Here you have it: a plethora of pros giving you their hard-won riding tips, secrets, and advice. They’ll fill you in on cornering, jumping, riding the whoops and good brake technique. Whether you are a casual rider or hard-core racer, these pro tips can improve your riding skills. Take what you read here and utilize the tips on the track and trails. Whether you race motocross or cross-country, shred dunes or just explore the trails, what the pros here have to say can help you ride better.
When jumping, you want to keep the bike low. There are two reasons for that. One is, if you’re high, it’s that much longer before the wheels are on the ground and you’re moving forward. So I like to stay low when I can.
The second reason is you don’t want to get hurt! You’re there to win a race, not to be freestyling! I watch the guy in front of me carefully, because if it looks like he’s going to back off at the last second and not take the jump, I have to be able to get around him and still have the speed to take the jump successfully.
You want to use your body, both your arms and legs, as suspension. Use them to absorb landings as well as to preload the bike on the ramp. Don’t jump stiff.
Basically, use your head. It’s real easy to get hurt if you come up short on a double or get too crazy. It’s good to practice jumping in a non-race environment.
It’s true that whoever can out-brake the competition will win a race. What that means is, the later you can brake into a corner, the better. Don’t brake too late, of course, or you’ll find yourself eating a hay bale. So you go in fast, brake late, accelerate fast, and you lose less speed.
Keep your body weight back, way back, when braking. Brake equally, both front and rear, and don’t lock them up. Stay smooth.
Like braking, keep your weight back on the quad. Try to stay balanced with the balls of your feet centered on the pegs. Suspension setup is important. Too slow a rebound setting and the shocks will pack; they won’t return to full travel in time for the next whoop. If it’s too fast, you can go over the bars. So you need to tweak your shocks before you race.
Keep your quad in good shape and well-tuned. My Nacs Z-400 is running great; Yoshimura has done such a great job with it. Whether you work on your bike yourself or have a shop mod it, keep it tuned and you’ll have less of a chance for mechanical failures.
First off, stay smooth and try to land on the downside of every jump. There are different kinds of jumps and I use different strategies for them. On doubles, I’ll go faster and get higher to make sure I clear the second jump. But for tabletops and singles, I try to stay low. Airtime is lost time except for double jumps. You want to get back on the ground and get the tires moving you forward.
In TT and motocross, brake late. Usually, the harder you go in, the better off you are. Stay smooth and in control. Roll on the throttle. The best thing is not to follow the racer in front of you. If he is going wide in a turn, go inside and swoop him. And if he takes the inside, brake later in the corner, keep your speed up and try to cut him off from the outside line.
Never lock your brakes in TT. By far the best thing to do is brake in a straight line. I’ve found that if you’re sliding, you lose too much distance and time. Go fast and brake hard while still going straight. If you use the rear brake and slide, it actually takes longer for the bike to slow down, and you’re setting yourself up to be passed.
Some whoops require a rhythm approach while others you want to skip over at speed. For whoops that are deeper and further apart, it’s best to do them in a smooth, rhythmic way. But for whoops that are shorter and closer together, you want to take them faster and skip across the top. If you have a run at whoops, it’s usually better to take them as fast as possible. I know that sounds scary, but it works. Whereas if the whoop section is right after a corner, you may not have time to get up to speed, and you’ll want to use a more rhythmic style to stay fast and smooth.
I’m on a Walsh-framed 250R with a brand-new engine. I was wondering if the two-strokes could keep up with the four-strokes, but Jeremiah Jones has been dominating this year, so it looks like they can. I like the Pro Production class, though. I think that’s where the sport may be headed.
Cross-Country 4×4 Racer
Cut the corners as close as possible. On a 4×4 the front wheels will push and dive in, so you need to put maximum body weight to the opposite side. But I don’t use the 4WD too much, unless there are extreme conditions, heavy bottlenecks on hills, that sort of thing. So in 2WD you can swing a corner a little wider and let the back end swing around. Come into the corner at speed and tap the front brakes to plant the front end, then tap the rears to get the rear wheels sliding. At about the halfway point in the turn, get off the brakes and back on the gas. It takes practice to keep your momentum up in a turn.
For whoops sections on a cross-country course keep your weight back. Let the front end float over the whoops. That can be hard on a heavy 4×4 quad with no clutch, so it’s body weight back along with keeping on the throttle. You want to try to skim across the top of whoops but that’s hard on a 4WD quad. If you can’t skim, if the whoops are big, just roll smooth as you can. In the smaller whoops, power through them. Be careful because the whoops can toss you and you don’t want a heavy 4WD quad landing on you.
On my Kawasaki Prairie, I keep the front shocks stiff. The rear is fine, if anything I’ll set it to be soft just to save my body the punishment.
Stay clean! Stay in front. Pick your lines well. In a tight pack, you just have to take the mud and deal with it as you set up your passes. Usually by the second lap the pack has thinned out some and the mud won’t be as bad. Be prepared to pass because you don’t want to spend any more time than you have to being showered with mud. Make sure you have enough tear-offs or roll-offs!
Ease into the water a bit slower; don’t just charge into a water crossing the first time. There could be rocks, logs, or it could just be deeper than you thought. You don’t want to drown your quad or go over the bars in water, or tear your bike and body up. Go a bit slower in, then accelerate out.
TIGHT TREE SECTIONS
If there are two trees you have to pass between, don’t look back and forth between the two trees; focus on one and get as close as you can to that one. Then focus on the trail ahead. Peripheral vision is critical in tight spots. You have to be able to peripherally look at trees while you also watch the trail. It’s good to have strong upper body strength to maneuver a utility quad through tight sections.
I’m on a Kawasaki-sponsored Prairie 4×4, hopped up by Penland Brothers Racing. It’s a 650 frame but I’m using a V-Force 700 engine. It’s actually the 650 cases with 700 internals.
Rule number one: don’t land on anyone! I learned that fast, and the hard way. There’s no quicker way to get knocked out of a race. But you just want to pick a good line. If you’re unsure, watch the pack, watch the leaders, and see where they’re jumping. Follow for a while and figure out the good line. Then set them up and pass them over a jump.
Body english is the key to cornering well. You want to lean hard into those corners! That and good throttle/clutch control. You should be leaning hard but still stay smooth around a corner. It just takes practice.
I use mostly my front brakes as I enter a corner. I always stay on the throttle hard, so my brakes take a beating. I push the rear with the throttle while dragging on the front brakes. I’ll use the rears, too, if I have to. I did that a lot when I was new but now I find that I use mostly the front brakes.
You want your butt as far back as you can get it. Way back out there! Keep the front end up and light. You do that with throttle and body english. Your arms should be fully extended. You want to avoid pogoing through the whoops. I run PEP shocks and I’ve never even had to mess with them. But if you’re having problems you might want to slow down the rebound a bit.
CRF-450 engine with a Walsh frame.
Cross Country Racer
Corners to me are getting from point A to point B as fast as possible, so I go into the corners hard and fast. I try to hold on to the last second to brake. It’s how you pick up a second here, a second there, as you outbrake your opponents. Frankly, it’s one of the best ways to win a race, if you’re quick in the turns. You need to use the turns in a cross-country race to make up time.
Brake before the corner and be gassing it through the turn. Using your front brakes is better. I could lose my rear brakes and still finish a race in good position, but if I lose my fronts I just head for the trailer.
Be aggressive and fast. Lean back and try to wheelie from whoop to whoop. I use Elka shocks and I keep them stiff with a good bit of rebound dialed in. Remember to stay smooth, because the smoother you are, the less fatigued you’ll get. You’ll need that strength at the end of the race when everyone else is getting tired. The fresher you, the faster you can go at the end.
Have fun and enjoy it. Everyone else is as miserable as you so you may as well have some fun. Some guys fall apart in the mud; they can’t handle it.
Be smart if you’re crossing a deep water hole. It’s better to lose two seconds going in a bit slower than sitting there dead with a drowned engine or broken A-arm from hitting an underwater obstacle.
TIGHT TREE SECTIONS
Never look to the sides or at the trees. Stay focused on the trail and use your peripheral vision. I guarantee you that if you look at a tree you’ll end up clipping it. Keep your arms tucked in. Just remember that the quad will fit on the trail, so keep the bike under control and focus on getting from A to B as fast as possible.
I’m on a 400EX prepped by Four-Stroke Tech, outfitted with White Bros, MSR and Maxxis. It’s definitely fast, I like riding the four-strokes, and I’ll be hitting a lot of races this year on it.