Riding on a motorcycle track is much more affordable than it seems. Spain has many fans of the engine world and therefore there is a large number of permanent speed tracks. The Jarama track in Madrid was the first to open, in 1967, and since then the number of asphalt tracks has not stopped growing, to around twenty today.
On them, you can enjoy motorcycle sport riding in much greater safety than if you were on the road. As well as the number of fans, the pleasant climate in this country really helps sports facilities of this type work well. For this reason, Spain is the place many foreign riders choose to live and the destination for many others who come to train here in the winter as they cannot do so in their home countries because of bad weather.
This is why these months are the “high season” for Spanish tracks, especially if we are talking about those in the south.
The good thing in all this is that it is not necessary to be a professional to ride on a track at the controls of a motorcycle. All of them organize various riding courses and rides that whoever wants to can join, as long as they meet some requirements that we will explain below.
What were once known as “free sessions” almost do no longer exist. Nowadays, circuits outsource to organizers who take charge of looking after the people who want to ride and monitor them so that everything runs smoothly and the safety rules required for activities of this type are followed.
What do you need to be able to ride on a track?
The first thing is a motorcycle. Normally, you ride your own bike, although it is also possible to rent one. If you do, as well as paying between €300 and €500 a day for the rental, it will also be necessary to put down a deposit that can range from €1,000 to €2,000 or even more, depending on the model. Here, the “you break it, you pay” rule is followed, so that if you fall off or the bike breaks down due to misuse, the damage must be paid for out of the deposit. Generally, the cost of renting the bike includes gasoline and the wear on the tires.
If you are using your own bike, all you need to do is remove some items like rear-view mirrors, turn signals, rear foot pegs and passenger handle, kick stand, license plate, etc. As well as lessening the weight, they are not needed to ride on a track and if you fall off, the damage will definitely be less.
Adding crash pads can also help minimize damage in the event of an accident and to “complete the picture”, if your bike is a sports model, it’s also not a bad idea to keep in mind some accessories, like replacing the fairing and tail cowl with fiberglass ones from suppliers. These are obviously less expensive than the original “plastic” ones and can easily be repaired.
The tires on a motorcycle are always important, but if you are going to ride fast on a track, it’s even more essential that they are in good condition. It’s not worth risking it and there is no better time to try out some new tires than during a “visit” to a track. The ideal thing is for them to be sport tires but without exaggerating, as some users go for slicks and that can be counterproductive.
Track-ready sport bike tires have better grip but they require very high “operating” temperatures and to heat them up properly, you have to go fast and without slowing down. Using heaters before going out on the track can also help here, but then you have to consistently maintain a high speed so that the tires don’t cool down. So, to start riding on a track, it’s advisable to use “street” sport tires. If you don’t use heaters, you must take care on the first few bends and increase the pace little by little to let the tires reach the optimum temperature.
As for pressures, it is important to remember that they must be checked when cold and, on the track, to be sure to use lower pressures than those recommended by the manufacture for the road. It is always a good idea to get advice before going out on a track, because they vary depending on the kind of bike and the surface. If you start using a set of new tires for the course or ride, they very probably will remain in tip-top condition for the entire day on the track, unless you are extremely fast.
In approximate figures, on longer tracks, you can do around 10 or 12 laps per session, and even one or two more if you are very fast, so that by the end of the day you could total between 60 and 80 laps on a bike around the track. Although it is a good idea to think ahead about the tires, it must also be said that the majority of organizers of courses and rides tend to offer a tire service on the track, to replace them on the spot if necessary.
Also, the suspension, brakes, and chain must be properly checked beforehand. If it is your first time, most probably the “street” adjustment of your bike’s suspension will be too “soft” for the track, so you must “tighten” it as you gain confidence and increase the speed.
The same thing goes for the brakes as for the tires, and riding on a track can be a good time to try out new pads and change the brake fluid. Checking the condition of the chain and its tension, and greasing it, are also absolutely necessary operations before venturing on a track.
How should you be equipped?
Until not long ago, it was mandatory that the equipment to ride on a track included a leather race suit, preferably a one-piece, with no zipper between the pants and the jacket. Today, this is still advisable, but it is also true that for beginners’ courses they allow other materials with the proper European approval rating.
Anyway, it is an established fact that a leather “sport” one-piece is the safest solution for riding on an asphalt track, and it must have knee sliders to prevent the leather from wearing out due to rubbing on the asphalt when leaning into bends. Elbow sliders will not be needed at first but may be if you reach the advanced level as a rider. In addition, wearing thin technical underwear under the suit will also be a good idea. As well as being easier to put on and take off, it will prevent the inner lining from rubbing on the skin at points like the knees, elbows, shoulders, armpits, etc.
Wearing a one-piece helmet is another basic requirement. If it is top-of-the-range, that’s better still, as it is very probable that on the track you will reach high speeds on numerous occasions. The gloves are also very important; like the suit, they should preferably be leather. The hands are the parts of the body most likely to be injured if you fall, so it is important that they are very well protected. Also, with leather sports gloves, you have a better grip and will feel more in touch with your bike.
In addition to a suit, helmet, and gloves, boots are the fourth vital accessory for your equipment. The ideal ones are so-called mid-calf boots, which go well with the suit. It is usual for the cuffs of the suit to be tucked into the boots, although some riders prefer the opposite, and the boots go under the suit legs. In both cases, both the boots and the suit have different closures and are specifically made for each type of use.
Wearing a a back protector is also mandatory if you are going to ride a motorcycle on a track. It is essential to protect your back properly. If you also add an airbag, the protection for your torso will be excellent. In top-class competitions, the use of an airbag is mandatory, although for short courses or rides on the track there is still no regulation obliging you to have one as part of your equipment.
Another very important aspect when going to ride on a track is accident insurance. On the track, the motorcycle’s insurance does not count and, if you fall and injure yourself, Social Security will also not be responsible for the expenses. So, it is really important to pay attention to this item. There are companies that specialize in this type of insurance and for the €25 or so that a one-day insurance policy costs, it’s not worth risking it.
What is a day on the track normally like?
When you sign up for a short course or a ride on a track, the first thing to be aware of is your level of riding skill and to inform the organizers of the event. Unless you have a high spending power and rent it exclusively for yourself, which is hardly likely, you must be well aware that the track will not only be for your use and that you will have to share it with others. Therefore, normally, groups are formed depending on the riders’ skill level, and these tend to be “beginner”, “intermediate”, and “advanced” or “competition”.
They tend to try not to have riders at different levels on the track at the same time so that they don’t bother each other and to reduce the risks. Groups may also be formed depending on the type of motorcycle, although there are riders with a trail bike who are capable of going very fast and others with a super sports bike who ride slowly.
Even if you ride well and have experience, if you have never been on a track, you should start in a “beginner’s” group and, if you think it’s appropriate, go up by levels as the day goes by. In one day at the track, there is time for about six 20-minute sessions, and even seven when the days are longer. You tend to go out onto the track once an hour, so between sessions you will have about a 40-minute rest period. It also isn’t mandatory to do complete laps. Everyone can enter the line of pit boxes and stop when they deem it appropriate, either to make an adjustment to the bike or simply to take a break.
On the riding courses, they tend to have sessions with an instructor and free ones. Normally, the first ones take place in the morning and the second ones in the afternoon, when the students have gained experience and have learned the layout of the track.
In the case of rides, they are all free sessions, although they are also monitored, both by rider level and by time on the track. Although it is true that on some tracks you can ask for advice from an instructor, this service tends to be paid for separately. Obviously, the cost of a ride tends to be less than for a short course.
How much does it cost for a day on a track?
There is no set price. It depends on the track, whether it is low or high season, the number of participants, if it is a business day or public holiday, etc. The most affordable are the circuits that don’t have world-class events on their calendar, such as Cartagena, Almería, Andalucía, Albacete (currently closed), Navarra, Monteblanco, and Calafat, where courses cost between €120 and €150.
Next, here are some of the tracks that do hold international races or are closer to big cities, such as Circuito de Jerez Ángel Nieto, MotorLand Aragón, the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana, and Jarama (just a few kilometers outside of Madrid), where a short course costs between €160 and €200 euros. Lastly, if you put all these factors together, plus the fact that it is near the city with the most motorcycles in Spain, the high demand means that a one-day riding course on the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya can cost up to €250 on a public holiday.
As you have seen, “free” rides are less expensive and, depending on the track, the prices come down to around €30 to €50 as compared to courses. These prices are merely a guide, because there are people who prefer to pay more and share the track with fewer users, but it is clear that there is a good supply from which you can choose when it comes to riding a motorcycle on a track.