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The Evolution of Style


One of the greatest things about motocross is its style. It has always been unique and changes with each new generation of riders. In the 80's guys like O'Mara, Bailey, and Johnson were very technical and set the standard: perfect form and the cross-up were all the rage. The next generation of riders like McGrath, Carmichael, and Pastrana created a style that built upon their mentors and combined speed with looks. McGrath not only had the nak-nak (style), he was also one of the first to adjust his style for speed with the low-jump. James Stewart and the latest generation are all about speed. Stewart changed the sport forever with the Bubba Scrub and the next generation of riders is poised to leave their mark with their own brand of style. In this article, Mike Martin takes advantage of some YouTube clips from '01, '05, and '09 to give a visual demonstration on how the style of motocross has evolved.

You may not have noticed it, but our sport is changing. In the past few years motocross has gone through incredibly significant changes. Yes, the four stroke has become the dominant motocross technology and yes Leatt Braces are now prevalent in almost any motocross event across the country. However, what I'm talking about it something different.

Ever since James Stewart turned pro, his riding style has pushed the limits of what is possible on a motocross bike. It was shocking watching him hit bigger jumps than anyone else (on a KX125, no less) and scrub speed on every double, triple and table top. James Stewart's riding style was truly evolutionary.

However, as impressive as Stewart's riding style was and continues to be, what is revolutionary about motocross in the past 2 or 3 years is the freshest crop of amateur riders who have turned pro after watching Stewart's style for all their lives.

Where as Stewart essentially invented his style of riding, to the latest crop of riders his style is commonplace nowadays. Even at local amateur races, it is tough to compete in the Expert (or Amateur) class without some sense of how to scrub speed and ride in a "Stewart-esque style." The riders who have been studying and copying Stewart's style for their entire lives are just beginning to emerge onto the pro scene with incredibly revolutionary style and form.

A perfect example of this generation of riders is Justin Barcia. I have been watching Justin ride since he was on 65s and he has always had an innovative and downright fast riding style. However, in the past couple of years his aggressive yet smooth riding has really flourished. He manages to stay incredibly low off jumps and keeps power to the ground as much as possible. Barcia is an example of someone who took what Stewart started and transformed it into a whole new way of riding a motocross bike.

Don't believe me that the world of motocross is changing? Thanks to youtube.com, there is plenty of video evidence to prove it.

2001 San Diego Supercross

In this video from the 2001 San Diego Supercross, Ricky Carmichael and Jeremy McGrath are demonstrating the motocross riding style of old. Obviously they are going incredibly fast and are very skilled riders, but they have yet to incorporate the new age of riding style into their riding. They still are hitting jumps in a vertical riding position and are floating over the big triples.

2005 Houston Supercross

In this video from the 2005 Houston Supercross, you can see that the riding style has definitely changed. You can see both Stewart and Reed whipping and scrubbing off of more obstacles. However, the riding style is still very similar to what they were doing in 2001. The riding style has changed, but in an evolutionary way, not a revolutionary way.

What's Next?

The style and form needed to succeed in motocross has changed so drastically in the past 10 years that it is nearly impossible to tell what will come next. Young up and comers on 65s and 85s have been watching Barcia, Villopoto and Dungey ride all their lives and will be able to build on their style as they get older. It is incredibly interesting and intriguing to think about what will come next in motocross and it is one of the reasons why I love watching professional Supercross and Motocross year in and year out.

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