Getting punished by a sharp up-ramp or down-ramp can be one of the most frightful moments in MX. On this months trip to Valley Road we found a step up that showed a little of both problems, so join me as I run through some of the drills we used to help make one rider safer and more confident when dealing with this kind of thing.
Our rider had been lifting his front over what looked like a sharp landing, but nearly had a big stack when the bike landed a little sideways. His arms had gone suddenly straight when the rear wheel hit the landing without the front touching down first. This caused all sorts of trouble, including some of the dreaded “Whisky throttle”. I think most of us know what that feels like and would do anything to avoid it happening again!
First of all he needed to keep his body lower to the bike for the landing. An irrational fear of smacking his chest on the handlebars needed to be replaced by the fear of what happens when he didn’t land with his chest close.
Next he needed to touch the front wheel down before his rear wheel hit. I did a few of these landings on his bike to prove its worth and reassure his mind. His natural reaction was to think of this as a nasty landing when it actually hurts less than the alternative. He pretty much got a handle on that skill, although continued practice is going to be key.
The upramp was next. Helping him deal with any nasty surprises here was a case of powering all the way into the air. Because he naturally eased off the throttle before the rear had left the ground, he usually had his body position behind the handlebars. This combination gave very little room for error and meant that he struggled to clear the jump properly.
To begin with I suggested he didn’t accelerate up towards the jump so aggressively as before, so that he could power hard off the ramp without fear of messing up the landing.
Unfortunately I didn’t seem to have spent enough time getting him used to taking off with his head beyond the handlebars as he jumped quite nose high the first time, and failed to really power off the ramp again after that. This would have been my biggest failure of the trip, so I hope he can read this and have another good go at it.
Once he is comfortable taking off in this position with the throttle driving his suspension to soak up the bumps, then he can safely go back to charging his way up to the jump and also powering off the ramp to help him clear the thing easily.
That session was only the beginning of our time in Hawkes Bay though.
Mark and William had a great time despite the fact that I was drilling them mercilessly on things like late braking and ruts. The ruts and bumps from a recent club day at the Valley Road track had hardened to make life a little more challenging, but they both were justifiably pleased with their efforts afterwards.
Sam showed impressive grit as his dad and I pushed his skills to the limit. I was especially pleased when he trusted me enough to head out on the main track after feeling the fear of a hairy uphill attempt. He did incredibly well, and his father made my day when he mentioned once again how he had been at the Australian MX Nationals race where I had won all three races, basically the high point of my career. We were also able to make his life on the bike that much more enjoyable so it was a great way to finish the day.
Boys and Girls
The next day I worked with Vicky Parkes once again, this time helping her with ruts and speed work. The downhill ruts were all about front brake, uphill ruts about throttle, and trying to get her standing right through the flatter ruts. While not smashing as many barriers as our last session, she was still buzzing to overcome those fears.
Mel headed my final session for the trip, along with her two kids and their two cousins. I didn’t go easy on them as we got them to sit forward through a turn that had a bump halfway through, then made them stop halfway up the next rise before powering away again in order to fast track their clutch control. That actually went really well, so it was time for the fun part.
Jumping and berms led on to an excursion onto the big track where they were soon lapping themselves dizzy. Standing all the way through one of those ruts was the highlight for at least one rider, and I was confident that we were leaving them well equipped for their next family adventure.