the other rider’s tire tracks are in the rut. This will give
you an idea of where you are. Remember, the steeper the
angle, the more speed you’ll need.
( 8) Eyes forward and inward. Never look at your front wheel. Think of a rut as a slot-car track. Once your front wheel is in the rut, you are essentially on rails. Always look
ahead at the end of the rut and never look to the outside
of a rutted corner. Always look to where the rut is going,
not where you are now. You can’t do anything about
what’s happening 6 inches in front of you, so you need
to focus on where you’ll be when your reaction time kicks
in. If you watch the top riders, they have their eyes up
and focused on the future, not the past.
Weight it out. Placing pressure on the
outside peg when in a rut will keep the bike
planted. It will also help steer you to the exit
of the corner. The easiest way to get this skill
down is to place the ball of your foot on the footpeg. Turn
your toe inward and press your outside knee against the
gas tank. This will automatically place pressure on the
Trajectory. On the approach to a
rutted corner, the main line racers use
(known as the goat trail) usually ends
up being a straight shot to the rut. This
approach leads to over-braking and kills momentum.
Think of the superb corner speed of MotoGP road racers.
They don’t go straight from corner to corner. They arc
into a corner to make the turn less abrupt. Motocrossers
can do the same thing when sweeping into a deeply
rutted turn by moving slightly to the outside as they
approach the rut and then bending the bike towards the
inside. We aren’t talking about moving over 10 feet to
the side—just 1 or 2 feet can smooth out the entrance
of a rutted corner and enable you to carry more speed
through it. ❏
Momentum. How do AMA National riders
make long, deep, curving ruts look so easy?
It all starts with their commitment to carrying
momentum into a corner. Physics tells us that
the faster a rider is going, the more stable he will be. Think
of momentum as it applies to Wall of Death riders in those
sideshow iron cages. Momentum harnesses the gyroscopic
forces of both the wheels and engine. You can develop
more speed in rutted corners by practicing them instead of
avoiding them. Remember, commitment is key. The harder
you brake, the less stability you will have.
Don’t shift. A good practice technique to
master deep ruts is to forgo downshifting
into a rutted corner. This is a poor man’s trac-
tion-control system. Keeping your bike in a
taller gear makes the chassis calmer as it approaches the
corner by lessening decompression braking and sudden
weight shifts. It is important to remember to exit the corner
in a higher gear. The engine might want to bog down at
the apex, but even a slight increase in throttle input can
make the exit of the corner pain-free, fast and smooth.
What brakes? Whatever you do, don’t hit
the rear brake in a rut. This will not only kill
momentum, it will make the chassis stand up.
When the chassis stands up, it throws your
balance off. Your legs will get off kilter and your lead leg
will be pulled back in case you have to dab to keep from
falling over. To prevent this, do all your braking before you
sit down for the corner. When you transition from standing
up to sitting down, move your foot on the brake side of
the bike from the center of the footpeg rearward so that
the ball of your foot is on the footpegs. This will prevent
your foot from accidentally hitting the rear brake or getting
knocked off the peg by the sides of the rut. You need to
maintain contact with the bike.
Smooth. The more consistent your throttle
hand is, the smoother the bike will be in ruts.
Don’t get on and off the gas multiple times in
a rutted corner. Every time you hit the gas, the
bike will climb up the wall of the rut. And every time you
shut it off, the bike will fall down into the rut.
Lean with it. The best way to commit to a
rut is to not only lean your body but also your
head. This is a technique that Jeremy McGrath
perfected. Where your head goes, the body
and bike will follow. It goes without saying that standing
in a rut is better than sitting. If you can stand all the way
through a rutted corner, do so. If you can’t, at least try to
avoid sitting as long as possible.
Drag. A more advanced technique that is
very useful in ruts is front-brake drag. This
technique does two things. First, it prevents
use of the rear brake in a corner. Second, it
keeps your front wheel tacked to the ground like glue. It is
always a good idea to keep one finger over the front brake
lever to modulate pressure on the front wheel.
Ride the wave. Many deep ruts have a shape
similar to an ocean wave. The taller and steeper the rut is, the better it will hold a bike when
the correct speed is generated. The steeper the
angle of the sides, the faster a rider can go through the rut.
The best way to gauge lean angle is to check how high
ABOUT MASTERING DEEP RUTS