Sandia Motorcycle Roadracing, Inc.
New Rider Director: Kevin Gibson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Classroom: Saturday (6:30pm), July 18th Riding and Mock Race (8am): Saturday, June 20th Super Street Races (8am): June 21st
Dates/times for Race School in AUG, SEP, OCT 2020: TBD
So... you're interested in racing?
I expect you’re reading this because you’re interested in racing. That’s good. The first step to racing is admitting you have a problem... err, passion. I mean passion. Yes, the first step in racing is having a passion for the sport. In fact, passion is probably the only absolutely universal characteristic of any racer’s race program. Bikes differ, tires differ, budgets differ, but every racer is passionate about two wheels and going fast on them.
That’s why I’m writing this letter and the related documents. After many years of wanting to race for real, I took the plunge and the decision resulted in an amazing first season that was one of the best experiences of my life. The following is what I learned and it will help you take the steps toward joining us on the track and learning about yourself and your machine in the coolest form of competition on the face of the Earth.
Since the biggest conspirator against your racing program (for most people anyway) is money, let’s talk about that first. Yes, this sport is expensive– almost foolishly at the basic level and disgustingly expensive at the high level.
If you ask what most racers’ budgets are, you’ll probably hear, “All of it”. However, that’s not to say you need to be crazy-rich to be competitive and have a good time. You just need to spend your money wisely and possibly make a few lifestyle changes. The latter will be easy once you get on the racetrack because after a few laps that big screen LCD TV you’ve had your eye on doesn’t seem so necessary anymore.
You might want to include your significant-other in this initial budget/planning phase. Or not. Once you figure out how much you’re going to spend on racing, you should start thinking about where to spend it.
The four main components of your racing program will be safety equipment, a motorcycle, track time, and tires. You may also spend a chunk on transportation if you’re coming in from out of state, but you might be able to minimize this if you hook up with others in your area and share gas money. Your priority should be to get the best safety equipment you can afford. Now that doesn’t mean a $1K racer replica Arai helmet, but you need to get stuff that will keep you safe on the racetrack and this usually means mid-high end stuff.
Education and Track Time
Once you have the gear sorted out, budget for as much track time as you can afford. Commit to running the entire season of racing and as many track days and schools as you can fit in. Track time and schools are the best performance modification you can make to your racing program. Read that last sentence again, please.
Another significant budget item will be how many tires you will buy. This can range from a few months per set of tires to a few sets per month…and depends very much on how fast you are. Get to know one of the trackside tire vendors and listen to them. If they say you need tires, buy them. Running “take-offs” (which are basically tires used only for a session or so by super-fast guys, these are hard to come by at Sandia because the track surface is REALLY hard on tires. As a mid-pack expert racer I burn up a rear tire at every race day, the faster guys do it in two races here.) can save you some coin, but new tires are a lot cheaper than rebuilding a motorcycle after a fall. The best advice I received about tires from an expert racer was: If you have ANY doubts about your tires, change them. Tires are less costly than repairs or medical bills.
Next, let’s talk about the bike. Ironically this is probably the least important part of a successful first season.
A small twin like the Suzuki SV650 or Kawasaki Ninja 250/300 or one of the Japanese 600cc 4-cylinder bikes are probably your best options and easiest to come by. Both have their advantages, so take your pick. Then you need to figure out if you’re going to buy a used race bike or convert a street bike.
Buying a used race bike is usually a better option, but converting a street bike can be done reasonably if you make the effort to hunt for deals. The bottom line is, keep it simple.
Most modern sport bikes will be more than adequate in bone-stock trim. Most of the front runners in the Novice Classes are on bikes with stock motors and stock suspension. All you really need to do to any bike is make sure it complies with the rule book, get a few spare handlebars and foot pegs, and then race it.
The one thing I would recommend is a visit to a track side suspension guy. He’ll help you get the bike setup and advise you on any suspension mods that might be necessary.
Focus and Mental Preparation
Something that is often overlooked when people get into racing is the mental preparation and approach. You could argue that this is the most important component of a successful racing program.
Racing is dangerous and, if it costs a lot of money to do correctly, it costs WAY more when done incorrectly. The financial and mental costs of frequent crashes are major setbacks in your progression– not to mention they can kill you. Fast lap times don’t come overnight, they take careful attention to the individual components of you and your machine.
Body position, reference points, and racing lines are a few things to understand, but knowing your limits and how to slowly explore those limits will lay the foundation for progression. It should feel easy. Just like a drummer doesn’t get better by hitting the drums harder, you don’t get faster by riding harder. Try to think about focusing on a smooth, repeatable lap before trying to push anything faster.
Motorcycle racing is never going to be safe, but when approached with respect and humility the odds of getting faster and having the time of your life are in your favor. Besides, it’s still a lot safer than racing on public roads or in the canyons. You will not be the fastest rider out there– the key is to not try to beat the faster riders, but learn from them. Once you understand what they’re doing, beating those riders will come naturally.
This year just as we did last year, SMRI has provisional novice mentors. New racers will be paired with an expert for their first two rounds to help them learn the ropes. Take advantage of your mentor and ask questions. We want you to have a successful first season, plus, racing is a lot more fun when you don’t fall down.
Make Friends at the Track
A few final recommendations: Get to know the track side vendors, other racers, and your mentor. They are very willing and enabling... I mean willing and helpful… so get to know them and take it all in. Also, make sure you come prepared. I can’t overstate this enough. Whether you’re attending your New Racer School, first race weekend, second race weekend, track day, or whatever, there’s a ton of stuff to do and keep track of– make sure it’s all done weeks before you’re supposed to be at the track. Trust me, you’ll need those weeks. Now go get planning and follow your passion for two-wheels with us on the racetrack. I and the rest of the club hope to see you out there next season.
Alright now after you've read all that, you're really excited to go racing, right?!! I'll bet you are asking what your next steps are, right? First thing you need to do is send me an email: email@example.com. I have a list of students who are interested in the class I'll need at least 3 students to make teaching the race school work. Really, think about it. What fun is a mock race against yourself? That's why you'll want to get some friends to do the school with you. Once we've talked about the requirements. I'll send you the school packet, but not before.... there's just too much great information in there to let everyone have access to it.
Just like most things there are some things you are going to have to do before we let you enter your first race. First things first, you'll need to create an account on this site to give us all the required information about yourself. You've sent me an email right? You'll need to be an AMA member, this is who we get our insurance through, so there isn't a way around it. Then of course there is payment to the club. The cost for the school is $200. Now, before you decide against this here is what you get for your money:
- Track day
- Minimum of 3 hours of classroom sessions
- Drills, on-bike demos, on-track drills
- 1 on 1 instruction during the track day
- Track Walk on Saturday morning to discuss the lay out and strategies of how to race it
- Race line discussion and demos
- Mock race on Saturday
- Free entrance into Super Street Class (2 races!)
To pass the school you will have to attend the full classroom session, on track sessions, past the written test, complete the mock race and not crash on your first race weekend. After passing, you will be able to sign up for a Club Membership, pro-rated depending on when you purchase the membership. Once purchased, you'll have a printed race license and get into the track for free for the rest of the year (no gate fees).
SIGN ME UP!!!
You're ready for race school? Awesome! Once you've picked a date, you can sign up and pay for the school via the online links in the "Events" section. If you have any questions about the school, what you should bring, or anything else, simply send Kevin an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. See you on the track!