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Riding with Agression: Staying Forward

by The "Professor" Gary Bailey

Cooper Webb turns pro in exactly 22 days!
Photo: Gary Bailey

Sorry it's been so long since I wrote an article and that my articles have been so few and far between. This semi-retirement stuff is for the birds, as ever since I announced my semi-retirement, I've been busier than ever before. Maybe I need to announce that I am back to working full-time so that I can get some rest.

Right now, not only is everyone trying to get ready for their Loretta Lynn's qualifiers, but I've also been trying to spend as much time as possible with my boy Cooper Webb to get him ready for his first pro race at Hangtown.

For me this is pretty exciting time. I am almost 70 now and I’ve been at this coaching thing almost 50 years. I still love race day and the smell of race gas and the sounds of motorcycles being readied for another race and the thrill of the gate drop still makes my heart jump. But, I know that my season is coming to a close and that one day this old racer will run his final moto.

After spending all those years with my son David going through the amateurs and then on to the pros, and doing the same with Travis Pastrana for 13 years, and now nine years in the making, it is time to make this step one more time with Cooper, my final protégé. Cooper is the perfect combination of what a racer needs to succeed. He has David’s style, Travis’ fearlessness, and God-given natural instincts and intellect. It’s hard to believe that it has been nine years and that the little fighter I first coached on 65s is now ready for the world stage. It’s a little bittersweet for me because it brings back so many memories of my time with David and the tragic end to his riding career; yet, at the same time, I am so happy for Cooper. After so many years of chasing this goal together, it is so gratifying to know that Cooper, like David and Travis, sees even more the importance of having his coach there to keep him sharp and focused as he turns pro.

So, now let’s focus on an important part of racing that I’ve been working with Cooper on and that is aggression and the look that comes with aggression.

I'm not sure what came first the chicken or the egg? What I do know is you can't get a chicken without an egg and I don't know how you get an egg without a chicken.

Eli tomac has always possessed great style on the bike. The kid just looks fast!
Photo: Gary Bailey

Likewise, I know if you're going to be aggressive you need to be over the front end. So, what needs to come first? Being over the front end or being real aggressive?

Well, it's kind of like the chicken and the egg. If you're going to be aggressive, you need to have your head over the bars to control the front of the bike. And, if you put your head way out over the bars, you better be aggressive.

Most of the riders that are going fast and aggressive are over the front. By being over the front it both allows you and makes you be more aggressive.

As motorcycles have gotten better and the front suspension has improved, riders have been able to use the front suspension more and not rely so much on the rear suspension to do all the work. As a result, riders ride more over the front of the motorcycle and doing so has many advantages.

Riding over the front end allows you to have more control over the front of the motorcycle and what it's doing. Riding with your head over the bars will help keep the front end down on jumps. Staying head forward in the corners will help make the front wheel stick better. And staying a little more head forward in the whoops allows you to control what that front end is doing when it touches in the whoops.\

I am big about look. Yes, look what you look like on the bike. I believe that if you don't look like one of the top guys, it's going to be tough to do what the top guys are doing.

Yours truly had style all the way back in 1968!
Photo: Gary Bailey

The look of aggression, arms up, head forward has been around for a long time. The look was around a little bit before Jeremy McGrath, however he brought it to a whole new level. Jeremy showed us that if you're going to go fast, you need to have more control over the front end. And, by being more over the front of the motorcycle, you can do more with it.

Before we take a look at who's doing what, where and why, first, here's a little something that you can do that might help you understand this a little bit better. You can either be the rider or the one helping out with this little example.

With the rider sitting on the bike with his arms down, kick the front wheel from the side. When you kick the front wheel, watch the rider’s upper body. You should see as you kick the wheel that the rider’s upper body gets twisted.

Then, with the rider forward head over the bars and arms up, try it again. You should see that in the forward position, the arms and the bars move, but there is little movement in the upper body.

It's never good if the bike is out-of-control and it's never good if a rider is out-of-control, but when a rider and a bike are out-of-control at the same time, you definitely have a problem. The forward position helps the rider stay in control even when the bike is not.

To me, Ryan Villopoto has perfect style in almost every section of the track. Very agressive!
Photo: Gary Bailey

Here’s a fact: if you look like you're going fast, you're likely going fast. If you don't look like you're going fast, you're probably not going fast.

In most of the photos we look at, we can tell by “the look” what level rider the rider in the photo probably is.

For me, the top 10 riders have a different look than the rest. And, the three guys that end up on the podium usually have some differences, but all of them are the most aggressive looking. Then, there is 11th through 20th that have a little different look, a look that is not nearly as aggressive looking. Then, from 21st on back? Well, you all know the difference which is why so many imitate “goon” riding style to exaggerate the difference. Being the best is all about style, aggression, technique and attention to detail.

So, do you have photos or video of yourself riding? Look at your photos, your video and ask yourself do you look like Ryan Villopoto, do you look like Ryan Dungey or Chad Reed or Justin Barcia or Stewart, or like Tomac or Roczen or any of those guys that are running up front? If you do not look like them, then that should be your starting point to get “the look.” No matter what level of rider you are, there's no reason that you can't look like the best guys. The more control you have by being in the right position the easier it is when you try to go fast and be aggressive.

So this is your riding assignment for this time: Work on looking more aggressive and you will be more aggressive.

Good luck and ride 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 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. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    brian a May 13, 2013 at 8:15 am

    hi Gary love your articles. Really have learned a lot. Just wondering could you do one on squaring off turns? Always found it easy to do on the two stroke but ever since I went 4 stroke it is something that I struggle with and lose time. Thanks!

  2. Gravatar
    Greg Marino May 16, 2013 at 7:58 am

    ...except for deep sand. Like in Florida Gary. You take "this stance" verbatim in the typical deep and beach like sand scenarios, ya' gonna be dumping alotta' debris out of your helmet and on a regular basis.

    Otherwise, thanks for your help WAY back in my first decade of motocross Gary. I've come a long way and learned a BUNCH and now in my 40th year of all the happy-happy-joy-joy 21st century off-road has to offer!

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