Aug 29 2011

Long Ruts on Straights

Nothing reminds me of motocross more than a rutted up, fast, flowing track.  This is the pinnacle obstacle that separates the men from the boys.  If you watched Southwick this past weekend, then you saw the insane ruts in the moist New England sand.  Most beginners find themselves nervous approaching long ruts and often end up on the ground.  It doesn’t matter if a rut is in a corner, on a straight or on the face of a jump, you will encounter one sooner or later.  Some look at this as a burden, but you can actually use these to your advantage.

A lot of people can go fast on a straightaway.  It’s pretty simple; open the throttle as far as possible.  That’s generally how ruts get formed on straights.  People actually use the power of their bikes and it trenches out the soil.  Obviously, the main line will get dug the deepest.  In the beginning of the day, this won’t be a bad choice to use.  It just depends on how it sets you up for the next section.  However, a majority of the time, the main line usually gets too deep and ends up slowing you down.

When the whole straight gets rutted out, things start to get a little tricky.  The middle of the track is going to have deeper ruts than the edges of the track.  So, by taking the edges of the track, you can avoid the choppy mess made by the slower riders and you can save your energy for more important times in the moto.

As with any rut, approaching it with both wheels in line is very important.  You want to keep both wheels in the rut, preventing you from getting cross rutted.  You also maintain your momentum and forward drive, as well.  Once, you have both wheels lined up, keeping your head up and vision ahead is very important.  Staring at the ground right in front of you will only send you one place, the dirt.  That is not where you want to be.  A good guide is to keep your vision a few bike lengths ahead of you.  The faster you go, the further you want to look.

Depending on how deep the ruts are, a good idea is to ride on the balls of your feet (and point your toes in, gripping the cases).  This prevents your feet from getting caught in the rut and ripping your leg off the peg.  As always, you want to be gripping the bike with your knees and applying steady, consistent throttle.  As you get to the end of the straight, there are more than likely going to be braking bumps.  This is where you want to start shifting your weight back slightly to keep you from going over the bars.

Like I said, if you can conquer ruts, you can conquer anything.  It is mind over matter and just keeping good form and looking ahead.  Stay loose and relax; you’ll get through them sooner than you think.

Aug 23 2011

The Scrub

Watching the pros, you can guarantee that every rider is going to scrub.  Even amateurs are perfecting the “Bubba Scrub.”  This is not just something they do for fun.  This is a technique that can help you stay lower in the air and get back on Mother Earth and on the gas.  If you see someone perform the scrub right, it looks effortless and so smooth.  It really is an art form as no 2 scrubs are alike.  For this reason, it is important to start things slow and on a single or something small; eventually working your way up to normal size jumps.

The first thing is to approach the face at a slight angle.  If you plan on leaning to the right, you want to angle yourself to be pointing slightly to the left.  This allows you to turn the bars and lean the bike without scrubbing off of the track.  As the front wheel comes off of the lip, you want to begin to turn the bars the same way you are leaning.  You don’t want to try and make this like a turn.  That will only throw the rear end out and you will still be upright, defeating the whole purpose of this.  Keep this in mind and just lean.  As I said before, this is a unique technique, so it you prefer to stand, stand up.  If you like to sit down, have a seat.

Once you feel you are off of the jump, you want to keep turning the bars down.  This gets the motion of the whip going.  You really want to try and pivot and squeeze with your legs.  This is not just a movement with your arms; you want to help the bike through the flow with your hips and legs.  As you approach the peak of your flight, you will start to feel a point where you need to bring it back.  I have not brought it back in time and I can tell you, it hurts.

You will feel the bike want to come back to its normal, upright position.  To get this process going, simply turn the bars back the other way.  Combine this with a little bit of gas (to get the rear wheel spinning) and the centripetal motion of the wheels will get you back to the right position.  Don’t forget that apply pressure on the foot pegs so you can help bring the bike back with your legs.

When you get the bike straight, be sure to get on the gas.  This will help you drive through any swaps or any problems you have with the scrub when you land.  Like I said, this is a one of kind technique.  You need to practice this and start small.  Jumps that are slower and have long faces will help you out a lot and when you feel comfortable enough, transition to faster, shorter jump faces.  Everything should be a fluid, smooth motion.  It will come faster than you think and you will be throwing scrubs like James himself.

Aug 18 2011

Joint Injury Series – The Shoulder

The last major joint I want to go over in this little series is the shoulder.  If you remember, Reed had major problems with shoulder issues.  Most notably, a shoulder separation.  Separating your shoulder is not something that should be taken lightly.  You won’t feel that way when you the pain almost blinds you….okay, that was a little intense, but it is pretty serious.  Just like the other 2 joints I covered, your shoulders take a lot of abuse, especially when you fall.  The deltoid, clavicle, humorous and ligaments/tendons all take a beating when your front end washes out, sending you to the ground on your shoulder.

The main part of the shoulder girdle is where the head of the humorous inserts into the scapula (shoulder blade).  The point at which these two bones meet is called the glenoid fossa (fossa refers a small indentation in a bone).  Thus, the joint is called glenohumoral.  From here, you start to get into the tendons and ligaments.  What’s the difference between a tendon and ligament?  Tendons connect bone to muscle and ligaments connect bone to bone.  There are a number of rings that are composed of tough fibrous tissue and synovial membranes in this area similar to the knee.

Now that we have an idea of the main joint, we can look at the “roof” of the shoulder, which involves the clavicle.  The clavicle (collar) bone is considered to be part of the shoulder girdle and is one of the most common injuries.  Because runs across the body, it is open and easily accessible to forces.  The clavicle connects to the scapula at a point known as the coracoid process.  Ligaments attached to the coracoid process, the clavicle and acromion (another part of the scapula that helps form the “roof”) form a web of connective tissue that holds everything in place for the “roof”.  When you separate your shoulder, this web is ruptured.

Looking more closely at a separated shoulder, the ligaments that form this “roof” are stretched when the clavicle come apart from the web.  Like the other joints, the mild to severe categories are called Grades for the shoulder.  Grade 1 separation includes the tearing of the acromioclavicular ligament, Grade 2 is rupture of the acromioclavicular ligament plus strains of the coracoacromial and coracoclavicular ligaments; Grade 3 is a rupture of the acromioclavicular and coracoclavicular ligaments plus strain of the coracoacromial ligament.

In addition to the separated shoulder, you can also have rotor cuff injuries.  The rotor cuff is comprised of the teres minor, infraspinatus, supraspinatus, and subscapularis muscles.  These all are attached to the scapula and extend to the humorous.  These muscles help give you all of the controlled motion of the shoulder, plus they help stabilize it as well.  Most of the time, when you tear the rotor cuff, it is the supraspinatus.  Usually, you can tell if something is injured in the area when you lift your arm out directly to the side.  Depending on the severity, rest is the best answer.  However, surgery may be necessary if there is a rupture.

As I have stated before, strength training helps the tendon and ligaments get stronger.  Not only that, but the muscles in the shoulder girdle become stronger and help provide you with a greater source of protection.  If injured, apply the RICE method until certified medical help arrives.

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Aug 17 2011

Joint Injury Series – The Ankle

So, yesterday I covered common knee injuries and the basics structure.  Today I wanted to cover the ankle.  This is another place to injuries to occur because of dabbing your foot or casing a jump.  Not only does the ankle have to be incredibly strong to withstand the forces applied to it, but it much must able to be flexible enough to absorb the forces when changing direction.  It can also be divided into 2 “joints”.  The ankle joint allows you to move your foot up and down, while the subtalar joint allows movement from side to side (i.e. letting you walk on the side on your foot).

The ligaments that hold your tibia, fibula, calcaneous (the heel), and foot together are a little more complicated than the knee.  The lateral (outside) portion of the ankle has about four ligaments attached to the bones.  On the medial (inside) and posterior (behind) portion of the ankle, there are another three ligaments.  Each one is named to the bone they are attached to and whether they are posterior or anterior.  So there is a little more to the ankle than most people think.

When someone says they have sprained their ankle, they are most likely talking about the anterior talofibular ligament, which is located on the front part of the foot, towards the lateral portion of the ankle.  Just like the knee, whenever the ankle is pushed too far past the normal degree of the ligaments, they are going to either get stretched, torn, or ruptured.  This is the same scenario for a major tendon, the Achilles Tendon.  Injuring this can be from having your feet too far back on the pegs and landing off of a jump.  This sends all of the downward force on your ankles and pulls the Achilles Tendon away from the insertion points.

The healing process should start as soon as possible.  To get this going, a great place to start is to use the RICE method; Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevate.  Depending on the severity of the accident and condition of the ligaments, putting the ankle in a brace for a couple of weeks is pretty normal.  After a few weeks, close supervision of movement helps the joints from getting too stiff.  Like the knee, any tearing of the ligaments or tendons takes a lot of time to heal.  Tomorrow I will go over the shoulder girdle.

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Aug 16 2011

Joint Injury Series – The Knee

Anterior (front) view of the knee.Pain is a part of every real sport and Motocross is not different. Broken bones, concussions and bruised egos are inevitable. Collar bone breaks are very common among riders, but another common injury is one to the joints. Your knees, shoulders and ankles take a heavy beating and over time, they could become weak and give out at the wrong time. Knowing what is happening and what to do is important to know so you can get on the bike faster.


Every part on the human body is important, but the knee is extremely critical in motocross. And it probably takes the most abuse. Your knee is a simple ball and socket joint with lateral (outside), medial (inside), anterior (front) and posterior (back) ligaments. Supporting your knee, you have a tough fibrous tissue called a meniscus, which can be lateral and medial to the ball of the femur (thigh bone).  Injuries to the knee can be graded as mild, moderate or severe depending on tears, partial tears, and the range of motion.

For mild injuries, a few days to a couple of weeks should be a good amount of time for recovery. Moderate ones take a few weeks to a few months and severe injuries take months or even year(s) to fully heal. When you injure your knee, you are tearing a ligament, breaking one of the bones or damaging a meniscus.

Take for instance, a force directed to the outside of the knee. The force is applied to the lateral ligaments, which are compressed. However, your medial ligaments are pulled away from the insertion points. This can result in sprains (mild), tears (moderate) or even ruptured (severe) ligaments. Your meniscuses are crushed and/or ripped apart. Another common motocross injuries results from hyperextension. This is where your knee is bent the wrong way, but far enough to injure the lateral and medial ligaments.

Now, I know this sounds pretty bad, but your knees are pretty resilient to most forces. Wearing knees braces helps tremendously with the prevention of almost every type of knee injury out there. With these types of injuries, they take a long time to heal; and once they do heal, odds are they probably won’t be the same again. Protection is crucial in avoiding the pains of tearing something and paying the bills. Tomorrow I will dive into the ankle and common injuries for that. I will also get you some info on healing these types of injuries. Stay tuned!

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Aug 08 2011

Starting Fresh

Loretta Lynn’s has come and gone once again.  A lot of the sweat, blood (hopefully not too much) and tears have poured into the preparation for this week long event.  So many hopeful families have put so much into this and look forward to winning the big show.  If you did well, then congratulation is in order.  If not, there is nothing to worry about.  There are so many things that can go wrong and so few things that can go right.  Now that Loretta’s is finished, it is now time to start looking ahead.  Dwelling on defeat will only lead to more lackluster results.

Confidence plays a huge role in racing.  When you keep thinking about the results you don’t want, your whole outlook changes.  Frustration sets in and sometimes you feel like you need to change your whole program up.  Look back at Ricky’s jump from the 125’s to the 250’s.  There was no doubt some frustration in the Carmichael camp, but they took something from each race and worked up from there.  They took each loss in stride and kept moving forward.

Once that confidence leaves you, doubt fills that void.  When this happens, you second guess your abilities as a rider and tend to over think your riding.  It is a terrible feeling to put everything you have in the gym and training only to come up short on your goals, but the only option is to keep looking ahead and improve.  Again, look at RC4.  He put his head down, trained his ass off and took down the King of Supercross.  Once he got his confidence back, he started riding like he knew he could.

If you didn’t make it to Loretta Lynn’s, don’t fret.  There is always next year.  Learning from your mistakes is certainly the hard way, but if you overcome those past mishaps, it will make you a stronger rider.  Like I said before, if you didn’t do well in your qualifiers, it happens to everyone and it is not the end of the world.  Concentrate on moving ahead with your program and look forward to next year.  As the saying goes, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”

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