By: Travis Preston
These photos look really good and both riders are riding well right now, so I will comment on the things that they are doing right. I will try and see if they are doing something wrong, but it will be tough!
In the first photo you can see that Blake Baggett is forward on the seat, his foot is off the ground and is close to the bike, he has one finger on the clutch, his head is up and slightly turned to the right, so he can see where he wants to go. These are all techniques you need to make a turn go smoothly.
Just for fun, I will get a little picky. You can see his index finger is pointing out, it's not on the brake lever, but it's not on the throttle either. It's hard to say at what point of the turn he is in because we do not have a series of photos. This could be the first 25 percent of the turn, and he is in the process of getting that finger wrapped around the throttle. Some trainers/coaches actually teach you to use the front brake in the turn, so the front tire stays in the rut. This does work if you want to become a really good C rider. But riders at Baggett’s level have the throttle on all the way through the turn. Trainers/coaches teach this technique because it is very easy to learn. I have made a couple dollars racing a motorcycle and have learned that when your braking is done before the turn and all techniques are applied correctly, you will have the throttle twisting all the way through the turn. This technique of dragging the front brake is only used as a LAST RESORT to save yourself from crashing.
In this photo notice Baggett has all of his fingers wrapped around the throttle, and you can see dirt flying in the background. He is still sitting toward the front of the bike, and his head is turned slightly to the right. Sitting towards the front of the bike is very important for a couple of reasons. When you accelerate in the turn, the motorcycle wants to transfer weight to the rear tire. By staying forward you are helping to keep the bike balanced, and you are in position to get on the gas hard. The manufacturers have realized this, and they are making the transfer from the seat to the gas tank flatter, and this makes it easier to stay in the forward position. Some riders like a pocket to sit in, so just put a bump in the middle of the seat, and there is your pocket. Ryan Dungey and Ryan Villopoto both run bumps on their seat.
This photo is cool because you can really see the dirt flying in the background. If he was slipping the clutch or dragging the brakes, the dirt would not be flying. Baggett does the most important things correctly: Off the Brakes, On the Gas, Trying to Stay Forward, and Looking Ahead. It is hard to see what his inside leg is doing, but who cares. He WON!
In every photo of Baggett, he has his finger on the clutch, just in case he needs it. On a four-stroke, you just need to tap it and the power will be right back in the sweet spot. If you are slipping the clutch, you are not getting horsepower down to the ground. He also has his elbows up, which gives him control over the front of the bike. In all the photos you can see he keeps his legs tight against the bike. This is important because it helps keep you connected to the bike, and it helps keep the bike tracking in a straight line. The faster you go, the more you will need to squeeze the bike with your legs and knees.
The last photo shows Baggett in the air adjusting his body position and getting ready for the landing. He gets himself forward in the air, so when his tires touch down, he will be in the proper position to really open up the throttle. Amateurs have a problem with this in the beginning because they think it is scary being this far forward. Once they get used to it, they love it because it helps keep the bike level, and it helps you get on the gas hard when you land. When riding a motorcycle you always have to be thinking ahead. Baggett gets himself in the right position BEFORE he lands.
Now to Ryan Dungey. Blake Baggett can ride a bike and is very fast, but he does not look as good as Dungey. Dungey does the important things right, and he also does the small things right. He does so many things right, he must have a high IQ. He reminds me of Kevin Windham, who is also smarter than the average rider.
This is a perfect photo of him at the exit of a turn. He has his butt so far forward on the seat, he doesn't have to bend his back to have his head over the handle bars. All your weight is in your butt, not your head. Some riders will sit in the middle of the seat, then really lean forward to get their head over the handle bars. Not good. Your weight is too far back and you will look awkward trying to get your head over the bars. You have to be this far forward because the bikes are so fast now. You can’t use your upper body alone to stay forward. You need to use the ball of your outside foot and apply a lot of pressure to the outside peg.
Pushing with that outside leg along with your upper body will help you stay in that forward position when you are exiting the turn. Weighting the outside peg also serves other purposes. In this photo, there doesn't seem to be a good rut at the exit of the turn, so weighting the outside peg helps give him better traction. It also helps when you have a lot of acceleration chop. When the exit of a turn gets rough, I press down on the outside peg and lift my butt just a little off the seat. This lets the bike work beneath me. That is why you need a lot of leg strength to ride a dirt bike.
In this photo you can tell Dungey is off the throttle. He is not on the brakes, but you can tell he is slowing down for something by his body position. Just like Baggett, Dungey has his legs and knees tight against the bike. When slowing down this helps you maintain control over the bike. Squeezing the bike with your legs and knees around the rear shock area help maintain control over the rear of the bike. Dungey's elbow position and head position also help maintain control over the front of the bike.
Here Dungey is leaning the bike over just a little to scrub off some speed. When scrubbing off the jump, notice how his body position is more in the center of the bike. It is hard to comment on this photo because I can't see what's after the jump or how big the jump is. Most likely, he will probably take a deep breath in the air and start adding up all the bonus money he is making.
Ryan Dungey must be a photographer's dream! Not only does his gear match the bike, but he is always in the right position. Ryan stays forward on the seat, keeps his leg straight out and off the ground, and is consistently on the gas. Like I mentioned earlier, he is on the ball of his foot, weighting the outside peg and is always looking ahead. You can tell he is in a rut, and notice how his back is square with the bike. This is how you want to look when going through a rut. His right elbow might be a touch low, but I think he does this to make us slower riders feel better about ourselves. Too perfect is a turn off!
Both Baggett and Dungey are great riders, but they could both learn something from each other. Baggett needs to be more precise like Dungey. Dungey needs to hang it out a little more like Baggett. You know that if Ryan Villopoto was racing, he would be hanging it out and giving Dungey a run for his money.
It has been a pleasure commenting on these two great riders. If you would like more info about my riding classes, feel free to contact me at Travisprestonmx.com