Supermoto - Back it in
by Lewis Glenn
Nothing exemplifies supermoto like a rider backing it in the corner. Seeing riders slide in toward the apex and (sometimes) powerslide out toward the next turn is exhilarating. Some do it because it is fun, others to get girls (never seen it happen but I will keep looking!), yet others slide because it is a very efficient technique to set the bike up for a turn while scrubbing speed off.
Here you can see Brandon Case deep into the turn with his foot still on the rear brake: the tire skids but still turns.
Photo: Steve Walker from HareLine Graphics.
What is Supermoto?
First we should start by defining supermoto. Simply put, it is a motocrosser setup with roadrace tires (slicks) and driven on tracks (often kart tracks or parking lots). Those tracks are usually made out of about 80% asphalt, 20% dirt. The dirt section has jumps, berms, ruts, you name it. It is also interesting to note that the emphasis is on technique rather than speed: the bikes reach speeds usually lower than 100mph. It is all about rider skills, baby!
Aside from being a blast, sliding the rear of the bike is one of the many tools a supermoto racer has under his belt to get ahead of the competition. However one has to remember that this technique is not necessarily to be applied for every turn; in fact backing it in all the time could be counter-productive. Moreover backing it in is a rather difficult technique to master, and if not done properly it could have the bike scrub off too much speed or float past the apex.
The question of “how” is very important and answering it might lead some people to write me hate mails. There is indeed some arguments on the streets regarding the proper technique, so take it from a pro like Brok McAllister, owner of the California Supermoto School and former AMA pro racer. Some riders wrongly believe the slide has to be initiated with the rear brake; in fact the slide is initiated by a combination of hard front brake (loading the forks), engine braking, body position, lean, and clutch control. The difficulty is to do everything in a single seamless motion. As the front brake is applied, the bike has to be leaned over gradually. From that point, the rider needs to bang down the gears and control the wheel chatter with the clutch (you better know where the friction point is!). Meanwhile, the rear brake is to be applied to slow down the wheel so it matches the engine speed, but not hard enough to lock it. In a perfect world, the rider would reach the apex at the end of the slide, at the exact moment when the rear wheel and the engine speeds match. Now is the time to let go of the brakes, make the turn and put on some big gas!
The rider is at full lean (or close), modulating the clutch and hard on the brakes (forks compressed).
Photo: Dennis Anderson from SuperMotoOnline.com
There are two major traps riders have to be aware of in order to be as fast as can be when using this technique. The first one, I already talked about: the use of the rear brake. The problem with slides initiated with the rear brake is that the tire will skid on the pavement: when the tire skids, the rider cannot control it. Moreover with the tire losing traction, there is a real risk of high-side if the rear end starts gripping again in the middle of the slide.
The second trap is for riders to try to back it in at all costs. It is very important to realize that this technique is hard to master, and it is easy to lose seconds using it. Sliding is a by-product of going fast. Backing it in corners at average speed is not efficient. The slide should come from hard braking, smooth downshift and clutch control.
The Secret Weapon
Now if you want to back it in more easily, there is a secret weapon out there: One of the hard parts is to modulate the clutch to find the friction point, allowing the wheel to slide and still turn. However if you feel like taking that out of the equation, you can buy a slipper clutch, which will do that for you: you can then dump the clutch (if you even use it on the downshifts). In my opinion though, it is important to know how to modulate the clutch before buying a slipper.
About the Author: Lewis Glenn is a novice supermoto racer with Supermoto USA in Northern California and avid student from Brok McAllister's California Supermoto School. If he can do it, you surely can! Do not hesitate to contact him if you want more information about Supermoto racing in your area.
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.