Went with the Midwest Track Days group to Putnam Park for a weekend of kneedraggin fun! By the second or third session I was feeling comfortable on the bike after all the setup changes I made and one of the coaches kicked me out of the Novice group and up to Intermediate!
I felt I was ready to make the jump at the last trackday of last season, but my bike wasn’t prepped for it. Then this season I switched to the GSXR600 and I’ve been getting used to a very different engine character and body position and to having more power and grip.
However, I came to this track exactly a year ago and things didn’t go exactly to plan...
That was my second trip to the track on two wheels and there were many lessons I learned that day. Overconfidence and under-experience led to me ignoring signs of mental and physical fatigue. Thankfully I got off easy that time, but it’s a lesson I’ve committed to heart ever since.
Usually in Novice group, there’s a pretty wide range in experience and abilities, but this day was particularly... hazardous. For whatever reason about 30 out of 35 riders had never ridden this track before and for about 20 of them it was their first track day ever. This resulted in huge, bunched-up, unpredictable, and slow moving packs of bikes. Slow is fine, unpredictable is not. I love that so many people are getting into track riding, but it just made the early sessions a little stressful.
Once I went out in Intermediate, I was relieved to find everyone moving at a much more similar pace and with much more predictable lines.
I was originally a little intimidated or hesitant to bump up, but I actually found it to be much more relaxing. Furthermore, I actually had space to really work on my riding. I keep being surprised by the difference in grip between the Michelin Pilot Road 4's on my SV650 and the Dunlop Q3+’s I have on the GSXR. That’s not a knock on the PR4's, I love those tires for a street bike, but at the track I’ve felt them slip a little bit, especially when they get too hot. I’m still working my way up to the Dunlop’s limits and they just seem to keep on sticking.
My fastest lap was about a 1:22 (starts around 8:40 in the video below) compared to my best lap a year ago was only a 1:30.
Now I’m eyeing a brembo master cylinder and some suspension upgrades, but the 16 year old gixxer still keeps up just fine with the newer hardware.
Next track day is at National Corvette Museum on Labor Day weekend. Come join if you can!