ANATOMY OF A TRACK BIKE
By Kar Lee
Photography: Kar Lee / Pete Wileman
You can take anything around a racetrack, as long as it goes around a corner, has enough ground clearance and grunt in the engine so you’re not a liability on the faster sections. Anything goes, within reason. Sure, you could throw a Yamaha VMax around but the chances of making it through the day unscathed are probably not as good as if you took something a little more suitable for the task at hand. Whatever you choose, there are a range of mods and bolt-ons that will make your steed that much more capable, and here are the most popular.
With our track and race bike insurance products your modifications are covered as standard as long as the value you tell us reflects this. You can insure your bike on track for trackday damage (UK and EU circuits), in a locked building for fire & theft or "In Transit" for fire, theft or if you damage the bike in a road accident when being transported in your van or trailer.
They’re the only things that keep you in contact with the asphalt so good tyres in good condition at the correct pressure are a must-have. OE road tyres such as the Dunlop Roadsmart may be fine in the novice group, but these are designed for use in all weathers across a range of temperatures and once the pace starts to quicken will overheat and lose traction. By the same token, super sticky slicks that have a narrow operating temperature may be less effective than a set of road-legal sports tyres if they’re not pushed hard enough to get to, or maintain, optimum operating temperature. It ultimately comes down to the pace of the rider so when choosing trackday rubber be honest with your ability and opt for tyres that are ‘better’ than you but not so much so you will never get them hot enough for them to work at their best. Slicks will of course also need tyre warmers and paddock stands. A good choice for trackday use would be any fast road/trackday tyre such as the Dunlop GP Racer D212, Pirelli Supercorsa SC, or Bridgestone R11.
Some say if you only take one tool to a trackday, make it a tyre gauge, and for good reason. The right pressures are the difference between making it around a corner and sitting in the gravel trap with an upside-down bike. Check with the tyre manufacturers beforehand or the tyre support provider on the day what your pressures should be before venturing out on circuit. If using a road-legal tyre they will typically be 4-6psi lower at the front and around 10psi lower at the rear. Certain tyres like the Dunlop NTEC series (D212 and D213) allow for extra low pressures on the rear due to the technology in the carcass.
With any suspension, whether stock or modified, the first, and most important thing you’ll need to do is have it set up for your weight by adjusting the preload to ensure you’re running the correct amount of sag. After that you can figure in compression and rebound changes, and even raising and lowering the forks to change the weight distribution on the bike and some bikes also have a ride height adjuster on the rear shock to increase ground clearance which is useful if things are grounding out too easily.
Trackday bikes will either be using aftermarket cartridge kits from the likes of K-tech in the forks that offer an enhanced range of adjustment and performance, different springs to suit the rider weight and aftermarket rear shocks. Most OE shocks are built to a tight budget and are generally past their best after 10,000 miles. Correctly set-up suspension will give you a much happier bike, rider, and longer-lasting tyres as they won’t be trying to compensate for the suspension’s shortcomings. Want to splash out? Consider replacement forks from the likes of Ohlins. Quality units with a huge range of adjustment plus excellent resale value.
3: BRAKE SYSTEM
As most modern bikes are fitted with semi-sintered pads as standard, these shouldn’t need swapping out if you’re a steady rider. However, more experienced riders will likely opt to change for more aggressive track-focused pads that maintain their performance when the heat builds up. A trackday-ready bike will typically have braided steel lines from the likes of Goodridge or HEL to eliminate any hose expansion issues and will be running on DOT 5.1 brake fluid which has a higher boiling point, thus less fade in constant hard use – it’ll need more frequent changes though.
A popular upgrade is an Accossato or Brembo RCS (Ratio Click System) brake master cylinder which allows a change in the lever ratio to give a different feel depending on the setting and also allow for less effort for the same amount of braking force thanks to a larger piston bore.
Also popular with the trackday community is ditching the rear brake fluid reservoir altogether and replacing it with a clear hose. It saves a tiny bit of weight but also allows more movement for rearset adjustment. Got money to spend? Invest in a set of Brembo, ISR, AP Racing or HEL aftermarket monoblock calipers if your trackbike doesn’t already have them (they’re designed to flex less under braking) and for a noticeable improvement, fit bigger discs at the same time.
The icing on the cake would be a brake lever guard, usually made from either alloy or carbon fibre, this sits on the end of your right handlebar and prevents other riders from accidentally pressing your front brake.
4: CRASH PROTECTION
Crash bungs that mount to the frame are a popular mod that has saved many a bike from much more damage than it would’ve otherwise suffered. Be aware that a minority of bikes have also been known to catch on kerbs whilst sliding, causing them to flip over, causing more damage than otherwise would’ve occurred. An essential bolt-on is engine cases from the likes of GBRacing and R&G which will not only massively increase the chances of the engine escaping unscathed, but will also mean no engine oil will leak onto the circuit meaning a shutdown of the session. Other forms of frame and bodywork are available, such as frame, swingarm, fork and tank protectors.
Most bikes are over-geared to maximise fuel efficiency and a comfortable high cruising speed. For the racetrack you can expect to lower the front sprocket by a tooth and go up two teeth for the rear. It’s a cheap mod that will net you better acceleration and drive out of corners at the expense of a slightly lower top speed and higher fuel consumption. While you’re at it, consider changing to a 520 pitch chain conversion too – this will be lighter and narrower than a standard 525 or 530 set-up and will give an incremental increase in power and less unsprung weight.
6: REARSETS AND CLIP-ONS
Rearsets offer more ground clearance, adjustability in most cases and importantly, grippy, fixed position foot pegs that don’t fold up, allowing for predictability when moving around the bike. Aftermarket parts are also more likely to be available separately so if you snap a foot peg there’s no need to buy the complete assembly. Clip-ons are available from the likes of Renthal in a variety of styles so they can be more adjustable than OE for that perfect riding position.
7: TANK GRIPS
Once you fit a set of these to a fuel tank, you’ll fit them to every bike you ever take on track. Essentially a sheet of grippy rubber that sticks to each side, giving your leg extra support and reassurance when the bike is leant over. Two popular brands are Stompgrip and Techspec.
8: LIGHTWEIGHT WHEELS
You’ll notice the benefits more on a bigger, heavier bike like a 1000 over a 600 but the investment of lighter wheels will show in every area from high-speed handling and manoeuvring to braking and acceleration, not to mention the overall effect of reducing rider fatigue. Marchesini, OZ and BST are all good options.
9: FUEL MAPPING
In pre-fuel injection days, you’d stick an end can, K&N air filter and Dynojet kit to your carbs and get an instant 10% increase in most of the rev range. Nowadays, you’ll use either a fuel mapping module like a Power Commander or an ECU flash with your air filter and end can. Fuel modules will cost more when you factor in the cost of the product and the dyno time involved, though this is offset slightly when it comes to resale. For maximum gains and effectiveness, ECU flashing is hard to beat – there’s nothing to install but the bike will need to go to an experienced dyno operator to perform the process.
With more trackday noise restrictions in place resulting in more ‘quiet’ days than ever before, it’s a good idea to have an exhaust with removable baffles in it. GPR silencers typically have two in place, one at the front of the can and one at the rear for flexibility.
One of the most satisfying trackbike bolt-ons, a quickshifter will allow you to keep the throttle pinned while changing up. This will save precious milliseconds when chasing those lap times but even more importantly sounds beautiful as you go through the gearbox. There are a few brands on the market and popular options are available from HM Plant, Bazzaz, and Dynojet. For that extra smoothness and to reduce the chances of the rear locking up while going down the gearbox at speed, auto-blippers are also available for certain models for clutchless gearchanges.
11: QUICK ACTION THROTTLE
It’s all about reducing rider effort to accelerate and that means fitting a different-sized cam kit for the throttle which results in less wrist movement required to get on the gas sooner.
12: TRACK BODYWORK
If you’re ready to bite the trackday bullet full time, taking all the road equipment off the bike makes a ton of sense. Removing the lights, indicators and mirrors not only means the bike is lighter thus easier to handle, but also keeps costs low in the event of a crash. Replacing the road plastics with quality race bodywork is worthwhile as these are made to be flexible to absorb and distribute the crash energy evenly instead of breaking.
If you go down this route it’s also worth considering a lightweight Lithium battery from the likes of racingbatteries.co.uk. Typically, less than half the weight of a standard battery and with no lights to power you can save a couple of kgs in a straight swap.
13: ADDITIONAL ELECTRONIC GIZMOS
For that icing on the cake, various electronic bolt-ons can make trackday life easier, like traction control modules from the likes of Bazzaz that can help reduce the chances of the rear wheel losing grip by cutting the ignition by milliseconds when it senses the engine revs rising too sharply. A gear indicator such as those made by Datatool, is also useful when you’re riding in the zone and preoccupied with a host of other factors to remember what gear you’re in.
Finally, a lap timer will help track your progress and indicate where you’re faster or slower and where you could improve your riding. There are free options that are software-based that link to your phone, or hardware devices from the likes of Qstars or Starlane.
14: ACTION CAMERAS
From expensive GoPros to their bargain basement Chinese-made copycats, an action camera is a valuable tool in assessing riding on circuit, as well as a fun way to relive those moments. Things to look for are compactness, sturdiness, vibration-resistance, and field of view options to capture as much of the track without too much distortion. Some will be waterproof; others will require a case. Whether you opt for an expensive flagship GoPro or a £30 jobbie from eBay is your call, both have their pros and cons, but we’ve used mid-range GoPros with excellent results.
Thanks to trackday instructor Rob Glenn, trackday regulars Jason Cheung, Matt Venn and Callum Barnett for their assistance in compiling this feature.