Keeping your momentum through sandy berms with Mike Brown
Intro And Photos By Garth Milan
Have you ever been to a Supercross race and seen your favorite rider railing around a tight, 180-degree bowl turn with both feet on the pegs, wide open and leaning back? Probably not: As with any riding technique in our sport, special track conditions demand specifically tailored methods of riding. In no circumstance is this truer than in deep, soft sand.
While you may have your rear-brake-skid down pat in a hard-packed bowl corner, try using the same routine in a sweeping sand turn and you’ll have a great view of the second-to-last place rider. We hate to break it to you, but when the track gets soft all of the techniques you learned on hard dirt go flying out the window. The problem lies in the fact that pillow-soft sand robs you and your bike of any and all forward momentum you once enjoyed the moment the throttle was chopped. If you’re on a four-stroke, engine braking can magnify the trouble even more.
That’s the bad news; the good news is that with the proper skills you can eliminate this dilemma altogether by keeping your speed and railing around the outside of the turn, in the process making up valuable time on your competition and keeping that precious speed intact. We hooked up with Yamaha of Troy’s outdoor National hero Mike Brown at Southwick, perhaps the most legendary sand circuit in the United States, to find out the right way of manhandling sand berms. If you have ever been frustrated at your momentum loss in soft conditions, read on to find out how the pros deal with sand.
Keep Your Speed
“The biggest problem most riders have in sandy corners is that they don’t keep their momentum up. You can’t be jerky with the throttle or the brakes in sand; everything requires smooth, controlled movements. If you come in hot and brake hard, you’ll lose all of your speed. The problem gets worse the second you try to get back on the gas, because now your engine is struggling to regain its power and traction in the soft dirt.
“In this specific turn, lots of riders either went inside and tried to square off the corner or they went outside and sat down like they would in a hard-packed turn. Both of these techniques are wrong. The correct way is to go outside, lean back, and consistently stay on the gas, using your bike’s power to propel it through.
“You probably think going outside will leave you too vulnerable for a pass from the rider behind you, but remember that sand tracks are different than hard tracks—momentum rules everything here.
Take A Stand
“Perhaps the most important thing of all when negotiating sandy sweepers like this is to remain standing. As the track gets rougher and bumpier, the more chance you have of sticking your front end in a hole and going down. This is why using the power of your legs is so important.
“Grip the bike as hard as you can with your knees. The combination of leaning back, staying upright, and remaining on the gas keeps weight off your front wheel. In sand, as soon as your front end gets buried you begin to have major stability problems.
“While the main emphasis should be on using your legs because they are more powerful than your upper body, don’t ignore your arms’ sstrength and control. It’s very important to use the handlebars as another means to keep the bike from leaning side-to-side in the turn. As soon as I start to feel my bike leaning over too far in either direction, a quick pull on the bars is all it takes to straighten things out. Be smooth, keep your front end light, and carry your speed through the corner, and you’ll be amazed how much easier sandy corners will become.