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Beginner's guide to flat track


INDIANMOTORCYCLE.CO.UK

BORN ON THE DIRT. BUILT FOR THE STREET. Inspired by the championship winning FTR750 race bike. The FTR™1200 sets a new standard for American motorcycling.

A2 version available on FTR™ 1200 base model.

@indianmotorcycleuk

@indianmotorcycleuk


Editor: Gary Inman Deputy editor: Mick Phillips Art editor: Kar Lee ©2019 Sideburn magazine None of this magazine can be reproduced without publisher’s consent sideburnmag@gmail.com

Indian also came up with the idea of creating this Beginner’s Guide To Flat Track. The main guts of the publication are Sideburn’s popular Get Schooled guides. Whether you’re a total novice or have notched up a few years’ racing experience, there’s no better way to get

schooled than taking advice from those who know how to go fast and win races. On your behalf, Sideburn picks the brains of the go-to guys on the anatomy and step-by-step breakdown of dirt track motorcycle racecraft. When it comes to glory we have spoken to two of the best-loved amateurs on the European flat track scene, Dimitri Coste and Leah Tokelove. We hope this guide sparks an interest in flat track for you, whether you start on a 100cc minibike, or jump straight into the hooligan class. If it does, we’ll see you at the track.

Gary Inman Editor

Photo: Joe Hitzelberger

Contributors Dustin Aksland; Vincent Bur; Dimitri Coste; Kati Dalek; Justin George; Joe Hitzelberger; Todd Marella; Ryan Quickfall, Dave Skooter Farm; Leah Tokelove   Thanks to: Steve Cain at Indian Motorcycle; David Aldana; Briar Bauman; Chris Carr; Andy DiBrino, Johnny Lewis

SINCE THEIR SCENE-STEALING reentry into the flat track world Indian Motorcycle has supported racing from the very top to the grassroots. Their Wrecking Crew has contested two full seasons in American Flat Track’s premier Twins class and dominated both. They have sponsored many individual rounds of the pro race series too, but closer to Sideburn’s heart, Indian has backed amateur race series, like the Dirt Track Riders Association, and small, community facilities like Dirt Track Lelystad in the Netherlands.

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indianmotorcycle.co.uk

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How to build a hooligan racer

ENGINE

One thing hooligan racers are not short of is power. Another is torque. Too much power in this game and all the rear tyre wants to do is spin. So, tuning is kept to a minimum and many successful racers do nothing more than change the air filter and exhaust, not even touching the fuelling.

Words: Gary Inman Photo: Justin George

Hooligan racing is flat track returning to the heyday of Class C racing, when American racers were restricted to mildly modified street bikes on track. 21st century hooligan flat track was incubated on the short tracks of Southern California. Riders on heavyweight V-twin street bikes made a handful of changes to their cruisers and pestered local race promoters to include a class for them to compete in. Luckily, the promoters listened and the foundation of a global motorcycle movement was laid. The hooligans’ mix of blue collar, black leathers, bare knuckles and post-race beers in the pits caught the imagination of racers and non-racers alike. Now, just a few years later, there is a wellestablished, high-profile US national race series, and both a UK national and European series. All are supported by Indian Motorcycle. Additionally, hooligans have their own race in the extreme sport Olympics, X Games, and there of dozens local races, indoors, outdoors, short tracks and half-miles, all over the USA and beyond. Using a 2019 Indian FTR 1200 as an example, here are the key modifications to building a race bike fit to run as a hooligan.

FRAME

Hooligan rules are pretty simple. The fundamental ones are the engine must be a minimum of two cylinders, over 750cc and mated to a stock main frame of the same model of bike. Other than removing the bracket for the sidestand, the main frame must remain as it left the factory. The subframe or seat rails can be altered or even replaced to be able fit a flat track style seat. Roland Sands Designs (RSD) has left the stock alloy subframe on this FTR 1200 hooligan.

BRAKES

No front brake, so make sure you have a good rear one.


SUSPENSION

Because it was inspired by the Indian FTR750 race bike, the geometry and stance of the FTR 1200 suits hooligan racing far more than many of the bikes chosen for the class. Start with a cruiser and you’ll need to increase the rear ride height and steepen the fork angle. Longer shocks improve the rear, raising the forks in the yokes (triple clamps) is an easy improvement for the front. If you have more budget, flat track yokes with more offset than standard, mixed with shorter sportbike forks, is a common improvement.

Jordan Graham waits to race at the Daytona International Speedway. Hooligans are invited to flat track’s biggest races

WHEELS

ERGONOMICS Handlebar choice is a personal matter, but you want motocross or dirt track specific bars. This bike has pullback risers to move the bars closer to the seat, because the FTR 1200 dummy tank is slightly longer than a flat track tank. Ideally, the right footpeg should be as low as the bottom of the engine and below the rider’s butt, not rearset. The left peg is often positioned higher than the right so it doesn’t drag through corners. The FTR 1200 has a relatively high seat, especially compared to some cruisers used in hooligan flat track, giving the ideal seating position.

Hooligans battle on dirt, tarmac car parks, the polished concrete of indoor sports arenas... but they always use dirt track tyres. Some race series demand a certain make, other races aren’t choosy, but flat track tyres are usually 19in, with a few options in 17in aimed at youth-sized bikes. That back wheel looks heavy right? Flat track is at odds with virtually every other bike sport, they actually want a heavy wheel on the back to improve traction, but don’t worry about fancy rear wheels, just get out and race.


How to get into flat track racing THE LURE OF flat track racing is a cunning and seductive force. It’ll ensnare you as subtly and surely as a Cold War Soviet spy. It gets to you on many levels. The sounds are like no other form of racing, particularly at club level, where you’ll hear an ominous symphony of rumbling four-strokes in concert with nasty swarms of sweet-scent two-strokes.

at best. It’s served me, and I still love it, but I look like a parading Shriner on a minibike. Being honest, choose the class that most suits you. Take your time, as there are multitudes of bikes of all states of repair available. Are you able to do most of the work? Do you have the means to hire someone to repair/tune/improve the bike? Let your sincere, level head be your guide.

Visually, the effects can be equally disarming and beguiling, given the spectrum of bikes, leathers, helmets, the artistic manner with which they’re represented and the mystique created as a result. The accessibility of flat track racing as a fan, and the low cost to race (relative to other forms of racing), add to its attraction. All of these considerations, in addition to the speed and immediacy of the racing itself, weaken your chances of resisting the temptation. You’ll hear yourself say, as if it’s an involuntary reaction, ‘I wanna do that.’

KNOW YOUR ABILITIES

So, you wanna race flat track? So did I, ever since my first trip to Ascot Park about 2000 Friday nights ago (give or take), where I experienced all of the sights and sounds described above. The difference between you and me? You don’t have to wait 40 some-odd years after you fell for it to go for it. I was 54 years old before I entered an organised flat track race. I’m not suggesting it’s ever too late to start, but why wait? I’ve just completed my first full indoor season at our local track in Salem, Oregon – fourth overall for the season. I’ll share with you some of the mistakes I made and make some suggestions to ease your start into racing flat track.

GET GOOD GEAR

BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF

BE A STUDENT OF THE SPORT

Why are you doing this? Is it the speed? Is it the styling of the bikes? Because it looks easy? Only you know, so be sincere, as it will shape many of the decisions you make as you get into the sport. This is not stand-up paddle boarding, or skiing, which are both great, and while each is accompanied by a certain level of risk, flat track is a dangerous sport; you race at close quarters with a host of other riders who want to go faster than everyone else, on a very hard surface. Remember that speed and immediacy that drew you in? Trust me, it’s real. Still with me? Great.

FIND THE RIGHT BIKE

Do as I say, not necessarily as I do. I knew I wanted to race in the winter series and needed a bike. I looked on Craigslist and found one. I test rode it and ‘had to have it’. On so many levels it is not the right bike for me. I’m far too big for it, and it wasn’t as sound a machine as it appeared. I spent the better part of my first three races at Salem trying to keep my chain on the rear sprocket and the wheel lined up, as the adjusters where makeshift

Words: Todd Marella Illustration: Ryan Quickfall

Know your limitations, too. See part 1 again about honesty. In club races, particularly at beginner level, you’ll be riding with people of ability levels all over the spectrum. Much of racing is trusting the people around you. There’s an adage about ‘race as if there is no one else on the track’, but you’re depending on the riders immediately in front and to the side not to do anything completely unexpected, and they’re counting on the same from you. Things can go south very quickly (and they usually do), so protect yourself. Don’t be fooled or tempted to copy those riders you’ll see ripping around in jeans and a hoodie. Pad yourself where you can with the right stuff. Your style will determine some aspects of your choices, but let your personal safety be your primary guide. Thor Drake, an accomplished racer in several capacities, told me, ‘Rib injuries are the most prevalent kind in flat track’. I never race without my trunk protection. And yes, you’ll need a steel shoe for your left boot. If you can’t find one, or make one yourself, befriend a welder. Flat track is the oldest form of motorsport in America and has a rich history the world over. There is a great deal of information out there that will help you. Watch old races on YouTube, go to local races, and for goodness’ sakes, if you’ve not yet seen Bruce Brown’s classic film On Any Sunday, stop what you’re doing and watch it. Don’t forget about that community-building of flat track racers, mechanics and fans alike. Those relationships will prove invaluable. I’ve made a number of truly great friends through this sport, and you will, too.

GO RACING

You’ve been honest, done your homework, you’re geared up, with a little bit of practice under your belt and you’re at the starting line. Breathe. Within seconds, the flag will drop, the tape go up, or the light turn green. You probably won’t get the holeshot, but you’ll be racing! It will be exhilarating, frightening and as freeing as anything you’ve ever done. You’ll try to remember all the tips: right elbow up, roll on easy... You’ll never remember them all, but never forget this one: have fun. Dig.

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How to perfect your body English THE MERRIAM-WEBSTER dictionary definition of ‘body English’ is: ‘Bodily motions made in a usually unconscious effort to influence the progress of a propelled object.’ Here we take a look at the effect of body English when applied to dirt track racing. The term was first coined in 1908, used in regard to ball sports. By the mid-’70s it was regularly mentioned in magazine articles about surfers and skateboarders who had a graceful, photogenic style; a constant stream of controlled movements throughout the entire body, right to their fingertips, in reaction to weightshifting and trajectory. However, do not confuse body English with body language. An example of the latter being; waiting in the holding bay for your heat race, letting your left foot, with its steel shoe, hang nonchalantly from the footpeg, while eyeing-up the competition.

descending handlebar hitting the inside knee.

MY LEFT FOOT

Point by point, what is each body part actually doing? Each individual, subtle body movement has a knockon effect. When you rotate your hips around the outside edge of the seat, the toe on your left foot will automatically point in the direction you are going. The knee will also be pointing in the direction you are going and, in my case, my inside foot looks like it’s pointing backwards. No matter how far the bike is leaned over, I’m on top of the bike, shoving weight down through the tyres, right into the ground and giving extra traction.

RELAX YOUR GRIP

Chris Carr, seven-time AMA flat track champion and instructor at American Supercamp, the respected motorcycle technique school, took time to give Sideburn readers some crucial advice.

Controlling your core centre balance by opening the hips will allow you to fully extend the inside arm to drop the bike. Most people grab onto the handlebars too tightly. If you hold the handlebar straight and you lean over, there is a certain point where you cannot get the necessary extension in your inside arm. Try to relax your grip in both hands and extend the fingers off the bars, they are also going to point left. When you rotate the hips, the hands naturally want to turn left. I like to think of grabbing a throttle as if I’m going to turn a door knob, whether you are on-throttle or off-throttle. Everything points to the left. When you have a ‘locked in’ wrist, it limits how far you can lay the bike over.

GET HIP

ELBOW UP

Obviously, it’s always great to look stylish out on the track, but a good command of body English offers a lot of practicality and is a fundamental cornerstone of dirt track racecraft.

The key thing for good dirt track body positioning starts at the core of your body, the hips. That’s the part of the body that is closest to the balance point of the motorcycle, not only forward and backwards but also left and right, it’s a four-way centre balance. In a predominantly left-turn discipline, it all starts with the rotation of the hips around the focal point of the gas cap when entering the corner. As you increase the lean angle, it’s a matter of rotating the hips to the point where your butt ends up on the outside edge of the seat. This allows you to have your outside leg hard against the gas tank and helps to push the bike down into the corner with your leg, assisting leaning it over, not just relying on your arms. The twisting action is like closing a kitchen drawer with your hip. This also forces you to open up your hips to the inside. When you extend your inside arm to increase the lean angle of the bike you don’t have to worry about the

Keep the elbow of your throttle arm as high as possible for extra leverage. Initially, it will feel weird and exaggerated but if you let it drop to your side, you end up having to compensate by using your whole upper body for leverage to muscle the bike through the turn.

REPETITION, REPETITION, REPETITION

Like anything else, with lots of practice and repetition, the unnatural will eventually become natural. The key point is you have to stay on top of the bike at all times. There are a whole lot of things going on simultaneously, but if you can master the optimum body position, you will start to acquire a feel that you didn’t have before. American Supercamp is a US-based motorcycle riding technique school, using flat track riding as the core of its curriculum.

Words: Chris Carr in conversation with Dave Skooter Farm Illustration: Ryan Quickfall

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How to crash and walk away EVEN THE GREATEST racers crash from time to time. When Kenny Roberts was a highly successful team manager he would tell people that it was a lot easier to teach a fast rider to stop crashing than make a cautious rider into a winner. Crashing and racing go together like love and marriage (or a horse and carriage), I tell you brother, you can’t have one without the other. But how come some riders can have the mother of all highsides, that even while they’re still in mid-air have you making a silent wager with yourself about how many bones they’re going to fracture, only for them to scuttle off the track and try to pick up their bike, while others have the most innocuous of offs and crack like an 85-year-old Humpty Dumpty with osteoporosis? We suspect there must be a knack to crashing, so we asked a rider nicknamed the Rubber Ball, because of his uncanny ability to wipe out and walk away unscathed. Here’s what David Aldana told us.

LET GO

They called me the Rubber Ball because I fell off the bikes so much, but I never really got hurt, so I say there is an art to crashing. I crashed because there were times I lost control, or I went into the corner too deep and I crashed off the lowside. In that situation I would just let go of the handlebars and look after myself.

KNOW IT’S A LOST CAUSE

Every rider wants to keep hold of the bike until the last second because they hope they can save the situation, but you’ve got to know when it’s a lost cause. There were probably times I could have ridden the bike a little bit further, but they weren’t my bikes and I never got badly hurt so I was doing something right. If I let go of the handlebars and the bike went into the fence, then big deal, the bike was going in the fence anyway, but if I held onto the bars it would drag me with it, so I let go. It’s important to know when to let go, give up a lost cause and live to fight another day.

SLIDE IN

Early in my race career I saw Yvon DuHamel crash and let go of the handlebars and slide in, like he was sliding into home plate on the baseball field. He put his leg under his ass and nothing really happened. I liked that and I got to the point where I could let go of the bars, allow myself to fall on my back and slide into the dirt or hay bale.

TUCK AND ROLL

The lowside crash isn’t usually too bad, unless you get hit by another bike coming behind you, and that has happened to me. I got hit on the head by another rider’s footpeg. When I shook my head for the next two days I could feel things sloshing inside, so I knew I had pretty bad concussion. The highside is something different. Sometimes I got on the gas so hard that it was going to throw me off. If you highside, you go sailing over the handlebars into the air. That’s not like sliding into home plate, it’s like being shot out of a cannon. When I was thrown into the air I’d always keep my eyes open, some people close their eyes. So I would see the ground coming and tuck my head in and just try to roll, almost like a gymnast. I knew I was going to hit the ground, so I’d try to make the best of it. I would tuck and roll. It eliminates you catching one corner of yourself; your collarbone, your shoulder or breaking a wrist because you put your hand out.

SHOW NO WEAKNESS

After a crash I’d always jump up and start almost theatrically dusting my leathers down. You know you messed up, so you might as well make the best of it. Don’t be throwing your helmet on the ground or kicking your bike or slamming the petrol tank. It shows a lack of maturity. Never outwardly let the opposition see you in pain. I crashed my Kawasaki once, it was my fault, I changed the front forks and forgot to move the fork stops and the handlebars would only move about two degrees. I got into a big old slide, highsided and landed on the handlebars right between my shoulder blades. It felt like somebody had hit me with a sledgehammer. I got up and inside my helmet I was ‘Uuugghh, aarrggh’, but I walked off the track into the pits, stood up as straight as I could, and as soon as I got between the trucks I let out a scream.

DEAL WITH IT

My advice for dealing with pain: just get over it. In my day you refused to get in an ambulance, because if you got in one they wouldn’t let you race. It’s different now. I broke the end off an elbow at Daytona. It was the little piece that was there to stop the elbow from bending all the way backwards. I climbed on my bike and said, ‘Look, I’m OK’, but I was told I had to get checked out. Anyway, they found it was broken and put an eight-inch rod into my arm,* but if they hadn’t forced me to have a check-up I’d have ridden 200 miles, no problem.

*Hey, I thought you never hurt yourself! GI

Gary Inman in conversation with David Aldana

Illustration: Ryan Quickfall

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How to get the holeshot FOR THIS INSTALMENT of our racing guides we focus on the holeshot, the art of getting to the first corner first. Races can be won and lost in those first five seconds. There are many ways to skin a cat, but we’re going to reveal the Johnny Lewis way and, he’s a vegan, so absolutely no cats will be harmed.

ARRIVE EARLY

Get to the track and park as close to the pit gate as possible. On race day you will need to be fresh as a daisy, but pushing your bike and lugging your kit three quarters of a mile to and from the track is only going to make you all tuckered out and grumpy.

IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD

How you feel mentally is so important. If you believe you will be in second place then you most definitely will be, at best. Try to vanquish thoughts of a crash scenario. Eat a nutritional breakfast, feel good about yourself, get a haircut the day before race day. Don’t burden yourself worrying what other racers are likely to do when the flag drops. If you are sat on the front row, then it’s pretty much open season on who is gonna get the holeshot. Sure, it’s always better to be sitting on the groove or that other spot that seems better than where you are, but there are always other factors that could come into play. Arrive at the start line full of confidence and tell yourself you are going to get to that first corner first. You can’t even begin to think about the myriad of permutations of what could happen. The bottom line is, if it doesn’t pan out the way you’d hoped your self-preservation instincts will kick in, you’ll back off the throttle and do what it takes to get through the corner without incident.

USE THE BRAKE

Start in first gear. This will give you a jump, however small, on the others. Sure, you’ll have an extra gear shift to deal with but if you’re out front then who cares! As you anticipate the start, have your left foot on the ground and your right foot on the brake. Hold the brake down maybe 15 per cent. Let out the clutch and find the bite point. There is now tension in the bike and you are loading the suspension. When you take off, keep your foot on the brake into the corner. This helps stop the bike from wheel spinning, going sideways or excessive wheelies depending on how much traction is on the track. Stay on the gas BUT give it the rear brake! This keeps the revs up, but the brake drags the rear tyre into the ground for maximum traction.

Dave Skooter Farm in conversation with Johnny Lewis

FOCUS

Calm the body. Calm the mind. Relax. You pull up to the line, there are other racers all around you, your eyes are everywhere, your ear is itching, are your goggles steaming up? Do you need to take a pee? Forget about all those basic human requirements. Pick a physical spot way off in the first turn, a rut or skidmark and focus in on it. Tell yourself, amid all the ensuing chaos... you are going to arrive at that spot.

IN A RUT?

On soft, cushion tracks you can’t help but notice those foreboding, deep ruts that start to form on the start-line. They’re your friends. Look for the deepest mother-rutter you can find and drop your rear wheel in it. Now it’s no longer a case of your tyre sitting on flat ground. Within that rut you have much more surface contact all around and up the sidewalls of the tyre. This will give you a whole lot more grip. Chances are the rut has an ‘s’ shape to it, which is why you instinctively avoided it in the first place, right? This is of no matter. The trick is to use your core strength and let your upper body relax. Go loose and float on, focusing on that sweet spot in the corner and letting the bike go where it initially wants to.

PRACTISE PRACTISE PRACTISE

You cannot overstate how important this is. Ride your bike often. Practice is key and accumulative. Most folks turn up at a track practice and just ride round and round all day long, basking in the luxury of hallowed track time. To get good at starts you need to practise starts, even if it feels boring compared to pitching it sideways. Practise with a plan and purpose. Try to recreate a race day. Practise starts at all points on the start grid, not just the primo spot. Is there any opportunity to practise starts other than on the race track? Nobody around? Asphalt, grass, mud, gravel, sand or snow? Becoming comfortable with how your bike reacts under all conditions brings you closer to being at one with your machine. So there you have it. It’s easy to write about it and even easier to read about it. Knowledge is power. Now take the knowledge and put it into practice, no matter how fledgling your first flight. You can’t learn it all at once.

When it comes to holeshots, AFT National #10 Johnny Lewis is the man. In fact, he’s your guy for all aspects of advancement of motorcycle skills in the dirt. His Moto Anatomy school is based in Florida, but travels the globe. moto-anatomy.com

Illustration: Ryan Quickfall

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How to get ahead in short track racing A POTENTIAL CHAMPION needs to get results on a huge diversity of tracks, from the big horse ovals such as Springfield, Illinois, to the miniscule eighth-mile indoor tracks like the one built for the Superprestigio race in Barcelona, Spain. Most flat track amateurs, wherever in the world they are, race on short tracks. Speeds are lower but the racing is more intense. Anybody with dirt track racing experience will relate to the frustration of spending an entire race hopelessly following the guy in front, as if he was a greedy, older brother with a freshly opened tube of Pringles. You might be slightly faster, and feel like you’re being held up, but you’re not quite fast enough to make a simple pass on a tight and frantic short track with a ten-second lap time. For an insight into short track racecraft, we sat down with Indian Wrecking Crew AFT racer Briar Bauman, winner of races on many different tracks, inlcuding the shortest of short tracks. Take it away, Briar. POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE On the short tracks, it’s really tough to get past someone with similar ability who is also going the same pace. Typically, a short track might have a very narrow racing line, not leaving a lot of options for overtaking. You probably don’t want to hear this, but sometimes it can come down to nothing more than pure luck, it’s a hairball event. Coming up through the ranks as an amateur, there is a degree of ‘positive mental attitude’, but at the professional level you simply cannot show up not expecting to win. Every time you’re out there you have to really believe that you are the best, whether it’s starting, getting in the corner the deepest or getting back on the gas soonest. On the race track you have to assume an arrogant and aggressive attitude. When you line up, you need to understand in your own mind that you are one of the best to have ever done it. I don’t agree with arrogance off the race track and some people don’t know the difference between being on and off the bike. GET PHYSICAL Racing on short tracks can get real physical, by that I mean banging bars, and there is a very fine line regarding acceptable overtaking moves. You don’t want to go out there and think you can just run into

whoever you want and get away with it. That isn’t cool at all. However, it’s important to know you have the ability to make aggressive passes, as far as moving someone over without taking someone out, or putting a wheel in there and having the confidence to blast ’em off the track and carry on with your day. That’s more my style rather than just whiskey throttle into the side of someone. THINK QUICK, MOVE QUICK On the short tracks, you make split-second decisions. At the US Superprestigio in 2015, our main event was the quickest 25 laps I’ve ever done, I think. You have to make your moves four or five times quicker than you would on a mile or half-mile. Your mechanic or team boss probably doesn’t want to hear this, but you really have to be on auto-pilot so you can fully focus on what’s happening with the other racers. It’s really tough if you’re mid-pack. You might think it isn’t a bad spot to be, but I’d sure like to be up front. EXPLOIT MISTAKES Everybody’s lap times are within a thousandth of a second. The consequences of mistakes are really big on the track. I’m watching for the smallest mistake from the guy in front. When it happens, you have to totally capitalise on it. It comes down to that arrogant attitude. You have to be willing to put yourself on the edge and get into the side of them. If they give you 12 inches on the inside, which is enough room for your front wheel, the track is so small that you have to take advantage of it. Nine times out of ten you’re going to be moving someone. It’s risky stuff and by doing it you can crash and ruin your night, when you could have settled for a fourth or fifth. If we raced exclusively on tracks like Las Vegas every weekend, I couldn’t say that the same dude would consistently win by any means. Like I said, luck plays such a big role. RISK BEING AN ASS You can’t hesitate to shove a wheel and possibly make a mistake, causing an incident. Everyone is on the same notched race track and laps are going by very quickly. Don’t intentionally be an ass and take someone out completely, but at the same time you have to be willing to risk being regarded as that ass who put a strong move on another rider to try to win. Unfortunately, at pro level, this is how it has to work. Don’t be afraid to put it out there.

Words: Briar Bauman in conversation with Dave Skooter Farm Illustration: Ryan Quickfall

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How to use your brake to go faster I REMEMBER BEING told all I had to do to lower my lap times was to get on the brakes later and on the throttle earlier. Makes sense right? Well, no. In How To Get The Holeshot, on page 13, Johnny Lewis tells us his tips for first corner heroism, and perhaps the most surprising lesson was the counter-intuitive practice of using the brake to launch quicker. We caught up with the Grand National Championship race-winner and race school proprietor (moto-anatomy.com) for an explanation of how braking more will make you faster.

HOLY HOLESHOTS, BATMAN

Using the rear brake from the startline loads the motorcycle down and puts tension on the chain. If you’re on the line, both feet off the pegs, clutch all the way in, the bike is just sitting there. You might be revving up, so it might have a little tension on the chain, but holding the rear brake pulls the suspension down, ready to launch. Another important reason to be on the brake is when the lights change and I set off, I drag the brake almost as long as I’m slipping the clutch. If I was just using the clutch and the bike started to wheelie, I would have to pull in the clutch or chop off the gas and lose position to the other riders. Now, if it starts wheelying, I just apply more brake. I’m already on the pedal, and it brings the front end down. But we covered that earlier, so...

JUST ADJUST

It’s crucial to have your brake pedal adjusted correctly. One time I borrowed a bike to race that had no more adjustment in the lever to lower it and we couldn’t fabricate something up at the racetrack, so I did what I do a lot at my schools, I fastened a block of wood, or in that case rubber, to get the footpeg higher than my brake pedal, so I have a good angle to reach my brake.

NO TOE-TAPPING

[Peterborough, UK, 336m in length], which I’d describe as a round short track, the corners are wide and the straights are short and I’m always turning. I can’t tell you pressure in pounds, but down the straightaway I’m still leaned over and stepped out and I’m already braking halfway down the straightaway. I can apply it in five, ten, 15 percent increments. Doing that begins to load the motorcycle down into the stroke of the suspension travel. You want to do this, because if you go: throttle on; throttle off; brake; when you’re off the throttle, you’re coasting. If you’re coasting, you’re unloading the motorcycle. If you keep it loaded it’s less likely to step out on the entry to the corner. If you limit that stepping out, then the entry to the corner is smoother. If that’s smoother, then the middle of the corner is easier.

APEX PREDATOR

Where I’m using the most braking pressure is the apex of the corner, because I want the thing to make that direction change. For a lot of people, the apex is the most difficult part of the turn. You want to make that direction change and go, so I make that the slowest part of the corner.

EXIT PLAN

On certain tracks, I’m applying more brake pressure on the exit of the corner than anywhere else on the track. It would be when I’m coming off the corner, getting on the gas, driving off, and the rear wheel starts to step out. Instead of chopping the gas, I just start applying the rear brake and it acts like traction control for me. I stay on the gas, but the brake slows the rear wheel down, brings the rear wheel back in line and lets me drive forward. The more those wheels are in line, the better that motorcycle is driving forward.

SQUAT, THRUST

A lot of guys are what I call ‘toe-tappers’, because they don’t have their pedals angled correctly. Their heel is off the footpeg when they’re reaching for the brake and they’re tapping the pedal with their toe. If you’re toe-tapping you can apply the brake, but it’s not consistent. If you’ve got your heel on something you can modulate the brake correctly. At my schools I talk about body position first, then I talk about brake pedal position, because if you’re toe-tapping you’re more likely to lock up the wheel.

You’re trying to have that motorcycle with the perfect squat. Imagine if you’re on the brake, then you let off it and the suspension rebounds, the bike is up on its suspension and then it won’t turn as easily. I say that my brake is also my suspension mechanic when I’m on the track. I can control rebound and compression with the pedal. If the bike is pogoing, and the rebound’s too fast, I can hold the rear brake, the shock is in its stroke and I’m controlling the rebound. If the bike is too soft and it’s squatting too much, then I’m more gentle with the rear brake.

NEVER LET OFF

FINESSE IT

I could tape my foot to my brake pedal, because it never leaves it. Short track, half-mile, mile, if I’m off the pedal it’s a maximum a millimetre or two, but most of the time there’s a bit of slack in the pedal, so you’re just hovering there, in contact with it. When you have to move your foot to reach for a brake pedal, that’s usually when bad stuff happens. Also, if you’re trying to reach around for the pedal, it’s taking the concentration away from some other area.

GET YOUR PERCENTAGES

When I train riders I talk about percentages, so I talk about brake pressure in percentages. On a short track like this

I don’t think I’ve ever got my rear brake rotor glowing, like some other AFT Twins riders, because I’m trying to finesse it. Some of the top guys use way more brake, but use way more throttle too, and they end up using their brake almost like a throttle. [They keep the throttle pinned and] they’re letting off the brake to accelerate, but riders have blown out cranks on factory bikes riding like that, because it’s so hard on the bike. You’re smoking the clutch, you’re smoking the crank. I try to use it, not over use it. The brake is my best friend. A lot of good riders can’t ride if they lose their brake and I can, because I can concentrate on the front end, but that’s for another time.

Words: Johnny Lewis in conversation with Gary Inman Illustration: Ryan Quickfall

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Win a hooligan title HE’S COMPETED IN supermoto and road racing since 2007, but Andy DiBrino is a fairly recent flat track convert. ‘I live in Oregon, it’s kinda rainy in the winter with not a lot of outdoor riding, so about four years back I started indoor flat track racing at Salem and became friends with Thor Drake from See See Motorcycles. In 2015, Thor asked me to race at Dirt Quake USA on Icon’s 1200 V-twin. That was the beginning of my hooligan racing, but it wasn’t until I won $10,000 at The One Show’s hooligan race on Thor’s 750 hooligan that I developed a love for it. Without Thor’s encouragement, I wouldn’t be hooligan racing. Coming from a motocross background, I had zero interest in crusier V-twins and he changed my perspective on all of that. ‘People told me I could win the 2017 Superhooligan series, but I’d already committed to doing MotoAmerica, the US pro road racing series. It was early enough to change plans and my dad let me [do the Superhooligan series] on the condition I talk to my sponsors and work something out. That was four days before the second round, 2000 miles away in Wisconsin. I flew and was able to borrow a bike. I knew I’d make eight of the ten rounds, I missed ond round due to road racing commitments. It was so tough to make that decision because I had a 15-point lead in the hooligan series and was lying second in the road racing championship. If something went wrong I could lose both.’ DiBrino won both the 2017 National Superhooligan series and the OMRRA road racing title and followed up with 2018 Hooligan title.

WEIGHT MANAGEMENT

The bikes are heavy but due to my road racing experience the weight is not an issue. The only thing I keep in mind is when I throw the bike in I could hurt somebody. I’m careful when I’m overtaking but you can ride those bikes as hard as you want and they do surprisingly OK. Sammy Halbert and I were banging off each other at the first round of the Superhooligan series. If we go back to Dirt Quake 2015, when I first rode a 1200cc hooli, I was worried about the lean angle in the corners and wasn’t sure how planted it would be; honestly, it scared me. As I got more seat time on these bikes, I learned you can do a lot with them.

SMOOTHNESS

Because of the weight, when you get out of shape you can’t manipulate it in the same way as a 450, so it’s important to be smooth. I had a moment at Dixie Speedway in Georgia. I was on a 750 against the bigger bikes so I had it wrung out in the corners. I came out of turn two wide open, lost the rear and went into an 80mph tank-slapper. My feet came off the pegs and I don’t know how my arms didn’t get ripped off. The racing has got really good at the front and on the bigger tracks Joe Kopp and myself, on bikes that weigh 130lbs more and have less horsepower, were less than one second slower on lap times than some of the AFT twins riders.

SET UP

The bike I raced in 2017 was still street legal at the first round, with speedo, lights, licence plate, kickstand... After that it changed every race. I realised what the level of competition was when [former US #1] Joe Kopp joined the series full-time. Before, I was winning races on a bike that I’d never touch. That’s what originally I loved so much about it. Then, I got new suspension; I stripped off all the street stuff; the handlebars had integrated switches in them, we took those off and used different bars every single race. The bike needed those changes to make it more comfortable for me and to turn it into a race weapon. Finally, we added an 800cc big-bore kit because I was lacking horsepower on the big tracks. The biggest set-up tip is wheelbase. If you look at Joe Kopp’s Triumph it’s short, good for traction on the short tracks.

RISE ABOVE

Towards the close of the 2017 series, things got a little ugly between a couple of racers. I’m one of the friendliest guys there and I’m a pretty clean racer. On a tiny track, where everyone is ultra-competitive and riding 400lb bikes, it’s hard to not hit people. I get hit every main event, that’s just how it goes. When hooligan racing started, people were not professionals and their approach was having fun. Now you have these events partnering up with AFT, professionals are coming in and not just from flat track. From a fan’s perspective, it couldn’t be better. I think AFT could use a third class.

SUPPORT

I have a professional racing history and adapting to the way hooligan events were run was difficult. I was used to having a schedule and a procedure. At a lot of these races would be chaos. For road racing I have a support crew, but I started the hooligan series by myself, van trips of 4000 – 6000 miles, just me or maybe a buddy. For the Dirt Quake USA Superhooligan round I realised I was going to need some help if I wanted to win. My dad came with me... and I won. At races by myself I don’t ride differently, but I’m calmer when my dad is there. For the first four rounds of 2017 I hadn’t made any changes to the bike at the races. When he was there, we changed gearing and tuned the suspension. We made so many modifications because we continued learning things.

ADAPTABILITY

Whether it’s learning the wide variety of tracks in eight practice laps or fewer, or racing situations that evolve around you in an instant, you need to adapt on the fly and that helped me succeed when I may not have been the fastest. Practice would’ve helped, but I never had the time. My only practice all season was three days before the final race at the MotoBeach Classic. As a riding tip, get the holeshot, because races are short and the tracks can be really tight and hard to pass. It’s happened that guys who aren’t the fastest got on the podium because the track was too treacherous to make a pass on.

Words: Dave Skooter Farm in conversation with Andy DiBrino Illustration: Ryan Quickfall

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Racewear

Trusted: Photographer Dimitri Coste has competed all over the world on flat tracks and hill climbs, including Pikes Peak, with panache. These are his race day essentials 1 Ruby Castel

I’ve worn Ruby exclusively since 2007 because: 1. It’s the best-looking helmet; 2. It’s the best protective helmet; 3. My brother Jerome designed it. Unfortunately, four years ago he went bankrupt and the company name was bought. I still wear Ruby for the same reasons and to honour my brother’s vision, not to promote the current company in any way.

2 Hometown Jersey

Photos: Dustin Aksland (cat), Vincent Bur (action), Dimitri Coste (kit)

I like to race with just a jersey over back protection. This one is handmade and was a present from Johnny Hallyday’s wife, Laeticia.

3 Thermos

It usually contains coffee, but sometimes cold margarita...

4 Gorilla tape, scissors...

The first aid kit for shitty mechanics.

5 Key

It was too big to be in the shot, but Le Boogie Van (my 1983 GMC Vandura) is my race transport and hotel. That van is almost part of me.

6 Genius booster

It can start a 5-litre V8 15 times, and has a USB plug so I can charge my phone or camera on it. It’s saved my life when my van’s alternator died.

9 Grip strengthener

I plan to exercise, but I never do.

10 Stickers

I carry an envelope of different stickers to give to the amigos. It’s always fun to exchange stickers and it works worldwide.

11 Dabba natural pain relief

After breaking my shoulder it’s painful in the morning and after riding. Once, after a Roland Sands Design practice, AJ Kirkpatrick handed me this and it felt amazing. It contains cannabis and, as a former pothead, I’m sure the effect is doubled and my body pleased.

12 Zenith watch

This Swiss company have been great supporters of my racing. I crashed with it on my wrist and it’s stronger than me.

13 Jacques Marie Mage spectacles

They’re handmade in Japan and one of my regular photography clients. I can’t drive at night without RX glasses, and I rely on the shades to look cool. Plus they’re all designed by the man behind the 100% Barstow goggles and an avid motocross rider.

Name Dimitri Coste Age 41 Job Photographer/Director Hometown Paris, France Bikes Indian Scout RSD hooligan BSA B50MX short tracker, 1939 Norton 16H, 1964 Triumph T20M 1967 Triumph TR6C Triumph Trackmaster T140 1988 Honda Dominator Sunday 150cc, Sunday 190cc

16 Vans slip-ons & grips

The most convenient shoes for running errands in the pits and driving. I always carry a pair of the Cult/Vans grips as I think I’ll fit brand new ones before racing. Truth is, I never do it.

17 Posca & Sharpie

Sharpie for noting my grid position and the Posca for a last-minute name and number on the back of a newly acquired jacket from Laboratoire Bonzorro.

18 Alpinestars Tech 8

The Hooligan class made me rethink my entire kit and really look for protective gear. I feel safe in Tech 8s.

19 Hot shoes

I raced for years without one, but since I got a proper hot shoe I understand how much safer and more efficient it is. I own two special hot shoes. One is an engraved work of art by Cheetah, the other made by Gary Kinzler at Lightshoe. I cherish them very mucho.

20 Leica Q

14 Alpinestars Missile pants

Because #iraceinwhitepants. I always wear at least a left kneepad, shinguard and Alpinestars protective shorts.

7 Levi’s 501s

If racing looks like it’s going to be tough I’ll wear leather pants to feel really safe. These are custom made, the only white ones in existence, thanks to the rad people at A-stars. I crashed at high speed on tarmac last summer, so they need some care now but they saved me.

I usually carry two cameras, this Leica Q and a Polaroid SLR 680 or SX70. I used to come to the races with a full camera bag and shoot the races between my heats, but those days are over. Now I take lifestyle pits photos and just good moments with friends.

8 Indian belt buckle

15 Deus Cowichan sweater

I love a fresh pair and always bring two pairs to the races. Great looking and comfortable products.

I love big buckles and own a few rad ones. This one is for riding my Scout.

The perfect post-race comfy clothing. It keeps my neck warm and has pockets.

21 100% gloves


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From: Leah Tokelove To: sideburnmag@gmail.com Date: 24 April 2019 Subject: Hooligan with pigtails SB Hi Leah, we love this photo but can you tell us where and when it was taken? LT At El Rollo, the flat track race element of the Wheels and Waves festival in Biarritz, France – although the race actually took place just across the border in San Sebastian, northern Spain, in the middle of a horse racing track. The photos were taken in 2018, my first ever time at Wheels and Waves. I was racing my Indian Scout Sixty hooligan that had been converted to a race bike by Krazy Horse. By the time it came round to Wheels and Waves I’d been racing the bike in the DTRA Hooligan Championship since April, so I’d probably raced it four times before. SB What was the event like? LT I remember the drive to the track and it was absolutely lashing it down as we crossed the border into Spain. Then it persisted all the way to the track and for most of the morning. We signed on and were told to just wait around for a bit. I’d never felt so low on a race day before, because I didn’t think we’d be able to race and I’d been so looking forward to it. When I walked onto the track my shoe got stuck in the mud. Then, just like that, after lunch the day turned. It began to clear and dry out. Luckily, the track was tiny, like I’d never raced a hooligan bike on such a small track, so once bikes were able to start going around the track came pretty good, if you could look past some of the holes, bumps and stones. By the last few races it even became a bit of a dust bowl. The setting is beautiful, surrounded by lush, rolling mountains. SB You’re on the top step, so things went well, but how did the race pan out? LT If I remember rightly, I was the fastest in

timed practice, won all my heats and then when it came to the final another rider beat me to the holeshot. The guy came from nowhere, so I had a couple of laps sitting behind him before he left a gap going down the straight into the bottom corner and I powered through and squeezed up the inside of him. I was able to hold on and pull a bit of a gap going over the line. I’d had a couple of podiums before, but had never made it onto the top spot until then, so that was pretty sweet.  SB Who is on the podium with you? LT My Krazy Horse team mate, Lee Kirkpatrick, took the second spot, then Dimitri Coste rounded the podium off with a third, all of us on Indians. They were super stoked for me, which is such a nice feeling. SB Who handed the trophy over? LT Well, my Trophy Queen, or King, was Fast Freddie Spencer. It was funny, because my surname gets mispronounced all the time, so I was expecting that, but when Freddie read out my first name he announced ‘Liam’. I really don’t think he was expecting a Leah, so when Leah appeared he had a little smile on his face. I then got to create a champagne shower, which I do love. Because of the rain, the event finished pretty late in the afternoon, then I had to hang around for some photos. To celebrate, the Indian UK and Krazy Horse team all had a nice meal and we just hung out for the evening. I was shattered and overwhelmed, so that suited me just fine. SB What do these podium photos remind you of the most? LT The pure feeling of, Wow I’ve finally done it and I can do it. To finally get a win in front of the biggest crowd I’d ever seen at an amateur flat track race was just immense. I don’t think I could have asked for a better setting for my first win. That moment has kicked off a hell of a lot of other cool stuff. This photo is probably the ones that I cherish the most from my racing and I think it’s going to be a hard one to beat.


Photos: Kayadaek Photography

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El Rollo 2018 Costello or Presley 35 buckle? 23%

Joy of first podium win 28% 28

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Champagne shower 15%

Plastic17 bag 10%

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Pigtails 7% 7

Grand Prix legend trophy king 17%

5 15

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Sideburn x Indian Beginner's Guide to Flat Track  

This free 24-page page beginner's guide to flat track was produced in conjunction with Indian Motorcycle. It is a collection of some of our...

Sideburn x Indian Beginner's Guide to Flat Track  

This free 24-page page beginner's guide to flat track was produced in conjunction with Indian Motorcycle. It is a collection of some of our...