not talk­ing about go­ing back to school but, be­fore your track­day, try to fig­ure the cir­cuit’s lay­out. YouTube videos are spot-on for this, as­sum­ing the rider you’re watch­ing is ca­pa­ble of hit­ting apexes. If they’re not, then just fo­cus on grasp­ing how many bends there are and what turn fol­lows the next.

Gaw­ping at a track map will also be pretty help­ful for fig­ur­ing the lay­out, but a more en­gag­ing (and fun) way of learn­ing a cir­cuit is to fire up the old games con­sole. Yes, re­ally. Some of the more re­cent videogames fea­ture un­can­nily ac­cu­rate dig­i­tal ver­sions of the real thing, so they make for the per­fect way to bang in a load of laps be­fore you’ve even set foot on the track you’re try­ing to learn.


Ev­ery track­day starts with a brief­ing and while you might be fight­ing the urge to nod off at some points, you should pay par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the bit where the host’s in­struc­tors talk about the track’s lay­out and give guid­ance on where to pass, which bits are quick, and where not to be a hero.

Although track in­struc­tors aren’t nec­es­sar­ily the quick­est of rid­ers, most of them have clocked up crazily high num­bers of laps at cir­cuits, so they know what they’re on about (well, most of them). Af­ter the brief­ing, go and col­lar one for a bit more info. Get­ting an idea of how to tackle cer­tain cor­ners and find­ing out what gears to run will make the learn­ing process a lot eas­ier.


When the time comes to let rip, don’t be in a hurry to just fol­low the guy in front and be drawn into mak­ing mis­takes. Chill out, find some space and do your own thing. Most track­days run around seven 15-20 minute ses­sions per day, so you’ve plenty of time to break the track’s lap record later that af­ter­noon. Ride within your com­fort zone, ap­pre­ci­at­ing the flow of the cir­cuit, the cam­bers of the cor­ners and where the un­du­la­tions make the track blind. It’s all about get­ting fa­mil­iarised and grasp­ing the sheer ba­sics of the cir­cuit.


Once you’ve worked out which way round the track goes, the next most im­por­tant thing is to work on your gear se­lec­tion. If you’re rid­ing a road bike, chances are your gear­ing will be way too high, but you’ll just have to adapt if that’s the case. If you’ve got spare sprock­ets, you should look to change them to max­imise your exit drive and top end. But don’t worry about any of that un­til you’ve got the ba­sics of what gear goes where.

The trick is to choose a gear that keeps the mo­tor bub­bling on the sweet spot ready for you to drive out of a bend. On most in­line-fours, that means choos­ing a gear that’ll keep the revs north of 8,000rpm. Make your gear selections ha­bit­ual, and keep tabs on them with a gear in­di­ca­tor, as­sum­ing your bike’s got one. Don’t be afraid to ask an in­struc­tor if you’re strug­gling to work out what gear goes where.


If you’re on a bad line, you’re ei­ther go­ing to go slow or crash. It re­ally is that sim­ple much of the time. Most track­day com­pa­nies put cones on cor­ner apexes, and some even use cones to high­light brak­ing mark­ers and turn-in points. The most com­mon mis­take peo­ple make on track is to turn in early and run out wide on the exit; lin­ing you up for a stint of mo­tocross if you’re not care­ful. Don’t let that hap­pen. Con­stantly think about your po­si­tion­ing and make sure you’re us­ing the full width of the track on the run-in and exit from a bend; un­less an im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing cor­ner dic­tates oth­er­wise.

Use the cones and get in a habit of turn­ing in as late as nec­es­sary to hit those apexes. At first, don’t worry about cor­ner speed, or how hard you rinse the throt­tle on the way out; just get your­self run­ning the right lines first and fore­most. Speed is some­thing you can al­ways add into the equa­tion later on, but not if you’re nine foot off an apex. If you’re strug­gling with the cone sys­tem, ask an ex­pe­ri­enced rider or in­struc­tor to give you a tow around.


Some peo­ple go balls out and hop on the an­chors when it seems right. Other peo­ple use ref­er­ences. They can be any­thing from pur­pose­fully placed marker boards to tar­mac changes, scalps in the track to ar­eas where you can see loads of rub­ber. One piece of ad­vice is to keep your ref­er­ences sim­ple; ones that re­quire you strain­ing your eyes for sev­eral sec­onds can be lethal.

Once you know which way the track goes and you’ve a good idea of what brak­ing ar­eas are on the track, start to think about where you’re brak­ing and get into a habit of ap­ply­ing the brakes at the same place each lap. You’ll prob­a­bly find the first few times daunt­ing as you hur­tle to­wards your marker, but it’ll soon get eas­ier. Rep­e­ti­tion is the key to suc­cess, so be­fore long you’ll find your­self much more re­laxed as you squeeze on the go-slow lever. Do that enough times and you’ll soon find your­self ea­ger to brake later. That’s a good thing. That’s progress.

So, the op­tions are then to ei­ther find a new marker or cal­i­brate your mind to brake a sec­ond or so af­ter the marker you’ve just passed. The choice is yours. One thing that is ad­vis­able is to brake pro­gres­sively at first, un­til you’ve got ut­ter con­fi­dence in your­self and the brakes to use them harder.


Once you know your lines, gears and brak­ing mark­ers, you’re pretty much on your way to be­com­ing a Grand Prix rider. Well, maybe not, but you’re go­ing to be a lot bet­ter off than just wing­ing it ev­ery lap. But here’s the catch – don’t get lazy. To truly find a good pace and build on your con­fi­dence you have to re­peat the above pro­cesses time and again. The quicker you get, the later you’ll brake, the faster you’ll cor­ner and the higher the gear se­lec­tion you’ll use. It’s all pro­gres­sive, so be pre­pared to make changes as and when they’re needed. Stick to this tem­plate and you’ll find learn­ing new tracks a dod­dle.


No cones for the right line? Ask an ex­pert! (not pic­tured...)

Por­ing over track maps can aid your un­der­stand­ing of a cir­cuit...

Watch­ing on-board laps can help...

...but in­ti­mate per­sonal tu­ition is price­less!

Now that’s learn­ing a track in com­fort!

Most tracks wouldn’t let you go to these lengths to high­light your brak­ing marker...

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