Tyres are everything on a bike, not just a track bike. They give you feedback on all aspects of your inputs and the surface you're on.
Sporty tyres are great to start out with, you’ll get more tyre life than an all out track only tyre, and with modern tyres now having multiple compounds in them you’ll get 4-5 track days out of them before they are past their best.
There will come a time though when you‘ll have a make a decision on what to fit if your pace is getting on the fast side, or you get to the limit of the tyre you’re using.
In the fast group you’ll find the majority of riders have slicks, or track focused tyres that just manage to be road legal.
I’ve recently got a second set of wheels which are currently being refurbished. My plan is to put a set of wets on them because I’m due to experience a wet day. I’ll put track focused tyres on the wheels currently on the bike. I don’t think I’m ready for slicks as I don’t have the knowledge to use them yet. The feedback I’ve picked up from the paddock is stick with track focused tyres and experience the extra grip they give. Chances are I won’t have the pace to keep the heat in a pair of slicks yet so I’ll actually get more grip out the track tyre.
That’s what I like about the paddock, everyone is there to offer help and guidance.
The Bridgestone S21’s are my tyre of choice for the road, no question. I like the feedback they give and I find them really predictable. But, in the last session at Oulton Park recently I knew I was close to maximum grip. After all, these aren’t track only tyres...
On the exit of Cascades during the last session of the day I got a good exit out the turn an d I felt the rear slowly stepping out, gripping, and then sliding. I’m no hero, so I called it a day !
Tyre warmers are a great bit of kit, but do you need them? No. Road tyres are designed to warm up very quickly and give good feedback after a few laps.
But...would I advise them, yes. Why?
Every track session is about 20 minutes long and you’ll get 7 sessions in a day. If you give 2 laps for your tyres to warm up every session, you’ve not lost 14 laps, but you’re more aware of cold tyres. I’d rather roll out the pits knowing that the tyres have been at 80 degrees and have some heat in them already.
I’ve been out with cold tyres and then warm tyres back to back, I’ll always use warmers.
Mine aren’t expensive, in fact I purchased mine second hand from TT racer Steve Mercer, but it was clear they’d never been used.
Warmers have a light on them so when there ready, an orange LED turns to a green one.
They run off a 13A plug so at most circuits you can run an extension cable in the garages and plug them in. At Cadwell Park though, garages aren’t available, so a generator is required.
Honda recommend 36 PSI in the front and 42 PSI in the rear. Bridgestone also recommend this pressure for the road.
On track the tyre gets hotter than road use due to the forces it experiences with heavy braking and acceleration.
For whichever tyres you go with, start with the manufacturers recommendation for the track. At most track days you’ll find someone supplying tyres. If you’re unsure, have a word with them. Advice is (usually!) free.
If it's around 15 degrees I’ll start with 27 PSI in the rear and 31 PSI in the front. I’ll then constantly check the pressures throughout the day after each session. That way I’ll have a cold base setting, and then a hot one. By midday the track may have warmed up and therefore you might gain grip by dropping another 1 or 2 PSI if you find a hot tyre has too much pressure.
In the wet on sports tyres I’ll go close to the manufacturers recommendations as less heat is generated and you want the pressure in the tyres to keep the grooves in the tyre open so they disperse water and allow the rubber to grip the track.