Castle Combe Bike Track Day Review

My First Motorbike Track Day at Castle Combe

I have just completed my first motorbike track day and am still alive! I went to the Castle Combe circuit in Wiltshire bright and early last week with Adam and Amanda from Hein Gericke. We were at Castle Combe thanks to BLD Group. They arranged a fantastic day – thanks, Jerry!

Thankfully it was not raining and the track was dry. I didn’t fancy my first track experience to be on a damp track! After registering for the day we went to another building for a briefing. This consisted mainly of explaining the layout of the track and advice on the best way to take each corner. Also, they explained what the various flags mean that you may see being waved by the marshals at the side of the track. The day was split into four separate groups with approximately twelve minutes of track time each. Due to a low number of people turning up for the day, this was eventually changed to three groups which then changed pretty much to an open track meaning you could go on and around as much as you liked.

Thrilling Experience

After the briefing, we looked at the bikes that BLD had provided for us for the day. There was a track-ready R1 and R6 complete with custom paint schemes. Keen to get on track I grabbed the keys for the R1 and headed out for my first lap. The first lap was a ‘sighting’ one to familiarise me with the track and warm the tires up. After this, the marshals left the track and everyone was free to do what they wanted. I spent the next couple of laps getting used to the R1 before I could attack the track with a bit more vigor.

Adapting to the Track

I found it strange at first as riding on track demands a very different mindset to riding on the road; no other road users to worry about, no poorly maintained road surfaces, and no speed limits! It wasn’t long before I was having a great time and pretending I was the accomplished bike racer which I am most definitely not!

Heading along the straights was simple enough but approaching corners much quicker than I am used to was a bit unnerving at first and as everyone else on track is traveling very quickly the concept of speed is very different to what I’m used to. Hitting bends quicker than expected resulted in more aggressive use of the brakes followed by increasing amounts of lean angle to get around it without drifting too wide and into the grass.

Discovering the Advantage of 600cc Bikes

Doing laps around the track soon became very addictive and I was constantly trying to find better lines to be able to negotiate the track as quickly and as smoothly as possible. It soon became clear that it doesn’t matter how quick you are on the straights, it is all about seamlessly negotiating the bends and making the track ‘flow’ as much as possible. As a result, it is often the 600cc machines that people prefer when on track. I think it is maybe all in the mind, but people seem to feel more confident using all the power a 600 has to offer as opposed to being more mindful of the outright power that liter sports bikes deliver which in turn leads to dominating the straights but falling down at the corners. A fact proven when Jerry mentioned they recently had an ‘unlimited’ capacity race with bikes up to 1300cc competing but the outright winner was someone riding a Triumph Daytona 675.

To test this theory I spent my next few goes on track on the R6. Within the first couple of laps, I was blown away by how different the R6 was to ride on the track compared to the R1. The 600 was lighter, easier to throw around, felt more aggressive, and was much more enjoyable to ride on the track than the R1. I had to work the bike harder and make much more use of the gears which in turn made me feel as though I was getting round the track quicker and smoother than I ever was on the R1.

Afternoon Insights and Future Plans

After a brief lunch, it was back on track to try and get as much track time as possible. After going between both the R1 and R6 for the afternoon it was clear that the R6 was the preferred bike. In the track environment, I did not feel the benefit of the R1’s greater power over the R6 I made a point of checking the speedometer of both bikes whilst on the main straight and the most I saw was 110mph – on both bikes. The day was fantastic and I have been bitten by the track day bike. There are so many things I need to improve as a track rider and it is challenging! The track staff were extremely helpful with all the track instructors happy to chat and discuss any riding tips they had to offer as well as offering to follow you for some 1 on 1 tuition. I opted to do this, however just before we were due to go out, the heavens opened and it poured – which effectively put an end to the day.

After this, I then had a 175-mile ride home and despite being exhausted from being on track I spent the whole journey home recapping my experience and telling myself what I would do differently next time – the first thing of which will be to spend some time with an instructor.