One of the best kept secrets in Motocross is the holeshot device. If you can sneak it on your bike, it's undetectable and gives you an upper hand in grabbing the holeshot - every time.
Just don't get caught.
OK, just kidding. What exactly is a holeshot device? It's widely used, perfectly legal and it does help with getting to the first turn faster than everybody else, but if you're new to the sport, it's probably not what you're thinking.
When the gates drop and you pin the throttle your dirt bike really wants to do a wheelie. All that thrust in the rear of the bike, where a lot of the weight is also, tends to pop the front wheel off the ground. Performing a wheelie during practice is one thing but it's the last thing you want to do in a race. A wheelie only serves to slow you down and hamper momentum. Therefore, if you're having trouble keeping the front end of your bike down at the start of a race, try a holeshot device which functions by compressing the front forks and prevents the front wheel from lifting.
How the Holeshot Device Works
When the gates drop and you've equipped your bike with a holeshot device, the fork leg is collapsed and your starting position is firmer and better footed on the ground. Additionally, using the device also helps get you in the proper lower attack stance on the dirt bike. You already know to keep your elbows bent and far forward to get the front end down so the holeshot device compliments and strengthens this stance. Once you get up to speed the device unlatches and allows the fork to decompress from the collapsed position.
The holeshot device, also known as a launch control device, primarily benefits four-stroke bikes on a dirt start. It's unlikely that two-stroke bikes need a device but a beginner might benefit initially. Think of it this way: Bring a stopped bike to full throttle with significant rear traction and it tends to lift the front end. But not everyone uses a holeshot device. Ricky Carmichael never did. However, if you're having trouble on your starts and/or keeping the front wheel down a holeshot device could be the answer. Attaching the device probably won't prevent this:
The primary benefit a rider prone to wheelies or even looping out gets from using a holeshot device is training. Without the device, some riders just can't get forward and/or adequate weight on the bike enough in the attack stance to prevent the bike from throwing them off. Using a holeshot device pits the bike just a bit lower than without one, which over time helps form the racing stance and hone the skills necessary at the start.
A holeshot device cannot replace proper body positioning. Leaning over the front of the bike and then leaning into the bar pad once that gate drops does more to keep the front wheel down than a holeshot device on its own. Some argue both sides of the coin saying it doesn't help much but if it helps you then like most riders you'll take any edge you can get. Keep in mind, many elements go into a winning formula and total weight of your dirt bike is one factor. Though it's not excessive, a holeshot device can add that extra load that drags you behind an equal on the track that doesn't have one.
But, if it's a part of the formula keeping you grounded at the start, getting you to the first turn out in front and allowing you to step on the podium then by all means get one. Confidence plays not only a big part in riding a dirt bike but sticking with the sport. If adding a holeshot device keeps your mind focused on the race at hand and not whether you're going to loop out - it's invaluable.
Holeshot Device Installation
The beauty of a holeshot device is the ease of install. All you need is a drill bit set, a tape measure or ruler and a few other general tools. MotoSport sells multiple holeshot device brands which are also called launch control or start devices that use a springless design or with springs. The holeshot device is typically installed on the right fork leg and set for a specific riding style and the rider's weight. See the video below for step-by-step instructions:
The holeshot device is designed for racing so trail riders don't need one. Moreover, dirt bikes do not come equipped with the device so you'll have to buy one. However, some of the manufacturers, specifically Kawasaki, work continuously to perfect their bikes so the holeshot device might soon be a thing of the past.
For now, keep in mind the biggest problem to the holeshot device. Forgetting to set it. Once the gate drops, it's useless if you fail to engage it.