Starting things off right

Getting here is a lot easier if you get a good startEver read the results from a race and a guy that normally runs about 6th or 7th, finishes on the podium?  This is not a fluke and he found some extra speed in one week.  The reason is simple; he got a great start.  Most of the guys in the top ten of the Lites class are about the same speed, except for maybe Dungy and Pourcel.  When Tommy Hahn finished 2nd in the first moto of Washougal, that was not because he likes Washougal.  It’s because he had a great start and made the most of it.  Shawn Simpson, MX2 British Champion has said in a Risk Racing advertisement 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.”  If you have ever raced on a full gate of 40 guys, you know this is true. 

Most of the starting gates in the pro nationals are dirt.  This is probably easier to start off of, but the ruts in the gate can get very deep.  When picking a gate, I have always heard to pick toward the inside because it is the shortest distance.  However, this may be true, but it is always a good idea to get a gate with a nice and straight shot towards the first corner.  Sometimes, this maybe on the outside or it may be right next to the dog house, just walk behind the gate and get a look at the straight before the first turn.  Be sure that gate your pick has a somewhat straight rut coming out of the hole.  If you saw a guy swapping side to side in your gate choice, don’t pick it.  The curvy rut will only rob you of forward, consistent momentum.

Once, I have my gate, I like to get all of the loose dirt out and stomp the rut so it is compact.  Now, some prefer to put more in and then pack it; you have to practice and see what works for you.  Now that I have my gate prepped, it’s time to wait.  I have read from a lot of pros, that the start is pretty much a mental thing.  If you can see yourself getting the holeshot and committing yourself to being the first one out, you’ve won half the battle.      

When the 30 second card comes up, I do the popular revs to make sure my bike is warmed up.  I try to stay calm and keep my heart rate down.  On Lites bikes, start in second, but for bigger bikes try what works for you.  I have read first and second gear works.  When the card goes sideways, it’s a good idea to sit a just in front of that neutral spot on your bike.  This is because on dirt, you don’t want to sit too far forward, or your rear wheel will spin too much.  Sit too far near the fender and you’ll loop out.  Once you have a good spot on the seat, sit and put all of your weight on the seat, giving you more traction on the tires.  Place both feet down, as this provides equal balance on both sides. 

Just before the gate drops, remember to have your RPMs up (throttle should be twisted a little past half way) and your clutch JUST about to engage so your chain is tight.  When the gate drops, SMOOTHLY, release the clutch and give it some gas.  Put your head forward slightly to keep the front end getting to high up.  When you get a few bike lengths out of the gate, pull both feet up, if you aren’t squirrely, and as you pull your shifting foot up, shift to 3rd gear.  The rest is commitment and having the balls to hold the gas on the longest.  Remember, practice makes perfect.

Posted on Jul 30 2009, under Riding Techniques | No Comments »

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