Feb 07 2012

Mastering Starts

Listen to any pro’s interview and they will always say they need to work on start.  The start is one of the single most important aspects of winning.  If you can holeshot, you just saved yourself a lot of tear offs.  Shawn Simpson (European GP MX2 racer) has once said that “Getting the holeshot is 50% of any race.  If you don’t get away with the top three, you have lost 15 seconds or so by the end of the first lap, not to mention getting filled with roost and having to pass a lot of other crazy fast riders.”

So, what is a solid way to get good starts?  First of all, you have to see yourself getting the holeshot.  Like I said in my visualization article, see yourself getting the start from your perspective, then through the eyes of a spectator.  If you can conquer this mental monster, you have beat half of the guys on the line who doubt their abilities.  Now, don’t get cocky; just know you have as good a chance of coming out first as any other rider on the gate.

Most of the gates now are dirt; even the Supercross and National races are all natural.  For me, I always had an easier time with dirt because I could “feel” my rear wheel spinning.  I have had the best results with gates that have the straightest rut outside of the gate.  When you come off the line, you don’t want to follow a sideways rut from a 450 Beginner.  You will lose forward drive and momentum.  So, if you are allowed, try and get a peek before your class lines up.  Be warned however, that the shortest distance to the first turn is not always the fastest line.  You have to take into consideration of getting cut off or pushed out.  That is why you want to look for the straightest line.

Once my gate is picked out, you have two choices for prep.  You can either put some more dirt back into the rut and pack that down or you can clear the loose dirt out of the rut and pack it down.  Both have drawbacks.  If you put dirt in the rut, you run the risk of not packing it hard enough and your rear wheel will just spin.  However, if you choose to clear it out and pack it, your rut will be deeper and you have a greater chance of wheeling out of the gate; this forces you to slip the clutch and loose drive.  Each gate and every soil is different.  Experimenting with different scenarios would be a smart thing to do each time you ride.

Now that you are set up on your gate, start to go over the visualization again.  Get into that “zone”.  For dirt starts, a solid spot on the seat is that “dip”.  Maybe a little bit further up depending on your weight.  You want your weight shifted forward, but not too much because you will spin the rear wheel if you are too far forward.  When that 30 second board goes sideways, it’s time to get those RPMs up.  When looking at the gate, some people say to look at the pin holding the gate up, others look at the actual gate itself.  However, it is up to you.

As for throttle amount, I like a little more than half throttle at the gate.  That way I can still get on the gas harder (if need be) or if I mess up, I can still let off a bit.  A good way to tell if you have the clutch out enough is when your chain tightens up.  This is the point where the clutch is almost un-engaged and all you have to do is GENTLY let it out.  When you let the clutch out, don’t dump it and stab the throttle.  You want everything to be in motion, smooth motion.

For 250f’s, you can get away with 2nd gear.  For the bigger bikes, it is personal preference.  Once you are out of the gate, you want to keep both feet down (start with both feet down on the gate, placing all your weight on the seat) throughout the gear you started in.  If I started in second, I want to keep both feet down until I have to shift up.  When I need to shift up, I bring both feet up.  Shifting with your heel is spotty at best.  Try to get it normally.

It’s a lot to take in, but this is a broken down process.  Try it a few times and it will get easier.