How To: SuperMoto Riding Tips and Track Etiquette

Troy Bayliss Classic Images
Troy Bayliss Classic Images

SuperMoto Riding Tips

Once you get used to riding a supermoto, every other bike will feel heavy and boring, even the blindingly fast bikes. One word you will always hear in regards to these bikes is “fun”, which again, is why we’re doing this. They do feel really different from “standard” motorcycles so I thought I’d give a few riding tips for anyone that is new to supermoto bikes:

– Foot out or knee down? In the early years of supermoto this was a common debate. It was fascinating to watch races because the field would be mixed of mx guys who would ride foot out, and road race guys who would drag knee. For the most part you’ll now see almost entirely foot out in the turns style riding as it is easier to flick the bike from side to side. The general consensus is foot out in mid to slow turns, and knee out in the high-speed sweepers. That said, knee down or foot out, if you’re having fun you’re doing it right. If you usally ride a sportbike and want to practice dragging knee that’s fine.

– Trust the front end. If you come from sportbikes you’re used to the feeling of trying to put lots of weight on your front tire, and the tire is pretty close to you so you feel pretty connected. Not so in supermoto, that front end is going to feel like it’s a mile away. This can leave you feeling a bit untrustworthy of the front tire. All I can say is get over it, until you really start pushing it that tire is going to stay stuck, learn to trust it.

– All that wiggling is ok. On a sportbike, if you get in a turn and your suspension is moving and your tires are sliding around, there’s a very good chance you are already crashing. As a result when you get on a sm, you can get kinda freaked out when you head into a hard turn and the bike is dancing all over place underneath you. The good news is that the long suspension is taking in all the bumps, so now the bike is moving around instead of loosing traction. A common mistake is for riders to try to firm up their suspension to feel more like there standard streetbike. Learn to like the bike moving under you, it’s doing you a favor.

– Brake hard, brake late. Unlike streetbikes or dirtbikes, supermoto’s can handle ridiculously late braking. Practice braking later and later, and you’ll see that most speed on the track comes from how late you can brake, corner speed, and how early you can get on the gas, not from horsepower. This advice of course refers to the track, on the street “in slow, out fast” still applies.

– Play with your gearing. You often hear how supermoto’s don’t make very practical daily riders. Well once you go up 2 teeth on your countersprocket suddenly the bikes are capable of comfortably cruising at freeway speeds. Sprockets are cheap, and make a huge difference in the performance and livability of your sm.

– Countersteer! One AMA supermoto pro had written on his bar pad “PUSH IT DOWN YOU P*%$#”. If you look at a supermoto pro mid turn they are practically sitting on the upperside of the bike, and pushing the inside bar down. You’ve got tons of leverage with those big bars, use it and countersteering to flick the bike from corner to corner.

– Shifting: On the track you can get away with up shifting without any clutch, thus preventing some serious hand crampage. Just remember to get off the gas before the upshift. As mentioned before, supermoto’s brake amazingly. Unlike a sportbike at speed, sm’s can brake much faster than you can bang down through the gears. So unlike you’re street riding you’ll do multiple shifts at the same time. Ie on the straight leading to a tight turn you might have it pinned in fifth. You’ll then get on the brakes, bang it down three times into second, then let out the clutch as you brake into the turn.

– Braking: If you’re coming from dirt, the bike will feel familiar. The biggest adjustment you’ll need to make is shifting your braking to the front brake. You’ll be using almost completely the front brake heading into turns. Then when you’re in the dirt you can go back to braking just like you do with your mx bike using primarily the back brake.

– Backing it in: If it’s one thing that new supermoto riders want to do is back it in, and don’t worry you’ll get plenty of practice sliding the bike into corners. The most important thing to realize is that backing it in is a side effect of speed, not a means to achieve it. Meaning as you brake later and later, while turning the bike in, you’ll naturally start to drift the rear of the bike. If you’re not currently backing it in, you’ll start to as you learn to brake later. Lets say you’re in fifth going down the straight and you have a second speed hairpin. You’ll want to pull in the clutch, bang it down into second while getting hard on both brakes using primarily the front. Let out the clutch while braking, and begin to countersteer/push the bar down into the turn. You’ll want to trail brake using the rear until the apex and smoothly transition back onto the gas. When you piece these things together you’ll find that the rear will naturally and smoothly start sliding and you’ll be backing it in like wardy (given immense talent and a lifetime of training).

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Track Etiquette

Riders new to the track experience tend to freak out a bit there first time on the track. The following is a guide to what you need to know for your first day on the track! Most of these also carry over to road race track days.

– Hold your line. Ride at your own pace, and don’t worry if you’re “slowing down everybody.” It’s the responsibility of faster riders to make a clean pass, not your responsibility to let them by. So focus on holding a clean line and being smooth and don’t worry about the other riders. If they’re like me they appreciate having slower guys they can pass for a change!

– Prep your bike. (all socal supermoto bikes are track prepared). Racers are the nicest people you will ever meet. Really. People at the track will usually drop what they’re doing to give you a hand. Those niceties end fast when you drop a bunch of oil on their track. Prepping a bike for a supermoto track day is very easy and includes: removing unecessary parts, ie kickstands, mirrors, and license plates (less to break too). Putting high temp silicone, aka gorilla snot, on critical bolts like your oil drain plug. This prevents the bolt from backing out. For track specific bikes you’ll probably want to use safety wire. Tape up all remaining lights and turn signals. Hook up a catchcan to your tank and carb vent lines. this catches fuel in the case of a crash. Replace your coolant with water and water wetter.

– Communicate: If there’s an unexpected crash or obstacle, hold up your hand in the air. This lets others know of the danger. If you plan on exiting the track, left arm up as if to indicate right turn is a courteous way of letting others know. Usually people will know simply because you’re slowing down near the exit, but it keeps somebody from passing on the right.

– Be courteous. Golden rule applies. Remember, we all go to work on monday. If you’re not a pro, leave the aggressive riding elsewhere.

Reprinted with permission from Socal SuperMoto

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Editor at Supermoto Magazine - Australia and Seriously Naked. Co-Editor at Supermoto Magazine - Europe. Motorcyclist and Photographer, Husband and Father.

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