Dan Linfoot has been racing on most kinds of bikes from minibikes to BSB machinery, and knows a thing or two about riding on track. When we spoke to him, he had just won the Oulton Park round of 2023 Pirelli National Superstock championship. Given that he is currently racing in the championship running bikes closest to the ones you and I can ride on roads, and because he’s a keen road rider himself, we thought that he would be just the man to tell us what it takes to go from riding on the roads to riding on track. This is what he told us:
"Riding on the road and riding on track are two completely different ways of riding a bike. On the road, you are essentially touring, and you’re riding the bike very low in its capability to navigate traffic and the road that you’re on.
Obviously, on a race track you’re trying to make the bike perform, so you’re pushing it nearer to its limit. You’re using more of the track surface, you’re accelerating harder, you’re braking harder, and in the end, leaning the bike a lot more as well.
Here are a few things to consider when you are making the transition from road to track…”
“The first thing you need to consider when moving from the road to a track, is to use references. Because you’re going round a track, which is generally a mile or two miles, you will be going round several times per session, so you get a chance to change your line, and change the references on the track that work for you for your speed and the bike that you’re on. So, in particular, what you need to concentrate on is a braking reference where you start to brake for the corner, a turning point where you start to turn the bike in, an apex which is the closest point to the inside of the corner that you hit when you are leaning, and a point where you exit the corner.
If you could use the above four references for every corner you take on the track, you’ll quickly be able to accurately and consistently navigate your way around the track. Then you just build and build your lap time and speed to be able to go faster and faster.”
“The next thing to concentrate on is track positioning. Understanding how much of the track you use is essential, as are the lines through corners where you need to decide whether to go wider or tighter. You’re looking to apex the corner as late as you can, with the bike as upright as possible so you can use the power on the next straight.”
"Big thing on track days is obviously body positioning. It’s a massive part of being able to lean the bike over safely, and eventually scrape your knee on the floor, which really the only way to get quickly round a race track. So, you will need to have your bum over the edge of the seat, you need to hook your outside leg into the tank, you need to drop your chest a little bit, relax your grip on the handlebars, and you need to move your upper body over ever so slightly to be of the bike the same amount there as your bum is across the seat.
Body position is important for the rider to be comfortable on the bike in the corners, and it also helps the bike turn. If you try to turn the bike when sat in the centre line, the bike’s centre of gravity is very high, and it doesn’t really know if you are trying to turn it left or right when your weight is too high.”
“Other considerations would be picking the right gear for the corner: you want a gear that gives a nice response from the throttle. You don’t want to be in the middle of the corner in maximum lean angle with a gear that’s too revvy, too short, too aggressive as it makes it harder to open the throttle. On the flip side, you don’t want to be in too high gear that pushes you through the corner.
The rest is really just understanding how much you can lean the bike over. If your input to the bike and your confidence to the bike to let it lean when your body position is right, and your speed and lean angle is correct, your knee should touch the ground, and then it’s a case of balancing the bike through the corner with as much speed as you can maintain to project you down the next straight.
If you are coming from road to track there’s a lot to think about. The first priority is safety, then it’s technique and speed, and of course to enjoy!”