How to Race Your Street Motorcycle

Want to improve your sport bike riding skills? A motorcycle "track day" is a safe and legal way to do it.


  1. Image titled Race Your Street Motorcycle Step 1
    Call your motorcycle shop and ask them if there is a race track with a motorcycle “Track Day". Don’t be scared. They usually have lots of support for new riders. They will escort you around the track several times so that you can get comfortable out there. The track is way safer than doing this on the street. No little ol ladies, no sand in the corners, no stoplights and everyone going the same way. Pay your track fees early to take advantage of possible discounts. (Expect track fees of roughly $100.00 a day on average)
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    Get protective gear (don't skimp here):
    • Gloves should be race type gloves, very thick at the knuckles, possibly rivets on the palms.
    • Leather or cordura race pants and jacket that zip together or a one-piece race suit with built in protection at the knees, calves, elbows, forearms etc. (preferably vented to let cool air in.)
    • hard back/spine protector.
    • Motorcycle racing boots
    • Full face helmet.
  3. Image titled Race Your Street Motorcycle Step 3
    Go over your motorcycle thoroughly.
    • Tires and brake pads must be near new.
    • Tire must be race or near-race quality. They’ll have stickier composition. Proper tire pressure is of utmost importance. Your normal street pressure is probably not right for the track. Check with the tire rep, your local shop or the people running the track day.
    • Remove the mirrors.
    • Disconnect the headlight and brake light.
    • Use blue painter's tape entirely over the headlight, turn signals, and taillight.
    • Check the oil, chain, forks, anything else with possible maintenance.
    • Setting your suspension up is important in track riding. If you don’t know how to set your forks and swing arm to racing settings according to your body weight, set them to firm.
    • Find out if you need to replace your engine coolant with water. Coolant is slippery if it leaks, so some tracks forbid it. Straight water works fine if the bike is moving on the track. (Even if your race track does not require you to replace your antifreeze you should change it to water+Redline Water wetter anyway, you don't want to be the cause of another rider crashing because your bike has a small leak. Water evaporates, ethylene glycol does not.)
  4. Image titled Race Your Street Motorcycle Step 4
    Transport your bike to the track. Many people go the night before and sleep at the track. The track may have a bunkhouse for the racers. Get your gear on, go to the riders meeting and ask about the new rider’s slots and training. ( Everybody does this first once) Don’t worry! This is just like the street except safer. It is very unlikely that you will wreck if you follow the rules.
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    Hydrate. Eat protein for breakfast. This is a physically demanding task and being in good shape will help. For every 7 pounds you lose, you gain one horsepower.
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    Listen carefully to the instructor.


  • Watch an experienced rider to learn the “line"
  • Your eyes belong way ahead, not just in front of your tire.
  • Learn the flags and watch for them.
  • Don’t race anybody today. Let it go. Have fun. Stay safe.
  • Your front brake is 80% of your braking power. Avoid the back brake until you have more training.
  • Never ride outside your limits. The guy in front or behind you has a different set of limits. Don’t ride at his. Increase your lean angle (corner speed) very slowly at a pace you are comfortable with. Get too far outside your limits and you’ll get scared, grab the brakes and go into the grass.
  • Get a good night's sleep before your track day.
  • If you are exiting the track you must physically signal to the riders behind you. Hold your arm up high.
  • Slowing for corners begins with downshifting, then braking. Get back on the gas for the ride through the corner. This will set up your suspension for the corner and subsequently the launch.
  • Leaning off is for one reason only: Weight distribution. If you can make the turn without leaning off and nothing scrapes the ground, it’s not time to lean off yet. Wait until you’re going faster to complicate the ride with this technique. When stuff starts scraping, you need better weight distribution. If you are leaning off, try baby powder on the seat, you can move around better.
  • Lean way down to the tank and get your CG lower.
  • Your objective is smoothness. No wheelies, stoppies, don’t try to look cool. Practice smooth shifting, smooth braking. Eventually you’ll feel like you're going slow, but you’ll be going faster than everybody.
  • Caution! Motorcycle basics ahead: Motorcycles don’t turn by turning their front wheel into the turn, They turn by turning their front wheel away from the turn. “Push right to go right" is equivalent to turn left to go right. All motorcycle riders understand this subconsciously, but skilled riders have it in the forefront of their mind.
  • Many opinions exist on how best to corner. Counter steering is most common but one long time race winner who’s son is currently winning races theorizes that your motorcycle needs to be “in balance" in a corner. No counter steering. After the initial “push right to go right" the rider balances his weight so that if he were to remove pressure from the grips the motorcycle would stay on course in the turn. This “balance" allows the suspension to soak up track irregularities very well. No “twisting in the middle" or re-compensating occurs in the corner. You can try this in street riding, especially in corners that have bumps.
  • DO NOT pass anyone on the inside today. Keep your passing on the outside.
  • There will be no brake lights in front of you. Don’t worry, everybody is slowing down for the same curve.
  • Take two miles at granny speed to warm up your tires. Cold they are like chalk and will not stick to the road surface. Really - check your tire pressure and allow your tires to heat on all sides. Race tires heat to 170F before they have maximum grip.
  • Everybody eventually takes their bike off road. Your sports bike is ill-equipped for this. When you find yourself in the grass, go straight, don’t turn, use rear brake extremely gently until your speed is low enough to return to the track. Do not touch the front brake, there is a lot of braking force on the front wheel and your street tires have no traction off road.
  • Breathe in the corners. In through the nose-out through the mouth. This is important for relaxing. You’ll stop breathing and your motorcycle will wonder who’s driving. Also try flapping your arms up and down. This will help with your tendency to grip the handlebars too tightly.


  • You can be seriously injured or killed. You will generally have to sign a waiver at the track site entrance plus one from the event organizer.
  • Many insurance companies will cover track mishaps if it occurred at an NON-competitive event. A riding school or track day with some instruction very often is covered. Check with your carrier.

Things You'll Need

  • Motorcycle, Preferably a sportbike.
  • Leathers, boots, gloves, helmet.
  • Folding chair to relax between sessions
  • Gas can w/ gas
  • Tire gauge
  • Sports drink and water
  • Health insurance card
  • Basic tools for removal of mirrors and plate
  • Blue painters tape will not melt and will not leave residue on your bike when the day is done.

Article Info

Categories: Motorcycles