There's nothing worse than losing a Moto before the gate drops.

It can happen and it all starts with the Start.

When it comes to Motocross there is no one single most important component to winning. There's a variety of elements intertwining to give you the best shot at reaching the podium. However, you can sink any chance of grabbing the holeshot as well as winning right at the beginning of the race if you don't give yourself a chance at the Start.

If you're new to dirt bikes and Motocross your spot behind the gate where you sit atop your dirt bike lit up with anticipation ready to race is called the Start.

Gate pick (where you decide you want to start the race) is important which is why the competition during pre-qualifiers is nearly as fierce as the actual Moto. But when it comes down to it, gate pick is not as important as the Start. As soon as the gate drops you better have done your due diligence in set-up and that often starts (there's that word again) with a broom. A solid start (of the race) with a bad gate pick beats a bad start (of the race) with a good gate pick.

Riders wait on a dirt Start

There are two types of Starts:

  • Dirt
  • Concrete

We won't debate which one is better because to each his own. However most prefer dirt because we ride dirt bikes, not concrete bikes. Regardless, the concrete Start is easiest to maintain. All you really need is a broom.

Therefore, on a concrete Start, prior to every Moto, sweep away all dirt and debris to give your concrete bike, I mean dirt bike the best traction. Even a slight dusting of dirt can cause your tires to slip when you crack open the throttle. Oh, and don't open the throttle. Halfway is your max but this should be figured out in practice what your threshold is. Once you reach the dirt - in about three feet - then you can pin it.

A dirt Start requires a bit of gardening since you'll have a trench deep and wide enough, from the previous Moto, to put in a drainage system. This rut needs filling in and not haphazardly. Add dirt, pound it in and add more dirt so it's hard and compacted. Basically, you want to reshape this little piece of land holding up your dirt bike into its original form. Keep in mind, like the concrete Start, you don't want a dusting of dry dirt layered over the top. Find moist dirt which provides the best traction during takeoff.

Some caveats come with the Start and it depends on the rules of the track. In the MXGPs, for example, riders must sweep their own Starts but in the states you can have a "sweeper" which is a member of your team, sometimes your mechanic. Each rider has their own little quirks on how they want the Start set up so if that describes you, work with your sweeper to get it right.

You also must follow the rules of individual tracks. Some allow you to bring tools, like a broom which works best in shaping the Start just so, others allow only hands and feet. In this case, bring a good set of gloves for shoveling and sturdy boots for compacting. If you're sweeping your own Start probably not a good idea to use riding boots as a trowel. Find an alternative. Same with the gloves.

Also, check out the actual gate - you know the metal bar that drops signaling the start of the race. Even on concrete Starts, the roost spit back once your tires grab the dirt can compromise the integrity of the gate drop the next time around impacting your momentum, or worse, you actually hitting the dirt. Ensure the area where the gate drops is flat so you don't hit a "speed bump" on your way out and nothing impedes the gate from dropping smoothly and completely to the ground.

Cooper Webb gets some shade at Spring Creek

Lastly, put an umbrella in your gear box. If you're lucky, your sweeper or some other member of your team will hold it over you (otherwise you'll have to hold it) as you wait at the Start in the event of rain or an angry sun beating down on the track. There's nothing worse than baking at 95 degrees in full gear while waiting for the Moto to start.

Now go read Motocross Holeshot Tips to learn the next component to stepping on the podium.