race, we change our style. Being smooth and consistent
with the throttle through corners doesn’t make for good
photos, but it keeps the rear end tracking with the front.
Lines. The shortest route is the fastest
route—if you are going to point B. But moto-
cross isn’t about going from point A to point
B; it’s about going from A to B to C to D and
back to A again. The only time to maximize your A-to-B
speed over your A-to-C speed is when going up the inside
to make a pass. If you are chasing, use the fastest line
around the track, not just the fastest line to the next turn.
Rear brake. When you set up for a corner
and begin to sit down, make it a habit to get
off your rear brake. This will ensure that you
get all your braking done early. Yes, other
riders might catch up to you coming into the corner, but
you will pull away from them through the exit as you will
carry more speed. The rear brake is hard to use when
sitting down through braking bumps—and often a bump
will cause a rider to stomp on the pedal instead of just
pressing it. Being off the rear brake through the corners
will aid in keeping the bike on the intended line.
Extra gear. Too many riders downshift
for corners that could be negotiated in a
taller gear. If you can do a second-gear
corner in third, you will be much faster
up the next straight than if you downshift and then shift
back up to third. At first you may feel compelled to use
the clutch to keep the rpm up, but with practice you
will find that many second-gear corners are really third-
gear corners. ❏
Momentum. The amount of momentum
you carry around a track determines just
how good a rider you are. The difference
between you and an AMA Pro is not top
speed but overall speed. If you watch closely, you will be
surprised by just how little Pro riders use their brakes.
They don’t want to hinder their momentum.
MotoGP. MotoGP road racers are the kings
of momentum. They use every square inch
of the course. From the outside to the
inside and from the inside to outside, they
maximize their traction and power capacity to sling
themselves around the track. MotoGP riders plan ahead.
They know where they are going before the race even
starts. In turn one, they put themselves in the best position to make the most of turn two. They don’t just blast
around the course and make it up as they go. They
think it through.
Slow down. We know that “slow down”
is not what you want to hear. It is hard for
any of us to swallow our pride and slow
the pace down, but it’s often better to be
patient than foolhardy. It might be true that if you brake
late and come up the inside you will be faster to the
turn, but if you went a little wider and set up to sweep
through the same turn, you might be 10 miles per hour
faster up the next straight. Slowing down allows you
to focus on the goal at hand. Tracks don’t have to have
“flow,” but good riders do.
No brakes. No brakes may sound like a
recipe for disaster, but brakes are enemies
of momentum. Think about it. There is
no difference in the speed that a Vet
Intermediate and Ryan Villopoto can generate down a
long straight. They can both go wide open. So, where
does Ryan pull away. He doesn’t brake as much for the
corner. He rolls the throttle on sooner on the exit. He
brakes less, and thus he slows down less. You can
easily practice not using the brakes by taking baby
steps. Then, as you find places to use the brakes less,
you can start to speed up the pace. Progress slowly.
Displacement. Many people tend to like
the bigger-displacement bikes for one simple
reason: the power is there when you need it.
This tends to make them lazy riders. If you
have access to a two-stroke or smaller-displacement four-
stroke to practice on, you will see that your race pace on
your 450 is more like trail riding than racing. If you have
a chance to ride a 125 two-stroke, take it, because that is
the ultimate momentum bike. A couple laps on a 125 will
make you a better 450 rider.
Traction. In most cases, any time the front
or rear end of the bike breaks loose, you
lose momentum. Losing traction can be
caused by lack of throttle control, aggressive
braking, incorrect body position or the wrong tires for
the terrain. You have to make the rubber stick to the
ground if you want to flow around corners at speed.
Throttle control. MXA test riders don’t
display good throttle control in their test
photos. The best photos come from dumping
the clutch, holding the throttle wide open
and moving as much earth as possible. But when we
YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
In many corners it’s more important to keep the speed you
have, rather than try to generate new speed.