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No More Front End Washouts

Gary Semics



One of the most important things when cornering is keeping the front end from washing out. Well, you can when you know what’s involved and know how to practice it. Just like all the control aspects in motocross the front end is controlled by 2 technique categories; body movements and controlling the five controls of the m/c and that’s the front and rear brakes, the clutch and throttle and the gear shift. Body movements relate to always maintaining the center of balance. Of course if you loose your center of balance with the m/c you’re going to be out of control or at least making a bobble to correct it. Well in motocross this center of balance is even more complicated. It’s not just your balance with the m/c; it’s the m/c and your balance as one. And this one balance of you and the m/c relates to the track, the forces of the obstacles on the track and gravity. There is no steady plain under you. The track with all it’s bumps, ruts, obstacles and everything else out there cause constant change in the center of balance. Meaning your body position is in constant change, body movement to maintain the center of balance. So body movement is defiantly a big factor in controlling the front end. A typical example is when you are entering a corner while braking. Whether you are standing or sitting your body position should be back. Then when you are letting off the brakes in the middle of the corner and making the transition to the clutch and throttle you’re body position should be in the center of the m/c. Right after that as you begin to exit the corner your body position should be in the front of the m/c. If you had your body position too far forward too soon, before you got to the center of the corner, you would be much more likely to wash out the front end.

Besides front to back body movement there is also side to side body movement and everything in between. Think of you’re body movement as a clock horizontal to the ground with 12:00 being all the way forward and 6:00 all the way back. You’re body movement can work to any number around the clock and anywhere in between while sitting or standing. And it has to move through this range quickly, loosely and smoothly with precise timing and grace. This timing and grace has to be so precise that it happens automatically through your automatic reflex reactions. It has to happen from what your nervous system feels, feels what you and the m/c as one are feeling from the forces of the track, obstacles and gravity as it is happening or better yet just a millisecond before it happens. If it happens just a millisecond too late you’ve already made a mistake.

What has to happen just as precisely together with all this body movement? The controlled use of all five controls. These 2 categories are where all your control comes from. Can you think of anywhere else any control comes from, me neither? That’s because there is no other place or way to have control. One good example of how the controls; in this case the rear brake, helps control you and the m/c (remember you and the m/c should be operating as one) is when you are about a quarter of the way into a corner and you’re dragging the rear brake a little, in this case dragging the rear brake has a big effect on the front end. Do you know what that effect is? It pulls the front end back. Think about it; if the rear wheel is slowing down and the front wheel is connected by the frame it has to have an effect on the front wheel. It does indeed pull it back and since you are a quarter way into the corner and leaning over it pulls it back and to the inside, keeping it from sliding out.

Now the most common mistake here in the situation is to let go of the rear brake before you get onto the clutch and throttle. If you make this mistake and you are at maximum speed you are likely to wash the front end out and take a nice refreshing soil sample with your face. Remember the controls are half of your control, why would anyone in their right mind give up half of their control at the most critical part of a corner.

Just like the slowing down controls of the front and rear brakes and gear shift, if you are downshifting and even sometimes the clutch if you’re going to lock up the rear wheel for a really tight corner. The speeding up controls of the clutch, throttle and gearshift, if you are up shifting, also give you and the m/c half of the control over the track and gravity. As you get on the clutch and throttle or just the throttle even this gives stability and holds the front end from sliding out.

Now we know and understand how you control the front end, well it’s a lot easier to control it if that front tires hits what you want it to hit and doesn’t hit what you don’t want it to hit. The only way this is going to happen is if you are looking ahead early enough to see what you want it to hit. Don’t be too concerned with looking at what you don’t want it to hit, you can’t see everything at the same time. Obviously if it’s hitting what you want it to hit it won’t be hitting what you don’t want it to hit. Everyone knows that if you hit a railroad track at an angle you’re going to go down. Well there may not be any railroad crossings on the track but there are ruts, ridges, rocks and all sorts of things (some of them little and hard to see) that can cause that front end to go in a different direction than you had planned. This is why it’s so important to look ahead early enough and well enough to see exactly where you want that front wheel to go, especially in a corner where you are going to make the hardest part of your cut, your turn. This is usually where you are going from braking to accelerating in the corner. I coined this place as the Exit Dex or Transition, the most important part of any corner.

So now that you have seen exactly where you want the front tire to go how do you make it go there? Well, you know that by now, with body movements (maintaining the center of balance) and mastering the use of all five controls. For better body movement control carry your weight in your legs mostly and allow your upper body (especially arms and shoulders) to be loose and mobile. You and the m/c will both handle better this way because the m/c and your body handle better with a low center of gravity and it will also allow your upper body to move more quickly and with much greater physical ease.

You’re inside foot placement while going through a corner is also very important in regards to controlling the front end. You’re inside foot should be out in front of you, off the foot peg. Your hip, knee and ankle should be slightly bent and able to move and dab at the ground in case the front end tries to slide out. A common mistake here is to have a lazy leg and when your foot has to dab it comes back behind the foot peg. This is not good because what if you have to dab a second or third time? You wouldn’t be able to and you’d fall over. So try to keep your foot out there in front of the foot peg. Another common mistake is to slide your foot too hard through the corner. This causes you to tighten up and hold on tighter. When you’re doing this you are trying to muscle the m/c instead of using timing and balance. No matter how strong and how much endurance you have you will knot up and die if you keep doing this through a long moto. The inside foot should stay on the foot peg as long as possible helping to maintain a low center of gravity, then just before the Exit Dex (remember that’s where you go from braking to accelerating) you should put your foot out and then as soon as you’re on the throttle, to start exiting the corner, get that inside foot back on the foot peg, again maintaining a low CG. Remember, you’re control comes from you’re body movements and controlling the five controls of the m/c, not so much from your inside foot. You’re inside foot is out there so you can lean the m/c over further and in case you need to dab to save the front end from washing out and since your leg and boot are pretty heavy while being low in relation to the CG it does complement balance. But don’t be too dependent on it; you have much more control in body movements and controlling the five controls of the m/c.

I hope this information helps keep that front wheel under you.

Ride smart and have fun,

Gary Semics

Professional Motocross Trainer

If you like this riding tip, it's just the tip of the iceberg.  Get all the riding techniques and practice methods that will elevate your riding skills For REAL from our Motocross Techniques/Training DVDs or one of our three Instant Access Video On Demand Subscriptions.


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