September 13, 2020 10 min read
In motocross, you'll often hear how important the holeshot is. Some motocross experts say that getting the holeshot is the biggest key when it comes to winning the race. Others even go further to say that with the holeshot, you have a 90% chance of winning the race. However, if you're new to motocross, this can be extremely confusing for you, so what exactly is a holeshot?
The holeshot is a term used in motocross to describe or reference the first racer to get through the apex of the first turn. Getting the holeshot gives the rider a huge competitive advantage and some level of control in the race. In most cases, the rider who gets the holeshot also wins the race.
In the rest of this article, you'll learn why and how the holeshot is so important in motocross. We'll also discuss a whole list of techniques you can use and improvements you can make to get the holeshot in every race.
In a motocross race, 25 riders or more line up waiting for the drop of the gate. As soon as the gate drops, everyone drops their clutch, opens the throttle up, and the fight starts from there.
Like Old West gunfights, motocross is a relentless game, and the riders are too. Gunfighters are fast-draw artists who are quick on the draw and smooth and precise to hit the target as fast as possible.
In motocross, you must also be fast, smooth, and use the right technique. If you get a good start, you'll avoid the riders' traffic and escape to the front of the pack. This affords you some control over the race tempo and a better chance of being the first racer through the first corner.
Another reason why getting the holeshot is so important is that most of the riders' speed is very close. The races are at the most 35 minutes long, and if you get a bad start, you'll be struggling to make up that time for the rest of the race no matter how fast you are.
If you're the first to get through the first turn and manage to make minimal errors for the rest of the race, you'll have put yourself in a great position to win when you see the checkered flag. It also gives you the confidence to keep going until the end of the race. Even if you mess up, you'll still be among the leaders and have a good chance of being in the top five.
If you're having trouble with your starts and have no idea what it takes to get the holeshot, we've got some great tips for you. We'll discuss everything from body positioning and gate preparation to gear selection, clutch and throttle control, and practicing to get your launch technique right.
To become a consistent winner in motocross, you must know how to use the clutch properly. Clutch control is probably the most important thing to master if you aim for the holeshot because it begins at the gate. While clutch control doesn't end at the start, it can make or break your chances of getting the holeshot.
Hold on to the handlebar with your ring and pinky finger and use your index and/or middle fingers on the clutch lever. This is a personal preference for riders, as some only use their index finger, while some only use their middle finger. Any one of the three will work as long as the rider is comfortable. This setup allows you to have good clutch control and, at the same time, gives you a firm grip on the bar and better control of the bike.
With your index and/or middle fingers, pull the clutch in and put your bike in first or second gear. Now, slowly release the clutch lever until it is slightly under the engagement point or until you feel the bike trying to creep forward or pull away. Gentle pressure on the brake would keep you in place, but usually, there should be no need to use the brake.
It's important to ease the clutch out in a smooth motion and control it all the way out. If you release it too quickly or let it go abruptly, it will create a lot of spins and stall your launch, leaving you with a zero chance of getting the holeshot. As the rear wheel goes over the gate, roll on the throttle to deliver more power to the bike.
Proper throttle control is another important part of motocross racing. You don't want too much or too little throttle/gas from the stopped position. If you give it too much gas, the forward thrust of the bike can pull your body towards the rear. When this happens, you'll find yourself pulling on the throttle even more. Nobody wants to be a Loopout Larry!
To get the perfect launch, give your bike just enough throttle to do a little power wheelie over the gate. This allows you more traction to the rear wheel. However, your front wheel should not hover above the ground more than 6 inches.
Ideally, when waiting to launch, you should hold the throttle to about ¾ of the way open. When the gate drops, smoothly feed the clutch out and twist the throttle at the same time. Feeding power to the rear wheel with the clutch rather than the throttle ensures an immediate response.
After launching, hold the throttle open and keep your body in a forward attack position. If your front wheel begins to rise too much and your bike attempts a wheelie, slip the clutch a little to control the front-end lift and bring it back down.
Clutch and throttle control can be mastered with constant practice and is not as tricky as it seems.
Most motocross riders start in second gear. However, if you're new to motocross or use a small bike engine, it's best to start in first gear. If you're well-experienced and have a large engine, say a 250 or 450 four-stroke, it is possible to start in the third gear.
As mentioned earlier, most motocross riders start in the second gear and stick with it the entire length of the start. Each bike is different, and each track requires different gearing, so it's best to practice your starts in different gears and find out what works best for you.
Motocross experts suggest clicking your bike into gear when you get the 5-seconds start alert. If you put your bike into gear before the alert, the clutch may become too hot or sensitive. When this happens, you may find it hard to feed power to the bike with the clutch.
Just like clutch and throttle control, the way you position yourself on your bike is very important. Proper body positioning goes beyond just sitting or standing. It involves correct back posture and where your arms, fingers, knees, and feet go.
When waiting for the gate's drop, you need to keep an attack position with your feet on the ground, and your knees are gripping the sides of the bike. Keep your body in a forward position over the bike's pivot point, with your chin over the handlebars. Also, your arms should aim upwards with your elbows out, pointing towards the sky.
Standing forward on the bike allows for proper distribution of weight and is very crucial when you twist the throttle and launch off the gate. Riders who are new to motocross often attempt to sit far back on the bike seat to try to get more traction. This position throws off the center of gravity and pulls the front-end of the bike up, resulting in a wheelie.
Your feet will support you and help you maintain balance with the ground while waiting for the gate drop. Starting blocks are a very popular accessory that many professional and amatuer racers use to give them a better balance point. Once the gate drops, move your feet up and find a suitable location on the footpegs. This requires some precision as you don't want your feet to get caught up on the footpegs.
Getting your body position and movement right also comes with practice. The more you practice, the better you'll get at it, and the easier it will become.
Every rider in the race wants to get the best start possible, so you have to practice and perfect your launch technique and timing. You may get tired of hearing it, but the fact remains that no motocross racer gets better unless he practices.
Your gear timing, body positioning, and throttle and clutch control will improve with experience and practice. These skills will become natural and automatic through repetition.
One of the best ways to practice and get better at your starts is to use the Risk Racing Holeshot Motocross Gate. This device allows you to create a real racing experience and independently practice your starts without having to be at the track.
The Risk Racing Holeshot Practice Gate is an electronic and wireless practice gate designed to help you improve your reaction time and technique when launching out of the gate. The device comes with a wireless remote that can be operated by you if you're practicing alone or someone close by if you have a training partner.
If you mount the remote to your bike and press the button on it, a green LED on the gate is turned on to let you know that the gate has received the signal. After this, you'll have 2 seconds to get a grip on the handlebars. When the LED turns red and starts blinking, a timing sequence is activated when the gate drops randomly between 1 to 5 seconds.
You can also use the instant drop feature where you connect the remote directly to the gate. This feature lets you bypass the random timing sequence and drop the gate the instant someone presses the remote button.
Here's a video to show you how the Risk Racing Practice Gate works:
To reset the gate, all you need to do is ride by and step on the backside of the gate, and it will lock in by itself. You don't need to dismount from your bike. You can also link multiple gates together for bar-to-bar practice with your friends. This creates an even more realistic racing environment. It is also great for practicing quad racing.
Another way to improve your starts is to go to live races and watch the pros. This way, you'll pick up some things from the race to go home and practice with. It would be best if you practiced gate drops as many times as you can. If you get discouraged, remember that even the best motocross racers continually practice improving their starts and techniques.
Getting around the first turn requires both speed and control. Most motocross racers aim for the inside line as it has a smoother arc and is the shortest distance around a corner. Although inside lines require a lot of braking, they are better than outside lines. Outside lines have the longest distance around a turn, and you can easily be pushed off course.
It's also important to pick the best rut and prepare it. Each race is different, and this will determine how you'll prepare for it. If the dirt is soft, you can shovel in more dirt and pack it down tight to make it smooth. Kick away or pack down chunks, rocks, crooked parts, or any other object that can disrupt your starting momentum.
It is also a good idea to make a little ramp behind the gate. This can help you get better traction to the rear wheel as you launch off the gate. Concrete pads give you less traction than on dirt pads. If you're starting on a concrete pad, take your time to clean it to get as much traction as possible.
In most motocross races, you're not allowed to bring your tools. If the grid isn't swept or no broom is provided, use your gloves to sweep the area to ensure nothing gets in-between your tires and the pad. This is why it's always good to take an extra pair of gloves to the start line.
The most consistent way to get your reaction time down is by watching the hoop, the gate itself. This is the same at every track you’ll race at. For the Risk Racing Holeshot Starting Gate, it mimics this and allows you to practice the exact same way as you will be when the gate drops matter.
There are also other alternative ways that work for riders, but those methods lack consistency. Some riders like to focus on the device that holds the gate. The small pin is not hard to see, and it tends to move a fraction of a second earlier than the gate.
You may also look straight ahead and watch for the gate drop with your peripheral vision. It's been shown that peripheral vision allows for faster reaction time. The difference may not seem like much, but it can be what puts you ahead and gives you the holeshot.
Some riders have also mentioned watching the rider's gate next to you. We suggest trying out different techniques and finding out which one allows you the quickest reaction.
Popping a wheelie may be a great skill to show off and earn some cheers at a motocross event, but it's the last thing you want to do at the start of a race. It will suck out your starting momentum and leave you chasing shadows for the rest of the race, literally.
As mentioned earlier in the article, it's fine to do a little power wheelie, usually not over 6 inches above the ground, to get more traction to the rear wheel. Keeping your weight forward will help you stay grounded and avoid too much of a wheelie.
You can also use aholeshot device to keep your front-end from lifting too much. The holeshot device keeps the front forks locked in a compressed state lowering the center of gravity and putting the power to the ground. The device unlatches once you get up to speed and allows your bike to operate normally.
A positive mental attitude may not seem too important, but if you enter a race with doubts or fear, you won't be getting the holeshot. This is especially important if you're new to motocross.
We've already mentioned how a lot of practice can give you a physical edge, but it can also give you a good mental edge over other racers. Good quality and consistent practice can give you the confidence you need to get the holeshot and win a race.
The holeshot is very important in every motocross race. It goes to whoever is first to get through the first turn and is a huge determining factor in how the rest of a race will go. Getting the holeshot almost guarantees you a top 5 finish, and potentially a race win.
Grabbing the holeshot in motocross requires three major things: clutch control, throttle control, and proper body positioning. The best way to improve on these things and get better at your starts is to practice with a Risk Racing Practice Starting Gate.
The Risk Racing Practice Gate allows you to fine-tune your techniques, and you can practice your starts in a real racing environment. With repetition and consistency, you'll be getting great starts and winning the holeshot in every race.
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