Classic Bike Guide
Charlie’s impressions and thoughts about a trackday on the V50
I must admit to feeling pretty anxious about going on a trackday with the V50, to the point that a few days beforehand I said I wasn't going. The weather forecast really didn't help. I love riding my Guzzi in a spirited manner on sunny days, but risking my neck to ride around a waterlogged track while my boots filled with rain didn't really fill me with excitement.
As it was all paid for, I guessed there was no harm in turning up just to see what it was all about. The welcome from friends and helpful staff relaxed me into it and I ended up going to the briefing, and then the noise test. By the time my session was called, I felt ready to go – even in the pouring rain! I was in the mindset of taking it easy and following Owen, who agreed to provide a smooth marker... even if he did start the session by trying to overtake half the field! By the time he set off on his own egotistical vendetta against an RD350, I'd established that grip was good in the wet and just concentrated on following the smoothest lines, picking my braking points and also using the well-placed turn-in and apex markers. I kept expecting hordes of bikes to overtake me, but only the one bike came past, which filled me with confidence.
The Guzzi V50 was a great bike to take out on track. The V-twin has very predictable power delivery, meaning I could accelerate smoothly out of corners – very important on a rainy day! Of what power there is, it is nicely spread throughout the rev range, so it wasn't too critical to be in exactly the right gear, all the time.
The suspension set-up all round is pretty basic, with good old-fashioned twin shocks at the back, but it all feels balanced and the centre of gravity is very low, and this translates to a planted feel.
The original linked brakes might've actually been quite useful in the wet if we'd kept them!
It was only when I started to lose the use of my fingers from the cold that stopped me doing more sessions. It would've been nice to see more female riders out there but all the guys were incredibly welcoming and respectful, on and off the track. I had an even better time than expected and Owen got away with what was a pretty risky anniversary date… I still expect a romantic country cottage next time, though!
The first two laps of the trackday are held behind an instructor, slowly and with no overtaking to allow everyone to scout the circuit and see where it goes. Once these sighting laps are over, you are free to ride at your own pace and overtake, as long as it is done respectfully.
Lap by lap I picked up the pace and every time I looked over my shoulder, Charlie was hanging on behind. She’s got very limited track experience but is smooth and confident in her riding, which translates to speed on a circuit. I promised to be a consistent marker for the whole session, but the first time I was overtaken the red mist came down and I couldn’t resist my natural urge to chase. All ideas of nursing the aging Yamaha were gone; the revs were sent right up past the 10,000rpm redline in the hopes of chasing down the spritely two-stroke RD350.
The straight felt like an eternity, tucked behind the screen watching my newfound rival get further and further away. The single front disc would be woefully underpowered for heavy braking in the dry but, combined with the drum rear, provided as much stopping power as I could use on a wet track. Accelerating with any kind of urgency out of the corners required careful consideration of gears as the bike is pretty damn gutless low down, only really getting going at 7000rpm and above. The bike’s strength has to be its handling. For an early 1980s commuter bike, the linked type monocross swinging arm was pretty radical and, combined with its light weight and a deep treaded set of Continental touring tyres, provided a bike that felt pretty handy on the wet surface.
With tight chicanes and fast corners, I used the bike’s strengths to catch the RD and then make a respectfully wide pass.
Well – that was 15 minutes of ridiculously good fun! My joy was interrupted when I realised I’d left my girlfriend to fend for herself. Shortly I’ll have some explaining to do, but as she flipped up her visor it was clear to see a big smile… she’d just had the best time, too, and left a lot of faster bikes in her Guzzi’s wake!
Unfortunately this all took place amid Covid-19 restrictions, so we were left without anywhere hide from the appalling weather between sessions. While riding was undoubtably fun, even in the rain, we gradually got colder in our soaking leathers and reluctantly called it a day after four sessions. Had the cafe been open like it usually is, I’m sure we would have stayed warmer and completed the full day.
It was my first ever classic trackday and I had no idea what to expect from the occasion. What I found was a friendly, non-competitive atmosphere (aside from the odd friendly chase on track, and, er, me, possibly?).
On-track manners all-round were excellent in the novice and intermediate sessions I participated in, and with a long track and modest group sizes, there was a lot of space to enjoy riding at my own pace.
In the novice group there were plenty of people taking it VERY easy and they were no bother to the faster riders in the group, so if you’re concerned about pace I really wouldn’t be – you won’t be the only one just out enjoying the ride.