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Eight things you should know before going to a motocross track
Motocross, what a great sport! How much fun it is to turn the throttle and release the clutch violently to feel the power of the engine pounding the ground! To be able to arch the bike more and more in the turns and to catapult yourself into the air with smooth, planned landings…
These are pretty cool feelings. However, just because you’re being carried along by an engine doesn’t mean it’s easy. Motocross is an extreme, dangerous, and technical sport, and too often, people forget that.
You’re new to the sport and the motocross tracks intimidate you. Or you feel like Evel Knievel (known as an American motocross stuntman) when you ride in a sand pit with your buddies. But before you show up on a motocross track with your chest puffed out, shaggy in the wind, take the time to learn these important concepts.
Just like snowmobiles and mountain bikes, there is no mandatory training to ride an off-road motorcycle. Even though we are not on the road, NO, you can’t do whatever you want on a motocross track. There are risks, for you and for the other riders, and that’s why some instructions are important to know and to respect.
Keep your side of the track
Most motocross tracks are very wide, but just like on the road, you can’t snake from left to right. It’s a simple concept, but still difficult to explain.
Obviously, there is no speed limit on a motocross track and there are many differences in the caliber of riders. So, overtaking happens all the time: sometimes, you have to overtake another rider and sometimes, you will be overtaken. So, always keep in mind that you have to be predictable for the other riders who are with you on the track.
Your intentions must be clear and consistent. If another rider joins you, accept that he is faster than you and that he will pass you. On a practice track, this is not the time to let your pride get the better of you and try to block the other driver.
The driver doesn’t expect to fight you and he can’t predict the unexpected.
Hold your side of the track and the driver who passes you must do the same.
For example, if you are on the right side of the track, the next turn is to the left and another driver is near you, you must take that left turn on the outside: this is not the time to cut to the inside.
The other driver must take the inside turn to pass you or follow you into the outside turn if he is also on the right side of the track. The only thing you have to do to help a driver pass you safely is to keep your line, keep your side!
Respect your level
Respect your level, your caliber: a jump is not just a distance to cross. Each track and each jump is different. Just because you’ve done a 70′ jump doesn’t mean you’ll do every jump 70′ and under.
The take-off and landing angle of each jump are different and the distance of the turns and jumps before and after is also different. Some short jumps can be very difficult to perform because the turn before or after is close together.
Therefore, it is important to first master the riding techniques before opening the throttle to cover a distance. Be careful when following another rider to know how fast he is taking his jump.
A pro rider will often arrive at a jump way too fast, as he uses an absorption technique to reduce his distance in the air. If you arrive at the same speed as he does to take the jump, and you don’t apply the absorption technique, you will be visiting the stars! ⭐
That’s why it’s important to respect your level! Becoming skilled and talented in motocross requires technique, time and lots of practice. Take lessons to learn the techniques and apply them, one by one. Respect the fact that you need to take it one step at a time to avoid injury.
There are several training track sites that offer different circuits at different levels. Take the opportunity to progress on these tracks and practice your techniques, not just the jumps: respect your level.
Always do a reconnaissance lap, warm up, wake up your reflexes
Before you hit the track, warm up and do a reconnaissance lap. On each practice day, your first lap should always be done at a slow speed to sharpen your reflexes and loosen your muscles, but also to inspect the track.
Whether it’s your first time on the track, you know it by heart or even if you rode it the day before, do a reconnaissance lap. This way you can safely identify the day’s features on the track: ruts, bumps, holes, ground traction, jump angles and any modifications made to the turns or jumps.
For example, even though the track is reconditioned every day, the jumps do sag over time, so the machine operators may have to recall the jumps a few times during the year. Your reconnaissance tour will help you spot these surprises.
Take a technique course
Any sport can be learned on the job, with tips from a friend, but at what cost?
Falling in skating, hitting a golf ball or having an accident in motocross often have different outcomes. Just because you have an engine doesn’t mean it’s easy to ride a motocross bike.
You take courses to drive a street bike, even if you already know how to drive a car. But because off-road courses are not mandatory, you think you can ride a 50-HP motorcycle over rough terrain, with obstacles that can propel you 25 feet in the air.
It is strongly recommended that you take a technique course before claiming to be able to go fast with these powerful off-road machines. It is control and technique that will allow you to really enjoy this sport. Learning how to brake, how to control your bike on the ground and in the air, how to react, how to position yourself and practice will make you go fast, not reckless.
Many places offer you the possibility to take private, semi-private or group lessons. There are also experienced riders who offer their services for lessons.
A small investment of money, in addition to being fun, will pay off instantly and for a long time: it’s common sense!
Anticipation, prevention, safety above all
Learn to look far. There are always a few strategic places on a track that allow us to look at a section to spot the drivers in front of us.
We must always be aware of the users around us, we must identify the drivers we are joining and spot the vulnerable drivers to avoid being taken by surprise.
For example, looking far away allows me to spot a small rider, I realize that I am joining him rather quickly and I arrive on the biggest jump of the track: by logic and safety for me and him, I will close the throttle to avoid jumping on him or giving him a good scare.
You can’t see on the other side of a jump if a rider has fallen: that’s why it’s important to always look away and spot the other riders. So that when in doubt, you can react safely and appropriately.
We must try to prevent rather than react.
Safety for a falling rider
In the best of all possible worlds, like in racing, we would love to have a flagger on every jump to let us know if a driver has fallen over the side. However, the reality is that it is simply unrealistic for training track owners to offer this service.
So we, as users, must all be responsible for each other.
What to do when a rider falls?
If he has fallen in a turn and you can easily see him and easily react to avoid him, just make sure everything is okay and ask him if he needs help. You can stop behind him, which will act as a physical barrier to protect you, to assist him or to give him time to get up safely.
Many times, falls in turns are harmless and without injury. However, if the rider has fallen while landing from a jump, your intervention is critical. The first instinct is to go to the rider’s aid, but this is not the first thing you should do.
The first person to see a rider on the ground on a jump should go to the call of the jump to signal other riders not to jump and to slow down; otherwise other riders may land on the rider already on the ground or be unable to avoid him and a massacre may ensue.
Please note that regardless of whether the rider gets up or not, you must report the danger quickly and absolutely, the goal being to protect the fallen rider and avoid further injury.
If no one else arrives to help the fallen rider, the rider remains on the ground and you feel the urgency to intervene with the injured rider, you could leave your motorcycle across the jump call to signal the danger. Other riders who arrive will slow down when they see your bike and can help in turn.
Also, behave with respect for the person who has fallen or been injured, even if they get up or if everyone is there to help, slow down at the scene of the incident and pass slowly, gently, maintaining a safe distance.
Learn to ride alone before riding in a group
Riding safely and mastering everything you need to do on a motocross bike takes time and concentration. Relaxing in a sand pit with your buddies is one thing, but riding side by side with your buddies on a track is another.
Riding with a friend on a track affects our concentration, but also our ambition.
Wanting to do as much or more than the other guy, lacking the experience to properly direct our actions and trajectory can result in falls and injuries. Learn to be truly in the moment, to be in control and to gain experience on the track before riding in a group.
Learn by watching
You can also learn a lot by watching other riders ride. Look at the line choices that the more experienced riders make. Look at the way they position themselves on their bikes to take different turns and jumps.
Look at their feet, their knees, their elbows, their head, their eyes. Find out why they are faster. It’s not a matter of turning the throttle more, nor is it a matter of engine power.
You’ll also learn by watching the slower ones, find their mistakes. Analyze rather than just watch if you want to learn.
With that being said, enjoy the track!