This weekend in Phoenix , James Stewart showed us how important line selection can be. As Stewart gradually worked his way past Ricky Carmichael over the course of several laps in the main event; he used line selection through the whoop sections to make up time on Ricky and eventually set himself up for the pass. In the first lap after the red flag restart, James got by two riders in one corner to move into second place behind RC. Later in the race, Stewart again used that same section of track to pass Carmichael by taking an inside line in the whoops that set him up for an inside pass in the corner. Of course Bubba’s eventual main event win was not all about line selection—bike setup and raw talent played a big roll as well—but it was definitely a factor.
With that in mind, here are five tips for improving line selection based on what we see the pros doing every weekend at the races. Follow these and you should find yourself making up some time on the competition at your next race!
Five Tips for Better Line Selection:
1. Walk the track
Every Supercross weekend, before they go out for practice, every rider—usually accompanied by coaches, trainers and team managers—takes time to walk the track and start looking for what they think will be the best lines. Typically a track builder designs a track to be ridden in a variety of ways, so look for lines that will help you setup for passes, be faster through turns, avoid rough braking bumps, etc.
2. Talk it over
After track walks, practice sessions, and motos, the first thing we see many top pros doing in the pits, is sitting down and talking things over with their team managers, trainers, and mechanics. Some of the discussion is about bike setup, but they also review lines and strategy.
3. Use video
This weekend in Phoenix , we hiked up to the nosebleed seats to get some overview photos of the entire stadium during practice. Up there with us, were representatives from almost every factory and satellite team with video cameras in their hands, taping their riders during practice. Teams will then go back and watch video before the heat and main event races to see where they can improve.
4. Watch other riders
Look at what the competition is doing. If there is one rider that always seems to do well at your local races, watch him during practice to see what he’s doing. This is also where your trainer, mechanic, friend, mom, or dad can help you out by watching other riders during your motos and reporting back to you.
5. Don’t follow
While it is helpful to watch other riders for ideas and inspiration, you don’t want to just mirror their lines during a race. It is easy to find yourself just taking the same lines, over and over again; all the way to a second place finish. In order to make a pass and get to the front of the pack, you’ll have to break out and try a different line. Be creative and try different things to see how they affect your lap times. Ask a friend or parent to time your laps so you can compare how different lines affect your times.