5 Easy Things to Help at Ponca and Lorettas
by The "Professor" Gary Bailey
Okay, so maybe they are all not easy, but they are things that will help you if you start now. Most of these things you should have already been doing if you are serious about racing, but you should definitely start doing them now if you want to be your best at these big races.
As I was getting ready for my next why-to training article, my mind was on these two big races coming up. I have been to the Loretta Lynn Amateur National more times than I can count and with the best of the best, including five times with Travis Pastrana. Here are some things I have learned over the years that I think might help someone do better.
Most of the time I have found that riders just keep doing the same things over and over. The problem is that they do not think beyond what they are used to doing so in the end, they only have what they have. NOTHING CHANGES IF YOU DO NOT OR ARE NOT WILLING TO MAKE A CHANGE.
By my way of thinking the one that goes to war with the biggest guns and the most ammo stands the best chance to win. The same is true for doing battle at Loretta Lynn’s, so here is some ammo to help you stand the best chance of being successful.
- Practice a lot of starts: Most riders don’t do enough starts and those that do practice starts at all, don’t do the right thing to get better.
- I think the race is almost won in the first 5 or 6 bike lengths off the start, so if you can get there first you have a big advantage.
- You will need a parent, mechanic, or a buddy with a stopwatch to act as a timer to help you practice this technique. First, make a line about 6 bikes out from the start line and have a stopwatch. Let the rider start whenever the rider is ready. The timer should watch the rear wheel, as soon as the rear wheel moves, the timer should start the stopwatch. Then, as soon as the wheel gets to the line you have drawn about 6 bike lengths out from the start-line, stop the watch.
- Do this about 5 times and compare the times and mark them down. The best or quickest time should be your mark to beat every start. You should practice this until you can make that best time happen every start. If the time ever gets better, then that is the new mark.
- Never think that is the best you can do, try new things. If you are using first gear try second, if you are using second try first, then compare the times. Every start is different, so you need to work on different surfaces. Be sure that you can get 5 or 10 in a row that is at the lowest time or your mark if you what a good start on race day.
- When you do your starts be sure you do the first turn as well and do it at full speed. And don’t forget to have a plan for where you are going to start, so you are first around the turn. Again, practice lots of starts and when you think you have done enough, do fifty more. Remember, the start is the only time you can pass 39 other riders 2 seconds.
- Work on rutted turns: More riders have trouble with rutted turns than any others turns. You better be prepared for lots of ruts at Loretta Lynn’s. When a track is deep plowed you are going to get ruts and Loretta Lynn’s track will be deep plowed. Even if you can’t have your whole practice track deep plowed, at least get one turn plowed as deep as you can. If you can’t plow where you ride, then get out and ride right after a hard rain so you can make some good ruts. A loamy track would be good for your starts as well as helping you with the turns. For a more detailed discussion of how to ride ruts, check out my other Trackside articles on Racer X Virtual Trainer.
- Work on passing and lines: Everyone is going to need to pass, even if you are the leader, you are going to have to pass lappers. To practice passing the first thing you need to do is to make more lines when you ride. To do this, don’t go to the main line, try not going where everyone else goes. Someone needs to make new lines and that is where you are going to make that pass. When I look at a track on pro day I see 4 and 5 lines and then on amateur day there are only 1 or 2. The reason there are more lines is because the pros think ahead, they have a plan so they lay down some passing lines for when they need them. If you are going to be the best, you need to be smarter than everyone you are racing with. To review passing techniques in greater detail, read my Trackside article entitled, I'll Pass, on Racer X Virtual Trainer.
- Ride in the mud: Don’t ruin your whole year because you get to a big race like Ponca or Loretta Lynn’s and you can’t ride in the mud. How many times have you seen it happen? A rider wins a moto or two, then the rain comes and they get a bad start or just can’t ride the mud.
And here is a suggestion, if you don’t have a start gate to use, get a four foot piece of inch and a half in diameter steel pipe and a couple of large u bolts at least a foot long (you can fabricate these u bolts out of two pieces of rebar bent in half). Attach the steel pipe to the ground with the u bolts. You can then use this pipe as your gate and this way you have a bar to go over to simulate a start gate
It is almost for sure it will rain at least one day at one of these big races, so why not practice in it? I had a weekend class scheduled with some riders, but when they heard that it might rain that weekend, they rescheduled. In the m
eantime, they went to the LL regional and it rained and this rider did not qualify. When I asked him what happened he said, “The track was so muddy that I kept crashing.” Learn from his mistake and don’t let this happen to you.
You need to know how to relax and ride the mud. It is all mind over matter. Instead of hating the mud, make yourself think about how much fun you are having while everyone else is hating the mud. When it starts raining, don’t dread it, instead think how cool it is going to be when you holeshot and get to roost the rest.
I knew my son David Bailey was at a turning point in his career one rainy morning when I heard him down in the shop hustling to put on his gear and get his bike ready because he didn’t want to miss a chance to practice in the mud. You need to think like the champion you want to be.
- Stay focused, eliminate distractions, and get lots of rest: When you are riding and training you need to stay focused. Surround yourself with those that are like-minded. Don’t go to the track with your best buds unless they are as serious as you. Don’t follow a herd mentality. Do what you need to do and be your own leader.
While we are on this mud thing and thinking about weaknesses, it brings up another point. As you prepare, think back on your last races and be honest with yourself and identify your weaknesses. Then, take anything that you have trouble with or know you are not the best at and work hard on it. Practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect.
- Eliminate distractions. This is not the month to get a new girlfriend or a new video game or to tweet with your friends from school about their summer. This is a month to work hard. Next month when you have a championship plaque on your wall, you can impress a new girlfriend, catch up with your friends, or master that game.
- Get lots of rest. Make yourself a schedule and stick to it. Sit down and plan how much time you need to practice each day, when you are going to the gym, working on your cardio or doing whatever your training calls for. Once you have your plan, stick to it no matter what. If you need to go to bed at nine o’clock to get enough sleep to be on the track early the next day, then do that. Treat this month like a job with a time-clock and a schedule and be your own boss.
The Webbs (Trent, Cooper, and Bobby) celebrate another Loretta Lynn's Championship
Thank you for checking out this article. Other similar articles can be found in the archive section. I hope all of my articles help you become a better, safer rider no matter what your skill level. Because I am in semi retirement after 43-years teaching full-time, I only do private one-on-one coaching or with a small group of riders. Most of my time is spent in Virginia, however, if you are on the west coast I do spend some of the winter months in California visiting my kids and grandkids. If you are interested in scheduling a coaching session shoot me an email email@example.com or go to my website. You can come to the mountain or the mountain will come to you!
That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness.