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Track Days: Preaching To The Choir?

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Say “track day” and visions of go-fast guys on crotch rockets wearing Rossi and Marquez replica leathers and lids probably flash from your subconscious. Ditto for the dirt dealers who envision local pros dressed like Dungey blitzing your customers through the whoops. This dynamic is shifting, however.

While the typical track days continue to preach to the choir, there are a number of dealers who are singing a different tune these days. Certainly the need for speed needs to be satisfied – and there is nothing better than testing your limits at the track for that (not to mention boosting your bottom line by selling sticky race-spec rubber, high octane fuel and the inevitable replacement body work when one of your would-be GP racers exceeds their limits).

Problem is, how many customers do you have that would make the expense and hassle of hosting a track day worth it? Roadracing has declined in recent years – more power to Wayne Rainey and the MotoAmerica team for reviving the sport – but 600cc super sport sales are still in the toilet.

If you are still successfully hosting track days and selling sportbikes these days you are the exception rather than the rule. Of course there are some excellent track day programs managing to buck the trend, but there are other compelling reasons to take to the track.

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“Cars, trucks… even bicycles, you can test drive anything these days except motorcycles,” says MPN columnist Eric Anderson. “I just got a note from my bicycle buddy whose business model is solely based on demo-demo-demo rides. We need to understand fully that everyone can test ride a car, truck, bicycle and even a tractor, but can’t test ride a motorcycle!” At this point Eric is starting to get worked up.

“And to make it that much worse, the only reason anyone even buys a motorcycle is to experience the thrill! No Thrill, No Sale!” At this point he is starting to hyperventilate and froth at the mouth a little. “Too bad we cannot have more ‘experiential’ instances in the powersports industry!” Eric promises a full blown rant in a future column on this subject, however he may be onto something.

Insurance issues or DMV regulations might prevent you from doing demo rides at the dealership. Or it could just be common sense – replacing parts every time a customer drops a demo bike can add up in a hurry! Track days serve a twofold purpose by eliminating liability and legal issues and by adding the “experiential” aspect Anderson claims is lacking. If your goal is to graduate GP-level racers, track days are the answer, but if the goal is to get butts in seats so people can “test drive” (sic) a motorcycle in a safe and controlled manner track days are the answer…. and it isn’t just for kids on crotch rockets any more.

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“Believe it or not, we have had good success with cruisers and adventure riders,” says Skagit Powersports co-owner and self-proclaimed “Entertainment Director” Bill Cameron. Always one to defy convention while cashing in on the strong roadracing scene in the Pacific Northwest, Cameron changed the definition of “Track Day” to suit his purposes. “Skagit’s ‘Get To Know Your Bike Day’ is open to all types of street legal motorcycles.” So Suzuki Boulevards battle GSX-Rs on the track and Gold Wings go after CBRs? Not exactly, Cameron explains… it is more fun than that.

Just like a traditional track day that has been a staple for the dealership since the inaugural season of the 2-Fast/Skagit Powersports Track Day program in 2005, Skagit Powersports rents Pacific Raceways (Formerly S.I.R.) for a full day. “We invite all our motorcycle instructor friends, road racers, Motorcycle Safety Foundation Instructors and Adventure Bike Instructors to come help out.”

 

It’s a day of relaxed riding with a free instructor helping everyone learn new skills so they can enjoy their bikes more with less stress! “Everyone will learn important skills by riding on the track.”

A few event details:

• An hour is divided into skill levels. Each skill session within the hour lasting between 15 and 20 minutes and then starting over the next hour.

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• Any protective riding gear designed for motorcycle riding will be accepted: boots, pants or chaps, jacket, gloves and full face helmets only.

• A full lunch, beverages through out the day, and food on the bus going home are all provided and included with the sign up fee.

(That’s right, Skagit charters a bus and a truck to transport riders and their bikes to the track in style). “Ride down with us in a tour bus or meet us at the track, if you prefer, the goal is to make this as stress free as possible.”

In addition to the successful “Get To Know Your Bike Day” events, Skagit still has a full slate of traditional track days, necessitated by a large number of customers who have a serious need for speed. Could it also be that the Entertainment Director wants to sneak in a few hot laps for his own amusement?

If track days have stagnated in your store, consider a kids learn to ride event (see sidebar) or a “Get To Know Your Bike” day at the track. Anything that gets riders to experience the joy of motorcycling. As Anderson astutely noted: No Thrill, No Sale!” Time for our industry to start singing a new tune when it comes to track days.


DO IT IN THE DIRT – Kids Learn To Ride Track Day

The concept of a track day for first-timers works even better on the dirt. Legendary off-road dealer Malcolm Smith rented out a local motocross track a couple weeks before Christmas with the express purpose of giving kids an opportunity to experience the joy of riding. Within days of opening the the idea up, the kid’s only “Track Day” was already overbooked!

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“Seeing the look on so many kids faces as they learned to ride was truly an awesome experience,” says Alexander Smith, Malcolm’s son and GM for Malcolm Smith Motorsports. After learning to ride, lunch was served. “We wanted this to be a great day for the kids,” says Smith. The parents lining the track with cameras and cell phones seemed pretty stoked, too.
To accommodate as many kids as possible, the dealership asked for a little help, and Tucker Rocky, MSR and even some magazine guys pitched in to help the dealership staff. “We had 48 kids show up and learn the basics of riding, all with one-on-one instruction from our talented staff at the Milestone MX Park.”

After participating in basic drills around cones, the kids were given an opportunity to ride around the track. Each child having an hour of ride time and instruction. MSR and TR were on hand, supplying the gear and training wheels for those that needed them.
And there were plenty of takers.

Of the nearly 50 children who participated, one third of them had never even ridden a bicycle, let alone considered riding a motorcycle. However, with patient coaching, throttle stops and training wheels, every single kid made it through the day with smiles on their faces.

After seeing the success of getting kids off the couch and onto motorcycles Tucker Rocky even offered a special training wheel deal for the holidays to ensure the Malcolm Smith Racing legacy lives on. TR dealers who stocked six sets of training wheels during the holidays received the seventh one free.

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But the day did more than sell a couple sets of training wheels… during the course of the day several parents made arrangements for Santa to stop by the dealership, buy the bike and all the gear. “You did this on purpose,” said one mother. “We have to buy a motorcycle now.” Exactly!

General sales manager Todd Baldwin said half a dozen bikes and sets of gear swede reserved during the day and more stragglers came in after that. “We sold 12 bikes and more importantly taught 48 kids how to ride.” Like the old credit card commercial claimed: Priceless!

“The feedback was tremendous, with many of the parents asking about the date of our next learn to ride day,” added Alexander.
Why wait for the holidays to host your own Kid’s Track Day? Your next generation of customers is slowly sinking into couches in front of TVs rather than out riding bicycles, so now is the time
to invest in some training wheels and some hamburgers and have some fun this summer!


TOP SHELF

Track Day Orientation Program

Southern California-based 2WTD (TwoWheelsTrackDays) was created by Martin Guzman and Sergio Florez to provide a safe, friendly and fun environment where riders can push their skills and bikes to the limit. Running at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway and Willow Springs, they cover all the basics… and then go one step further.

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Their Trackday Orientation Program (TOP), is a free program open to any rider. The main goal of the TOP Program is to guide new and experienced track riders on how to have fun safely in any situation. The program covers track safety, such as proper entry procedure, proper exit procedure, flags and what to do in certain situations (whether it’s crashing or passing).TOP is divided into several 20 minute discussion sessions lead by a

Senior Control Rider. Discussion sessions include topics such as how to learn a new track, reference points, crashing (yes, it happens), how to minimize chances of crashing and more!

By the end of the day we guarantee you will be safer and faster than when you started. You will have a new mindset that will lead you to the proper path of becoming a more proficient rider with high reward and low risk.

Whether you are a new rider to the track or even an advanced rider, you will learn something valuable at the Trackday Orientation Program.  Did we mention it is free? Bring a chair and notebook. Be prepared to have your mind opened! SoCal dealers looking for more details can check them out at: www.2wheelstrackdays.com

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