Classic Bike Guide
Do your own classic bike trackday
Various people run trackdays for older bikes, like the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club (VJMC), the Moto Morini and Velocette clubs, the BMW club and Classic Bike Trackdays, who also run the VJMC days. They differ from normal trackdays as they are more prepared for the different ages and speeds of bikes, as well as different levels of rider. They also have less bikes in each group, making the difference in speeds easier to deal with and more enjoyable.
■ You don't need racing tyres or tyre warmers to ride your classic on track. Make sure everything is in good order and keep an eye on tyre pressures as they will rise with extra heat and will need lowering.
■ To get the most from your day, be honest about your experience, skill and the speed of the bike or bikes. That way, the organiser can put you in the most suitable group.
■ Many classic trackdays allow multiple bikes! But again, be aware that one may not suit the same group as the other – talk it through with the organiser.
■ If you're rusty or new to track riding, book an instructor. You will learn more quickly, risk less and therefore enjoy your day and future days more.
■ Like Charlie and Owen, when you feel you've had enough, or are wet through or just mentally drained, miss a session. Risks are low – as low as a spirited ride on the road – until you're not concentrating.
One-piece or two-piece leathers that join with a zip which goes all the way round your waist are all that's allowed – no textiles. Make sure you have CE-approved armour in the shoulders, elbows, hips and knees, though this is only advisory. And don't borrow your enormous mate's leathers – they won't protect you! Gloves and boots should be quality and fit securely, and your helmet a full face with the ACU Gold Standard sticker on the back. Openface helmets will not be allowed. It's bizarrely not mandatory, but please wear a CE-approved back protector. Many use a chest protector as well. On a rainy day you can wear waterproof oversuits or tight-fitting ‘jonny suits', but these can slip on the seat. The best thing to do is just get a little wet!
Prepare your bike for the track
Noise is the biggest enemy and bikes are noise-checked before you go out as well as constantly throughout the day trackside. Classic trackdays tend to run to a louder limit than normal days, but that is still quieter than some people run their bikes on the road – open meggas on a Manx Norton will not pass. If you're too loud, you cannot run; any complaints from nearby the circuit and the council will shut the day down – you will be popular. If you can, pop to a nearby circuit when something is on and asked to be tested – then you'll know.
Remove your mirrors if it's easy to do so, otherwise you'll have to tape them up. The safest thing you can do is take care of what is in front of you.
Remove any unnecessary accessories, like phone mounts or luggage.
Make sure your bike is well serviced and give it a once-over to ensure everything is in good condition and all is secure. It's dangerous to yourself and others. I once lost half a trackday thanks to someone's old trident spilling its oil over most the circuit, leaving us to sit and wait while the marshals tirelessly cleaned up the track.
Contrary to popular myth, for fun on a classic trackday you don't need sporty tyres. You need tyres that are in good order, not flattened out in the middle, and not more than a few years old (check the date mark on the side). After all, you trust them on the road – why should they suddenly not work on track?
The secret is temperature and pressures. They will take a couple of laps to warm up, so be smooth and consistent. Run them several PSI lower than you would on the road as they'll warm up more.
And monitor them. Most older bikes have limited ground clearance and braking, so just ride within the bike. Feel what the bike is telling you and ride accordingly.
If you ride a faster bike with better handling and brakes, then you need better tyres.
But this isn't a race, it's a trackday, so if you're doing one trackday a year, stick to quality, sports-oriented road tyres. Planning on living on track? Then yes, look at Avon race tyres or hand-me-downs from racers. Road tyres are also good because they are better if it's cold, or rains.
Fuel your bike, then fuel yourself!
Riding on track can be surprisingly hard work. Bring lots of water and energy-filled snacks like bananas and cereal bars to keep you going.
Most tracks do have a restaurant in the paddock, and while it's nice to support the local diner, stay away from any stodgy food that'll have you heading for 40 winks!
Where to take your classic bike on track
Classic bike trackdays can be booked at classicbiketrackdays.com. The next event is on Friday, October 1 at Croft, near Darlington. Darin and Rob are only too happy to answer any queries and are true old bike enthusiasts – and no, they didn't pay me to say that!
Loose Cannon Track Days hold twostroke and classic bike trackdays, as well as 50-499cc days which will suit some of the smaller, lower-powered classic bikes.
The Classic Racing Motorcycle Club also has parading between racing, giving you an opportunity to participate; ideal for those wanting a taster of what track riding is like and a chance to watch some racing in the same day. More prep and a licence is needed, so for more details speak to the CRMC or the British Historic Racing Club – the racing arm of the VMCC.