I’ve got every intention of owning a motorcycle specifically for the track someday, I swear. Problem is, I haven’t hit the jackpot yet and my savings account is currently as fictitious as an honest politician. What I can do from time to time is scrounge up a few hundred bucks, and thanks to Feel Like a Pro that’s enough to access a bike for the day. What’s more, you’re going to be treated like some motorcycling big wig from start to finish. It doesn’t get any better than that, right?
Feel Like a Pro rents Kawasaki Ninja 300 motorcycles to riders for track days and AFM or WERA West racing events. But beyond that, the crew manages all the particulars from loading and unloading the bikes, handling tech inspection to providing a bit of shade and water between sessions. They keep the motorcycles topped-off with fuel, the tire pressures dialed, the bodywork clean, the chains lubed along with any other maintenance or upkeep necessary. With all that included at $325 a day, Feel Like a Pro definitely offers riders more than just machinery and when I got the chance to spend a weekend with FLP during a [email protected] track day at Thunderhill, I jumped at the chance.
It’s All About Convenience
Being able to simply arrive at the track and ride a fully prepped bike with a stocked hospitality area to lounge in between sessions is typically the purview of professionals. Feel Like a Pro has taken this rarefied experience and made it accessible to the average rider.
The preparatory logistics typically required when heading to a track day are cut to nearly nothing. There’s no need to change the oil on your bike, swap out tires, tape the lights, pack the hauler, none of that. You’re good to go if you can simply get your gear and yourself down to the track. When it came time to make the drive down to Thunderhill Raceway, all I had to account for were my leathers, helmet, gloves, boots and back protector. Definitely a less expansive checklist than usual and even if you don’t have leathers, FLP is still an option since they rent suits from the likes of Alpinestars, Dainese and Sedici for $55 a day.
FLP’s business model also opens track day horizons to many others that might not consider it otherwise. The Sportster rider on the other side of the country that wants to sample a west coast track like Thunderhill or Laguna Seca or the off-road rider without an appropriate machine for an asphalt track, for example.
I met a rider that made the trip down from Canada to spend five days at Thunderhill with Keigwans and Feel Like a Pro. He took the two-day Keigwans school on an FLP machine mid-week and spent the remaining three days refining his skill on the Ninja 300 during the track days. His daily rider is a liter-bike, and he assured me that on the roads he knows well, he’s plenty fast. But this was his first track experience and it was eye opening how much he could improve his skill as a rider (his assessment, not mine). The convenience of Feel Like a Pro’s set-up contributed greatly to making that edifying experience a possibility.
They also offer GoPro Hero Session cameras to rent for $40 bucks, so you can capture some visual mementos of the fun. You even get to take the SD card home after the day is done too.
There’s a number of other items that make FLP an enticing track day option. One is that the VIP paddock area the crew sets up is open to friends and family, so you don’t have to spend the day on track without your favorite people. They offer four-day track packs for $1200, saving you $100. There’s tire warmers for rent too at $40 a day. And if you’re looking to take things a bit slower and not commit to a full day or two, FLP offers half-day rentals for $180 and single session rentals for $65.
In addition to Keigwans, FLP is on site with a number of other track day providers as well, operating nearly year-round up and down the west coast. Be sure to check out the Feel Like a Pro website for full details.
A Ninja 300 Though…Really?
Clearly if you’re looking for impressive power and high speeds, the Ninja 300 isn’t going to satisfy. But this motorcycle has a lot going for it on track, especially for less experienced track day riders.
The 383-pound bike handles effortlessly, for starters. As a reference, the Ninja ZX-6R tips the scales at a claimed 427.8 pounds ready to ride while the powerful ZX-10RR is listed at 454.2 pounds. The 300 is a wisp of a bike compared to those more potent mounts and the result is a machine that tips easily into corners with a chassis that’s reliably stable under braking and when opening the throttle to the stop on corner exit. There’s not enough power to disrupt the chassis much anyway, either when braking or accelerating. As such, it’s obliging to riders learning the dynamics of bike and body movement on track. It also keeps those with a little more track experience than a first timer from getting in over their heads as they push their personal limits. I fall into the latter category – not yet skilled enough to explore the limits of a liter bike on track but comfortable enough to push myself on a 300.
There’s also ABS and a slipper clutch, which help smooth the behavior of the Ninja 300 when cutting speed. These definitely mitigate the “oh s#$!” moments that could be serious on a 600cc or 1000cc machine in the hands of a less-refined rider. The ABS system, in particular, inspires confidence to push braking markers deeper as the day goes on.
Additionally, there is noticeable improvement in performance for the rider that pays attention to the revs and keeps the 300 spun-up. Hit a corner a gear too high and the exit is absolutely going to feel like you’re wading through mud. Exit in the optimal gear and you’re rewarded with noticeably better drive. This characteristic can definitely be frustrating when you get it wrong but on the plus side, it quickly forces you to tune your senses to gear position on track. This in turn forces you to work the clutch and mark points on track for downshifts, habits that will come in handy as skill and speed increase.
Feel Like a Pro doesn’t mess with the formula too much, leaving nearly every detail of the bikes in the fleet stock. There are a few upgraded elements though, including Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa tires, Motion Pro bars and grips, Galfer braking components and racing bodywork.
All in all it’s a bike that demands a rider’s attention to perform at its peak, but it pays dividends to the person that’s focused and thinking a corner or two or three ahead. And while this could also be said of any larger sportbike, the Ninja 300 is moderate enough in its delivery to allow you to process information, plan and prepare for the tarmac ahead. Skills that are reflexive for more seasoned riders but still needing to be consciously refined for those still new to the track.
The final verdict is pretty simple. Spending the weekend with Feel Like a Pro is fantastic. Having a bike ready to go and an attentive crew to keep the machines in top shape makes a track day more like a vacation. The mornings are calm and peaceful; you can watch the sunrise and sip your coffee without having to worry about any bike maintenance. Check in with the track day provider and you’re set, no need to fuss with tech inspection.
Once the day starts, you just hop on the bike and one of the staff drops the lift and sends you on your way. Come back in after the session and they are there to take hold of the bike and get it ready for the next go around. It’s as close as I’ll ever get to having a pit crew.
Not that it’s so burdensome tending to your own bike at a track day, but you literally feel like a professional rider with that kind of attention. Sure it’s all in your imagination, but it’s fun to pretend.
It’s also a perfect chance to determine whether track riding is something you want to pursue more seriously. The 300 is ideal for dipping your toes in the water, and $650 for two days is much more affordable than the few thousand (on the low end) one might spend purchasing a used bike and getting it dialed for track duty. As an entry point to one of the most thrilling and satisfying experiences a person can have on a motorcycle, Feel Like a Pro provides a service to the industry that helps crystallize developing riders’ passion for two wheels for life. I’d say that’s a good deal for us all.
Feel Like a Pro has recently unveiled its 2017 schedule too and there’s still lots of spots available starting in February and running through November.