There's probably one type of school anyone who loves riding dirt bikes would jump a triple at the chance to attend.
Throughout the country Motocross schools hold classes, often taught by former pros and past Champions, that teach the basic fundamentals to the beginner all the way to ripping through the whoops for the soon-to-be-pro. But it wasn't always that way. Prior to the advent of Motocross school, riders really had no way to learn other than to of course, practice, and perhaps watch the more accomplished pros for technique.
But Gary Semics helped change that when in 1985 he opened Semics MX School. Today, Motocross schools are pretty easy to come by and even more accessible thanks to the production of training videos many pros and instructors produce.
So, is it imperative that any rider looking to take it to the next level gets to class?
You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone more gracious as Semics and since we've spoken to him (See his Profile) before we thought we'd sit down and ask the 1974 500cc class Supercross Champion about Motocross school, what riders can expect and if it's for everybody.
1. Let's get straight to the point - Why go to Motocross school?
Bad habits are easy to acquire but hard to break and replace with the correct habits. The correct riding techniques are the foundation of control, speed and safety. Through my years of teaching I have identified, what I call, The 55 Absolute Techniques of Motocross. All these techniques are listed and shown in my Motocross Practice Manual 2nd Edition.
2. What is the single best benefit of attending a school?
It's very beneficial to have a trained eye watch and critique your riding techniques, then give you the steps to follow in order to improve each area of your riding weaknesses.
3. How did you train or learn technique when you raced 40 years ago?
It was a lot of just winging it, so to speak. I did watch the Europeans as much as possible both in person and in magazine photos, which helped. No one really paid much attention to riding technique in those days. Sure we noticed riders who had a smooth riding style in relation to someone who looked awkward on the bike. The breakdown of individual techniques was not even thought about 40 years ago.
4. Can that work today?
I think for the talented riders who have the desire to do their best there is a lot that can be learned from watching, especially with Motocross technique DVDs and online streaming. However, some riders learn best from hands on training in which they would benefit more from a school. There's one drawback from schools and that is what they comprehend and retain from the lesson. Whether they go to a school or not, the DVDs are a great way to watch what you need to do over and over again.
5. In today's world, can a rider compete without attending school?
Of course it's still possible to compete but would they reach their full potential? Even if they are super talented and have tremendous drive, I doubt it. There are too many other talented, driven riders who are getting professional coaching.
6. Is Semics MX School aimed at helping a rider achieve personal goals or are you trying to churn out factory sponsored pros?
My GSMXS Certified Instructors and I have always been about helping riders at all skills levels and goals to become a better rider. Most riders just want to have fun and be safe. Sure we like it when a student becomes successful with a pro career but we all love the sport and want to help all riders enjoy the sport more.
7. The majority of your students are trying to do...
Just be a better rider and have more fun. We get a lot of young riders who think they want to become a pro but most times they have no idea what it takes to achieve that goal. We don't want to burst their bubble and tell them you better choose another goal because you don't have a chance. I've learned time will let them know when the fat lady stands up and sings. In the mean time they're having fun and learning a lot about work and life.
8. Is there an age threshold when it comes to weighing the benefits of taking a class? Meaning, is it realistic for a 20 year old to come to you and say "Make me a Motocross Champ" or should that have started 15 years earlier?
Now a days it's best to start them very young but not on a dirt bike. If I was starting a kid, I would start him on bicycles - road, mountain bike, and/or BMX. Once they got good at that I would let them start riding a dirt bike, if they really wanted to. Then they would have to get pretty darn good on it before they ever entered a race. In today's world starting at 20 is too late.
9. Generally, what can one expect to learn at a school?
I don't know at all schools but at our schools they can expect to learn how to slow down in order to learn all the proper techniques. Once they get that part the next step is to work on speed. Sure everyone wants to go fast but putting the cart before the horse in Motocross is one of the most common mistakes.
10. What should Mom and Dad factor in when deciding whether to send their child to school?
The single most important thing is if their child wants to learn how to become a better rider. I've seen a lot of kids at schools that just want to ride. They don't pay attention to what is being taught and therefore improve very little, if at all. Most kids get a little faster from one school, some get a lot faster from one school but the real progress is long term. It's what they learn about how to practice that's the most important and will bring the best results.
11. Is there one piece of advice you want students to know?
They need to understand how to practice in order to become better. When they leave the school they should know what they need to do differently in the coming weeks and months when they ride their bike.
12. Like any sport, there's not a uniform approach to success. How does a rider determine the way one school teaches riding skills is a better fit over another school?
If they do experience different techniques, practice methods and even strategies being taught they need to try each and see what makes the most sense, what works best for them.
13. What's your teaching method?
It's best to break down all the techniques into separate learning blocks. This way they are just focusing on one or two techniques at a time. To do this we set up practice drills. We also set up stationary practice drills for many of the techniques.
14. Do you see a common "bad trait" you're constantly fixing?
Oh yeah, I see many but the worst one is not using the brakes correctly. Many riders don't use the rear brake when they are standing.
15. The DVDs are common. I'm guessing nothing compares to hands-on instruction so who would best benefit from the videos and what's the best way to utilize them?
It would be best to have both the videos and hands on training. But many riders can't get to a reputable school, so obviously the videos work best for them. If a person wants to learn and improve, they will from both sources. What makes the biggest difference is if the person really wants to learn and they have the self-control to pay attention and do what is taught in the videos and/or schools.
16. Do you as an instructor have to learn new techniques or stay on top of the latest approach to racing or is Motocross, Motocross?
I'd say from the early 90s not too many riding techniques have changed. Sure, scrubbing is newer and pros have become a lot better at skimming whoops but other than those two things little has changed. If anything 4-strokes have made going fast easier.
17. Now, I realize you run a Motocross school, but what in your mind can't be taught?
That's a good question. You can't teach desire! Either they want to win or at least do very well or they don't. They may think they do but when it comes time to make sacrifices and work hard most side step these two necessities and therefore fall short of their goals. By sacrifices I mean giving up living a normal life and putting all your time and energy into your dreams. That's why you have to love it, otherwise no one could do it.
18. How about Supercross? Do all the same principles apply or is it separate schooling?
The same practice strategies apply to Supercross as well but Supercross training is for more advanced riders. I've never done a group class for Supercross. Group classes are more or less for C and the lower end of B riders. If a rider wanted to learn Supercross they would be an upper level B, A or Pro rider and would sign up for a private or semi-private lesson or lessons. But yes, the same teaching strategies would apply.
Semics Motocross School holds classes in Ohio but if you're not in the area, check out his training videos. You can also get started today by reading his Free MX Riding Tips. He concluded our interview with a big thanks to his sponsors which include: Alpinestars, Fox, Maxima, Dunlop, Renthal, Factory Connection, Works Connection, VP Fuels, Scott USA, Black OPS Moto and Ripped Vynal.