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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
First of all, thanks for your help.

BACKGROUND INFO

Got my first motorcycle this Feb 1 - a 2005 FZ6 with <3K miles on it. I've put on over 4K miles and have ridden four track days. I bought the FZ6 with the intention of learning to ride this year in preparation for a 6-8 week motorcycle trip next summer. I had no intention of riding it the way I am. Because I love track riding and have the resources (I don't have a wife or kids, rent a modest apt, etc), my big trip has transformed from 'circumnavigate the US, visit new places and catch up with friends' to that plus 'ride on different tracks around the country'.

I'm fortunate to have the resources to buy a second bike and expect to within the next month or so. I want to buy something that will be suitable for the big trip as well as track days and overnight trips back home. One more thing about the big trip I think I should mention is it won't be a marathon. I'll be staying with friends a lot. With all of this in mind I think an Aprilia Tuono is the best choice, plus I think they look and sound totally badass.

QUESTIONS

1. Aprilia Tuono or would you recommend something else, e.g. more track specific? I don't know how many tracks I'll ride on during the big trip, but hope it will be several, and I plan to do as many track days as I can afford to next year. I've read that touring on GSXRs and R1s and so on is awesome, and everywhere I go - the mountains, the beach - I see people on these bikes having a ball.

2. If I go for the Tuono, I think it would be smart to buy a new 2013 model to save a couple grand, but then the unlimited-mileage warranty will be for only one-year. Tell me if I should get a 2014 so that I have a two-year warranty or if there's some improvement I haven't learned about that makes paying full price worth it.

Thanks again for your help. I appreciate it.
 

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Roadracer since '96
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Riding a motorcycle to the race track with the expectation to do a track day and still be able to ride that same motorcycle home is a tricky situation. On the surface it sounds cool, but the reality is that there is always a chance of damaging or even completely destroying your motorcycle - even in the beginner group.

Another issue is the 'vanity' factor of riding a street bike occasionally on the track, it can seriously handicap your riding on the track. Why? Because on the track there is always a chance you will destroy your motorcycle, riding conservatively in 'bike preservation mode' on the track causes you to ride differently than those with dedicated track bikes. This doesn't mean that riding in 'bike preservation mode' means you'll be slow, it means most likely you'll react differently in certain 'heat of the moment' type situation. For example with a dedicate track bike many of the fastest people will accept from the start that their track bike will be a total loss, that they will never recover a single penny of the money they invest in to it. This is a good thing because it let's them FOCUS on their riding, and not on keeping the bike pretty.

There will inevitably be a time in every track riders/racers life when they come into a corner faster than they think they can make it, that moment can be monumental in a good way, or a bad way. I specifically remember mine, it was during a race as a 1st year Amateur at Blackhawk Farms. I was going at a good pace (for me at the time) when I had very sudden brake fade at the heaviest braking area on the track (approaching a 90* right hand turn). My options were to go straight into the heavily overgrown run-off area and most likely damage my bike and myself, or attempt the turn leaning extra so if I lost traction I would low-side and just let the bike go. In that split second I decided to go for it, and amazingly I not only made it, but the bike was incredibly well behaved while doing it. That one experience changed me forever, I then realized I could take corners considerable quicker than I was and that compressing the suspension during corner load allowed the suspension to follow the track surface better.

Too often people riding their street bikes on the track will ride 'cautiously', If that's your plan I encourage you to stay in the beginner group, because that 'cautiousness' can cause you to run lines on the track different than the faster people, that difference in lines can lead to crashes for not only you but the other riders - crashes not only cost money, but more importantly can cause injury or even death. I'm saying this in a tough love kind of way because being on the track in the intermediate, and especially the advanced groups, is serious business and should be treated as that - it's not just doing parade laps at an accelerated pace.

If your still dead set on riding the same street bike on the track as your planning to ride across the country, I encourage you to always have a 'plan-B' ready in the event that you damage your motorcycle or even break your wrist or your leg. That's a harsh reality, but one you really need to be prepared for.
 

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The Aprilia Tuono is a really nice motorcycle. I had a 2000 Falco for a bit and loved it. If the price difference between the 2013 & 2014 is less than $1000 buy the 2014. If it's a big difference realize you can get a 4 year extended warranty for about $800.

Before you make your trip run an Aprilia dealer locater so you know where dealerships are on your route in case you need them.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Riding a motorcycle to the race track with the expectation to do a track day and still be able to ride that same motorcycle home is a tricky situation. On the surface it sounds cool, but the reality is that there is always a chance of damaging or even completely destroying your motorcycle - even in the beginner group.

Another issue is the 'vanity' factor of riding a street bike occasionally on the track, it can seriously handicap your riding on the track. Why? Because on the track there is always a chance you will destroy your motorcycle, riding conservatively in 'bike preservation mode' on the track causes you to ride differently than those with dedicated track bikes. This doesn't mean that riding in 'bike preservation mode' means you'll be slow, it means most likely you'll react differently in certain 'heat of the moment' type situation. For example with a dedicate track bike many of the fastest people will accept from the start that their track bike will be a total loss, that they will never recover a single penny of the money they invest in to it. This is a good thing because it let's them FOCUS on their riding, and not on keeping the bike pretty.

There will inevitably be a time in every track riders/racers life when they come into a corner faster than they think they can make it, that moment can be monumental in a good way, or a bad way. I specifically remember mine, it was during a race as a 1st year Amateur at Blackhawk Farms. I was going at a good pace (for me at the time) when I had very sudden brake fade at the heaviest braking area on the track (approaching a 90* right hand turn). My options were to go straight into the heavily overgrown run-off area and most likely damage my bike and myself, or attempt the turn leaning extra so if I lost traction I would low-side and just let the bike go. In that split second I decided to go for it, and amazingly I not only made it, but the bike was incredibly well behaved while doing it. That one experience changed me forever, I then realized I could take corners considerable quicker than I was and that compressing the suspension during corner load allowed the suspension to follow the track surface better.

Too often people riding their street bikes on the track will ride 'cautiously', If that's your plan I encourage you to stay in the beginner group, because that 'cautiousness' can cause you to run lines on the track different than the faster people, that difference in lines can lead to crashes for not only you but the other riders - crashes not only cost money, but more importantly can cause injury or even death. I'm saying this in a tough love kind of way because being on the track in the intermediate, and especially the advanced groups, is serious business and should be treated as that - it's not just doing parade laps at an accelerated pace.

If your still dead set on riding the same street bike on the track as your planning to ride across the country, I encourage you to always have a 'plan-B' ready in the event that you damage your motorcycle or even break your wrist or your leg. That's a harsh reality, but one you really need to be prepared for.

Thanks for your advice. I’ve got a Yamaha FZ6 and will keep it. Once I have the Aprilia my FZ will be my track bike for the fall and next spring. Your points about the subtle ways riding the Aprilia on tracks next year may mess with me are well taken. But I’m going to take the risk.

I have two follow up questions. I’m taking first steps to plan my route for the big trip and have started looking at tracks around the country. There’s a lot of information to sort through and no forum thread to cut out chaff related to taking a 6-8 week trip doing track days along the way. Are there any particular tracks that you guys would recommend I put on my route? All I have planned at this point is to head south from the NE to CO then San Fran, then up and over through MT and ND.

Second question is, I’m insured with Rider who has told me repeatedly that they cover track crashes as long as it isn’t during a sanctioned race. Anyone have experience with track crashes and Rider insurance? I haven’t been able to find a straight answer online.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The Aprilia Tuono is a really nice motorcycle. I had a 2000 Falco for a bit and loved it. If the price difference between the 2013 & 2014 is less than $1000 buy the 2014. If it's a big difference realize you can get a 4 year extended warranty for about $800.

Before you make your trip run an Aprilia dealer locater so you know where dealerships are on your route in case you need them.
Thanks a lot for this info and tips. I appreciate it. The difference is $2500, so I'll go for the 2013 and extended warranty.
 

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Roadracer since '96
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Which are the best tracks to ride is somewhat subjective because race tracks are generally designed to be attacked at a 'race pace'. Why does that matter? Because how fun/challenging a track is changes as the pace changes, and that doesn't mean that all tracks are the same as far as pace goes. Some tracks are fun at a moderate pace and crazy as hell at a race pace, but other tracks are boring at a moderate pace but have a 'flow' or an awesome 'rhythm' once up to race pace.

It can also really depend on your ability/confidence/bike set-up. A bike that's set-up for the street is generally set-up too 'soft', the tires (which are not designed for heavy cornering loads) and suspension are set-up for a comfortable ride on the street. For the track the need for increasingly stiffer/better set-up suspension and track oriented tires becomes mandatory as the pace starts to increase. Street tires are generally designed for long term mileage whereas track oriented tires usually have a different inner belt structure and are generally softer (both characteristics increase cornering traction), there are also tires that are considered street/track day tires. But no matter what tire you choose once you get any mileage on the street your almost guaranteed to develop a flat spot in the center of the tire due to most of that mileage being done while the bike is vertical. That flat spot sucks during transition from vertical to leaned over when done on the track at a pace not generally encountered on the street.

I think one of your biggest challenges will be the schedules of Track Days lining up with your trip, Track Days are often times only held a few times a year at any particular track (though some tracks like Blackhawk Farms Raceway, which is located in the same county as me, have more than that). Track Days are generally put on by individual Track Day organizations, not that often is the track itself hosting the event. Choose a particular track that you are interested in going to then go to their website and check their calendar of scheduled events (not just their big events) and see what is going on at the time your planning, if you get lucky there might be a motorcycle track day event. If you do find an event, go to that Track Day organizations website and find out what their costs are and requirements for bike prep and rider safety gear.

With all of that said here are some of my favorite tracks that I've raced at:


***Barber Motorsports Park (Birmingham, Alabama) is an absolute must in my book. Barber is a paved roller coaster with 80 feet of elevation change, blind corners, and a rhythm that's awesome as the pace increases.

***Road America (Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin) is a 4 mile long racetrack on beautiful property that has 3 sections that allow you to go as fast as your bike can go (if your brave enough). Road America is not an excessively difficult track, but so many Racers and Track Day riders love that place.

***Putnam Park (Mount Meridian, Indiana) is a fun track, not really difficult, but has a nice flow to it as the pace increases.

***Daytona International Speedway (Daytona Beach, Florida) has 2 different layouts that have been used for bikes most recently - the 'traditional' layout and the newer 'AMA' layout. I believe the only way you can ride on Daytona as a non-racer is during a track day/racer practice held only 1 day a year before the CCS Race of Champions in October (traditional layout). Daytona is another track that isn't excessively difficult, but with the high banking mixed in with the road course it's like no other in the USA. On the banking it's like Road America, you have the ability to go as fast as your motorcycle will go but with the added experience of being leaned over near horizontal if your going fast (again, if your brave enough). It's hard to describe what it's like being on the banking, the first time for many is a combination of terror mixed with bliss. The G-force you experience on the banking is another thing that's unique to Daytona, it pushes you down onto the motorcycle making it somewhat difficult to even keep your head up as speeds increase - but what a ride!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Which are the best tracks to ride is somewhat subjective because race tracks are generally designed to be attacked at a 'race pace'. Why does that matter? Because how fun/challenging a track is changes as the pace changes, and that doesn't mean that all tracks are the same as far as pace goes. Some tracks are fun at a moderate pace and crazy as hell at a race pace, but other tracks are boring at a moderate pace but have a 'flow' or an awesome 'rhythm' once up to race pace.

It can also really depend on your ability/confidence/bike set-up. A bike that's set-up for the street is generally set-up too 'soft', the tires (which are not designed for heavy cornering loads) and suspension are set-up for a comfortable ride on the street. For the track the need for increasingly stiffer/better set-up suspension and track oriented tires becomes mandatory as the pace starts to increase. Street tires are generally designed for long term mileage whereas track oriented tires usually have a different inner belt structure and are generally softer (both characteristics increase cornering traction), there are also tires that are considered street/track day tires. But no matter what tire you choose once you get any mileage on the street your almost guaranteed to develop a flat spot in the center of the tire due to most of that mileage being done while the bike is vertical. That flat spot sucks during transition from vertical to leaned over when done on the track at a pace not generally encountered on the street.

I think one of your biggest challenges will be the schedules of Track Days lining up with your trip, Track Days are often times only held a few times a year at any particular track (though some tracks like Blackhawk Farms Raceway, which is located in the same county as me, have more than that). Track Days are generally put on by individual Track Day organizations, not that often is the track itself hosting the event. Choose a particular track that you are interested in going to then go to their website and check their calendar of scheduled events (not just their big events) and see what is going on at the time your planning, if you get lucky there might be a motorcycle track day event. If you do find an event, go to that Track Day organizations website and find out what their costs are and requirements for bike prep and rider safety gear.

With all of that said here are some of my favorite tracks that I've raced at:


***Barber Motorsports Park (Birmingham, Alabama) is an absolute must in my book. Barber is a paved roller coaster with 80 feet of elevation change, blind corners, and a rhythm that's awesome as the pace increases.

***Road America (Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin) is a 4 mile long racetrack on beautiful property that has 3 sections that allow you to go as fast as your bike can go (if your brave enough). Road America is not an excessively difficult track, but so many Racers and Track Day riders love that place.

***Putnam Park (Mount Meridian, Indiana) is a fun track, not really difficult, but has a nice flow to it as the pace increases.

***Daytona International Speedway (Daytona Beach, Florida) has 2 different layouts that have been used for bikes most recently - the 'traditional' layout and the newer 'AMA' layout. I believe the only way you can ride on Daytona as a non-racer is during a track day/racer practice held only 1 day a year before the CCS Race of Champions in October (traditional layout). Daytona is another track that isn't excessively difficult, but with the high banking mixed in with the road course it's like no other in the USA. On the banking it's like Road America, you have the ability to go as fast as your motorcycle will go but with the added experience of being leaned over near horizontal if your going fast (again, if your brave enough). It's hard to describe what it's like being on the banking, the first time for many is a combination of terror mixed with bliss. The G-force you experience on the banking is another thing that's unique to Daytona, it pushes you down onto the motorcycle making it somewhat difficult to even keep your head up as speeds increase - but what a ride!

Thank you once again for your thoughtful advice. Initially I thought I would just make a list of the "best" tracks around the country, figure out days that I could ride on them, then see which ones would fit my route. Thank you for explaining that there's a lot more that I should be aware of, eg tracks feel different at different paces. I'll try to take these other factors into consideration as well.

All four of the tracks you listed sound awesome and could potentially be built into my route, if they have days at the right time (though Daytona is out of course). Thanks!

These tracks are all on our side of the country though. Any tips for further west? Also, do you happen to know of any websites or publications that evaluate tracks? Finally, I'm looking into track-riding schools as well. I'd like to do one or two days on the trip with one-on-one coaches or in a structured program. All of the schools I've looked into seem excellent. Are there any in particular that you would highly recommend?
 

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Cheap Bastid
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Gonna kick things off w/ a track day somewhere in New England? We've got a few dates coming up. Days in CT are filling up quick though.
 

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Roadracer since '96
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...I'm looking into track-riding schools as well. I'd like to do one or two days on the trip with one-on-one coaches or in a structured program. All of the schools I've looked into seem excellent. Are there any in particular that you would highly recommend?
I personally have not taken any schools that are still in existence, so I can't offer any personal guidance there. As far as highly structured programs go, a lot of people seem to like California Superbike School ( Motorcycle Riding School - California Superbike School ), they have classes all over the country throughout the year.

Another west coast coach was featured in the July 2014 issue of Road Racing World Magazine (page 76), his name is Can Akkaya and his school is called Superbike Coach ( Superbike-Coach Corp - The Advanced Motorcycle Riding School In California Offers Street, Track, And Stunt Coaching in classes or real 1on1 ). He's a former racer of 250GP bikes at the World GP level who moved to America and now has his own school.

Both of those schools offer the opportunity to ride at 1 of a number of well known racetracks. These are just 2 schools that I have heard about, there are so many other schools out there that I personally am not familiar with.
 

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Mexican Hard Shell Taco
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I'm kinda stumped by your choice of bikes, the Aprilia Tuono is a terrific bike and is actually more of a race rep than the FZ6 will ever be! On the other hand the FZ6 is one of the best lightweight sport tourers ever made. Turning the FZ6 into the trackbike and the Tuno into the trip bike is kinda backwards...

The FZ6 comes with damper rod forks and non adjustable shock, that will be a serious handicap on the track, even though it works wonders on the street, because that is where that bike was meant to be.

Get yourself a 600SS, CBR, R6, GSX-R, ZX-6R for the track, keep the FZ6 for the street. If you've got money burning a hole in your pocket upgrade the FZ6. If you're serious about the track, get a cookie cutter race replica, upgrades will be cheaper (even more as you can usually get awesome deals on used race parts) and that bike must be expendable.

I've wrecked my track bike on sunday and rode my street bike to work on monday. And it would totally suck to have your trip/vacation plans ruined because you're waiting for parts.
 

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Something else to throw into the equation may be your options for service depending on the kind of route you choose to take for your trip. If you break down in the middle of Minneapolis and need a new stator, not really a problem regardless of bike make. If that same thing happens in the mountains a Peru, it could be a different story. Regardless, it sounds like a fantastic undertaking and good for you! If you roll through the Dallas/ Ft Worth area, drop me a note.
 
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