SKILLS: FLATLINED! Sliding through flat turns with Heath Voss


God bless the berm. Turns with huge, loamy berms not only help riders keep their speed and prevent them from tipping over but also provide optimum traction to the rear wheel. The only bad thing, of course, is that not every turn at every track is hallowed with such favorable cornering circumstances. Unlike our street bike counterparts that ride on smooth asphalt tracks, the turns on a motocross track can come in a million different shapes, sizes, and conditions, the trickiest being flat or off-cambered. Traction in such turns is tough to find, but with the right technique it’s possible to controllably slide through quickly and safely, all the while staying on the gas and charging hard.

While shooting photos recently at the Team Yamaha test facilities in Corona, CA, we asked Mach One’s supercross veteran Heath Voss to show us his technique on a slippery, nasty and dry flat turn. Voss cautioned us that practicing his technique of two-wheeled drifting can lead to many a swap-out or high-side while perfecting, but swears it’s the quickest way around once learned. We’ll let Heath take it from here…


“Of all the different types of turns, flat corners probably require the most setup to go fast through. If you perform the technique properly you can actually slide your rear wheel through, using the throttle to steer the bike more than the handlebars. Actually, it’s kind of the same principle used by the guys in rally racing, where the rear ends of their cars slide sideways through corners.

“Start by entering the turn with your butt as far forward on the seat as possible. You should be nearly sitting on the gas tank with your head up and looking forward. Keep your elbows up and in an even position. This will also help keep your weight transferred to the front of the bike.

“I leave both of my feet on the pegs, with more weight on the outside foot to help control the sliding.”

1,2,3… DRIFT!

“Now for the tricky part; like the rally car I mentioned earlier, you start the turn by flicking the bars in the opposite direction that the turn is going (this is called counter steering). Doing this will force the bike to begin its slide.

“From here, the key is using smooth throttle control to slide the back end through the turn. With absolutely no brake dragging or clutch slipping, I start at about a quarter throttle position and slowly begin to open it up. As you slide, gradually pour on more and more throttle. By the end, my bike is pinned and going as fast as it can while my head is looking forward and scanning the track for the next obstacle. Be ready to make small adjustments to the bars throughout the corner to help control your slide, and be smooth!

“Corners like this are tricky, but the better throttle control you have the easier they are. Learning how to slide your back end around with the throttle rather than the brake is something that will help you not only in this situation but in many others encountered on the track.”