Keep It Smooth | Conquering Rhythm Sections With Troy Lee Designs/GoPro/Red Bull/KTM's Sean Cantrell
By Casey Davis | Photo By Mike Emery
A rhythm section is a series of jumps that are tied together to create a technical lane on the track. Regardless of their difficulty, which can vary greatly, riders either love them or hate them. If you have a lot of time in the saddle and are comfortable with jumping, then these sections can be a lot of fun. However, if you're having trouble with mastering jumps and timing, chances are you're not a fan!
More often than not the only thing holding us back from taking on a new obstacle or section is fear, as motocross is as much a mental challenge as it is physical. "Tackling a new section on the track is all in your head," Sean Cantrell said when asked about the 2017 Red Bull Straight Rhythm course. "A few of the jumps were pretty big, but we do jumps of that magnitude constantly on the Supercross track." He laid out a number of ways that a rider can overcome a hang-up on a new rhythm section and broke down one of the most technical obstacles in motocross.
Size It Up: First things first, you should always check the track out initially. Roll the jumps on your first lap to see what you're working with for that day. It's never a good idea to send it on the first lap, because the track or course could be different from your last visit and wrecking yourself on the first lap is never fun. Once you're acquainted with the layout or section and have it all memorized, start small and knock out the easy jumps first.
It's All In Your Head: If there's a big jump within the rhythm section that requires a bit more encouragement, work your way up to it gradually by jumping further and further each lap. However, if it's a triple or a double and you don't have the luxury of working your way up to it, then look for room on the side of the track to jump to so that you can ensure you'll have the proper distance for your first attempt. This can be tricky to pull off, but it's a great tool if you have the ability. If there's a big or tricky triple on the track that's giving me fits, I just tell myself it's a double, which in turn gives me no other option than to do it because I can't be rolling the doubles! If you're able to do that, it puts everything into a new perspective. Once you get over the jump, keep your momentum up and your eyes forward until you reach the end of the section.
Momentum: Maintaining speed and momentum through rhythm sections is key because you don't want to be struggling to make it over each of the jumps through the section. The more speed you carry into the section, the easier it'll be to get over the jumps. Keep your speed up, as well as your eyes and be as smooth as possible because a mistake within a rhythm section will not only cost you a lot of time in a race, but it could also put you on the ground. Spot your landing as you go over each jump and keep your attention focused on what's coming at you.
Landings: The way in which you land each jump is important, and you're going to encounter all shapes and sizes when it comes to landings, so it's important to know how to approach each of them in case you come up a little short. Almost everyone's natural reaction is to bring the front wheel up in this case, but that's not always the answer, especially if the landing is steep or peaked out. Landing with your rear wheel first over a steep landing will have a whiplash effect on you once you make contact with the ground again, so you have to keep the front wheel down in this instance. You'll want the front wheel to make contact with or clip the top of the landing, which will help to keep the bike level and in a maneuverable position. If the landing is gradual and not so abrupt, then it's okay to land a little front-end high in order to get the power to ground faster.
Learn From Other Riders: Watching other riders go through the section and learning from them is a very helpful tool that I personally utilize it all of the time. In my case, I have some very talented teammates to turn to for assistance, but I understand that not everyone is in the same boat. Instead, look for a rider that you can learn from, someone who makes the section look easy. Pay attention to their line choice as they approach the section, their speed over each jump and where they're landing. And if it's a particularly large jump that I'm unsure of, then I'll look for someone to follow over it just to make sure I have the right amount of speed. If you can't rely on another rider to tow you over the jump, though, you're going to have to conquer it on your own, but don't rush into it! Take your time until you're good and ready.