How to Get Started in Motorcycle Racing
Unless you’re one of the lucky ones with a Surname like Espargaro, Dunlop, or Marquez, there’s a good chance you weren’t born straight into the world of Motorcycle Racing. If you’ve found your way to this blog entry, then chances are you’ve got that little seed planted in your head that you want to race and are looking for a bit of guidance to work your way from your couch to the starting grid of your first race. So keep reading and let us show you how to get started in motorcycle racing.
Clearly, the first thing you need to race a bike is the bike itself. The question of “What is a good motorcycle to start with?” is a common one. Perhaps you already have a suitable bike that you are comfortable with. If that’s the case, then congratulations! For the rest of you, there are a number of factors to consider:
Budget: The biggest factor to start (and continue) racing is setting a budget for yourself. Remember that you will use consumables much quicker than you may be used to if you’re a seasoned road rider. Don’t forget to factor in for spares and repairs as well.
CC’s: Search this topic on any race club forum and you will find endless threads full of opinions on what “the right path” is alongside stories of “I started out on a superbike and did just fine.” The reality is there is no one size fits all. Certainly, a 600cc Supersport or 1000cc Superbike will provide you with the rush you expect from watching the pros on TV long before you hit their potential; however, they are expensive to prepare and repair. A smaller class 400cc or 650cc Twin will give you a cheaper and more forgiving route into the sport and are still huge fun. Plus, the racing is just as fierce—just watch a Moto 3 race if you don’t believe me.
Build or Buy: The last factor to cover on bike selection is to build or to buy. Buying a ready prepped track or race bike is going to save you money short term because it’ll likely already have the common upgrades. Further, if you buy within the club you want to race with, it should have everything done to pass the technical inspections. Building a motorcycle from the ground up will cost you more in aftermarket motorcycle performance parts, as well as labor costs; especially if you have a shop do the mods for you. However, you will have the knowledge and confidence that everything is in good condition before you start. HHR Performance has the high-performance motorcycle parts you need to build your bike to get it ready for racing. From motorcycle race fairings, to high-performance motorcycle brakes, we’ve got you covered.
There are numerous clubs around, so choosing one may depend on following your buddies to where they race. Likewise, if you’re going it alone, do a bit of research to see what tracks are within reach for you and see who races there.
New Racer School: Most clubs will need you to prove that you are safe and competent on the track before letting you loose. Check their schedule to see which rounds they are running NRS sessions (usually on a Friday Track Day), otherwise, you may end up getting to the track to find your weekend cut short. There are other track schools that provide certification—again, check with your club to see which schools they recognize before booking.
License and Membership: These are usually one and the same, but each club is subtly different. You can join and sign up ahead of events or during the registration at the event itself. Be warned, though—registration desks are usually busy places full of racers, all keen to get through and get set up for the weekend, so it’s best to turn up as prepared as possible.
Read the Rulebook: An easily overlooked but vitally important task. The rulebook will tell you what the club’s requirements are to pass the technical inspection, what the race classes are, and what the club’s code of conduct is both on and off the track. Get familiar with this—failure to follow some rules will prevent you from racing and may cost you money if there are fines involved.
One of the first things you’ll realize when you hit the track on a race weekend is how physical it is compared to riding on the street or even a track day. HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE! And if you’re not sure, probably drink some more. Additionally, proper nutrition is important in any sport, and you do not want to find yourself cramping up on lap five of a six-lap race because you forgot to eat a decent breakfast or lunch. Even worse, you don’t want the last thing you drank to be a beer the night before or a cup of coffee the morning of.
When it comes to rider gear, check the club’s rulebook, and make sure you have the right gear. You’ll need to wear leathers, but double check if there are limits on what type—some clubs will allow two-piece suits as long as they have a full zip, while others may only allow one piece. Check that your gloves and boots are the correct styles and that your helmet matches the required specs (SNELL, ECE, SHARP, etc.).
Manage your expectations. Racing is a tough sport, and it’s very unlikely you will turn up to your first event and be a leg dangling, elbow dragging superhero (although there is every chance you’ll feel like one!). During practices, run your own pace but watch what others are doing around you. Further, talk to people between sessions and seek help from a suspension guy or tire vendor—you’ll be amazed at what they’ll be able to tell you from reading tire wear and giving your bike a bounce!
The First Race
This is what everything above leads to. Make sure to confirm your grid slot and, if you can, write it on some tape and whack it on your fuel tank between the cap and handlebars. This way, as you roll up, you don’t forget. The start procedure will be briefed out at the start of the day, and this will be THE MOST exciting part of the weekend. Once you’re on your spot, the starter will do their thing, the flag will drop, and….. GO! That’s how you get started in motorcycle racing! You’re a racer in your first race so enjoy it, finish it, and go do it all again.