Track Day Prep

If you’re doing track days to work on your own personal improvement, you may have a series of things that you do to actively prepare for your upcoming day. This includes both logistical things (loading the bike, prepping your tool kit, ramps, etc.) and mental and possibly physical preparation. As things have evolved for me, and depending on the track I’m attending, my preparation has changed over the years. Some riders, particularly very fast riders on liter bikes may have different logistical preparations as they may need to bring additional wheels/tires. Here I’ll detail my personal preparations, broken down by logistical and personal. This is what has evolved for me and may not work for everyone. The thing I loathe the most is having to do any maintenance or repair while at the track–it distracts from my learning objectives. I’ve tried to find ways to make myself more efficient and forget fewer things so I tend to be rather systematic about it.

Loaded and ready the night before


I like to load gear more than one day before–this gives me time to think about something else I might need. This is also a list for a bike that usually runs warmers. Logistics are easier with my Ninja 400 on DOT tires.

  • Helmet + spare visor + visor cleaner, all fit within my helmet bag, along with primary gloves and earplugs
  • 2 sets of gloves
  • Boots
  • Suit and charging cable for the airbag system + internal back protector, make sure it’s charged the night before
  • Lots of earplugs
  • External Helite airbag vest (in case I deploy the suit’s internal airbag, I still have an airbag option)
  • Fuel cans (I prefer non-ethanol fuel so I often fill them up at the track)
  • Tie-downs (bring extra, you never know)
  • Tool kit (screwdrivers, 1/4″ & 3/8″ ratchets and sockets, 1/2″ ratchet with sockets for the axles, zip ties, some spare bodywork bolts, hex and Torx keys, torque wrench, duct tape, spare brake pads, etc.)
  • Ramps (2, so I can easily walk the bike up the ramp under power, it’s a great way to practice clutch and brake control too)
  • Bike stand(s)
  • Tire warmers
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Power extension reel
  • Battery-powered tire pump (make sure the battery is well-charged)
  • Generator if going to a track without power
  • Camp chair
  • Portable folding table
  • Sunscreen
  • Additional under-suits and clothing if it’s multiple days
  • Optional spare wheels with tires, rain tires if rain is in the forecast
  • Optional canopy
  • Optional e-scooter (make sure it’s charged)
  • Optional bike cover (I’ll bring one if the forecast calls for a lot of wind or potential rain)
  • Optional tent, sleeping bag, cot, etc.
  • Some cash for incidentals
  • My normal laptop (because my work doesn’t stop when I’m at the track) and iPad, Apple Pencil for note-taking
  • My data laptop, make sure AiM software is up to date and if I’m comparing data, make sure it’s loaded into RS3A
  • Camera + data kit (I have a Pelican case with spare cables, mounts, GoPro cameras, my charging octopus, power strip, markers, etc. are all in this case)
  • Make sure the AiM equipment is up to date with firmware and track maps
  • If it’s a track I’m not super familiar with, I’ll print out a comprehensive map that I can take notes on, a clipboard and multiple colors of ultra-fine point Sharpies, and a mechanical pencil
  • A couple of towels, always carry a towel!
  • Give the bike a good cleaning, including the wheels, go over any bolts that might have worked loose, clean/lube the chain, check that controls are where you want them and any adjustments are done; if it’s a street bike, cover/disconnect lights as necessary per TDP and tape over wheel weights with duct tape, remove or tape the mirrors
  • If it’s a quiet track and you have to make accommodations, do it a couple of days in advance. For a quiet Laguna day, I switch out to the stock slip-on and run without the belly pan.
  • Food & snacks (I buy a wrap or some other fairly light prepared lunch the day before so it’s still fairly fresh), a big bottle of Naked juice, yogurt, kidney beans, bananas, mixed nuts, tangerines, etc. I usually bring a bag of chips and some queso too, it’s a nice snack with a beer at the end of the day.
  • Drinking water (I figure 1 gallon per 80°F or cooler day, 1.5 for 85°F+ day), I use one refillable bottle for water + Liquid IV, a separate bottle for plain water
  • Medical and contact info in a plastic sleeve that sits on the dash of my pickup while I’m riding

Personal Prep (physical + mental)

  • At least 3 days before, start series of stretching a twice per day
  • Review my personal past notes and videos at the given track
  • Make sure my aerial and MotorSports track maps are in an editable/writable format on my iPad
  • A fresh PDF of Ken Hill’s rider scoresheet for each day is on my iPad
  • Review trusted source onboard video of the track–I have a pretty good library of riders on my bike who share the methodology and lines as I do, it’s my goal to emulate what they do and it’s a source of inspiration
  • Work on a plan for what I’m trying to accomplish for the track day–I used to pick one or two things for each session, now it’s one or two things each day
  • Actively work through imaging the track, start picturing visual references (brake markers, turn-in points, slow points, apexes, exit references, etc.), visualize throttle and brake controls, gear selection. If it’s a track with which I’m not as familiar, I’ll watch on-board video, pause at each area where I’m lacking markers and try to find key references, taking written notes.
  • Sit on the bike in the garage while it’s on stands, practice BP, screwdriver grip, vision, maybe try running through imagining the visual references in sequence, practice smooth transitions by using more weight on the pegs, etc.)
  • Take the bike off the stands and practice brake pressure, namely first and last 5%; I have a screen on my AiM dash that displays the amount of brake pressure at any moment so I will look at the screen and practice what 16 bar of brake pressure feels like in my fingers (which is a bit more than my normal maximum)
  • Put the bike on a charger to make sure the battery is full before it gets loaded into the truck
  • Do 10+ minutes of Lumosity games every day 3 days in advance (train game is my favorite)
  • Depending on the track and/or what I plan to work on, go for an appropriate street ride focusing on that objective a day or two before the track outing. For instance, Sonoma is exceedingly bumpy so I’ll take my street bike on a goaty local ride for an hour or so to acclimate to pace on a bumpy surface. If it’s trail braking I’m working on, I have a very familiar and appropriate local road I’ll ride practicing trail braking
  • Air up the tires to at least 5psi over the normal track tire pressure, it’s easier to take air out than to add it
  • Load the bike before sunset before the day I go to the track
  • Pack any additional clothes and/or shoes, toiletries you might need

Night Before

  • Set out the cooler (so I remember to put ice in it and bring my snacks/food)
  • Set out the laptop
  • Set out the food/snacks
  • Set out my coffee mug(s) and thermos (I love having a cup or two of coffee on the drive home)
  • Lay out my attire for the track day (under-suit and walking around clothes)
  • Set the alarm as appropriate, I don’t like to be rushed the morning of
  • Try to get a good night’s sleep, do what you must

Some samples of inspirational video that I use (in these examples, Thunderhill East)

Video for inspiration, one of my coaches on my bike in 2020 at Thunderhill East (THE)
Another trusted source on my bike at THE in late 2021

Track Arrival

  • I like to find my place, set out pylons to hold space if friends will be pitting, I typically try to arrive 15+ minutes before registration opens
  • Plug into power to hold my place for the power (if available)
  • Put keys and emergency contact info on the dashboard of the truck
  • Unload bikes and gear from the back of the pickup
  • Be early in line for registration and bike tech
  • After tech, put the bike on stands, fire up warmers ~1 hour before riding, warm up the bike until the radiator fan comes on, shut it off, check suspension potentiometer calibration, top off the fuel
  • Set out gear and equipment in logical locations to minimize time searching for things
  • Review notes with the day’s objectives
  • Before, during, or immediately after the riders’ meeting, do another good set of stretches
  • Check hot tire pressure and adjust after on warmers for ~1 hour

Between Sessions

  • Come in from the track and put the bike on stands and warmers
  • Pull data from AiM hardware
  • Clean visor and camera lenses
  • Add fuel as necessary
  • Check tire pressure
  • Find quiet space to review data and take notes on the scoresheet, ping coach (text) if there’s something I have a question or remark
  • Hydrate, snack as necessary
  • Social time or review video again or watch trusted source video
  • Review session objective(s) right before going out again
  • As needed, right before the session begins, practice braking drills in hot pits or in a distant corner of the paddocks
  • Rinse & repeat

End of Day

  • Final notes, including the #1 takeaway in findings and #1 thing I would have liked to improve
  • Change clothes, load bike, and big gear
  • Social time while packing smaller bits
  • Prep travel coffee and snacks, get on the road

Upon Return Home

  • Unload everything
  • Clean the bike, make note of any necessary service items
  • I like to put a hash mark on the sidewall of the tire with a silver Sharpie marker to keep track the number of track days I have on them; rears are pretty easy to tell when they’re used up but fronts are sometimes harder to tell
  • File video and AiM data to my network storage
  • Scan any written notes or markings on the track maps
  • Replenish any used consumables (i.e., zip ties, lost tools, etc.)
  • Any necessary bike maintenance (don’t overlook brake pads!)
  • When the bike is finished, it goes on stands with a stretch cover, that’s my signal that it’s ready for another track day
  • Review footage and data, look for and make notes of areas of opportunity
  • When appropriate, submit video and/or data to my riding coach