For the past 5 weeks I have been lucky enough to ride 5 different race tracks. The list is pretty good. Aragon, Laguna Seca, Spring Mountain, Chuckwalla and Buttonwillow.
Everyday that I have ridden the weather has been perfect with abundant sunshine at every event. Even though the sun was shining the temperature was a bit on the chilly side. Certainly not east cost cold but chilly enough to make me think about some of the things we teach during a STAR school related to how our mindset should change when the temperatures aren’t ideal and how you need to find your pace.
Keeping Your Tires At Temp
You have to remember if air temp is down then track temp will be down as well. Even if the sun is out it will take time to warm up the surface. This is very important to keep in mind especially when you are getting ready to go out for morning sessions. If you have your tires on warmers and they make a five-minute call for your session, don’t rush out to pit lane and sit, the surface and air temp will quickly suck the warmth from your tires. Wait for the session to start, miss the first 30 seconds, then you know when you roll out your tires are hot.
You need to keep the temp up in your tires so when you get out on the track don’t “cruise” around to slow. So many get in the “wait for my tires to get warm” mode but that’s why they were on warmers in the first place. All to often I see people going slow for their first 3 laps as if they had no warmers on their tires and then try to up their pace. Smooth acceleration and braking while upright will keep heat in. As you feel your tires come in you will be able to get more aggressive on the edges.
For those of you who don’t use tire warmers (there might still be a few of us) getting heat in our tires will take a bit more time. We have to build heat in our tires smoothly and less aggressive. With experience you learn how to feel heat in a tire. I make sure on my out lap that tipping into a corner happens very slow. I am not in a hurry to get to my full lean angle. Usually by the second lap I am ready to find my pace but this is different for every person based on how much load you put on the tire. Someone who is a bit faster will load the tire more and increase heat in the tire faster. As compared to someone who is a bit more conservative; this person will need to give their tires 3-4 laps or until they feel comfortable.
Why I Am Not A Flicker
Be careful of your left/right transitions. In other words, watch the input through the bars going from side to side, especially on out laps. One of the reasons I have never been a “flicker” is this reason alone. I see so many people give way to much steering input through the bars on a cold track and end up on the ground. You need to make your transitions smooth throughout the whole bike, not just through the front end. Be cognoscente of elevation also. Turns that fall away from you while transitioning increase our chances of tipping over because there won’t be any load on the front, so contact patch will be compromised.
I made the joke this past weekend that I felt I had an advantage running my street compound Dunlop Q’3, pretty much all I ride on at our STAR school events. Many of us have bought into the idea that we have to have race slicks or race DOT’s for the track. What you have to remember is this; race tires are built to operate in an optimum temperature range. On 80+ degree days it is easy to keep the tire temp in your tires after they come off the warmers. On cooler days, depending on the rider, your tires are more likely to be operating below optimum ranges. Street compound tires as compared to race slicks or race DOT’s are easier to get into a heat range that most can ride at. I’ve heard some really bad advice from riders telling newbies they have to put the latest and greatest race tires on their bikes, but on cold days this couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Lastly, days that are chilly intimidate most people and they should. Everything is colder including the rider. I never see to many people doing jumping jacks to warm themselves up in the pits, haha. That said, you can still get a lot out of your day even if all you do is get close to that almighty PR you set last time you were at the track. These days are great practice days, don’t worry about lap times and speed so much, get that technique dialed and enjoy your day with friends. As your experience grows, colder days won’t matter so much to you because you will have gained the knowledge of how to handle things. Doing 24-hour races where temps got into the 30s at night really taught me a lot. Riding at night with temps that low while raining is a whole other thing and we’ll save that for another time.
Hope this helps you all and ride safe,
Our last event of 2015 is December, 14 & 15 at Chuckwalla. We have extended a special offer to anyone attending Femmewalla on Dec 11, and those that attend So Cal Track Days Dec 12-13. We will be out there supporting both of those events ourselves and look forward to seeing everyone. Get your spot now!