Tuesday Tip: Dirt Starts

We receive lots of questions in the TWMX inbox everyday. The inquiries range from “how can I get sponsored?” to “what is Brittney George’s phone number?” Fortunately between some of the crazy questions are folks looking for some legitimate riding info, and we’re here to help out. This week we received the following question from Joey, a faithful TransWorldMX.com reader:

“Hi, can you guys do a tip on dirt starts? I got back from Loretta’s and thought to myself ‘I need to work on dirt starts.’ Thanks a lot.”

That’s a great question, Joey. Here are a few tips for you, including some suggestions from Kelly Smith, and KTM’s Josh Hansen way back when he was a young Yamaha of Troy rider…

1. Gate Selection and Preparation

Obviously the goal on any start is to be the first one to the first turn. To help accomplish that, Josh says it’s important to pick a good gate.

“First off, when it comes to gate selection, I try to find the straightest point to the first corner, but usually from the middle to inside. On dirt, try to find a start without a big rut…something kind of shallow and pretty straight to the first corner.”

On the dirt it’s important to prepare the surface under your rear wheel to ensure good traction and push out of the gate. Stamp down the dirt firmly to get a harder, more tractable surface.

2. Be Ready to React

“When the card goes sideways, I usually have my clutch out to the point that the bike’s just trying to creep. That way I minimize the reaction time, and I’m able to jump out there real hard as soon as I see the gate move. I’m usually holding steady at about mid-throttle, and I’m usually watching the pin, because that’s the first thing that moves.”

3. Stay Smooth

On a dirt start, you will usually have better traction than you would off a concrete starting pad. Kelly Smith stresses the importance of having smooth throttle/clutch control to get the early jump.

“I think a lot of people make the mistake of pinning it and dumping the clutch. It’s not just all about that. It’s finesse, too, like a drag racer would want to do. You’ve got to ease the clutch out to an extent, not just slip it. You’ve got to find that fine line of what works the best, shift as quick as you can to keep it in the power and not over-rev. Once you get that routine, then it’s not hard to keep it, especially if you’re racing all the time, you’re doing it all the time. So it’s not just practice, practice, practice. Initially, you need to get it down. Make sure you’re in the right RPM and it’s pulling.”

4. Balance Your Weight

Like most riders, Josh Hansen says the key to balancing your weight when firing off the starting line is to stay forward.

“I keep my weight centered. If I go to lean back too quick, my front end comes up and I start wheelying. So I always keep my weight forward, and my feet in front of the foot pegs, and I find it easier to shift with my heel.”

We hope these tips from Josh and Kelly help you out, Joey. Hopefully you’ll get the chance to put them into practice again at Loretta Lynn’s next year.

To the rest of you out there, keep sending in your questions and hopefully you’ll find the answers here at transworldmx.com.