When I first started riding big bikes, I was so stoked to finally have all of the power I wanted. However, with great power, comes great responsibility…courtesy of Uncle Ben from Spiderman. Sometimes, we can get ahead of ourselves on a rougher track and the braking bumps fight back. Most of the time, the chop and speed result in head shake. This uncontrollable shaking can be thwarted with a few adjustments.
One of the most common reasons for head shake is fatigue. When you are fatigued, your form goes out the window and it gets worse as the moto progresses. Your elbows drop and you cannot get enough leverage to keep the bars straight. As you get more and more head shake, you begin to grip harder with your hands and the forearms pump up to bricks. Sound about right? When your upper body feels like rubber, the need to grip with your legs becomes even greater. Again, the quadriceps and hamstrings are a much larger muscle group that can support greater loads of stress for longer periods of times. Start the moto out with a conscience effort of using your legs more than your arms and you will be better off.
Another problem is RPM range. The relationship between the motor and suspension is pretty crazy when you really think about it. When you hear pros run through whoops and moguls, they are running a higher gear. The RPMs are lower and take some of the load off of the forks and shock. They travel smoother and won’t bind, which gives you that bouncing effect through the rough stuff. If you shift down AFTER the braking bumps, you allow your suspension to ride with you, instead of against you. The forks will travel through the entire stroke and do their job; soak up the terrain.
Weight distribution is also important. Maintaining your attack position through the rough chop will help keep your elbows up and in good form. This attack position will place your weight evenly over the bike, allowing you to make changes if need be. As I have said before, riding on the balls of your feet will give you some extra “suspension” and forces you to grip the bike with your legs.
By throwing good form and the right gear together, head shake will be a thing of the past. Of course, making sure your sag is set on the shock and your clickers are dialed is important, but the rider can make a big difference. As always, remember the basics and keep it fun.