Ride days are fun. Let’s look at a couple of very cheap options for fun aplenty. And, we’ll toss in a lovely little exotic as well.
Rider training is now pretty firmly entrenched in the global road riding landscape. There are courses that cater for the beginner to the very experienced and even active racers, usually carried out in the relatively safe environment of the racetrack.
Born from all that training activity was the ‘track’ or ‘ride’ day. And why not? After all, this is where you get to thrash around the track, pretty much left to your own devices (of course there are sensible rules).
Track day operators report that take-up is at its highest levels, and one of the reasons for this is the move towards riders trailering ‘track day only’ motorcycles to these events. That way, you don’t have to ride home after a big day at the track and paying rego on a bike that you only use very occasionally becomes a thing of the past.
This is a growing trend. In the past most participants would ride to and from an event (many still do), and the ones that did make use of trailers carried road registered motorcycles.
So, there is a new marketplace category – the track day bike. But what is out there and what should you look for? Well, to try and demystify the process, we have decided to look at three bikes that make for good ride day choices.
2001 Kawasaki ZX-6R (J2)
We’ve picked a 2001 ZX-6R, (a time when the model was a Supersport racing favourite and will therefore be reasonably plentiful and a bit of a bargain), but you could supplant what we are going to say to include the Honda CBR600RR, Suzuki GSX-R600 or the Yamaha R6 of the same period.
Supersports are really the wise choice for the far greater majority of potential ride day bike purchasers. Much easier to ride than a two-stroke, not as brutal and therefore less likely to spit you down the road than a litre bike and plentiful.
Don’t let anyone tell you that there is not enough power on hand on a 600. Ride day operators we spoke to consistently suggested that riders report their fastest track-based times aboard a Supersport, even when they have regularly ridden much more powerful machinery.
Power delivery is much more linear and that’s great for rider confidence. You’ll be as fast as you can be on a 600 and that has to offer a major drawcard as well.
The ZX-6R is powered by a 599cc, liquid-cooled, in-line, DOHC, four stroke, four-cylinder engine (ditto the above mentioned other brands).
The highlights are the bike’s reputation for unburstability (Kawasaki has always built them hard and tough), a brilliant twin-spar aluminum chassis and beefy 46mm front forks and six-piston calipers at the front, which represented the best brakes in the business for its time. Toss in performance figures of 81kW at 12,500rpm and 66Nm at 10,000rpm, along with a dry weight of 172kg, and well, what can we say? See why people are fastest on middleweights?
Keep an eye out for road rash. These things are getting pretty long in the tooth and any with a racing background will have tasted tarmac at some stage. That’s not the end of the world, but you really don’t need a bent one. Don’t worry too much. Parts are everywhere for the ZX-6 and its ilk and they are pretty cheap to keep going.
2002 Suzuki GSX-R1000 (K2)
Okay, so you want a big daddy. Are you sure? Perhaps you should read what we wrote in regard to the Supersport category above. Still want a litre bike? Well, okay…
We’ll look at an early GSX-R1000, the K2 model of 2001, in the interests of keeping costs down. We figure, unless you are a Murdoch, having a bike in the shed that sees the light of day five times a year needs to earn its keep on the price front.
Fast. That’s the big advantage here.
The GSX-R landed at a time when the Yamaha R1 ruled the roost, and pretty quickly assumed the mantle of top dog.
Power comes from a 998cc, liquid-cooled , in-line, DOHC, four stroke, four-cylinder engine, which makes, wait for it… 118kW at 10,800rpm and 110Nm at 8500 rpm. But there’s more. How does a dry weight of 170kg sound?
The bike won Bike of The Year status in 2001, has gone on to become one of the most influential sports bikes of all time and enjoys an envied record in regard to reliability.
As far as racetrack cred goes, the GSX-R1000 has won a multitude of AMA Superbike titles. Enough said.
These are not all over the place to buy as an ex-racer, but they are pretty easy to convert. It’s about stripping rather than adding, so there’s not a huge cost involved.
There’s a fair bit of peer pressure when a rider turns up at a ride day on a big bore beastie like this. If you are not fast, well the simple fact is you don’t need a litre bike and you will look a bit of a sausage, let’s face it.
Ride one well however, and you’ll be the king of the paddock.
NOT CHEAP, BUT MEGA FUN
2001 Aprilia RS250
You are gonna be stretched not to pay a fair bit for one of these, but they are gonna become even more collectable. You just watch.
The good news here is that both the RS and the Suzuki RGV250 formed the basis for local 250 Production racing, so there is still a few out out there that will already have things like race glass (cheaper and lighter fairings than original), lockwiring etc.
Both offer pure racetrack performance. In fact, this is about as close as anyone on anything like a budget can come to the pre four-stroke grand prix experience.
Let’s concentrate on the Aprilia.
Built from 1998 to 2006, the bike is powered by a two-stroke 249cc, single crank, V-twin that is good for 41kW at 10,500rpm, and dry weight is 140kg. Look no further than those numbers to see why this is a ride day howler.
The brakes on the RS 250 are dual, four-piston Brembos up front on 298mm rotors with a single, twin-piston caliper, and 220mm rotor at the rear.
The bike owes its look to the 1993 250GP winner and if you don’t think the RS is absolutely beautiful to look at, well we can’t help you.
The chassis is a ripper and the bike really makes a superb choice for a ride day mount. Riding a two stroke is different, you really need to develop a purist’s racing style to be fast (lots of deep braking and strong corner speed), but the RS is up to just about anything you want to throw at it.
There is nothing as satisfying as putting your 250 wheel up inside a litre bike as you enter a corner on the racetrack, trust us. Sure, you’ll be passed on the straight, but there’s not a whole lot of bragging rights to be had there…
You’ll be kick-starting this thing, so you better learn how that works. Be as sure as you can any prospective purchase has had good oil (synthetic, two stroke) for all its life. Service history is gold for a bike like this.
A big upside is the fact that the ride day bike does not have to have a roadworthy certificate, allowing damaged bikes into the picture.
Auctions are a great place to start, after all you’ll be piffing things like mirrors, original fairings and blinkers anyway. Smells like a bargain, right there.
Bear in mind that you will need access to a good trailer, and it really is nice to do a ride day with friends. An idea here is to pool on a trailer.
Keeps the costs down and you can share having the thing laying around the front yard. Oh, and remember… you’ll be buying tyres regularly. In fact, we’d be planning on a new rear for every ride day and a new front for every second one. Racetrack work simply destroys tyres. That’s a good thing, because a nice soft tyre is keeping you off the deck. Be happy to pay it.
So, the ride day bike. It will keep your licence intact, it will improve your riding and there is no safer environment to see what you and your bike can do than a racetrack. It’s superb fun too!
RIDE DAY CHECKLIST
To participate in a ride day you will need to hold a minimum Provisional Motorcycle Licence issued by the road transport authority in your state/country. Your licence will need to be current and valid for your type of motorcycle. Competition licences, recreational permits or learner’s permits are generally not accepted.
Ride days will cost around $350, which includes your lunch. Our experience is that you will get more than enough track time during a typical day.
Here is a general list of what most ride day operators will expect.
• All treaded tyres must have a minimum of 2mm tread depth at the beginning of the day – this includes centre as well as sides.
• Slick tyres can be used on a dry track only.
• Front and rear brake pads must be deemed to have suitable material to complete a day at the racetrack.
• Front and rear brake disc rotors must be above minimum thickness as per manufacturer specifications (this measurement is stamped on the rotor carrier).
• Front and rear brake lines must be secured correctly and must not leak or weep fluid.
• Front and rear brakes must operate correctly upon testing.
• Fork seals must not show any signs of leaking or weeping fluid.
• There must be no evidence of oil leaks or weeps of any kind
• Fairings must be secured correctly (no race tape!).
• Any damage to fairings must not have sharp or jagged edges, or in any way be deemed a potential threat to any rider.
• Foot pegs and mounting brackets must be secured and aligned correctly.
• Exhausts must be secured by all mounting points.
• Levers or pedals that are bent and deemed difficult to operate must be repaired or replaced.
• Throttles must snap back to the off position when released.
• There must be no evidence of fuel leaks of any kind.
• Handlebars must be secured and show no evidence of being able to move or be bent from the original shape intended by the manufacturer.
• Gearsack racks must be removed.
• It is recommended participants drain glycol coolant from their cooling system and replace it with water and a corrosion inhibitor.
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 26 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.