The Racers' FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Racing

How much will it cost?
If you have to ask ...

Seriously, motorcycle racing is an expensive business. Just how much it costs depends on many factors, such as the age and type of bike you're running, and how much you're prepared to spend to get that last horsepower or minor handling advantage.

A novice runnning a season on something like a TZR250 will probably spend less than a tenth of the budget of a national Supersport 600 rider. The novice will make a pair of tyres last half a season, the national rider will fit new tyres for qualifying, and another new set for the race itself.

Race entries are about 80 pounds a meeting. But on top of that you need to add fuel to get to the meeting, fuel for the bike, tyres, chains, oil and other consumables, and crash damage costs. You should probably allow for spending the best part of 250 for each days' racing, and more if you're running a 600 or larger bike.

Remember, though, that how ever much you budget for, you'll always be tempted to spend that extra few bucks for any advantage! It might be wise to cut up your credit cards to avoid that temptation..

Will I crash?
Almost certainly if you race for any time. Success in motor cycle racing involves pushing close to the limits. Overstep those limits, and you're likely to go down. Or someone may 'take you out' through no fault of your own. Some riders don't seem to crash, but they're either very, very good - or else uncompetitive types who are riding well within their limits and just happen to be lucky.
Will I get killed?
Probably not. Just occasionally, riders do get killed in racing accidents. If you take the risk of riding a motorcycle on the road, then you're likely already running a similar - or greater - risk of being killed.

It's probably in the right ball-park to assume you have a one-in-a-thousand chance of being killed over a typical 5-10 year racing career. If you find this unacceptable, perhaps you shouldn't go racing.

Will I get hurt, then?

That's a lot more likely. There are few experienced motor cycle racers who haven't broken a collar bone, a couple of ribs, or had similar "minor" injuries at some stage. But remember that excellent medical support is just a few seconds away - a far better situation than on the road where the ambulance can take 20 minutes to arrive.

If you are self-employed, it's well worth seeking out specialist insurance cover in case you're unable to race through injury. Of course, it's not going to be cheap, but few things in racing are!

The "How do I ... ?" Section

Some of the hints here may seem obvious. But any of them is worthwhile if it's something you didn't know already!
How do I ... fit earplugs

Pulling the lobe of the ear backwards with the opposite hand straightens the ear channel (on most people), and makes it much easier to push the earplug (compressed by rolling between the fingers) into the ear canal.

If you find earplugs uncomfortable - try a different brand - maybe tapered ones. If you find you don't like riding with them - PERSEVERE!. Race bikes are extremely loud - it can be very dangerous for your hearing to race without them.

How do I ... put on a crash helmet

Pull the helmet vertically down over the head. Do not put it over your face first then rotate it over the back of the head - that will cause you to choose a helmet that is much too big.

It's surprising how many riders get this simple - and vital - procedure wrong.

How do I ... avoid crashing
Turn in later. This almost always means that you have more room on the exit. Turning in too early is the most common cause of beginners crashes - it tempts you to turn too shallowly, and you cannot then make it through the exit.

How do I ... change a tyre

Considered a black art by those who can't, and simple to those who can and have the equipment.

It does need some gear - which you can buy, or borrow from fellow racers. You will need a compressor, a bead braker, some good tyre levers, and some "tyre soap" lubricant. If you're going to balance your wheels yourself, you'll need a balancer and some balance weights.

Break bead. Lever tyre off. Push one side of tyre over wheel, then lever on other side. Inflate to seat bead with valve out. Get someone to show you, and don't attempt it alone until you're confident. By then it will be easy, and you'll never have that frustrating wait in the tyre man's queue again.

How do I ... qualify

Tag onto someone slightly faster than you, and try to stick with them. If necessary, slow right down on the straights (with your hand up) for people to pass you.

Refueling half way through the session can be a good idea, especially on a 125 or 250GP bike - a 20 minute qualifying session needs around 35lb of fuel and do you really want to carry all of that from the start? If you don't refuel, you may find a stop will help you "get your head together" and go faster when you get out again.

How do I ... crash

First, try not to. Always try to make the corner, however unlikely your chances seem. It's often tempting to stand up and head for the run-off - but if it's gravel or grass there's not much chance you'll stay on. Rather, if you go for it, you'll often be surprised what you can get away with. And that will make you a better rider. If the worst comes to the worst, you'll usually lowside, with much less chance of a tyre wall or barrier crash than if you run off still upright.

But when (it's probably not if) it does all go pear-shaped:

  • Let go of the bike. You can't do anything with it now, and you'd like to be as far away from it as possible.
  • Try to relax (yeah, right. I'm sliding down the track at 80mph with a 400lb bike bouncing after me and you want me to RELAX??)
  • Roll or slide. Don't attempt to put your arms out to slow yourself.
  • Don't try to get up until you're absolutely sure you're not still moving.
  • But then get off the track. Don't worry about the bike, the marshalls will sort it, and they don't want a dazed rider "helping". If there are bikes riding around you, stay still and don't run for the trackside. When it's safe to do so (and assuming you're capable!) then get right over the tyre wall - and cheer on your opposition (who are trying not to feel gleeful at your crash!)
How do I - Start quickly

The start of a race can be a bit daunting. The key to a good start begins before back in the paddock. Make sure your engine is warm. Having a warm engine allows you ride the bike hard, and spend your warm up lap putting heat into the tyres, not worrying about warming the engine. Having warm tyres should allow you to have that bit more confidence in the first corner.

Once on the start line, make sure you are lined up with a visible path through the riders ahead. Make sure you ride quickly on the warm up lap. When the start line marshall signals to be ready, make sure you've closed your visor. It's really hard trying to change gear and avoid bikes in the first corner when your eys are streaming, and you are frantically trying to close it.

Before the red light shows, put one foot up on the gear shift side, rev the engine to the revs your bike makes peak power, and let the clutch out to the biting point, and hold it there. Wait. Don't blip the throttle, it will only add complexity to your start. You may find it better to watch for the red light to go out rather than wait for the green to come on. This way you'll have marginally more time to react to the lights as the green light comes on a fraction after the red light goes out.

Experienced riders try to have the bike just moving before the lights change. Since a false start is called only when your rear tyre crosses the start line, it quite possible to be moving relatively quickly as the lights change, thus giving you quite an advatage on those riders stationary as the lights change. Rememebr though that this is a risky business, as there's always the chance of being caught by a long delay, and being forced to stop. The person controlling the lights will like nothing better than to catch you creeping forward, force you to stop by holding the lights, and then laugh out loud as they throw the lights just as you start back- pedalling to maintain your grid position.

As the lights change feed in the clutch quickly, smoothly, and wind on the throttle. Try to be progressive. Too much and you wheelie, too little and you'll be swamped by the bikes behind you. If you do wheelie, don't back off and try again. Just change into second gear, the front should come down, you should maintain your drive, and all should be well.

The ideal start will have you into the row ahead of you, driving hard, with the front wheel just maintaining contact with the ground.

How do I - approach the firstcorner?

With fear in your heart? Nope ... head in there with all the confidence you can muster. It will show to everyone around you. You are less likley to have your space stolen or be cut up if you appear confident and committed.

It's pointless planning a line. Though you should have some idea of whether you want inside or outside lines - but be prepared to change you plan!

Looking for a definate line through the corner is pointless unless you are in teh top 3 or 4 riders to reach the corner. As more riders swamp the corner your line probably won't be there when you reach the corner anyway.

The best advice you can take is look for the space. A general plan of heading for the inside or the outside will probably put you on the track where there's more space. Just remember both approaches have advantages and disadvantages. Though as a rule try not to be part of melee in the middle of the track - as the pack approaches the apex, everyone closes up, and it gets a little tight. You'll be spending too much of you effort staying on, and you'll miss the all important driveout of the corner to the second corner. The aim of going for the iside or the outside is to make sure you get drive early.

If you've warmed your tyres well, have the confidence to drive hard and early. You'll be going into the corner a lot slower than a flying lap, and making ground in this first corner will quite likley give you more positions than through the rest of the race. So keep your concentration high. Look for the space, and aim to get a good drive.

Got a suggestion for the Racers' FAQ? Either a question, or an answer - mail it to Roger Ford