How do I start motorcycle racing? What equipment do I need to start motorcycle racing? Do I need a licence to start motorcycle racing? Where are the best uk motorcycle racing circuits? Where are the best motorcycle track days?
Motorcycle racing is one of the most dangerous sports there is. Participating in this sport you will at some point result in you suffering some sort of injury which could be fatal.
Before attempting motorcycle racing of any sort we strongly recommend you take lessons from qualified instructors. These can be found at race schools and track days.
Get yourself a membership to a racing club and apply for a ACU race licence.
You have to obtain a licence before you can take part in a race, they usually cost about £25 a year. The only stipulation is that you be a member of a motorcycle racing club and take an eye test to get a racing licence. This is the best way to do it. Firstly apply for your ACU licence and fill it out, take your eye test and send the results with your ACU application and bike racing club members application to your bike racing club. They will then send everything off to the ACU for you. Job Done!
The ACU licence has four different levels. Novice, Intermediate Novice, Clubman, National. Usually for the first year of racing you should apply for Intermediate novice. All you need for this is a full motorcycle road licence, this means you can ride any size bike. If you don't have a full road licence you can only apply for a novice licence which means you are restricted to a maximum of 600cc and must wear an orange bib when racing. The bib will cost you around £5 when you apply for your licence. Once you have completed at least one race at ten separate meetings at 3 or more different circuits you can lose the orange bib and upgrade to clubman status.
Most riders usually join a club that has close proximity to where they are based. New Era and BMCRC (British Motor Cycle Racing Club) are the two main short circuit racing clubs in the UK. New Era are based mainly in the north of the country and their circuits include Mallory Park, Cadwell park etc. and the BMCRC are mainly based in the south and their circuits include Lydden, Snetterton and Brands Hatch etc. Joing a club costs around £25 a year but you also have to pay for any meeting that you choose to enter a few weeks before the actual meeting.
Get quality protective clothing
One thing is for certain if you race then at some point you will crash!
After you purchase your bike the next thing you need to spend money on is good quality protective clothing. This is vital to your safety so always try to buy high quality protective wear. Full face helmets, leathers, boots, back protectors, gloves etc.
If you have an accident at speed good quality protective clothing could save you from serious injury or even death so always but the best protective clothing you can afford.
Purchasing a Race Bike
Once you have decided which class of competition you want to compete in find yourself a second hand machine. The most popular are the 600cc classes which are very competitive and because of this it is sometimes difficult to gain a place in the racing club because they may be over subscribed. The best time to purchase your second hand bike is usually over the winter time as not many people use their bikes in the bad weather and there are more bargains to be had.
Choose your motorcycle and racing class carefully by doing some research. Visit track days and club races to help you decide on what will be the best for you. There are different categories of racing and some are a lot more competitive than others but always keep in mind that they will all require a lot of funds.
Don't be frightened to visit the pits and ask the racers questions and their opinions about the class that they race in. Ask for feedback on certain pieces of equipment that they may use. Try to gauge a realistic figure of all cost implications. It is also a good idea to learn how to do as much mechanical work yourself to keep costs down. Look for courses in your local area.
Both New Era and BMCRC will run six hundred classes for any riders who are in their first year of racing. 400cc classes are also competitive and a good place to start racing as there are often less demand for grid positions as there are in the 600cc classes. Most people view the 2 stroke GP classes as the pure racing classes. The GP spec machines are very powerful and light and the most difficult to ride near their limits.
The best way to save yourself some money is to purchase a bike that has already been raced and is race ready. They usually have a spare set of wheels, stands, completed safety modifications like catch tanks and lock wiring, fitted race fairing, upgraded suspension, and will already have the engine tuned. This will save a lot of time and money as converting a road bike is expensive. There are many different places to look to find a used racing bike like motorcycle magazines as well as the BEMSEE website and Club Racing website, just look for the For Sale section.
Transport - Getting your bike to and from the race meeting
The majority of people will not ride their bike to a race meeting they will use a trailer or van to get the bike there. For a few hundred pounds you can buy a bike trailer and use your car to tow it to the meeting. A van is the more expensive route but this method is the most preferred as it has many advantages over towing for example you can take a lot more equipment with you, no need to worry about the bike falling off onto the road, and if you are travelling a long way to a circuit you can sleep overnight in the van.
If you have the money you could buy yourself a comfortable race transporter which are converted 7.5 tonne lorries that can be driven using a normal driving licence. These usually come with luxuries such as a proper bed, fridge, cooker, hot water etc. this feels like home from home.
This is a requirement when racing. You must wear an identity tag that has your name, date of birth and usually your blood group (Just in case). You can buy these from shoe repair shops for around £5
The first thing that happens is called 'Scrutineering and Sign on'. You have to walk your bike to the designated area where it can be checked by an official. Depending on the time you arrive there can be a very long queue but thankfully it tends to move very quickly.
nce at the front of the queue you have to hold your bike upright by holding the tail pipe while the official checks to make sure that it is not going to fall apart and cause any possible injuries to yourself or others. Once he has given you the OK he will sign your race entry card and then put a sticker on your bike to show that it has passed his inspection. Then it's into another queue to get your leathers, helmet, gloves, boots and ID tag checked. Then another signature and sticker onto your lid. You then go to the signing on office and exchange your signed entry card for a practice permit and an official programme.
What do the scrutineers check
- Handelbar clip ons are secure
- Handelbars and levers do not foul the fairing on full lock
- All levers have rounded ends
- Testing that the steering lock is only limited by the lock stops
- The throttle snaps shut after being fully opened
- Both front and rear brakes are fully working
- That the forks compress freely
- Your front brake hoses have a split (1 into 2 join) this must be above the bottom yoke.
- That all bodywork is attached firmly
- The catch tray and belly pan are free from holes
- Oil filler and sump plug are lock wired
- Footrests are attached firmly and the ends are rounded
- The exhaust pan is attached firmly
At 9am the practice sessions will begin. You have to complete at least one practice session before you are allowed to race. The practice sessions are very much the same as track day sessions but these are only three laps in length. A good tip is to ride the practice sessions quite slowly so you can be sure that the bike is functioning correctly. Then go back to your van and put on your tyre warmers and wait for your races. There are lots of bikes to get through before the racing can start. You then go to the collecting area on your bike with your practice permit where you then have to join another queue. You are now ready to get out on the track and join the session. Whoopee!!
The race begins at 10.30
In the programme it will state the order of the races but not the actual time of each individual race this due to there been a lot of races to get through so there is no accurate timing for when each race might start. When it is time for your race it will be announced over the Tannoy system, if you are late arriving you might not be allowed to race so make sure that you get to the designated area in plenty of time, it is best to start making your way there half way through the race that is before yours.
When you arrive in the collecting area you will be given a designated grid position and you will then line up on the track. You will then be waved off one row at a time to do a warm up lap then when complete you reform on the grid ready for the start of the race. The race is now ready to commence. The Marshall will point at the lights and then get off the track. The lights will go red (This is when all the racers start revving wildly) The lights turn green and you're off. Then around 15 minutes later you will be seeing the checked flag and the race is finished. Hopefully this will have been an exhilarating experience and you will be a very happy person indeed.
It usually takes around 30 minutes after the race has finished to get the results from the paddock office. These will show all of the relevant information including final positions, race times, fastest lap times of each individual rider and the overall fastest lap of the race. After lunchtime it's a repeat process of the mornings racing schedule.
Do I really need tyre warmers?
Well the answer is yes. Nearly all racers use them. Experienced riders say that they can give you an advantage especially in the first couple of laps. They usually take around 30 minutes to fully heat the tyres but the longer you keep them on the better. Don't worry about overheating the tyres as they have a built in thermostat that stops them from overheating. When you take off the tyre warmers your tyres are going to start to cool down so try not to get to the collecting area too early but also not too late as to miss the race. You will get the one warm up lap which will put the heat back into your tyres.
For a decent set of tyre warmers you are looking to pay around £200 - 250. You will need a 240v mains power supply. Many of the circuits have power supplies in the paddock areas and garages but be warned that not all of the race tracks have. I personally think that investing in a small generator is a good idea. Tyre warmers use around 1KW of power so invest in a generator that has 2KW or more. These cost around £200+
However much you love your bike there will be many times when you either do not have the time, know how or patience to maintain or fix your bike properly. It's a lot better to concentrate on the riding instead of fiddling on with your bike. Having a mechanic that you know and trust will makes things a lot easier in the long run. Jobs like changing the chain, changing sprockets to alter the gearing, putting on a new set of brake pads may be fairly easy to do but they sometimes can take a lot of time. Also when you do come off your bike (And you will come off) there may be a serious amount of work to get the bike back to A1 condition.
Changing from set of tyres to another, topping up the fuel, putting the tyre warmers on putting the battery on charge are all things that most people can do themselves but they can easily become a chore especially when you are fatigued or things just aren't going well on the day. Having a friend or fellow rider with you can make the day run a lot easier so you can concentrate on what you came for which is racing. After racing just having someone to help you get the bike back into the van, on its paddock stands, clean it down etc is sometimes more than a one man job.
Cost implications of owning and maintaining a Race bike
There are many things that will lessen the amount of money you have in your pocket and when racing it will probably cost you more than you have planned for. Obviously the more rounds you enter the more it will cost. Also the more times you crash the more repair bills you will have. Don't forget to take into account how many practice days and track days you have before the races.
One off expenses include -
- ACU and Club memberships
- All protective clothing
- Tyre warmers and generator
- Tools and fuel can
- Transport vehicle
- Race meeting costs
- Food and beer (If staying overnight)
- Fuel for the bike
- Fuel for transport
- Race entry
- Tyres (Perhaps 3 meetings per rear, 4 per front)
Other additional expenses
- Engine work like rebuilds and other repairs
- Consumables like chain, clutch, sprockets, oils etc.
- The expensive things you will have to pay for if you crash
All in all you will hopefully have the greatest times in your life when racing.
The joy of speed, the straights, the challenging race circuits will all be worth the expense but be aware that it is a very expensive hobby. Once you have raced on one great race track you will probably want to try out all of the fantastic race tracks we have in the UK. You will links to pretty much all of them on this page so get on your Iron Horse and ride like the wind my friend.