TEN THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT STARTING ON DIRT

October 14, 2013
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(1) Dirt. It’s very important to investigate the type of dirt used on the starting line. Different types of dirt require slightly different approaches. If the dirt is soft, you’ll want to be more aggressive with the throttle, while hard-pack requires finesse. Always remove any rocks or debris from your starting pad. Make sure to take the time to go to the starting line before your race and analyze the soil. It’s also wise to watch a few gate drops to see how other riders are attacking the starting pad.

(2) Traction. The key to a good start is perfect traction. You should be able to carry a slight wheelie down the start straight for the first 50 feet and hit your shifting point quickly.

(3) Master the controls. The clutch, throttle and shift lever are the basic controls that make you one with your bike. The easy part isshifting the bike into gear. The hard part is feeding the clutch and throttle in the proper amounts. Both must be in sync. Keep in mind that clutch and throttle usage will vary depending on the dirt. Practice makes perfect. The best starters inthe business, such as Mike Alessi, practiced thousands of starts.

(4) Body positioning. The position of your body controls the distribution of weight on the bike. Do not try to get more traction by moving farther back on the seat. Always sit in the same position. Practice enough to find the sweet spot on the seat. Keep your torso as erect as possible, and hinge your upper body forward or backward from the hips, depending on where you want to distribute the weight.

(5) Gate preparation. Take the time to prepare your gate. Shovel the rut straight if it’s crooked or bumpy. A small, straight rut in the dirt is actually helpful. The rut will increase the area of grip between the tire’s sidewall and the edge of the rut. Pack down the middle and edges of the rut to gain maximum traction off the line. Use a broom if the line is hard-packed to remove any loose dirt that could causewheelspin.

(6) Holeshot device. This is a must-have item for starting on dirt. A holeshot device keeps the forks compressed, allowing you to put more power to the rear wheel without doing a huge wheelie. You can stay on the throttle instead of backing off to keep the front end down, and you will be able to lean farther back without worrying that you might loop out.

(7) Gear selection. If you are new to starts or ride a 125 two-stroke, then first gear is the best choice. The bigger your bike’s engine, theeasier it is to start in second gear. We suggest that you practice starts in various gears to find out what works best for you, but most racers use second gear.

(8) Where to look.
Do not look directly at your gate. Instead, focus on the device that releases the gate. In most cases, it’s the pin to the right or left of the gate that keeps the gate up. It only moves a tenth of a second faster than the gate, but one-tenth can make a tremendous difference in reaction time.  

(9) Legs in front. You’ll know that you nailed the start if your body wants to slide back on the seat. Fight the G-forces by staying forwardas long as possible. The easiest way to do this is by keeping your legs in front of the footpegs when you start. Also, squeeze the seat with the inside of your thighs to lessen the load on your arms.

(10)  Loading up. Many experienced riders use a technique called “loading up.” Loading up refers to holding the front brake as you slowly engage the clutch (until the slack is out of the chain). If you load up the bike too much, chain torque will cause the rear of the bike to rise up, which will hinder traction. Have someone watch the rear of your bike to let you know what it’s doing until you get a good feel for the technique. Many riders leave light pressure on the front brake until they clear the gate.

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