(1) Footwork. The best riders in the business hone their craft each and every week to compete with the best in the world. They fine-tune their diets, training and mental stamina, as well as their technique on the bike. Where many riders have been known to struggle in their technique is footwork. Just like boxers consistently work on their footwork to improve agility, balance and positioning, the same goes for riding. Where your feet are positioned on the bike and how they are weighted affect your agility and balance on the bike.
(2) Power. As bikes have gotten more powerful, footwork has played a bigger role. The 450 four-strokes are heavy and powerful. These machines can get away from you a lot faster than the old 250 two-strokes that were once raced in the stadiums. Some riders who have moved up from the 250 to the 450 class have crashed more often. Why? On the smaller bikes, they got away with riding on their arches with their toes out. They have to train themselves to reposition their feet on the pegs when riding so they can become more consistent and gain speed.
(3) Ryan Dungey. Over the years Ryan Dungey struggled with his foot placement on the pegs. He got away with his sloppy footwork in the 250 class, but the powerful 450 made him focus on getting his toes in and moving his feet from the arches to the balls when on the pegs in the corners and whoops. Towards the end of his career, footwork was Ryan’s strong point, and it showed. He made few mistakes, and he always looked in control on his bike. Obviously, there are many other factors that came into play in Ryan’s success, but footwork is a big piece of the puzzle.
(4) Whoops. One of the best riders to watch in the whoops is Davi Millsaps. He is a whoop master. His feet are always in the perfect position with the rest of his body. His toes are on the pegs and positioned inward on the bike. His knees are behind his toes, allowing his hips to be back and his head to be over the bars. This allows him to stretch out over the bike for more balance.
(5) Drills. Just as boxers and baseball players do drills to hone their skills, you can do the same with motocross. During motos, many racers’ brains go on autopilot. They don’t think; they just do. Racing and thinking about your technique is like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time. It is best to do drills on a flat field. You can practice your footwork by just going round and round in a perfect circle. You have to practice the technique to perfect it. After some time, this technique will become your autopilot.
(6) Harm’s way. Another benefit to having good footwork is keeping your feet out of harm’s way. When your toes are sticking outward on the pegs, you risk catching them on something. If this happens, the force will twist your leg, putting stress on your ankles, knees and hips. Many ACLs are torn this way.
(7) Scrubbing. When you lean the bike over on a jump, you essentially push the wheels out from under you. This allows you to keep the suspension from compressing all the way down so it doesn’t pogo you back up. The goal is to scrub speed and keep your trajectory low. Many riders, including Kevin Windham and Zach Bell, have had their inside toes sticking outward as they tried to scrub a triple. As a result, they caught a toe on the lip of the jump, ejecting both of them off the bike in midair—just another reason why precision footwork is so important.
(8) Speed. You only can go as fast as your technique allows. Even a rider like David Vuillemin, famous for his awkward style, made sure that his feet were in the right position. When your toes are out, it creates a space between you and the bike. This space allows the bike to move back and forth without your control. In a sense, the bike is riding you rather than you riding the bike. In this scenario, you can only go so fast before it bites you. If you are having a hard time reaching that next level of speed, start paying attention to your feet.
(9) Walking. The way you walk could be the reason why you ride with your toes out. People who walk with their toes pointed out generally also ride that way. An easy way to get used to riding with your toes in is to walk with your feet straight ahead.
(10) Boots. Are you unsure about your footwork? Go out to the garage and grab your boots. Turn them upside down and check the soles. If the wear marks are in the arches of the soles and the toes of the boots look like new, you are riding on your arches.