Welcome to my third writeup on riding tips! For this new article, I chose to talk about the infamous Whoops Section! Just hearing these 2 words together makes most people tremble in fear (ok I’m overdoing it…or am I?). Personally, I love a good set of whoops – but during weekly practice at the test track, not at a race! Man I was blitzing those babies fast at the test track…but come race day, it’s a different story. No time to focus on that one part of the track during a race, you have to be focused on everything else around you, on the rest of the track, other riders…so when the whoops come around, you’re not as fully prepared as you were during practice anymore.
Anyways, I wanna talk about how to correctly blitz a whoops section, not in-race focus (we’ll touch that subject later on). For those of you who don’t know what “blitzing” means, it’s basically when you keep both your front and rear wheels from dropping in-between 2 whoops and stay on top of the valleys all the way through. Correctly blitzing a whoops section is one of the toughest thing you can do on a dirt bike – of course it also depends on the size and steepness of the whoops in question – much harder then jumping a big triple or going through a rhythm section.
So, what does it take to blitz a whoops section?
First it takes lots of practice, don’t expect to do it right the first time you try! Second you NEED a good set of suspensions (again it depends on the size of the whoops), I have tried blitzing the same whoops section with 2 different bikes one day, and I couldn’t do it on the second bike because the suspensions didn’t work at all for whoops. Third you need correct body positioning, and leaning as far back as you can isn’t the correct way to approach a whoops section. Last but not least, you need a big set of kahunas…blitzing a whoops section requires commitment, lots of it. You don’t have the luxury of doubting yourself or hesitating, you really have to go for it and be confident that you’re gonna make it through like a champ.
The first thing I want to talk about is body positioning.
There’s a big misconception among riders and trainers that you have to lean back on your bike as far as you can when entering a whoops section, and that’s simply the worst thing you can do (unless you’re 6’2 feet tall…). Leaning back as far as you can is the worst body positioning when entering a whoops section because you completely loose control of your front wheel and all you can do is hope everything goes according to plan!
If you watch a few videos of Jeremy McGrath from back when he was on top, pay close attention to his body positioning when he enters a whoops section. His butt is towards the end of his seat but his shoulders and head are still centered on the bike, and his arms are halfway bent. I first realized what Jeremy was doing many years ago, and if you pay attention, you’ll see Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart, Chad Reed and many other top riders negotiate whoops sections the same way: with their body centered on the bike, and not stretched all the way back.
Why does this work so good?
After all, you’d think that the farther back you are, the better you’ll blitz those nasty whoops because you’re gonna keep the front wheel above the dips, right? I hate to break it to you, but that only works as long as everything goes as planned, which pretty much never happens in a whoops section. You want to keep your body centered on the bike so that you can control where you put your front wheel, and not just leave it to chance. Both tires need to hit the top of every whoop (sometimes when you blitz fast enough, your front wheel will actually skip a few), because if you miss one of the tips with your front wheel, there’s a good chance it will drop into the following dip and throw you over the bars.
Now, here’s what you do when you enter a whoops section:
Since you have your body and shoulder centered on the bike, you are able to “push” down your front wheel right after you enter the whoops to force it to “hit” the next tip, all while keeping your butt towards the rear of your seat. Keep a sturdy throttle all the way through while being a gear or 2 higher (usually, 4th gear is perfect on a 250 four stroke), and try to keep your body weight neutral (centered) on the bike, and force your front wheel to stay level with your rear wheel and not “skip” a whoop. By keeping a neutral position on your bike, you are in way more control then if you were leaning back all the way. It also gives you a way out if you mess up or you get kicked sideways/forward, since you’ll be ready to react accordingly, as opposed to being at the mercy of your bike if you were leaning too far back.
That’s it for today and for this first tip on how to negotiate a whoops section. Remember, blitzing whoops is all about commitment! You can have the right body positioning and the best suspensions in the world, but if you don’t commit to it and hesitate, you’re headed for the ground. Now get off the computer and go jump on your bike, it’s time to pay a visit to your worst enemy!