You would think that this is a beginner question, and it usually is an entry level question. If you're above the beginner level, you would think you'd know what gear to be in at all times. But in reality, I have witnessed many riders making the same mistake over and over again of being in the wrong gear.
Of course, this is either a gear too high or too low, on most parts of the track. When they are just graduating from entry level to beginner, most riders are in a gear too high. This is because they aren't confidence in controlling the power. When the tranny is in a higher gear, for the speed they're going, there is not much throttle response. It's pretty hard to get whisky throttle when the engine power response is in slow motion. When they finally aren't afraid of the throttle anymore, many riders get into the bad habit of running a gear too low. The two main reasons they do this is because they think the screaming engine sounds cool and sounds like they're going fast. The second reason is the pros do it that way. The engine keeps bouncing off the rev limiter constantly, even in the air.
The first thing to understand is that when the engine hits the rev limiter, it's not making more power. In fact, it's making less power, it's not pulling, it's pretty much signed off. So obviously, you're not going faster, you're actually going slower. Yeah, but the pros are doing it! Two things to consider regarding the pros - their engines are different, and they are sponsored. Top level pros use what's referred to as a 10 hour engine. Yeah, that's what that means, it's only good for 10 hours. After 10 hours, it is rebuilt. This type of 4-stroke engine typically costs $10,000.00. The rev limiter on these engines are set much higher. This means that they are still making power in much higher RPM ranges. The same was true with 2-strokes, but the top pros don't race this breed of iron horse anymore.
For the average rider a stock 4-stroke has plenty of power, the trick is knowing how to use it. On most Motocross tracks, 2nd and 3rd gears are used most, with some 4 gear sections. That doesn't sound too difficult, right? Well, it wouldn't be, but there is a lot of shifting going on and each shift should be timed perfectly. For example, on my personal 1:53 lap time MX School track in Lisbon, OH, I up and downshift 21 times per lap - five of these shifts are in the air. I do each of these 21 shifts every lap in order to keep the engine pulling and slowing down efficiently (along with the brakes, of course). I'm going as fast as I can and I never have to use the rev limiter. I know if I did hit the rev limiter, I would not be going any faster. The only thing that would be faster is wearing out the engine's life!
This article mostly refers to a 4-stroke, but the subject matter is the same for a 2-stroke. I already covered the differences between 2-strokes and 4-strokes in an earlier article. As a reminder, the main difference is that the 4-stroke has a much smoother, easier to control power range.
Find your speed by carrying momentum and flow. Keep your engine happy!
If you really want to improve your Motocross Clutch, Throttle and Shifting Techniques, you may be interested in my Motocross Clutch, Throttle and Shifting Control DVD. Get an extra 20% off with promo code: GSMXSDVDSALE
Here's a short video from The ClubMX Training Facility in SC, of what your 2- and 4-strokes should sound like...
Ride hard, ride smart and have fun,
About Gary Semics:
Learn our GSMXS time tested and proven practice and training methods to improve your riding skills and race results. How? Through our hands on Motocross School Group and Private classes, with 10 GSMXS Certified Instructors located in six countries. Through our Techniques and Training DVDs (currently 28 titles) shipped worldwide or through our Instant Access Video On Demand Streaming and downloading website, that includes all the DVDs, plus tons of new videos that are not in the DVDs.