Thanks to advances in technological development, the cost of lap timers has fallen in recent years, while the functions and features they offer have increased exponentially. Ten years ago you had to use an infrared beam on the pit wall and your lap timer had to break the timing beam. This was more accurate than having your friend standing next to you with a stopwatch to time your lap, but you wouldn't get any more data.
Five years ago, although GPS-enabled, you had to plug your lap timer into your laptop and use specialist software to download and interpret spreadsheet-based data.
Today, the best motorbike lap timersare truly plug and play. They locate the track you are on and you can transfer the data wirelessly to your laptop and display it visually, showing your split times, ideal lap times and even your position on the track.
Around ten companies produce motorbike speedometers, from specialist companies such as 2D and Marelli, who service the WorldSBK and MotoGP paddocks, to off-the-shelf suppliers such as Starlane, AlM.GET. Racelogic, I2M and Speedangle.
As you'll see in this guide, technology is improving rapidly and there are some great lap timers on the market.
If you're not ready to shell out £250+ for a lap timer then don't worry, you can still keep track of your lap times, but you'll need a smartphone.
Some people don't want to carry their smartphone on their bike (either in their leathers or mounted on their bike) because they're not prepared to drop their smartphone while chasing a glorious lap.
The whole point of a chronograph is to get an accurate and easy to read idea of whether you're on a good lap or not, I just don't think a smartphone has any benefit in that regard.
Lap timers aren't just for posing and bragging rights.
When it comes to racing, lap timers are vital, especially in qualifying. When I was competing. I realised that there was no point in taking risks in the last zone when you know that the first two zones are slow. Again, you don't need to go out and run lap after lap and hope that one of the zones is good enough. A lap timer can help you focus on getting better qualifications in fewer laps.
When it comes to the course, lap timers provide useful data to see if any adjustments you make to your bike or ride are having an impact on your lap times, and the visual feedback provided by the lap timer during the course can help you know when to push and if the line you're using is helping to reduce lap times.
While timers may not improve your riding technique, they may help you to improve your lap times.