Why talk about whoops now? Well, after watching Anaheim1 SX and seeing so many riders go down in the whoops, I thought it was time. Watching Anaheim also got me thinking about all the riders I‘ve seen struggle in the whoops until they learned what they needed to do for more confidence and control.
I am not sure why whoops are called whoops. I think whoops is short for whoop de doos. But, I suspect the real reason is because when things go wrong in the whoops, we go oops or whoops or maybe more like oh …. You know, we’ve all been there.
Why they are called whoops doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you need to know how to ride whoops, so you can be safer and faster. If you are good in the whoops, it can give you a big advantage.
Even if you don’t have many whoops where you ride, you still need to know how to ride whoops. For sure you don’t want to show up for a big race and psych yourself out because you are intimidated by whoops.
The biggest mistake riders make in the whoops is getting too far back on the bike while trying to keep the front wheel light. Instead of getting back on the bike in the whoops, you should keep your head forward (with your visor as close as possible over your number plate for as long as possible), keep the bike flat, and let your front wheel hit the top of each whoop. When you do this you must learn to trust the front end and let the front wheel hit each whoop. The more you let the front wheel hit each whoop, the more the bike will rebound and this helps keep the front end light. I know it seems counterintuitive to get forward on the bike in the whoops to be lighter on the front end, but this is how the forks of the bike work like a pogo stick with compression then rebound. Resist the urge to get back and trust yourself to get forward and let the bike work like it is designed to do.
It is also very important that you keep the front wheel out of the bottom of the whoops. If the front end goes in the bottom, it will compress the forks and then rebound back at you slowing forward momentum and wreck your timing. Well, I should say ruin your timing, let’s not use that word wreck when talking about the whoops.
Another mistake is that riders want to carry the front wheel as far as they can. Then, when the bike sets down, the front wheel is in the wrong place and the bike becomes a bucking bronco.
If you are going to go faster, you will need to come into each whoop with the front down, but on the top of the whoop, which will cause the rear to be up a little. This is good for speed. In the whoops what slows the forward momentum more than anything is the rear wheel impact into each whoop. If the rear wheel is up a little, then it will not impact into each whoop as much and you will be able to maintain your speed in the whoops. You only want the rear wheel to barely touch the top, just to give drive. This will work if you are not wide open, but the faster you go, the easier it is to stay on top of the whoops and just skim through them.
Yet another common mistake riders make in the whoops is having the wrong power. No matter what speed you like in the whoops, it is important that you have a steady to increasing power. If you chop the throttle, you are asking for a disaster, much like what would happen if you were trying to do a wheelie, turned the throttle off and tried to keep the front wheel up. We all know that is NOT going to work.
Another mistake riders make in the whoops is riding in the arches of their boots or flat -footed. You should ride on the balls of your feet as much as possible, but it is especially important in the whoops. Riding on the balls of your feet in the whoops helps the bike work better by making you lighter on the pegs. The advantage of being lighter on the pegs, is that it will let the rear end come up easier and not hit so hard into the face of the whoops. Riding on the balls of your feet will also change the balance on the bike and keep you a little more in the center of the bike.
Finally, a big mistake riders make is not keeping their knees behind the pegs. Why is that a big mistake? Well, because the more your knees are behind the pegs, the more control you will have over the rear end of the bike. The bike has two movements from the foot pegs: (1) it rocks nose up and nose down and (2) it swaps in the rear end. If your knees are in front of the pegs instead of behind the pegs, it lets the back end swap more and also it is harder to grip the bike. But with your knees back behind the pegs, you can control the amount of the back end swap more and maintain better control.
Over the years there have been a number of good whoops riders. So, who are my three current picks for best in the whoops based just on what I saw last week at Anaheim? Probably Villopoto, Canard and Stewart. Why? I like that they stayed flatter, were more over the front, and had less rear wheel impact. I think this is what made them so quick in the whoops at Anaheim. Of the three, Canard may be my first pick.
Canard comes in with the bike flat, on the balls of his feet, with his head forward. And I like the finger on the clutch.
After coming off the first whoop the bike is still flat, this means the rear wheel will not impact the next whoop so the bike will keep a good forward momentum. I still like the finger on the clutch so you can control the power to the rear wheel and be ready if you have a problem.
Bike is still flat win, win, win.
Bike still flat, light on the pegs, finger still there. Looking good.
Everything is still the same, and so is the forward momentum. Staying forward is important. As you go through the whoops you will tend to be pulled back, so you need to focus on staying forward.
Every whoop is the same and that’s what it takes, perfection when and where you can.
If you can hold this look all the way through the whoops, it’s hard to get beat there.
Coming to the end and there was not much that changed all the way. That’s why I like Trey
Catching Villopoto part of the way through the whoops, his bike is flat, he is on the balls of the feet and forward.
Same as Trey, things are looking good and he is carrying a good forward momentum.
Keeping the bike flat is a must and this is why I like the way Ryan rides through the whoops.
Staying forward and light on the pegs is a must. You have to trust the front end and use it
Here Dungey is on the balls of the feet, head forward with knees back. However, I think the front end is too high. Why do I think that? Because this is going to make the rear end go too deep in the bottom letting it slam into the face of the next whoop and slow forward momentum a little.
This is what will happen when you have the front end a little high and the rear slams the whoop. It will throw the front down a little forcing you to the rear. I like the fact he has a finger on the clutch.
Again we are looking that the same thing front end a little high and we may see the same result.
This is what happens once the rocking starts, it’s hard to change. As long as you are that far back, it’s hard to be light on the pegs and level the bike out.
Again big impact, so how do you stop it? Move forward.
As you can see Ryan has moved forward and is lighter on the pegs. Sure would like to see right arm up.
Now by moving forward,the bike is getting flatter. This is also a lot less work when you can stay level.
Things are looking better at this pojnt. From here to the end of the whoops the bike can stay flat.
Here Stewart comes in a little back on the bike, but is on the balls of the feet and his head is forward.
What I like about Stewart is even though he is back a little I like where his arms are and this helps him keep his head forward.
At this point Stewart is for sure on the balls of the feet with the knees back and keeping head forward.
This is when you need to trust the front forks and know that if you stay on the power it will be ok.
I like this look, aggressive and in control of the situation.
At the end, finger on the front brake and ready for the turn. That’s why you need to come out of the whoops in control.
Only one photo, so not necessarily a pattern, but in this one shot you can see there is a lot of work going on here and the rear end is going to drop into the bottoms of the whoops slowing the momentum. When you are on the rear of the bike, you can’t be light on the pegs.
Kevin may be my fifth pick for getting through the whoops. He may be a little far back, but he knows how to keep the bike flat.
Well, that’s it for now. Hope this helps your whoops. Don’t try to do this all at once and don’t go faster than you are ready to. Have fun and be safe.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or go to my website. You can come to the mountain or the mountain will come to you!
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