Training two sand specialists at a place like Woodhill would not normally be my first choice, but it was also the best possible place to be in heavy rain.
Daniel has recently moved on to the CRF250R after finding he could ride my one so quickly without fear of reprisals. He is fast, but a persistent habit of sitting on the outside edge of his seat was holding back his potential and he was struggling to overcome it.
Encouraging him to watch the pros leaning into turns with the bike was one thing, but he knew that. I needed to figure out what the key roadblocks were. I nailed them with a little help from Sam Greenslade, and though they will verge on blasphemy to some coaches, am now sure that they work.
For years the call to “Keep your elbows up,” has assailed our ears. Having maximum strength to move the bike from side to side is the call, but there is much more to it than that. Ignoring a bunch of other factors, what happens when you turn the handlebars? Either your whole upper body will twist until you have no choice but to sit on the outside edge of the seat, or something else has to give.
We actually had to relax a couple of things, the first being his inside elbow.
“Relax both of your arms, but especially focus on letting your inside elbow come behind your ribs.” This was easier said than done for someone who has had the opposite technique drilled into him since his earliest days. Fortunately it also helped, but there was something else that need to relax and it was the other sand specialist who helped me clarify it.
“Don’t Sit Up!”
Sam Greenslade had some good points on how your arms are stronger to push and pull when your shoulders or elbows are not high, but it was his comments on releasing his hips that Daniel needed the most.
“I am working on getting my sit bones on the low part of the seat. That means rolling my pelvis back which gives me more surface area on the seat, then when I stand up again I have to roll my pelvis forward again to bend at the waist properly. It takes some getting used to but really works.”
This went against something that Daniel had found worked at a recent Mercer club day, but he now wonders if there were other factors involved. What I saw when Daniel did relax his hips when sitting was a much more planted looking rider who was now at one with his bike.
Because he wasn’t sitting on the outside edge of the seat any more he also had less bend in his outside leg, which meant he could keep the ball of his foot on the peg and push down or backwards with more power than before. I had wondered what it was about his style that didn’t look quite right, and now we had it.
There is a time and a place for sitting on the outside edge of the seat, usually when you just need to force the bike tightly around a flat turn and don’t mind the sacrifice in speed. But it should be the exception and not the rule everywhere else, and hopefully this new style will really help Daniel to rip aboard his new Honda.