By Kevin Windham
Photos And Intro By Garth Milan
How do you set up for a corner? If you’re like most amateurs, you don’t. However, if you take the time to notice the techniques of the pros you’ll see that they make every second count, including their time in the air. Instead of going off a jump and straight into the “Dead Sailor” position like most goons, riders that know what they’re doing position themselves and their bikes for the landing and beyond.
Simple things like changing direction off the face of a jump or turning in the air can shave precious time off your laps by giving you a more direct route, and at the same time help keep all of your precious momentum going in the direction you want it to go—away from your competition.
We recently cornered new Team Honda rider Kevin Windham at Glen Helen while he was preparing for the upcoming Nationals and asked him his advice for making the most of air time. Windham is a multi-time National and Supercross race winner, but perhaps his most qualifying credential is the fact that he is the last man to beat Ricky Carmichael in a National moto. So without further ado, here’s K-Dub…
OFF THE LIP
“Changing your bike’s direction in the air is something you need to be able to do to go fast. Oftentimes there will be jumps with corners directly past their landings, so if you turn the bike while in the air and land with your wheels in the direction of the upcoming corner, you’ll have one less movement to make on the ground. This will keep your lines smooth and fluid and also keep your bike traveling in a direct and straight path with the shortest route.
“On a jump like the tabletop I’m doing in the photos, I leave the lip with my bike leaning over to the side that the upcoming corner direction goes. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the track and know exactly what follows every jump; many times, the jump face will block your view. If you know the track well, though, you’ll know ahead of time which way to turn in the air.
“As I leave the ground, I actually counter steer off the face. This causes my bike to gyroscopically turn in the direction I want it to go. Once in the air, by having the bike leaned over off the face and steering away from the turn, my bike whips around and sets me up perfectly for the next corner. It’s kind of hard to see in the photos, but I actually hit the landing at close to forty degrees, to the right. This means that I am already beginning the turn the second my wheels hit dirt.”
“Another more advanced way to help shave a little time off your laps is to stick your leg out in the air. If you think about it, a corner as tight as the one I’m about to hit will require me to take a foot off the pegs for balance and stability. Though it seems like a minimal task, removing my foot from the peg takes a second of my time and a sliver of my concentration. I scrub speed by using my “down time” in the air, where I can’t accelerate anyway, and take my foot off the peg before I even hit the corner.
“Like I said, it doesn’t sound like much, but it all adds up. Not only will you save some time and energy, you’ll also make your and your bike’s motion that much smoother and more fluid. This is a fairly advanced technique and a bit tougher than simply turning your bike in the air, so be careful. It’s easy to catch your foot on the ground and twist your ankle or knee when landing.
“With all of these little tricks, the most important thing to do is to look as far forward as you can. My best advice is to look towards the corner in the air, pick your line, and then look forward to the next obstacle. Always look ahead and don’t waste time debating your line choice. Once you pick your path, stick to it and don’t second-guess yourself.”