The Breakdown:  Finding the Edge

The Breakdown Finding the Edge

April 11, 2012 1:00pm
By Gary Bailey

What is the edge? Where is the edge? How do I find the edge? And, how do I go there?

The edge is where someone like Travis Pastrana stays most of the time, and a place you need to go if you are going to take your riding to the next level. If you are going to push yourself to be better at something, you need to go to the edge.

If I am on this one thousand foot cliff that drops straight down and someone says, “Hey, look down at the bottom,” I would probably stand way back from the edge and try to figure out to how to look all the way down.  Someone else might get all the way up to the edge and look down. But, Travis would be standing there with his toes hanging over, the wind at his back blowing at 50 mph saying “Man, that’s a long way down there.”  Now that’s on the edge!  During all the years I coached Travis, my biggest challenge was giving him the freedom and the skills to allow him to push the edge but at the same time keeping him from falling over. From the time Travis was about ten years old, I spent much of my time with him holding my breath. Now that I think about it, even now when we hang out, I still do!

When you have two riders that are at the same level and speed you need to push to the edge to make that pass.

You don’t need to go that far or that close, but you do need to find something close.

So let’s look at it like a rollercoaster ride. You need to find that feeling you get when you get on a coaster, that anticipation as you start up that first climb to the top waiting for that first big drop, then wondering what is coming next. Soon, you will be looking for the next big thrill that will take your breath away! That is what we are looking for, something to tell us where the edge is, a feeling of excitement, of wow, that was cool!

If you always just ride in your comfort zone when you go to the track and never push yourself, you will never get any faster. Most riders do that when they practice. They ride around doing the same thing all day. This does not mean you need to ride over your head, but you do need to push a little if you are going to get better. You need to find where the edge is for you. We all have a little different edge point, you just need to find yours.  So that doesn’t mean you need to go try some big double or triple right now.

If you did not get the job done the last time, you need to try it again until you get it done. And you can’t just come in on a rider with this kind of drive if you have never charged that hard before. Practice on the edge lets you use that edge in the actual race.

Instead, let’s start with a nice berm. Try coming in a little faster, hold it on just a little longer, brake a little harder and see if you can still make the turn. When you first try this, find a forgiving turn that gives you a place to go if you don’t make it. Be sure that big cliff is not right on the other side. As soon as you find you can still make that turn at that speed then start working on the exit of the turn. Find the point where you are getting on the power, and try getting on it a little sooner. Not harder, sooner. It is also important to remember that you don’t want to have a stop or a pause in the turn -- this will not be the best way to keep your momentum through the turn.

A big mistake when someone tries to go faster is they try to get on the power too hard. The best way to get faster is to get on the power sooner, not harder. You need traction and you need control. To do that you need to use your clutch a little to help that work better.

Use your clutch a little on the exit of the turn by using it from the center out. Once you are in the turn squeeze the clutch lever in a little and feed it out as you apply the throttle. What you are tying to do is control the power to the rear wheel. You want as much power as you can get, but if it does not hook up and you get tire spin and then a swap or a wheelie you lose your momentum.

You can’t always do all turns this way, but you need to work on it if you want to get faster. You can’t just go ride. You need to practice. You need to push yourself. You need to do it over and over again in the same turn. You need to find your edge before you are going to go faster.

You need to work on this kind of charge when you are practicing. This way you can find out where the edge is so you can still make the turn and not take the other rider out.

As soon as you have that down or better, go to another turn and do the same thing. You may need to do that same thing 30, 40 or 50 times to get it better and faster. There are a lot of riders out there riding every weekend, but very few that are doing what they need to do to get better because it’s work. So, they just ride.

When it comes to jumping and finding that edge, take your time, don’t go for the big ones right off the bat. Start with what you are comfortable with and be sure you have good control of the bike and what it is doing in the air. If you are looking for that thrill and the rush you can get it here, but be smart. Know the pluses and the minuses of this one before you go for the big “take your breath away” jump.

Even the pros have a different edge. Recall when you first saw James Stewart riding on the edge a few years ago, it seems you watched worrying that he might crash. Reed appears to have a more cautious edge, always appearing to stop just short of his absolute edge, although a few years ago I had a chance at one of the factory test tracks to see him practice the whoops before Anaheim. He was so far over what appeared to be the edge!  At times I was thinking, ‘Man this guy wants to win.” He pushed harder than I had ever seen him go through the whoops. Villopoto sometimes rides on the edge, but his edge seems smoother than Stewart’s, and isn’t scary to watch. Other pros never go near the edge, and that is why they never get to the level of the top guys. They are going to ride around and get their points, but they are not willing to push to ­the edge.

If you want to find the edge you will need to push yourself and try different lines. If you are not coming in hard where the wheels are pushing and you don’t have a little power slide coming out. You are not looking for the edge.

So here it is, take small steps, but push to find where your edge is.

If you are not into big thrill rides, then you may not care where the edge is. If you don’t care about where the edge is, just ride safe and have fun. Now lets look at some more photos of the top riders finding, and riding on, their edge.

All three riders here want this win. This is racing close, aggressive and on the edge. I love that Jake and Chad still have their finger on the front brake, keeping the front end down, even though they are getting on the gas. While James is right there and ready with the clutch and front brake, so if there is a little mistake he can take advantage.


If you don’t push, you will never know what on the edge is. Find or make a flat track so you can learn to drift and slide the turns. Don’t go race around barrels, the turn needs to be bigger. You need to make the straights long enough to grab a gear then drop down a gear for the turns. You also need the turns to be more of a sweeper. And don’t use your brakes. Drive down the straight, down shift, drift in and power slide out. It needs to be a controlled power slide. Find the edge!

Hope you enjoyed this week’s Breakdown and that it helps you in your racing. To check out more of my work be sure and head on over to Racer X Virtual Trainer and check out my feature Trackside.