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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!

The Slides
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 Technique
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

The Traps
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. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    Anthony Vene June 30, 2011 at 10:24 am

    I switched to mini's last year and have been pretty competetive in the SM class. But I'm wondering, I can back it in but not as extreme as we see in the video below. I'm wondering if my 150r is too light? I"m really starting to think the added weight helps keep the bike sideways longer. Just a thought and interested in any/all opinions.

  2. Gravatar
    Lewis June 30, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Hi Anthony. I do race a mini myself (YZ85), and in my experience and from what I have seen (there is a Pro in Adult Mini in NorCal), backing it in with a mini is not as efficient as keeping it in line. The problem with small displacement bikes is that you want to keep the momentum through the turn (especially true on 2 strokes). However sliding the bike does not allow to keep as much momentum, even though it allows to brake later and deeper.
    Now to answer your question I would say that the more lean angle you will have while on the brakes, the farther the rear will slide. Check out some videos of guys putting XR100s sideways indoor.

  3. Gravatar
    Rooster July 12, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    One thing that most people, including myself, tend to do is to back off the front brake once the slide is initiated. This will only make you slower. You can be just as hard on the front brake in a slide as you are entering a turn normally provided the front wheel is still tracking straight. If you find yourself starting to blow through apexes you were making before you began trying to slide, then it's most likely you're backing off the front brake. It takes some getting used to for sure.

    Also as the author mentions, the slides are part of a natural progression of speed. If you set out to back it in without first focusing on going fast you'll turn much slower lap times. If you let the slide develop naturally as you get faster, it will become a tool in your arsenal without slowing you down.

    I use a slipper clutch and when it's tuned right I can just dump the clutch to initiate the slide. At the end of a long straight I just bang down two or three gears and dump the clutch. The rear wheel doesn't lock because the slipper gives it some play but it slows the rotation down enough to lose traction and start the slide. The guys I know who don't have a slipper and can feather the clutch to maintain the rotation are pretty damn good. Frankly, sliding sideways at 40+ MPH tends to be all I can focus on at the time. If you can reach up and gently feather the clutch then all the more power to you. I don't know many who can. It's a pretty advanced technique.

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