Cadwell Park is a track which probably needs no introduction to anyone who rides on track in the UK, but just in case there are a few amongst us who haven’t yet been to the Mini Nurburgring, read on!
My Cadwell experience
I’ve ridden round Cadwell about 4 times. I’m by no means a super-fast rider, I don’t race, I don’t have a trackbike, and I certainly don’t claim to be an expert. I ride a standard 2006 CBR1000RR with 30,000 miles and, shamefully, I’ve never even had the suspension serviced. That’s all changing though and I have some TLC planned for it in the near future!
I don’t have a lap timer but last time I was there, I did a session with an instructor who did have one and said I was lapping in around 1:48. To put this into context, this is a reasonable time for the fast group on trackdays but is still 6 seconds slower than the CB500 lap record! As I need to be able to ride my bike all the way home, I don’t push to the limit on track because if I stack it and can’t ride home, I’m screwed and stranded 200 miles away.
Last time I was there, I did reach the point where I felt like I was pushing the limits of my suspension so I will be getting it serviced and upgrading my brakes before my next trackday. I was also sliding my Supercorsas coming out of a few bends so I think better suspension will help with corner exit grip.
I will be adding some footage of a lap to this article some point soon but my video editing software is playing up at the moment so please bear with me.
Brief circuit history
Located near Louth in the Lincolnshire Wolds, Cadwell Park was established in 1934 on a country estate for the sons of the owner (Mansfield Wilkinson) to race their motorbikes around. The sons were Chris and Charlie, after whom some of the bends are named.
Originally just a short gravel circuit, it was tarmacked, widened and lengthened over the years from the original 3/4 mile circuit to the current 2.25 mile lap which was completed in 1962.
Cadwell is mainly a bike circuit as it’s still very narrow, despite the widening, so cars no longer race there (barring a few club meets). Due to the steep gradients of the hills the circuit is on, there are a number of very dramatic elevation changes round the circuit, making for an exciting roller-coaster of a circuit.
I ride my road bike on track as I don’t have a dedicated trackbike yet (or a van), and as I live in Surrey, my journey to Cadwell involves a fairly long ride. I could save some time by going most of the way up the A1, but who wants to do that on a bike? I typically hop on the M1 for an hour until Northampton, then come off and go cross-country from there. This means I get to ride the fantastic B6047 (thank me later if you haven’t already ridden it!) from Market Harborough to Melton Mowbray just after stopping at the halfway point for a pitstop.
Conveniently, a full tank gets me to a roundabout with a big petrol station & a McDonalds on it just before the B6047 starts, and then it’s pretty much another full tank from there to Cadwell. I also always stop off at Chris Walker’s Kawasaki dealership on the main road into Grantham to have a look around. buy some Fox socks and badger him to let me have a go on his H2R (no luck so far…).
Facilities – what’s there?
Ok, so this is where Cadwell doesn’t really shine…
There are no garages. There is no electricity. There are no covered areas for you to set up your gear, shelter from the rain, or any of that.
So, if you’re heading to Cadwell and you run tyre warmers, take a generator. Oh and it may well rain, so you might want some sort of shelter like the below easy-up tent from 24MX (although keep an eye out online as they often discount these down to under £100).
However, there is a decent canteen and plenty of loos with outdoor showers, as well as plenty of field space for camping. It used to be free to camp the night before but I think you may now have to pay £5 if there’s someone on the gate (don’t quote me!).
Booking your trackday
Cadwell Park is an MSV track and therefore there are a number of trackday organisers (TDOs) offering days here. I always book with No Limits Trackdays as I’ve booked with them for years and have always had a great experience. Their days are well-organised and the staff are both friendly and helpful.
They have a number of instructors on hand who will spend a session or more with you, showing you the correct lines and helping you become a faster and safer rider. All instructors are very experienced ex-racers so will definitely be able to offer some useful advice.
Where to stay
If you aren’t camping, there are a number of places to stay nearby.
The last couple of times I’ve been there, I’ve stayed at Hideaway Cottage which is a lovely B&B about a mile or so round the corner. It’s comfy, clean, the owners (Pat & Dave) are lovely & bike-friendly, the breakfast is fantastic and there’s a whole lounge with tv for you to relax in as well as your own kitchen which is separate from the owners’ section.
I’ve also heard really good reviews about The Paddock in Scamblesby, but I haven’t stayed there myself so can’t offer a personal recommendation.
A lap of Cadwell
I must point out that I am not a riding coach, nor am I an ex-national champion racer, so I’m not going to write a circuit guide aimed at helping you get round faster. I’ve summarised a lap below and have included links to some other useful resources at the bottom of the article.
Cadwell Park has loads of elevation changes and exciting corners so a number of sections stand out. For me, the best parts are Coppice, the Gooseneck, the Mountain, and Hall Bends.
Start/finish straight & Coppice (first corner)
One of only two proper straights on the track, the start/finish straight is a flat-out sprint to the first bend, a left-hander which is my favourite park of Cadwell.
It’s one of those corners where, every time I take it, I know I can go a bit faster… and a bit faster… and a bit faster. I’ve seen quite a few people go straight on here across the grass and I’m sure one day I’ll push it too much and it’ll bite me on the arse but so far, so good.
The temptation is to brake hard on the way in, but the more you ride it, the more you’ll realise that you don’t need to touch the brakes if you’re brave enough – you can just bang it down a gear & slam it on its side.
That said, I do still brake a bit about half the time as it was only the last time I was there that I started consciously trying not to brake at all. I’ll get over it & am sure I won’t touch the brake (aka “the pussy lever”) at all next time I’m there.
As you get more confident round here, it’s a great corner for riding round the outside of people who are taking it 15mph slower than you which is always very satisfying!
The next bend is a double apex right which you tip into going uphill after Coppice, clip the first apex, drift out to the outside of the track as it slopes downhill and then it’s a blind entry to the second apex. This section is tricky to get right; again, no brakes are necessary as the uphill section helps you scrub off a little speed, and I always find myself going a bit too slow in the middle of the corner so need to work on that.
Park Straight and Park
Next is the second straight. After the second apex of Charlies, you reach the bottom of a dip and then there’s a bit of a left kink as you power up the hill, level out at the top and then brake hard down to second and tip in to a 90° right.
Chris Curve & the Gooseneck
The next section is a very long, sweeping right hand bend which you accelerate the whole way through, changing up a gear halfway round. At the end of the curve is a chicane-like section where you drop it down a gear and tighten your line to move across from the outside of the track to the apex and then the track drops away from you steeply as you immediately flick it left round the Gooseneck and down the hill.
Mansfield & the Bus-stop
Accelerating out of the Gooseneck, the next section is a very steep downhill straight followed by a hard braking zone and a 90° left. It’s hard to describe how steep this section is – it’s probably the steepest entry to any corner I’ve ridden, ever. Because it’s so steep and you’re braking so hard, your suspension is fully compressed when you tip in, and it’s off-camber too. Consequently, Mansfield is popular with people going straight on as there’s an access road that goes straight which is easy to fixate on if you miss your braking marker.
This is followed by a straight that has been cut in half and a bus-stop added to reduce the speeds going in to the next left-hander which leads into the Mountain section. This chicane is really slow – I’m in 1st gear here but I’m on a road bike with totally standard gearing. Ideally, you’d lower the gearing for Cadwell and therefore be in 2nd round here.
The Mountain section
After the chicane, you accelerate hard towards another 90° left which is slightly uphill then immediately followed by the 90° right and the ridiculously steep Mountain. For anyone riding at a reasonable pace, the Mountain will see you wheelie as you crest it. It actually has two crests, so depending on your line, there is often a double wheelie. This is obviously a very popular place for spectators and for photographers – everyone has a Mountain wheelie photo, right?!
The holy grail of riding the Mountain is to jump it, getting both wheels off the ground. Josh Brooks is probably the most famous jumper with his motocross background and it’s not uncommon to see him with both wheels 3ft off the ground (see video clip at the bottom of this article).
The last time I went to Cadwell, I managed to get air once. I remember being completely surprised that my revs shot up while going over the Mountain, and was absilyutely delighted when I realised I’d taken off. That was in the penultimate session of the day and I was not able to do it again, no matter how hard I tried! And of course, the photographer was at Park at the time, so there’s no evidence of it. I know, I know… pics or it didn’t happen! Watch this space…
After the Mountain section is a very short straight past the track entrance and club house before Hall Bends. This is another of my favourite parts of the track. It’s a very flowing section of four bends, right-left-right-left, with an uphill section over the second right and is really satisfying to string them all together well. The last left is little more than a kink and is taken while still hanging off to the right because of the short distance to the Old Hairpin.
The Old Hairpin & Barn
The Old Hairpin is a 90° right with a raised curb at the apex which is easy to catch a footpeg on. Then there’s a short downhill straight before Barn, another 90° downhill right which opens up onto the start/finish straight. I usually use this part of the track to pop my visor up and get some extra air in for a few seconds if I’m particularly hot, and then lower it again as I accelerate out of Barn.
Then it’s across the line and another test of bravery at Coppice before you repeat the whole thing again. And again and again and again!
Cadwell is a really narrow and technical track to get right which can make it a little daunting for riders with little track experience or who have only ridden somewhere like Silverstone, which feels as wide as the Pacific Ocean in comparison. That said, it’s one of the best tracks in the UK so it a must for any rider!
Because it’s narrow and twisty, it can be hard to overtake on certain sections – for instance, if you’re behind someone who is only slightly slower than you, it’s easy to get stuck behind them all the way from Mansfields to Barn, which is almost half a lap. This does mean that you often see some pretty hairy overtakes at Cadwell from people who aren’t prepared to wait for a suitable overtaking place.
You don’t need to touch the brakes at all from Barn to the end of Park Straight, although it can be very tempting to use them going into Coppice. And it’s horrible when you’re on a hot lap and the bike in front of you brakes in between the two apexes of Charlies!
On-board circuit guides
For one-to-one training and on-board circuit guide videos, contact Mike “Spike” Edwards. Mike is a 6-time British Champion and has been racing competitively for 35 years.
Notso-Fast rider coaching
Gary Walton also offers one-to-one coaching. Gary was the California Superbike School’s Coach of the Year and 2012. He went on to coach a rider to a national championship in the BSB series and clients include Karel Abraham in World Superbikes.
Niall Mackenzie’s circuit guide
For a detailed circuit guide, the link below is to an article in Visor Down by Niall Mackenzie.