Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Rev Up. What is the key to motocross greatness? Corners. In the day and age of the scrub, you can go out to your local practice track and see kids from 65cc all the way to Vet guys hitting long lanes of jumps trying to master this technique. Viewing this always makes me cringe because for every fast kid I see throwing whipped-out scrubs off all the jumps, I watch him butcher the following corner. As a rider and racer of 30 years it puzzles me how the lost art of cornering has been left in the roost. Railing the corners is the only way to separate yourself from your competition. Everyone jumps, scrubs and hauls ass down the straightaways, which leaves you with the underappreciated riding banter of braking late, transitioning your riding position and placing your Dunlop’s into an awaiting berm.
I’ve been on a bike for a little over two months now and I’m just now beginning to feel the flow of the corners. At my practice track yesterday there was a tight 180-degree right-hander that took me three sessions to somewhat rail. The soil was extremely tacky and the rut was only about three or four inches tall on the inside. My first attempts consisted of charging mega hard into it and dragging my rear brake until I put my leg out, then hammering the clutch and throttle which felt fast, but in reality it drained a lot of energy and sounded fast, but wasn’t. That said, the key isn’t really to rail the corner. I’ve been to motocross schools of every variety, but Mrs. Carmichael taught me the best. She preaches corner entry and execution over, and over. In fact, we used to have to pick our worst corner (most times she would pick it for us) and we would have to nail it ten times in a row perfect, or else start over.
Head over the bars, leg out, throttle applied. Dungey is one of the best at corners in the world.
Simon Cudby photo
When tackling the inside line on a 180-degree corner the key is to use an outside to inside approach. You stand on the pegs with your head centered over the bars and go in as hard as you can, but when you go to the brakes you use most of them while still somewhat straight. When you think you have slowed enough to make the corner you ease off the brakes and begin your arc to the inside while letting the bike roll. In one movement you go from the attack position to the seat, keeping your head centered while putting your leg out. The hardest thing to fight here is pushing your front tire, which can and will happen from time to time if you are pushing the corner hard enough. The key is to feel the front tire against the dirt and press it into the turn. Once you place the front tire into the beginning of the rut, you roll the throttle on smoothly, keeping your leg out, and try to press down on your outside peg. Once you’re planted into the corner you can feel where you’re at traction wise and apply the throttle accordingly. Upon exit you can let the bike carry into the outside so you have executed a “U” pattern instead of a “V.” As the bike pulls, keep that outside foot planted and flex your stomach muscles to counter the strain of the handlebars. Once you're around the corner, get your leg up as soon as you can and get back into the attack position.
On today’s four stroke machines the clutch is basically obsolete if you perform this maneuver correctly. In my opinion, you only really need the left-side lever to correct tiny mistakes in your entry so the practice of keeping a finger on has some merit. Some of the pros have one there all the time, others do not. All riding coaching aside I feel this is unique to the rider and if you drill the corner without a finger on it, the perfect result remains. I feel the best way to practice this is to do it correctly at about 50 percent of your speed. Get the arc right, find your braking zone, then roll that baby on smoothly. As the laps go by start braking later and getting on the gas earlier and harder. I find this to be the best possible feeling on a dirt bike, and you are rewarded by your efforts as you see your line digging in each lap and feel your tiny inside rut grow with your corner speed.
Textbook form and line choice from Millsaps.
Simon Cudby photo
While watching daytime practice at the supercrosses you can witness this effort the best. This past season the fastest five lap times were separated by mere tenths of a second. Those tenths weren’t made up by throwing scrub whips (they all do it almost the same) rather by corner entry and exit. I found Davi Millsaps hitting inside lines all year and using them to his advantage. A tight, inside line is the hardest for a taller rider because he has further to transition from attack to seated-leg-out form but that’s where his natural talent really shines. Just like Kevin Windham.
A lot of my theory here is shot to crap when you watch Ryan Villopoto corner. Ryan likes to steer with his rear wheel around the outside, and sometimes you can see him dragging the brake late into the corner, then just doing a burnout around the berm. Ricky Carmichael did the same thing, and you really can’t teach that. But, you can master the art of rolling the inside of tight 180 right-handers and use it to your lap time advantage on the track.
RV doing what he does. Wide open around the outside.
Simon Cudby photo
Looking at next week’s course in Germany I see tacky dirt and a lot of corners that will have inside options. Ryan Dungey, Jeffrey Herlings, and Antonio Cairoli will be chasing wins and using the corners to get the job done. So, all you weekend warriors out just looking for a good time, try finding some fun in the corners. Try to think about what you’re doing on the bike instead of just waiting for the big step up to throw a whip. Whips and scrubs are fun, but when you master the corners before and after your favorite jump I think you’ll notice that smile under your helmet growing with your overall speed. Proper cornering technique and execution really makes it fun on a dirt bike!
I’d like to hear feedback from you readers about your favorite corners at your tracks. Have there been some instances where you made a new outside-to-inside line and loved how it set up the section of the track? What are your opinions of using the clutch? In closing, I hope a lot of you are having as much fun riding as I am. Motocross is a constant learning process, if you think a little and let it be. Dirt bikes are for fun, and I hope these words help some of you enjoy your ride this weekend a little more. Be safe, and we’ll see you next week.