Skills: The Art of Technical Airtime

Intro by Big E • Photos by Garth Milan

How many times in your life can you say that you were coached by a former World Champion of motocross? Well, at TWMX we deliver! This month we called up Grant Langston, the “Zulu Warrior,” and asked him to show our readers the correct way to guide their body and bike through the air while jumping. We met up with Grant at Lake Elsinore MX Park and asked him to showcase his best techniques on the biggest tabletop at the track. Grant did not disappoint! The two methods that Langston demonstrated for us, and will be describing this month, are techniques he uses in racing to glide his own body and bike through the air. As Grant will explain, one approach is better than the other in certain circumstances. One must be conscious of which technique is appropriate for each jump and when to take advantage of either. With that said, we’ll let Grant take it from here.


One way to guide your body and bike across a gap is to use a combination of body english and throttle control. Using this combo is probably the best way to shave speed and airtime over a jump. This technique will help you keep momentum rolling into the jump but will keep you from going too high. When you start to come off the lip, you want to be in a squatting position to soak up the hit. You also need to be moving your weight forward. As you are coming off the take-off, chop the throttle. By starving the motor of fuel, the rear wheel wants to stop rolling. That will kick the rear of the bike up and point your front-end down, setting you up for the landing. The more you lean into the jump, the more your bike will want to kick sideways. It’s a good idea to be gentle with this move at first. You could overdo it and end up on your head.

Using your rear brake effectively is another option when jumping. You would use this technique when you are faced with a big jump right out of a turn. In a situation like this, you don’t have much of a run at the jump. You will be on the throttle all the way through the face of the jump. Depending upon how steep the face of the takeoff is, your bike is going to be at the same angle in the air as when you took off, with the front wheel elevated from the rear. As your bike leaves the face of the jump, tap the rear brake and the problem will be corrected. This stops the gyro effect of the rear wheel, making the rear end of the bike lighter.

I don’t use this technique unless it is absolutely necessary. When your rear wheel stops, it takes much more energy to get the rear wheel up to speed again. You’re basically stopping the bike and having to start it again. You don’t carry as much momentum with this method, but you do go higher. Often I see riders that are going the same speed over the same jump and one is lower than the other. This is because the rider that is using his brake is floating up, then tapping the rear brake before coming down. The rider that uses the body/motor technique is using his forward momentum to go out rather than up. That rider stays lower, carries more speed and usually passes the other rider that used the rear brake technique to go across the gap.

The bottom line is that you want to get your wheels back on the ground as quickly as possible. This will enable you to accelerate, brake and turn faster. I would recommend using your body as opposed to the brake whenever possible. It’s a faster way to get from point A to point B. Some riders will accelerate as they are coming up to the jump, and as they go off the lip they hold the throttle wide open. It would be best to approach the jump with the throttle wide open and chop the throttle when you are at the base of the jump. This will keep you lower and able to position your body better. One of the main things to remember when you are trying these techniques is that if your bike goes into a steep nose dive, give the bike throtttle. This will weigh the back of the bike down using the gyro effect, and even the bike out.

[IMAGE 2]”On the takeoff you can already see that I am all the way up on the tank and starting to lean the bike over. At this point you should be going fast with no throttle.”

[IMAGE 3]”You can see how much lower I am here than with the rear brake method. As the suspension is pushing the bike up, I am pushing the bike sideways at the same time to keep the height down to a minimum.”

[IMAGE 4]”In these last three photos you can see that the bike is staying low as I start to aim it into the landing. My right arm and left foot are working together to set the bike in the right direction. It is important to let your bike flow with your body. You will feel this when you get the hang of it.”