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MOTO TIPS

Moto Tips | Learning a New Track on Raceday

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Ideally, none of us would ever want to show up and race at a track that we have never ridden before, but if you think about it; that’s what Supercross racers have to do every week. And while the majority of us will never compete in a professional supercross race, we thought it would be helpful to pick the brain of SGD Racing/Maxxis Tires/Babbitts Kawasaki rider Alex Ray to get some tips about learning a track quickly. At all three of last week’s Atlanta Supercross races, riders had only a few laps around the massive circuit to both learn the obstacles and turn in a quick qualifying time. That said, we asked ARay for some tips about how to learn a track with only one or two short practice sessions beforehand.

“Obviously, Supercross tracks are a lot different than your local motocross track,” Ray said. “One of the reasons we are able to get out there and start jumping obstacles right away is that we know that the standard triple is so many feet and will throw you the same way each time because the same track builders work on every track. But yeah, for amateurs who are forced to race at a new track that they couldn’t ride at during the week previously, there are a few things to think about.”

Walk the Track

“If you’ve never ridden the track that you have to race at, be sure to arrive early that morning so you have time to walk the track. Take a look at all of the obstacles and also make sure to check out the track surroundings. For instance, if the track is lined with trees, rocks, or other hazards, you know to be extra careful when racing through those sections. Look, to be honest, you know me…I just send it, but I’m trying to be helpful here so hear me out. Haha!

“Scan the track surface for soft spots or buried rocks. Lots of times track workers just scrape dirt over the holes, and that allows the same bumps and rough sections to develop quickly. When it comes to the jumps, take a look at the jump face and try to predict how it will throw you. Pay attention to the landings also…what is after you land? A corner? Another jump? A set of whoops? Be prepared and know what to expect when you get out on the track for the first time.”

Start off Slowly

“I’m not saying to go out with a trail riding pace, but don’t go wide open from the first lap. I wouldn’t roll the jumps, though…get a little bit of pop off them to get an idea of what the lip feels like, and try to get a visual lock on the landing so you know how hard to hit it when you do decide to send it. If it’s a tabletop, jump maybe halfway on the first lap and a little further on the next

“As far as intensity goes, I would say that starting off with a moderate pace, then upping the effort and speed every lap is a good idea. If you have six laps, for instance, take the first two moderate, go harder on three and four, and be full speed on five and six.”

Straighten the Track Out

“I like to straighten out the track as much as possible. What do I mean by that? I try to connect the corners in a straight a line as possible. Sometimes that means coming into a corner wide diving to the inside and racing towards the next one without veering left or right. The straighter you can make the track, the quicker you will circulate it, in my opinion, as this allows you to maintain as much momentum as possible.”

Try Different Lines

“To figure out which lines in the corners are fastest, you should try them all. As a rule, inside lines should be faster because they cover less ground on the track. But, if the dirt is deep and develops deep, jagged ruts, maintaining your speed around the outside could be faster. It all depends on the turn, really, because some outside lines are so much further. I think you should still check them out, though, so that you’re comfortable with them in case the inside line rut gets super choppy or hooked in the second moto.”

Have Fun

“Most of all, keep it fun. We all started riding dirt bikes because they are fun. Even though racing is competitive, you should never lose sight of why you started riding in the first place.”

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Donn Maeda

Donn Maeda is a 30-year veteran in moto-journalism, having worked at Cycle News and Dirt Rider before launching MXracer Magazine and TransWorld Motocross Magazine. Maeda is the Editor-In-Chief at Swapmoto Live and you can catch him on a dirt bike or in the saddle of a mountain bike on most days.

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