We ride dirtbikes, so when we need to start a race off concrete we’re doing something our bikes aren’t designed to do. Here are some tips to help you nail that next holeshot from the cement
STORY SHANE BOOTH | PHOTOGRAPHY MATT BERNARD
PREP YOUR GATE
Take the time to prepare the concrete starting pad before you line up. Your best bet is to get the concrete as clean as possible so there is absolutely nothing between your tyre and the surface. Sometimes the starters will sweep the whole grid between each race to keep it fair or at least have some brooms on offer for everyone to use. Keep in mind, in theory you aren’t allowed to bring any tools to the start line to prepare your gate, which includes a broom — so if they don’t supply one, make sure you’re not going to get a slap on the wrist for bringing your own. If your gate isn’t swept perfectly and you’re not allowed any tools, take a fresh pair of gloves to the start line with you and literally use your hands to sweep your position and put the fresh gloves on before the race. All legal and no tools. Remember, the cleaner your start pad is the better chance you have of finding some traction.
This is what makes or breaks you on a concrete start. You need to have some self-control and patience — easier said than done when you get the five-second board and you’re sitting there waiting for the gate to drop. If you release much more power than you do when you ride away from your stand in the pits, you’re going to break into wheel spin — simple as that. A great way to attack it is to use less rpm than you would on a tacky dirt start: quarter- to half-throttle, max. Sit to the front of the seat like you would normally, but you can afford to be a little more upright to add some weight to the rear wheel. When the gate drops, drive the bike to the dirt by releasing the clutch but not adding much, if any, throttle input. Even at quarter-throttle, if you release the clutch too quickly you will get some wheel spin, so take it easy. Control any wheel spin with your clutch and only once the rear wheel reaches the dirt do you open the throttle.
UNLEASH THE FURY
Once you’ve reached the dirt you can open up the throttle and get out of there. The tricky part here is the very quick body position adjustment required when you unleash the power of your bike. You need to go from the slightly upright position on the concrete to your regular aggressive position up over the front of the bike as soon as the throttle is opened. If you don’t do this quickly enough or at the right time, you’re almost guaranteed to go into a wheelie, which will most likely mean no holeshot. Also, lock your legs in front of the Footpegs: this will help hold you forward while you’re accelerating hard.
SMOKE SHOW OR NOT?
It’s not uncommon to think you’re at a drag-racing event when there’s a concrete grid; if you look over at the start line, quite often there are burnouts going on that look like they belong at the Summernats. There may be a slight advantage in giving the bike a few little launches that spin the rear wheel up a little — this will clean off your tyre and the concrete underneath it. But a full-blown burnout will kill your tyre in no time and put you at a disadvantage for the remainder of the race, not to mention the dollars you’re throwing away in wrecking a tyre.