JS7 - What I see
by The "Professor" Gary Bailey
Hey guys, it’s time for another why to, how to, from The Professor.
First, I want to thank you to all of you for checking out these articles. It sure is good to be able to give a little back to the sport and I hope these articles help you on the track. It is also pretty cool to have so many of you wanting private coaching as I am supposed to be in some kind of semi-retirement. That’s not working out! Just a reminder for those in the Southern California area; I will be spending some time there this summer with my kids and grandkids so let me know if you are interested in coaching. Well, so much for that, let’s get to the good stuff.
Okay, I know this is going to stir the pot. As you know, I have huge respect for anyone who makes it to the top level in any sport. It annoys the hell out of me to hear people booing someone when they are one of the best in a sport. You can like or dislike a particular pro athlete, but to me it is inexcusable to boo anyone that has achieved the top level of their sport. So don’t boo him or her, as my mom taught me if you don’t have anything nice to say, then it is best not to say anything at all.
There was a time when I was a huge James Stewart fan. Stewart found a way to go faster than anyone and made others step it up, as he WAS the fastest man on the planet. Achievements at the top level are short-lived as it always seems that as soon as one reaches a certain level someone else comes along and raises the bar. Stewart for sure did that for a while. And like many of you, I noticed and he earned huge respect from me.
If you keep doing the same things, then you will keep getting the same results.
Then, Stewart decided to pursue some other opportunities, like his reality show and it turned his focus away and became more important than racing. And as Stewarts’ priorities changed, we all saw him change and in my opinion, not necessarily for the better. I’ve seen this with many athletes, sometimes the distraction is a new girlfriend, a wife, the start of a family, the California lifestyle, X Games, a clothing line, or maybe just being “young and dumb." For some of these athletes that race their entire childhood and adolescence to get where they are, maybe they just burn out and decide to kick back and have some fun.
After some time away from racing Stewart decided to come back, but in the meantime others had stepped up, so he was no longer the top dog. Maybe he still expected to be, I am not sure. But I do know from my own racing and that of my son David and countless others I’ve seen go through the process, once you’ve been top dog, it is very hard to accept that you aren’t and you’ve either got to motivate yourself to get there again or accept the humbling experience of realizing someone else is.
Sometimes you need to make changes if you want to get better at something. Here is what I know for sure! Nothing in life will change if you don’t make a change. If you keep doing the same things, then you will keep getting the same results.
Now, back to Stewart. There were some things that I liked about Stewart when he was on the top of his game. For one, he was fast in the whoops; really fast. What I liked about the way he rode whoops was that he came in fast and kept the bike flat so he could carry good momentum all the way through. Not only was the bike flat, but also he was on the balls of his feet so the suspension could work better. And, another thing I noticed in a lot of the turns, he kept his inside leg in close to the bike with the knee high and the foot not so far out front. So much so that some said he never took his inside foot off the peg in the turn because that was what it looked like if you were on the outside of the turn because you could not see his leg stuck out front by the front wheel. But I shot video from all angles and studied it and liked the way he was doing it so he could put more weight on the front end. One other thing that was so good about that way was he could get his foot back on the peg sooner with less movement. This would allow him to catch a quick shift, use the rear brake or just get his foot back on the peg quickly. But the biggest thing was more weight on the front end. He was not the first one to ever do this but he was doing it more and better than I have ever seen it done. Stewart was on to something and it worked much better.
Here is what I think is going on with Stewart? First, you can’t keep doing what you have always done if you are not winning. If you are not winning, you need to look at what you were doing and see if you are still doing those things. You need to carefully analyze what you did when you were winning and what you are doing now. You need to have an open mind and look at what everyone is doing, even if it is not the way you do it.
I think of it just like testing a bike, you need to try everything so you can see what works best. This is what Stewart and any rider in his position needs to do. And, he cannot do it alone. He needs a coach. Not a trainer, this is different. Not just a team manager or a dedicated family, but a coach. You need someone that has the time to look for every little detail, and someone that knows what they are looking for.
I still don’t get why in every other professional sport from Nascar, to basketball, to tennis, to football and golf there are coaches that help with technique and form, but not in motocross. Why are there team managers in motocross, but not team coaches? Also, why do so many riders reach the pro level and then think they don’t need help anymore? They might recognize they need a trainer, but they overlook that they need a coach. Is it that every motocross athlete is smarter than athletes in other sports and they know it all? Could you imagine a pro football team without a coach? Sure dad and mom can help coach to some degree but there comes a time when the rider needs more.
So, here it is for free. For Stewart and anyone else that can benefit. If I was Stewart’s coach (and I am not soliciting here), this is what I would tell him.
- Get back on the balls of your feet.
For whatever reason, Stewart has stopped riding on the balls of his feet. He needs to get back on the balls of his feet. In the whoops, being on the balls of your feet is a big part of helping the suspension work better. On the jumps and in the turns you can weight and unweight the bike better on the balls of your feet. I don’t care what color bike you are on, it can only get better if you are doing the best things to make the bike work better and being on the balls of your feet is one thing you should do.
- Go back to the knee high and bent technique in the corners.
Stewart was using this technique and now he has abandoned it. I have taught this to all levels of riders and it works. It is what made Stewart’s turns so quick and so good and it is just not happening now like it was.
- Use the damn clutch!
This is personal with Stewart and me. Stewart came to ONE of my schools when he was on 85s and I gave him a tap on the knuckles with my stick for not using his clutch as I have with hundreds of riders over the years. Stewart got mad and told his dad, Big James, and also later told a magazine about it in an interview. How did Big James react? Big James told him he should have had his finger on the clutch.
The clutch is like having a backup plan. Stewart can go fast for sure, but he has no plan B. Stewart has plan A and that’s it. All the best riders across generations, all the ones we call the best in their time, keep a finger on the clutch: David Bailey, Bayle, McGrath, Reed, Dungey, and for the most part Carmichael, just to name a few… They cannot all be wrong.
So, can you ride without the clutch? Sure you can. Stewart and many others have for years. But if you ride without you finger on the clutch, what do you have when it all goes wrong? Remember Stewart’s Daytona crash? Before that crash, Stewart’s front wheel was too high and was just missing the top of the jump that the front wheel needed to touch so the front end would lift. What could he have done? Simple; pull the clutch lever in a little so the front wheel drops and touches the top and rebounds so the front end doesn’t drop. Oops, but he can’t do that when there is no finger on the clutch.
I don’t remember all of the tracks, but I do remember all of the unfortunate Stewart crashes. Here are some solutions to handle a few familiar Stewart crash scenarios:
Scenario 1: Team mate gets in trouble right in front of James and comes to a stop. What could James have done to not run into him? Pull in the clutch. Oh, sorry, he can’t do that if he doesn’t have his finger on the clutch.
Scenario 2: Front end washes out, crashes in the turn, starts bike, takes off, one bike length and takes fingers off the clutch, wheelies into the whoops, front drops in the bottom of the whoops and over the bars, no power. Quick fix? Give the clutch a little pull and get some control and power out. Oops, sorry can’t do that without a finger on it.
Scenario 3: Going around this turn with a quick touch of the clutch. As soon as the power comes on, he takes his fingers off. Now it goes from traction to slick while going up the face of the jump because he was hoping all was going to go perfect, but it doesn’t. Instead, the rear end comes around from not being able to control the traction. The fix? Control the power all the way through the turn with a nice clutch feed for better traction and control. Oops, he can’t do that if he doesn’t use the clutch.
Do you get my point? As I watch all of these crashes, I ask myself how many times do you keep making the same mistake? How many times can you crash and still get up? How many times can you hit your head before it is one hit too hard or too many? When do you change so this won’t happen? The only one that can answer that is the guy doing it.
In life, for everything there is a season. There is a time. This is a season for change. Too many riders are hurt. Too much talent is being wasted. It is time to refocus. Sometimes you have to slow down and get back to basics to go faster. We all want to see good aggressive racing, but I don’t want to see anyone hurt unnecessarily. If you recognize yourself in this article, no matter what level rider you are, ask yourself if you are paying enough attention to details, if you are focused, if you need to make changes? And, if you do, get busy.
|Fact, you can not be helping the suspension while on your arches. That would be like riding a bicycle on your arches. Will not work. No finger on the clutch? Where is the back-up plan?|
|This is how it is done when you are the best and want the bike to work. Hard to see with those black gloves but that finger on the clutch lever can help you keep from busting your _ _ _ whatever.|
|Arches and no clutch, GOOD LUCK. How much luck do you have?|
|Love this guy. That look deserves the #1 plate|
|No clutch, no plan B. Arches, no flow, suspension works to hard. Even Jake knows the feet and the clutch is a good idea.|
|Why do you keep hoping this is going to work? Let go of the clutch wheelie in, hold it wide open and hope for the best. Will it work? Sure some times.|
|One with a plan and one with no plan.|
|Even when it’s for sure you are going to go down without your finger on the lever you may reach for it because you are to busy holding on. Plan B?|
|How many times? Do the same thing, get the same results|
|Check it out forward, arches and finger on the clutch. Just like Reed and Dungey and many of the best and the fastest.|
|Everyone is entitled to their opinion of what they like or don’t like so you get to have yours. For me I like this look best, for style and control and it looks aggressive.|
|When I talk about the leg in this is the look I like. When riders do this I think there is less chance of messing up the knee if their foot makes contact with the ground.|
|This the way to do this turn if you don’t want to mess up the knee as well as having more control of the front end because you can put more weight on the front end.|
|You can pick the look you like but for me I like RV. Second pick JW and for my third I am not sure. Sure like that #1 plate.|
|Let's take a quick look back at the clutch. Four riders and three think being ready with the clutch is a good idea and one is just going with plan A. All I can say is like that old ad on TV said, TRY IT, YOU’LL LIKE IT|
Well, like I said before, I am sure this article will stir things up, but what the heck. It’s an off week and there’s not much going on right now anyway. Hope you enjoy. RIDE SAFE.
I would like to take a moment to tell you that if you are interested in motocross history, I have a book out called Pioneer to Professor that covers all of my racing days, from 1957 on a 200cc Triumph Cub to my factory Bultaco days and beyond. I have also put together a limited edition book for kids, Motocross A to Z with the help of Thor. Both books can be ordered at garybaileymx.com or you can pick them up at The Legends and Heroes display at the Lucas Oil Motocross nationals and a portion of the proceeds from each book purchased from Legends and Heroes goes to support the Legends and Heroes motocross history tour.
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!
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.