So here is my brutally honest assessement of my first track day. I'm not Super Man, Rossi, or Hayden; I never will be. I made some bad mistakes (which I admit) and I made some major improvements (which I am proud of) so here's how it went down.
Note: All the guys I was riding with were in the same session as I was, so nobody was able to take pics.
One guy had a video camera but i'm not sure it was digital so I'll post it up if can get the video but don't hold your breath.
Well despite my misgivings about riding on the shotty azz SV stock suspension I decided to pull the trigger and actually do a track day before it gets all snowy here in Michigan. So I had to work in the AM but that was alright because the track (Gingerman Raceway) I went to allowed people to ride a half-day for half-price so that's what I did. When I got there they had just switched to two sessions rather than just having a ride-on-ride-off open track, they didn't want more than 10-12 bikes (which is not many for a 2 mile track) on the track at a time since there was a pretty good spread of skill levels from novices to racers practicing for the CCS races at Gingerman this weekend. With two sessions the format was 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off which actually makes for a ton of riding (12 sessions for the people who were there the whole day) So a good number of the riders would go every other so that they were only riding 20 on, 40 off so that they wouldn't get too fatigued. Anyway, I proceeded to tape everything up, pull the mirrors off, etc, and got ready to ride.
When they made the first call for the "non-racer" session I rode over to the guy in charge and told him that I had just arrived and that this was going to be my first session. He pointed me to the starting lane and I was off, no class, no instructor, it was going to be the school of trial and error for me. Knowing that I needed at least a couple of laps to warm my tires up and familiarize myself with the track I set out at a comfortable and relatively slow pace.
Into my third lap I gave the SV some throttle (she loves it when I do that), since my speedo was taped over I have no idea how fast I was riding. Anyway, coming up turn 3 (just over a small hill on a short straight) I realized I was coming WAAAAY to hot, time to lose some speed in a hurry (nobody told me about shift points and where to look for them). I locked up the rear and had the front hopping like crazy, my first tank slapper. At that point I nearly shat in my leathers! Somehow things got under control (I don't think I can take credit, it was luck) and I just ended up taking the turn really wide but stayed on the pavement. That slowed me down a bit, which was good because it made me realize even more that it was my technique that I needed to be working on, not my speed.
Fourth lap of my first session (so about 12 min into it) I'm just focusing on my leans and looking well through the curves. Come into turn 9 (a wide left sweeper just after a right sweeper) and I lean just a little farther than I should have and I scraped my left peg and boot. Now this is my fourth month riding street bikes and I've never scraped anything (and I'm sure Gas and GR can attest to the prodigious size of my chicken strips). So needless to say hearing and feeling a new part of the bike and myself touch the pavement at a decent speed scared the living jebezuz out of me! Instinctively I stood the bike up and immediately realized that I wasn't going to make it through the turn. So I took a little short cut through the grass and made it back on to the track with no further ado (I knew not to touch my brakes in the grass). After that I figured that I had pretty much used up all of my luck for one session and I'd best just go sit down, have some water and figure out a new strategy for riding that wasn't going to wad me and my bike into scraps. Not to mention getting passed by anyone, much less race bikes, is rather loud and scary as hell your first time on a track.
So I went and sat down and waited for the other guys I was riding with to come back. When they got back they said that from what they saw (before they all passed me like I was walking backwards) I was all over the track and not using any proper lines. So one of the guys offered to ride his supermotard for the next session so that I could follow him and ride his lines.
My second session was much better, learning the basic lines was incredibly helpful. I stayed on the track and didn't have any close calls. The guys commented that they already noticed me getting much smoother and faster.
This pattern continued without much drama through the end of the day. I rode a total of 5 sessions and by the end I was feeling a lot more confident with my lines and braking points which made it possible for me to move onto the next area where improvement is needed: body position and posture. For that I'm afraid I'll either need a class or just more track time.
Overall I have to say that this was an amazing experience. I'm pretty much hooked. Anyone else considering getting on a track for the first time, I would highly recommend doing something like STT or NESBA or somewhere that provides some structure and instruction. My close calls were due to the fact that I was not properly instructed or shown how to do things, having an instructor is definitely safer than just going on your own.
Finally, just as a contrast:
Session 1: On the track for 15 minutes, lapped 3 times by the fastest rider
Session 5: Took 4 laps (8 miles) for the fastest rider (a racer that should have been in the "racer group") to lap me and 6 laps for the rest of the pack. (I did mention that I was the only newbie right?!?!)
Session 1: 2 near wrecks (just by myself not with other riders) and the only barrier to people passing me was their fear that I would do something stupid and ride into them since I was all over the track.
Session 5: 0 near wrecks. Other riders said that by this point they had to start using strategy and proper timing to pass me. I was nowhere near as fast as anyone else there but at least I was more than a moving obstacle.
Session 1: After 15 minutes I stopped early and was shaking from the stress fatigue, and the terror of the close calls.
Session 5: They gave us just about 30 minutes and I used every one of them and could have kept going.
Session 1: When a rider would pass me they would be out of sight within 2 turns.
Session 5: When a rider would pass I could keep with them for 2-3 turns before they started pulling away.
Evaluation of the SV:
Aweful, front dives like crazy, very squirrely, does not inspire trust or confidence. It will be interesting to see how much improvement there is when I add springs for my weight, 20w oil (stock is 5w), and RT gold valve emulators in the forks and a Penske Double Clicker in the rear.
Adequate. With SS lines and new pads it should be pretty nice.
-1 Front +2 Rear. It was a bit short, at least for this track. I spent significant time in 4th when I should have been in 3rd. Thank the motorcycle gods the SV has immense amounts of torque so it worked like a trooper but it was not ideal.
More than sufficient. Race bikes and litre bike would pass like crazy in the straight but in the corners the SV and it torque/weight ratio was amazing and incredibly forgiving.
I think I need a different seat. The stocker just feels hard to get out of. Other than that I have no complaints other than the fact that I'll eventually need rearsets...
The Dunlop Qualifiers performed great! I never felt any slippage and they wore very much like the PP's (which is what the other 4 SV riders I was with were sporting). Everyone was impressed by how good the Qualifiers were looking and performing.