You’ve put in the devotion between the handlebars and moved through the ranks. As an experienced dirt bike rider, the skills on the bike have developed from beginner to advanced. Through the spills, crashes, and mistakes, the natural progression for every motocross rider is to become efficient on their dirt bike. Efficiency is obtained by riding faster and being prepared for any obstacle. Including confidence in motocross shows in the difference between first and second place on the podium. You’ve already got the skills to be a winner, so where do you go from here? Here are five motocross riding tips for advanced riders to keep you at the top of your ride.
I know you won’t want to hear it but you have to get off your dirt bike and into the gym. Yes, the gym. The place that all other people go to stand around living heavy stuff and putting it back down to the floor, over and over. But you don’t go to the gym! That is why you ride dirt bikes right? Because that is your sport, you don’t insanely pick up stuff and drop it on the floor. Well to advance your motocross riding ability, you are going to have to do something on top of your rides.
Physiologically the human body is adaptive to any physical activity. That is how it survives and conserves its energy supplies in order to complete a duty that is confronted. If you are asking your body to perform the same duty repeatedly, it is going to be able to figure out how to breathe, move, and conserve energy more efficiently. This is the same philosophy behind “muscle memory”, the brain consolidates the motor skills actions required for a specific task in order to perform flawlessly based on your repetitive practice. For example, riding a bicycle or catching a baseball becomes second nature; you don’t have to think about it.
Putting in lap after lap on the motocross track is going to help dramatically in your cardio game but your body is still going to adapt. Try to time your cardio as well instead of aimlessly riding. Set goals of say two, seventeen-minute motos and build up from that.
By getting yourself into the gym and combining a series of anaerobic exercise, weight training, you are allowing your body to learn how to handle the extra weight and become more efficient on the dirt bike. Increasing muscle mass will let you handle a heavy dirt bike more easily so that you can manipulate it over obstacles, jumps, and whatever else is thrown at you.
Think of off-track motocross training like any other athlete. Football players don’t just play football, they’re in the gym lifting for size and out on the field sprinting for speed. Setting a schedule of which days of the week you ride and the others you perform a gym workout also helps in giving your body a break, eliminating the risk of injuries. By combining both types of exercise, you are now a motocross athlete instead of just a motocross rider. Functional dirt bike rider is one who puts in the work on and off the track.
2.Drills, Drills, Drills
Once you are getting back out on the track and onto your dirt bike’s seat, another skill development asset is riding drills. This is purpose-driven training that is geared towards perfecting a task such as exiting a corner or working on your jump at the start gate.
As mentioned before, muscle memory is going to teach your brain how to react to a situation without having to really think about it. Each drill works on a specific skill set like braking or throttle execution. Get ready to sweat, here are some favorite drills of mine as I improved my riding abilities.
The Figure 8 Drill
Every dirt bike rider has a direction they prefer to turn but this drill forces you to intertwine your good side to your bad side. You’ve watched many dirt bike races and seen where races are won or lost in the corners.
Set up two cones about 20 feet apart from each other on flat ground. The rider is going to accelerate towards the first cone and turn on the outside of the cone without using the brake. Then as they exit the turn they are going to charge towards the other on the opposing side and turn on the cone’s outside, forcing them to turn the dirt bike on the conflicting side of which they just came from.
This makes a figure eight between the cones and the rider cannot touch the front or back brake throughout the drill. They can, of course, pull in the clutch to slow the dirt bike through each turn but the drill helps develop faster turning without doubting themselves especially when the rider is turning on their bad side. A rut will begin to develop so this drill becomes quite fun and challenging!
Stand Up Drill
Through all the laps burned out on the track, many riders struggle with the ability to stay standing up on the footpegs through less-than-favorable conditions. Practice your skills of staying upright between the bars by riding your practice track through its entirety without sitting down.
The rider will need to be conscious of their body positioning when atop the pegs. Elbows need to be pushed out at an angle that is open more than 90-degrees and rider’s hips need to be tucked, rolled forward with a straight line forming from the top of the shoulder blades down to the hips. Do not stick your butt out! Proper posture will put you into “attack” mode ready for any obstacle with the ability to manipulate the dirt bike under you. Remember to try to keep your center of gravity all in line with the motor beneath.
Now ride the course you have designated and never sit down, riding lap after lap.
Practice grabbing the front brake, clutch, and shifting while you are standing up. Being able to complete acceleration and braking is imperative to advanced motocross talent. The proper “attack” stance will require balance but is imperative when allowing the dirt bike to take most of the abuse. Standing up on the bike over obstacles is the next step in skill development but will require intermediate balance capability
This is going to be a challenging motocross skill to master but it will substantially make you a better rider. Completing the stand-up drill forces a dirt bike rider to become comfortable on top of his or her own dirt bike. Watch any professional motocross race and you will almost never see the riders sit down on the bike.
3. Record Your Ride
Thanks to the modern capability of being able to record on any device from a GoPro to a simple iPhone, dirt bike riders can watch their rides from a new perspective. I highly, highly recommend doing so! From the personal perspective atop the dirt bike, we tend to think we are executing a skill correctly when we may be just shy of going faster or braking sooner. Think of video recordings as constructive criticism.
For those moto riders who train with a coach, visualizing the mark we need to hit can be difficult. Videotaping a rider allows the shot to be slowed down or paused in order to show the skill we are trying to fix. Film your jumps, corners, and whoop passes in order to see your hard work. It can be very rewarding to see how much your rides have progressed by comparing films from your previous rides as well.
What sets apart the weekend moto warrior to the advanced motocross rider is the consistency in time atop the dirt bike. Every rider enters into this sport with a different objective but seat time is going to set apart the enthusiasts from the racers.
Staying consistent in training while designating ride times, workouts, and rest is going to imperative when developing advanced motocross riding abilities. Start making a calendar strictly for your training and physically write in the time slots that you are going to devote to each task. Writing it down helps you stay accountable for your development along with the feeling of pride when you get to check it off the list.
Another advantage to staying consistent in your moto training is that it gives you the opportunity to ride in different weather conditions. Rain, heat, humidity, and wind; if you just rode on days that were “perfect” than you would never get used to the unpredictability of changing track conditions. Being able to ride in any weather will advance your skills ten-fold and eliminates the extra jitters on race day. Pouring rain? You got this!
5. Brake, Shift, Gas
Learning to use all three features of your dirt bike to your advantage! Acceleration and braking can be manipulated easily by using the brakes, throttle, and clutch but you need to put in the time to experiment on how the dirt bike is going to react when using them. There are many drills that can develop your comfort with all three.
Front and Back Brake Drill
Most braking is performed by squeezing the front brake lever but you need to understand its limitations especially when your body can be in different positions on the bike. Set up a cone directly in front of you in a straight line, accelerate your dirt bike and pull the brake in under standing and sitting conditions with your body either set back, forward, or directly on top of the bike. Come to a complete stop each time as you begin to feel where the brake will utilize the most lever to engage the brake. Over and over, complete this drill with the different position and speed scenarios.
The back-brake drill is set up in a straight line like the first drill. Modify your speed and body position as you press the back brake just shy of allowing the rear tire lock up and skid out from under you. Charge towards the cone and use just the back brake first before the front before you feel the end sliding out. Standing and sitting, you will become more comfortable and don’t get discouraged. This is the more difficult task for many motocross riders but getting familiar with the rear brake will show you that it can be utilized to steer your dirt bike, rather just aiding in stops.
Clutch Control Drill
As a previous beginner dirt bike rider, you already understand how to go through the gears on your moto. But did you know that you don’t necessarily have to bring in the clutch every time you want to up or downshift? A clutch facilitates the power connecting between the motor and the rear tires. You need to ease in the connection when the motor and wheel speed are not spinning at similar speeds. When your bike is in the middle of a charge, the RPMs are comparable to the wheel spins so the connection does not necessarily need the catalyst; the clutch.
During movement, you can downshift the dirt bike by just barely, if not at all, pulling in the clutch. When upshiftig, I recommend to use clutch, because this helps to get the gears in easier. This is going to help significantly in speeding up your reaction time between shifts as you approach obstacles or need to accelerate. In order to practice, simply ride without pulling in the clutch when shifting as long as you are moving at a decent speed. You will still need to pull in the clutch when your RPMs are slow, this is not going to work necessarily if you need to slow down significantly and will cause the motor to stall.
Power Sliding Drill
Use the rear braking skills you’ve mastered from the other drill and get ready to use it in the corners. By standing up and sitting down, get your weight forward on the dirt bike so that the rear brake has less mass above it. Charge into a corner and turn with your weight while pushing the rear brake just before a slide out. Perform the same corner but remember to switch to your less favored side so to be able to push the back brake as you turn the opposite way. Then the key factor is accelerating. You should be sliding with the rear brake just a bit and then add throttle to be smoothly out of the corner.