They could call him The Champ. They could call him Laff, Mike, Jersey Man or That Dude On The Orange Bike. But they don?t. When you?re at a National Enduro or just about any kind of off-road race and you hear someone referring to Junior, there?s only one guy they could be talking about. Mike Lafferty, Junior is the fastest and most promising young rider to come along in the off-road world in years. Junior, to you and me.
Usually when someone so young and so talented appears on the off-road scene, it?s almost useless to ask him how he goes so fast. He wouldn?t know. Talent is talent and it doesn?t necessarily come with brains. But Junior is different. He?s a thinking rider. He knows exactly what he?s doing when he gets on a bike, and he does it well. We found Junior hanging out at the Tecate Hare Scrambles and asked him to give us a few pointers on a variety of subjects. Here?s what he said.

It ain?t cheating if?: Tecate had an unusual straddle-the-front-wheel start. You were supposed to have one knee on each side of the front wheel, but most riders stood closely to the left side of the bike. Don?t be the only one following the exact letter of the law. But by the same token, don?t try to get away with murder. A few extra positions at the start isn?t worth a DQ.

Lean: Probably the most important thing to remember is to keep your body as far forward as possible when you get on the bike. That way you kick back, not down, on the start lever. In case you hadn?t noticed, that?s the direction the kickstarter rotates.

Plan it out: You have to plan exactly how many steps it will take to get on the bike and know exactly where each foot will land. If you choose to start the bike in gear, it?s a little riskier. To eliminate as much clutch drag as possible and increase the likelihood of a one-kick start, put the bike in gear while it?s still running and kill it with the kill switch. Then, hold the clutch lever in with your left hand (even when you?re facing backwards) while you?re waiting for the flag to drop.

Twist it: There isn?t much technique for going through the gears. As long as you keep your weight forward, then you won?t have to let off the throttle. Gear selection depends on your bike; I usually start in second. At Tecate, Russ Pearson managed to get off the line a little quicker, but that?s okay?I had three hours to catch him.

Check it out: You can?t just ride down any vertical drop. The key is having run-out. It can be vertical for as much as 10 feet or so, but the bottom has to have fill dirt so you don?t hit the ground at a 90-degree angle.

Slow it down: Don?t just leap off the top. You?ll land so hard all your fillings will jar loose. Gravity will give you all the speed you need.

Keep the front end light: Give it a little throttle as the rear wheel goes over the edge and pull back. Don?t let the front wheel dig in or hit anything that can put you over the bars. And remember to keep your CG low by crouching down.

Use that run-off: Try not to hit the ground front wheel first if possible. The sharper the angle between the cliff and the ground, the more important to keep the front end light. Throttle control is critical; not enough and you can go over the bars, too much and you?ll break the sound barrier going straight down.

Everyone rides the same course: Some races are marked better than other ones. But if it?s marked poorly for you, it?s marked poorly for everyone else, too. Deal with it. If you?re one of the first riders through, you should always be scanning, looking for ribbon, and alarms should automatically go off in your brain if you haven?t seen an arrow in a while. If you?re late, you get the benefit of following tracks.

Miss a turn? At a race last month I overshot a turn and slammed on the brakes hard. Another rider followed me right past the turn and almost hit me when I spun around. Look behind you as soon as you realize you?ve missed the turn.

Quick spin: If you missed a left-hander, then I suggest you look over your right shoulder, and then spin around to your right. That way you?ll have a straighter shot back in the right direction. If you turn left, you?ll probably have to do an S-turn to get back on the course. By lifting the front end, you can turn sharper in less space, but it takes a lot of energy.


Comments are closed.