Once upon a time people riding motorbikes fast kept their knees tucked in, their wheels in line and their bodies pretty much straight. many of the also wore cork helmets (if any helmets at all) and had names like Geoff Duke and John Surtees. Then a Finnish fellow called Jarno Saarinen started making waves my hanging off his bike. By the time I started racing in the early eighties there were a good number of people hanging off their bikes, but it was by no means the given that it is today, and the idea of purpose built knee sliders was a long, long way away. For a while we used crushed Coke tins and gaffer tape, but that wasn't especially popular with other riders because after a while the tape wore through and the flattened tin went flying... Some of us used the soles of old football boots - the studs were cast in and the tape didn't drag on the track so badly - while others either accepted that their leathers would get worn through or just made pads of gaffer tape.
Fast forward a few years, and someone, somewhere (and I confess I don't know who or where) started making proper sliders, actually meant for the job. Initially they were leather because that's what most folk were dragging on the track anyway, but it wasn't long before plastic became the favoured material. Then, for a while, we also got titanium inserts which gave lovely fat sparks when they went down but also were incredibly distracting to anyone riding behind and so got banned in fairly short order, at least on the track.
Today there are more different types of slider than I ever imagined could be possible. Hard plastic, soft plastic, leather, self coloured, painted, custom designed...you name it, you can probably find it to attach to your leathers and drag on the ground. Of course, all the main leathers manufacturers make their own sliders to ship with their own leathers, but there's also a thriving industry making sliders and similar such paraphernalia in their own right. Right at the forefront of companies in this surprisingly niche market is Wiz, based in rural Somerset, here in the UK. In a world which is increasingly faceless and corporate, coming across a small, personal and yet staggeringly efficient company like Wiz is a real pleasure. Their slider range is, in essence, quite simple. They do the hardcore racer "Trackpux" - a plain, hardwearing and fairly thick slider aimed at the folk who actually need them, rather than just enjoy using them. Then there are leather sliders for the connoisseur and the regular Wiz Sliders for the rest of us.
Now I have a small problem with sliders. My track leathers are made by a company called Axo - nothing wrong with that per se as they are very good, very comfortable and, though I say so myself, rather stylish. When you have leathers meant to take sliders there is a patch of Velcro just below the knee to which the slider attaches. The hook part of the Velcro is on the slider, the fluffy part is on the leathers. Unless, of course, your leathers are made by Axo. Because for some bizarre reason, they put the hook part on the leathers, meaning that you have to buy sliders from them. At a premium price. OK, so maybe it's not such a bizarre thing after all. But it is bloody annoying.
Wiz are small enough that they can accommodate that sort of tomfoolery. At no extra cost. They can also make you slides to your own design, they can change the backings, basically do anything you want (within reason) to make your knee sliders exactly what you want. Which is impressive in itself.
But that would be no use whatsoever if the sliders were rubbish. I've used proper sliders which were obliterated after a single session on the track. I've used sliders with beautiful designs that turned out to be stickers that not only tore off as soon as they touched down but gripped and were quite unpleasant. I've used sliders that melted, sliders that broke off their backing...basically in the last thirty five years (crikey) I've had all sorts of rubbish experiences with knee sliders. And I've had some outstandingly good ones, too. The Wiz Sliders I currently have on both my trackday leathers and my road kit are, by far, the best I have ever used. Which is, of course, why I keep buying them when they wear out.
They do wear out, of course, eventually. But until then, they glide beautifully, they never, ever seem to snag or grip and they make a great noise too. The Velcro backing is solidly made and well attached. It's also big enough to really grip - changing them is a bit of a mission as they don't want to come off. The designs go all the way through and there aren't any hollows or cavities to catch you out halfway through a decent session. The set photographed here have done four days on sunny Spanish tracks and they're still good for more, and they weren't exactly being given an easy time.
So what's the point of this? Easy. When you need a new set of sliders, do yourself a favour and pop onto http://www.wizkneesliders.com