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Folembray, Northern France


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There’s an Advanced Riding company near me who run an annual excursion to Folembray, a small racing circuit in Northern France. I managed to get a place on the trip this year, so not only would this be my first time taking the Tracer abroad, but it would also be my first track day. I optimistically removed the footpeg feelers and centre stand just in case I should get a bit keen out on the track. If you don’t want to read all of this, skip to the end for the video highlights!
One of the other attendees lived close to me, so we arranged to ride down to the Channel Tunnel terminal together; a fairly spirited ride around the 8 lane car-park that is the M25. Traffic was fine, and we made it to the terminal in time for a spot of lunch, and to meet up with another 5 riders on the same trip. I’d never taken a bike on the channel tunnel before, so it was a bit odd riding along the inside of a train, and parking up. 35 minutes later, we rode off the train and began to follow one of the party’s satnav that he’d programmed with a cross-country, toll and motorway avoiding route. It certainly was a bit ‘agricultural’ in places, but the scenery of Northern France is very nice; rolling fields, chateaus, and poignantly for this month (Anniversary of the Somme), the fields were full of poppies in bloom. Notwithstanding some slight navigational issues, we arrived at our hotel by early evening after covering about 300 miles. The Tracer did well, kept up with the pack and was fairly comfortable (see later!).
Day 2 was the track day – another picturesque ride through the countryside to the circuit, covering about 20 miles, but passing through some great twistys and riding through medieval castle walls. We had the track to ourselves; the company (Rapid Training) had hired the circuit for the day. 4 of their instructors were in attendance, and they were running an ‘open pit’. That is, after a few familiarisation laps with the instructors to get the lines, you could come and go as much as you liked. If you wanted instruction, you simply asked one of the team to take you round.
I didn’t feel as nervous as I thought the first time on the track, but I certainly was a lot more cautious than most during the morning. A few tips from the instructors, and my lean angles, speed in and out of corners, and my confidence all increased, and I started to put in some decent looking laps (for a novice!). The day wasn’t without issue; one rider low-sided his MT-07, luckily it was mainly cosmetic damage and I managed to leave the track on 2 occasions. The Tracer definitely helped me keep it upright as I bumped along the grass – I’m putting it down to my balance, big footpegs and the higher centre of gravity.
We returned to the hotel to brag about our exploits, reward ourselves with a few beers and have a final group meal together.
Day three was the inescapable long slog back home. I made the decision just to get it over with, and took the most direct (and dull) route back to Calais via the motorways. I started to get quite uncomfortable on this ride, with throttle side numb-thumb, the hard Tracer seat starting to make itself known, and a bit of pain in the back / shoulders from 3 days in the saddle. Another on and off the train, quick trip around the M25 and I was back home in time for dinner with the family!
As a footnote, this ride has both made me a lot more confident in the bike, but also brought up a lot of its shortcomings with regard to long distance touring. I will address these over the coming months, looking at the suspension and handlebar setup, but I couldn’t fault it on the track. Other riders commented on its acceleration and handling. What is surprising is that I did all this on the stock Dunlop D222s, which I’ve not had any issues with in the wet or dry. Perhaps I’ve just never owned a good set of tyres before, so I don’t know what I’m missing!
Thanks for reading – if you made it this far!  Here's a video of the trip: a lap of the circuit, a ride through a walled town, a few twisty roads, and the channel tunnel trip, all interspersed with me crossing the finish line of the track at various points in the day.
[video src=https://youtu.be/5V9eOIfJgnU]
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