How to begin racing motorcycles - ZX6R Forum
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post #1 of 92 Old 01-23-2015, 11:06 AM Thread Starter
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How to begin racing motorcycles

You asked and I answered!

Making the jump into racing motorcycles

Maybe you have ridden the track before, maybe you just bought a new sportbike, or maybe you saw your first motorcycle race on TV. Whatever the reason, it has gotten in your head that maybe you might like to give that racing thing a try. Good for you!

This will be an honest and straightforward look at what it means to start down the path of motorcycle racing.

I am here to tell you right now that it is the most fun that you can legally have with your clothes on. It is the kind of thing that you will carry with you for the rest of your life and it will affect you in ways that you cannot yet imagine.

Racing is more than just a sport, it is a lifestyle which has the potential to eclipse all other aspects of your life should you choose to allow it. It is addicting; the adrenaline, the camaraderie, the competition, the pure speed. All of these things will keep you craving racing past what more people would consider the point of sanity.



This sport is a great motivator and it is actually quite good for personal growth as well. The glories of a hard-earned win and even the bitter losses will gnaw at you, driving you to push harder and faster than ever before, driving you to excel.

Racing also cuts out the bullshit in a surgical, almost brutal way that leaves you with nothing but the truth. You either grow from the experience or you crash miserably (literally and figuratively). In either case, you learn something critical about yourself in the process.

Overcoming excuses
Over the years I have heard countless excuses from people about why they can’t race. Here are some of the highlights:
I’m not fast enough/don’t ride well enough – I hear this one a lot. My counter is simple: I got faster by racing. When I first started I was slower than most people on the track but I learned quickly, I had to! Nothing will teach you to ride more proficiently quicker than getting out there on the grids and mixing it up with people who are also learning. That’s right. The people you will start out racing are all in the same boat as you; a desire but not a lot of experience. You will be on an even playing field.

I’m waiting until I hit xx.xxx laptime – This one comes from the track day riders a lot. What they don’t realize is that they will hit that goal and surpass it much more quickly when you are racing. The spirit of competition will push you hard and you will become faster quickly.

It’s too expensive – While it is true that racing can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. I always recommend to newcomers to start out on a lightweight bike; it is easier to learn on, and less expensive to boot! Alternatively your street bike with a few modifications can easily be turned into a race bike. You should already have the bulk of your riding gear (helmet, gloves, boots) so getting started is not as terrible as you may have thought. I will go into this with more detail below.

I’m afraid of getting hurt – Ok, yes, there is the potential for injury with motorcycle racing, just like there is with motorcycle riding or any physical sport. We can take precautions to mitigate that risk down to the point where it is really a minimal risk. After all, the sport wouldn’t grow if it really was seriously dangerous, right?

I’m not ready – Ready for what, exactly? I hear this every once in a while from someone and I always ask “I felt like I wasn’t ready when I first started too. Ask yourself this; when will you be ready?” This should get a potential racer to really think about things and at least be able to articulate their feelings and concerns.

Is motorcycle racing dangerous?
The potential for injury is always there. Under normal circumstances however, I would argue that racing a motorcycle is no more dangerous than any physical sport such as football or boxing, and I would say it is a good deal safer than riding/racing a bicycle!

I would absolutely say that track riding is actually safer than riding on the streets as you should be wearing very capable personal protective equipment that does an excellent job at keeping the rider injury-free. Full-body leathers with body armor, back/spine and chest protectors, gloves with scaphoid sliders, boots with ankle protectors, and helmets that are engineered to disperse any incoming impact are all part of the everyday office attire to a modern racer. Heck, some suits today even have airbags.

The track will also be free of debris, obstacles, and texting drivers, and unlike the street all traffic is going in the same direction so there are far less converging vehicles to contend with.

Finally, if you do happen to get injured, every race track will have EMT staff that is specifically trained at dealing with racing related injuries, a plethora of ambulances, and a fully staffed medical center…all within 60 seconds of you.

Crashing happens at one point or another, it is a part of the game. Tracks are set up to mitigate any risk with things like air-fence, lots of runoff (crashing itself rarely hurts, it’s the sudden stops that do), and numerous other safety-minded precautions that all do their part to make the racing experience as safe as possible.

I have personally crashed about a dozen times throughout my racing career. All but one of them I was able to get right back up and continue racing, the ‘bad’ one was a concussion and some torn ligaments in my hand all of which have fully healed.

So yes, there are risks, but we take every precaution to mitigate those risks so that we can all live to enjoy the sport we love.

How expensive is racing, really?
There is an old saying amongst racers: “The only way to make a small fortune racing is to start with a big one”. While that was made in jest, there is a grain of truth in there at some levels of racing.

In the early days of racing, you can get away quite cheaply. Yes, I understand that ‘cheap’ is a relative term so let me put some hard numbers to it.

If an aspiring racer is willing to do a little bargain hunting, you can use the following numbers as a baseline:

$2000 – lightweight bike (SV650 or similar)
$1000 – Work to said bike to make it race-ready (suspension, fuel management, exhaust, whatever. Buy used to save big $)
$100 – Tire warmers (used)
$100 – Stands
$500 – miscellaneous gear that you may not already have…again, buy used
$200 – two sets of race takeoffs from a faster racer. They are always selling takeoff tires and at your starting pace these will last you a season or more.

So, in summary you would be looking at ~$4000 to get into racing, and that is including your bike. If you have an already existing bike to use, cut that number in half.

As you progress, you will find that the expense of racing begins to climb. At the very top end of the expert brackets, it can become quite costly but that will be many years away for most riders.

What bike should I run?
The million dollar question! The answer? Whatever you are most comfortable with. As I have already mentioned, I always recommend that people start with lower displacement/power motorcycles when learning to race. It is less expensive, and they are more forgiving of any mistakes a young rider may make.

“It is better to ride a slower bike fast than a fast bike slowly”. A SV650, Ninja 650R, or 250, 300, or even KTM 390 all make great starting race bikes and can often be found for short money from a racer that is moving up in displacement.

Learning to get the most out of a bike is a skill that is at the cornerstone of racing. When you take away the ability to simply twist the throttle to generate true speed, you learn to maximize the other areas of your riding.
So, if you can afford to purchase a used race bike to begin, that would be my first choice but there is also nothing wrong with converting your current street bike to race-duty. Being comfortable on a bike you have been riding for a while can be a pretty big advantage.

Generally speaking I would shy away from the larger displacement motorcycles to begin with simply because all that extra power can be a crutch to a young racer. Also things tend to happen quickly on a racetrack, and the bigger the bike, the faster things can spiral out of your control if you aren’t careful.

What do you need to begin?
There is a pretty basic list of things that you need to have to start racing:
• A motorcycle, set up within the rules of your racing organization.
• Your protective gear (Leathers, back protector, helmet, gloves, boots)
• Tire Warmers. Some will say that these are not a ‘need’, I disagree.
• Front and Rear Stands
• An approved fuel container
• A racing license from the organization you are running with. See below.

That is an absolute bare minimum list. The ‘want’ list is much larger than the ‘need’ list and would include things like the following:

• A full toolset
• A trailer/truck to bring your bike to/from the races
• A canopy, EZ-up, or pavilion to keep out of the sun/rain
• Rain tires/wheels
• Tons of bike upgrades (brake pads, rotors, brake lines, slipper clutches, suspension components, etc. The sky is the limit when it comes to spending on race parts and this is where a lot of the expense of racing comes into play)
• Spare parts and gear

All of the above items are certainly nice to have, but are by no means necessary when just starting out.

How do I make my motorcycle ready for racing?
Each racing organization will have rules that you will need to follow but most are pretty similar:

The bike must have critical areas secured with lock-wire. This is commonly brakes, exhaust, and anything that has the potential to leak fluids.

You will need to remove all lights and mirrors.

All components must be in good mechanical working order: throttle must snap closed, brakes must function and have at least 50% life left on pads, tires must be in suitable condition.

Most organizations will require a belly pan that is capable of containing any leaking fluids and that antifreeze is drained from the bike and replaced with water.

Each organization will have a section of their rulebook devoted to this process. It is always advisable to read the rulebook to make sure that both you and your motorcycle comply with the rules.

How do I get my competition license?
Again, this is different depending on which organization you go with but most follow the same path:

A rider must register and pass a race training course. Most are offered the day of or the day before actual racing takes place so that a novice racer can take the course and race the same weekend. Typically this will include the racers-to-be to complete a mock race (called the rookie race where I am from) to demonstrate that they have learned what they were supposed to learn.

What if I have more questions?
Ask! The best resource an aspiring racer can have is those racers already at their local track. If you are considering learning to race I would advise going to spectate beforehand. Talk to the local racers, ask questions, and listen a lot! Most racers are very glad to share their wisdom with newcomers. If you cannot find answers there, post up here and I will see what I can do to help you.
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post #2 of 92 Old 01-23-2015, 11:31 AM
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That's a great read, I've been considering it and have said a few of those first excuses you listed above already. It's something I think I'll be getting into once I'm healed up and back on the saddle.
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post #3 of 92 Old 01-23-2015, 12:11 PM
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Fuck yes!!

I owe you a beer or two :

Great read man, thanks for taking the time to put that together!
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post #4 of 92 Old 01-23-2015, 12:56 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrestonK View Post
That's a great read, I've been considering it and have said a few of those first excuses you listed above already. It's something I think I'll be getting into once I'm healed up and back on the saddle.
Ha! I have heard each of those excuses more times than I can count so you aren't alone. When the time is right, look into it. It isn't for everyone but go into it with open eyes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Schooley View Post
Fuck yes!!

I owe you a beer or two :

Great read man, thanks for taking the time to put that together!
Glad you enjoyed the read but I don't need beers. I am just glad to give a little something back to the motorcycling community.
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post #5 of 92 Old 01-23-2015, 01:01 PM
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It's a little overwhelming.... But seeing it like this helps a lot. 1 thing at a time.

My biggest obstacle is getting to the track. My car has about 6hp and it specifically says in the manual, "Do not attach a hitch."

Excuses, excuses! I know.

Maybe I'll start a "I need a track buddy with a trailer" thread. Seems a little desperate, but believe it or not, it would make my wife happy. Lol she wants me off the street.

Either way, thanks for taking the time.
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post #6 of 92 Old 01-23-2015, 01:17 PM
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Thanks for the great write up. I have been track riding for two years now and have been giving the idea of racing some consideration. I don't think I want to go all in like you, but I do want a taste. My plan is to race in the fall after I turn 40 so I can run in the formula-40 classes. I know that some of those guys will be super experienced and fast, but I get the impression it will be a bit more sane. Have you found this to be the case?
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post #7 of 92 Old 01-23-2015, 01:18 PM
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Great write up. My main excuse is time.

Do you have to balance a full time job, a wife and kids?
How do you make that work?
Do you just use vacation wisely or are the tracks fairly close?
Does the family tag along?
Do they enjoy it?

Did I get the last paragraph right?
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post #8 of 92 Old 01-23-2015, 02:15 PM
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Thanks for the write up, I am considering racing my bike as soon as I am back in my home town (10 months and counting). I am super excited, for now I'm just riding my bike until then.

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post #9 of 92 Old 01-23-2015, 03:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PainfullySlo View Post
Overcoming excuses
Over the years I have heard countless excuses from people about why they can’t race. Here are some of the highlights:
I’m not fast enough/don’t ride well enough – I hear this one a lot. My counter is simple: I got faster by racing. When I first started I was slower than most people on the track but I learned quickly, I had to! Nothing will teach you to ride more proficiently quicker than getting out there on the grids and mixing it up with people who are also learning. That’s right. The people you will start out racing are all in the same boat as you; a desire but not a lot of experience. You will be on an even playing field.
Guilty as charged, this is by far my biggest hesitation when the idea of trying out racing creeps up in the back of my mind.

Having said that in your opinion what are the minimum qualifications you should have before attempting to get your license? What level of proficiency is needed to make sure you don't become a liability to yourself or the other racers around you?
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post #10 of 92 Old 01-23-2015, 04:03 PM
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Great read P-Slow. The seed was already plated but after this I feel some roots starting to grow from my "race plant".



.

"If carrots got you drunk, rabbits would be fucked up." - Mitch Hedberg (comedian)

"Jumping from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm is the key to success." - Savas Dimopoulos (Physicist)
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post #11 of 92 Old 01-23-2015, 04:40 PM
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c'mon PS, tell em how it REALLY is... if you want to wind up with a small fortune,

















































start with a big fortune, and then go racing.

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post #12 of 92 Old 01-23-2015, 06:27 PM
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My excuse (that I didn't seen in your list of typical excuses) is that I'm too fat to race! Seriously, I already feel a little stupid riding my 6R around (6'3" - 285 lbs)....


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post #13 of 92 Old 01-23-2015, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DayTripper View Post
It's a little overwhelming.... But seeing it like this helps a lot. 1 thing at a time.

My biggest obstacle is getting to the track. My car has about 6hp and it specifically says in the manual, "Do not attach a hitch."

Excuses, excuses! I know.

Maybe I'll start a "I need a track buddy with a trailer" thread. Seems a little desperate, but believe it or not, it would make my wife happy. Lol she wants me off the street.

Either way, thanks for taking the time.
Once you determine where your local track is, find out which track day organization runs there. You can call the track and they will give you a list. Most track day organizations have their own forums or facebook where people will do exactly that: Looking for a ride for my bike to track day on x date. Happens ALL the time. I myself have ferried a few bikes back and forth. Don't let that stop you!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dazo View Post
Thanks for the great write up. I have been track riding for two years now and have been giving the idea of racing some consideration. I don't think I want to go all in like you, but I do want a taste. My plan is to race in the fall after I turn 40 so I can run in the formula-40 classes. I know that some of those guys will be super experienced and fast, but I get the impression it will be a bit more sane. Have you found this to be the case?
The top three riders at my local track are all over 40...just saying. =)

I think it is more 'gentlemans' racing, but do not mistake that for one second as not being competitive. Those guys will chew you up and spit you out if you let them.

Each track varies of course...some places I know the F40 crowd is pretty tame by comparison. My advise would be to go and check out the local racing scene for yourself. Talk to the guys on the grids.

Quote:
Originally Posted by XPyrion View Post
Great write up. My main excuse is time.

Do you have to balance a full time job, a wife and kids?
How do you make that work?
Do you just use vacation wisely or are the tracks fairly close?
Does the family tag along?
Do they enjoy it?

Did I get the last paragraph right?
Yes, I have a full time career and then some (director of operations...lots of hours). I also have a wife and 2 kids who are wonderful at supporting me. Racing is a family event for us.

I do exactly what you said, I *make* it work. It requires a lot of scheduling sometimes but we find ways for the things we love.

Most racing takes place on weekends so the only vacation time that I need to take is the fridays before events if I want to get extra practice in...so that is maybe 7-10 days a year. If you get 2 weeks of vaca, you have some left over. Now, this means I have a VERY understanding wife, and we do other things together besides taking long vacations to make up for it. In any case, it IS a commitment, and your spouse would need to understand that.

Yes, my family is at every single event. I have a toy hauler camper trailer that makes it comfortable for all involved and that is a HUGE help. xbox for the kids, A/C and heat, fridge, stove...it makes it bearable. FYI my closest track is about 3 hours away.

Do they enjoy it? Absolutely. The racing community is by far the best I have ever see. We have BBQs at night, have a few beers or whatever, and it becomes a really close knit fun get-together at night once the track goes cold. The people that make up after-racing is at least half of the reason I continue to go...

Quote:
Originally Posted by MegaTechPC View Post
My excuse (that I didn't seen in your list of typical excuses) is that I'm too fat to race! Seriously, I already feel a little stupid riding my 6R around (6'3" - 285 lbs)....
I am calling bullshit on that one. Meet my teammate Jay at 5'8" and 320lbs.


This isnt MotoGP. Club racing is filled with real world people who have jobs, wives, and responsibilities outside of racing. ESPECIALLY in the rookie brackets you will find all shapes and sizes. That sir, is an excuse
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post #14 of 92 Old 01-23-2015, 08:21 PM
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THIS is a THREAD
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post #15 of 92 Old 01-23-2015, 10:38 PM
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Sorry, I would have used more words in my response but you seem to have hijacked every word in the english language.

Excellent post, as always man. Keep it up!

I'll actually enter a race when I can keep all of the pieces on my bike and in good working order. Even then I might just pack extra duct tape and a quart of oil and hope for the best.

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