You have selected your gate and done all the work required to ensure the best possible start. Now turn your focus toward preparing yourself to launch out of your gate. We will review the Type of Starting Pad, dirt or concrete, Ready to Launch, and Final Focus
Type of Starting Pad
Dirt Starting Pad:
On dirt starting areas, it’s best to fill in any kind of rut behind the gate to make a smooth transition across the bar to keep the front tire from lifting up. Make sure to use good loamy/heavy dirt to fill in the rut and pack it down tight. If there is only loose dirt available, then don’t fill in the rut, instead, clean it out and only fill in the front 12 to 18 inches to smooth out any bump going over the gate. Remember, you will want to use a start hook to lower the front of your bike and bring the weight of the front wheel in instantly, on high traction starts.
Cement Starting Pad: On cement you will sit further back than you would on a dirt start more in the middle of the seat with your body straight up. You’re trying to be dead weight on the bikes (minimum pressure on your feet). Remember, do not sit too far back, because all cement starts eventually hit dirt and pulling yourself forward from too far back will cause the front of the bike to come up. Cement will vary in grip, so the best way to get a “feel” for the pad your on, is to do what I call “dry hops” this will also help “scrub” your tire off and get down to the clean fresh rubber, now you are ready to go.
While track conditions certainly play a large role in selecting your tire, the first few feet out of the gate are the most vital part of the race and giving up even inches will have a huge impact on the outcome of your race. Example; I will run an intermediate tire at a sand track that has a cement gate, because I would rather get the holeshot and race with a little less straight line traction than get a 18th place start and have more straight line grip. I also “break in” (ride it enough to take the edge off, I usually do 2 wheels this way, so if I get a flat in moto one, I don’t have to go to the line with a brand new tire for the 2nd moto) my tire if I am going to a race that has a cement gate, this allows me to have an increased contact patch for the cement.
Ready to Launch
On high grip starts, you really need to be a part of the bike “locked in”, your elbows need to be in a “pull up” location, not “elbows up” that’s for cornering. Sit in the forward most part of the valley in you seat, right where the front of the slope meets the flat section. I don’t recommend sitting up on the slope leading to the gas cap, because you tend to slip back down into the valley of the seat during acceleration and that motion can create a wheelie. Make sure your hips are rolled back (bring your tailbone to the surface of the seat). Keep your feet in front of the foot pegs and your body arched so your head is well over your crossbar, now you’re locked in and ready for hard acceleration.
Put your feet down
I start with both feet down; it keeps me centered on the bike and the bike at 90 degrees to the ground. Many people have success with starting with one foot down, it just adds another challenge to get the bike from the 2 to 3 degree angle (leaning over enough to balance on one foot), back upright while dealing with all the challenges of getting out of the gate straight. I focus on getting my feet up on the pegs before I have even crossed the gate, this puts me in a “control” position on the bike and ready for anything that comes my way.
The throttle needs to be steady when you’re waiting for the gate to drop. The RPM will vary from the size bike to the grip of the starting pad. Typically, a 250F will require a higher RPM due to its inertial mass (how much energy the spinning engine has), whereas a 450 has more inertial mass so the RPM will be lower. The higher traction the pad is the higher the RPM will need to be, the more slippery, the lower the RPM. Remember you’re trying to keep the tire “biting” out of the gate, not “spinning”. It’s best to practice starts in a wide variety of conditions, to get a good feeling of what grip level requires what body position and throttle RPM.
You want your clutch starting to engage just a bit (just enough that the bike wants to creep forward) in your final focus just before the gate drops. This shortens the delay from when you want to go and when your bike starts moving. In the “Final Focus” part we will discuss keeping this time of slight clutch engagement short, so you don’t overheat the clutch.
It is best not to use the front brake. Your bike will likely try to creep forward a little when you are at the slight engagement stage just before the gate drops, you should be able to keep the bike still by letting the foot pegs rest into the back of your boots. If the surface is downhill and you can’t keep the bike back, then you may have to bring in the front bake. Keep this to a minimum, if you have a lot of front brake on and too much clutch engagement, you will feel the back of the bike start to rise up from chain torque, when you finally release the brake to go, the rear will sink/return from its raised state and potentially create a wheelie.
Your final focus, the moment just before the gate drops is critical. You want to keep this time as short as possible so that your mind is sharp so your reaction time will be quick. The best way to do this is to get familiar with the “procedure of the day”. Watch a few starts before you go up for your race and understand what they are doing. Pay attention to the time from when the card goes sideways to when the gate drops. Is it dropping consistent each time? One of the worst things you can do is sit on the gate with your bike in gear revving the engine for 5 to 15 seconds. Not only are you heating up your clutch excessively, but your brain cannot stare at the gate for that long without losing focus. You need to know when that gate is going to drop so you are in the Final Focus state for 2 to 3 seconds.