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by The "Professor" Gary Bailey


In this week's article I want to talk about aggressive riding. Or more specifically riding with aggression. Yes, there is a difference and sometimes it is hard to define. But you know it when you see it. A great example of aggressive riding has been Cooper Webb lately. He is consistently getting mid pack starts but his aggression after the start is what has taken him to the front. But when is it too much? Can you ever have too much aggression? I don't think you can but you must have some respect for the other riders. But this article is not about what's going on the track right now; rather, it's more about how you can learn to be more aggressive and how to use that aggression in the right way.

Video: 8 laps - 15th to 1st. This is how it's done.

No matter whether you're talking motocross, supercross, NASCAR or any other sport there are always going to be aggressive moves. And your opinion of those moves is going to be colored by your perspective and also your favorite rider, driver or team. As for MX and SX a key factor is the track design. How easy it is to pass or not pass will be a big factor as to how aggressive you have to be to make a pass. For sure if you get a bad start you better be aggressive and especially, if it’s a short race like an LCQ or a heat race, you need to have a lot of aggression if you want to move forward.

Learning Aggression

Learning to be aggressive with respect requires finesse. When I watch the best guys racing side-by-side they make some aggressive moves but they do it (for the most part) with respect and very little contact.

To learn how to be aggressive I suggest you start by working on one section at a time. Don’t try to ride the whole racetrack being aggressive. If you can't ride a certain corner or a set of whoops or if you are having trouble hitting a timing section correctly and aggressively then you're not going to ride the rest of the track aggressively either. You may think you can but it's not going to happen. You will ride over your head or like a tool and make mistakes.

This is the set up to execute a perfect no contact pass. This doesn't just happen! You need to practice this cut down or it's not going to happen.

photo: Gary Bailey

If you have no style, no form, or no technique, it's going to be difficult to try and go really fast and aggressive. You need to be sure that your form and control are good so you can handle the speed and aggression. A very important key to learning aggression is having an assistant at the practice track with a stopwatch. Find a start and a stop point for a section you want to practice. Have your assistant time you as you go through the section and record the time. Make two or three runs through the section then pick the fastest time and try to match it. While trying to match the time you may post an even faster time. If you do then try to match the new fastest time.

When I use this training technique with my students after a few runs I like to ask the rider, “Were you out-of-control?” “Did you almost go off of the track?” “Did you almost crash?” If the answer to each of these questions is no, my next question is "Why didn't you push harder?" If the answer comes back, 'Well, I was afraid I was going to crash,' I then ask, “Afraid of what? “ At this point I usually get a list of negative answers, like ‘I was afraid the front was going to wash out,’ or ‘the back was going to come around on me because I wasn't going to get traction.’ That's negative thinking.

So let's take this negative and turn it into a positive. To turn a negative around have the rider say, "I wonder what would happen if I charge this corner a little harder?" "What if I hit that jump a little faster?" "What's the worst thing that could happen?" "Man, if I can make this stick in that turn or if I could hit this jump a little faster that would be crazy how fast I would be." As a rider you have to take the negative thoughts and images in your head and frame them in a positive light. If you are the coach you need to identify when your rider is being negative and help them turn their thoughts positive.

When you ride, there's a time to be perfect. There's a time to have everything perfect when you're trying to be aggressive and have good form. When you practice though, there’s a time to just see how fast you can really go even if it's not pretty. Be sure to leave yourself an out if you make a mistake. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Just make sure you learn from them and don't repeat the same mistakes over and over. If you don't practice aggression when you are not in a race situation then you will not have it mastered on race day.

Video Analysis

If you think you're going really fast have your assistant bring a camera to film your session. Remember when you look at this video that that's what everyone standing around sees. Don't be surprised if you don't look as fast as you thought.

Inside Jump: This move doesn't just happen. There is a lot of confidence and control needed and this doesn't always work out as planed.

photo: Gary Bailey

If you have someone with both a stop watch and a video camera that is the best set up. Remember, to get this right it takes more than two or three runs. It takes as many runs as it takes until you are going as fast as you can. Like any other sport make 10, 20, 30, 50 attempts if that’s what it takes to go faster.

Learning to be aggressive on all parts of the racetrack is certainly the end goal. But to do it right you have to learn to master each section one at a time and then learn to string them together. Learn to be aggressive in a right hand corner, then in a 90 degree corner, then in a off camber berm, then in a timing section, then in the whoops. Until you master each of these you will not master an aggressive lap.

Line Selection

It is also important to learn to ride many different lines on the racetrack. At most racetracks on practice day there tends to be just one line around the track. How do you learn to be aggressive and have places to pass aggressively if you're always riding on the same line as everyone else? Here's something I like to have a rider do. When you think you have the fastest line on the inside or the outside, time it. Then, challenge yourself and to make the other line faster than that one. Once you've done that, try to go back to the other line and make it the faster line until you're going fast in both lines and you've determined actually which one is the fastest. Then, in a race situation, you will know how to pick fast lines and you will also know how to make an alternative line work when needed.

The outside pass will come as even more of a surprise. But you need a lot of speed and commitment.

photo: Gary Bailey

I spend many hours at the racetrack working with riders and watching others ride. All too often I see riders take the same line lap after lap after lap, never once trying a different line. What a waste of time and gas. I shake my head at these guys and wonder what they are thinking. I'm sure if I asked them if they thought the lines were going to change during a race they would say, 'Yes. Lines change every lap.' If that is the case, why not practice different lines?

Aggressive Passing

So what about aggressive passing? Now, that you have some lines to choose from you can think about making passes. Most aggressive passes are made on the inside. That means that you have to have good braking so you can charge and get slowed without taking out the other rider. Aggressive riding doesn't mean that you have to take the other rider out. Work on going fast and holding your line so you can make an aggressive move without contact. But the inside line isn't the only choice. if you have practiced different lines you can make some real surprising passes on the outside with a lot of aggression and commitment.

The pass: Sometimes this needs to happen...for the win..for the last chance to make the race. But no contact is best. There is taking the line away and there is the planned takeout. Not a good idea.

photo: Gary Bailey

As I've said many times before only perfect practice makes perfect. If you make that overly aggressive pass remember paybacks are hell. Is it worth it? Do your homework and you won’t put yourself in that situation.

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
    Casey Pons February 01, 2015 at 6:08 am

    It's always an education reading your observations and practices, Gary. Technology, Tracks and Time have all changed over the years, but the principles of how to master them still seem to come down to the basics that you have professed (pun intended) hold true today as they have for a long while.
    Thanks for the great review, once again. Practice, practice, practice with an emphasis on perfection. All good stuff. You have a great student there with Cooper Webb. Congratulations, on (both) your continued success'.

  2. Gravatar
    Tom Baker Vet Racer LA Ca February 02, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    I've been reading Gary Bailey's books & watching his videos / DVDs for about 20 years.
    Every word that comes out of his mouth is 100% accurate.
    He is by far the best motocross / Supercross / off road coach an instructor ever.
    HE CAN HELP :) !!!

  3. Gravatar
    Dave Momberg February 24, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    My son is just starting to race, he's 11. I was wondering the best way to teach him to pick different lines, teach him how to attack corners, and show him how fast he is, or not. These are great tools for any racer. And no better way to re-enforce this than with a video showing just that, aggressive, smart riding.

    Great article!

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