Track Time: Marty Smith Motocross Clinic

Private Lessons From The Three-Time Champ

By Pete Peterson/Dirt Rider, Photography by Drew Ruiz

Motocrossers are always looking for ways to make their bikes faster. What can be bolted on, bored out, re-valved or trimmed down to gain speed? But every bike that's faster than mine has always had one thing on it: a faster rider. So I've become a big believer in motocross schools. When the chance came to take three-time AMA Champion Marty Smith's Motocross Clinic (, I signed up for a one-on-one private lesson.

The day started with Marty following me around the track, evaluating where my riding technique needed the most help. Then we were off to ride around two cones on a little patch of dirt-hello fundamentals. That's the drill here: eliminate one bad habit at a time. Being off the track really distilled things down. I could feel what I was doing right and wrong, sensing the difference between the two.

It turns out I was doing everything backward: sitting too early during braking and standing too quickly under acceleration. So I applied the new techniques, correcting my bad tendencies. Standing on the pegs deeper into the turns started to make sense to my body, and I was "naturally" getting on the gas earlier coming out.

I was feeling pretty good about myself when Marty pulled me aside and asked, "Do you know how to shift?" Now I may be just a Vet Novice, but I've certainly been through all four gears on my 2009 Yamaha YZ125 a time or two! Nonetheless, Marty noticed I was letting off the gas for each upshift. For all the classes I'd taken, the videos and books I'd studied and the Pro Secrets I'd uncovered, no one had made this basic observation. I didn't know how to shift!

Marty showed me the drill: right wrist locked, two fingers on the clutch and lift my whole foot up to catch the next gear. Simple in theory, right? But power-shifting was so foreign to me that all the missed gears and over-revving sounded like someone was murdering a flock of ducks!

With just these few techniques to work on, it was back to the track to ride slowly and build up speed as I improved on these basics. The one-on-one approach helped. Without my riding buddies around, there were no distractions from what I was doing and no competitiveness interfering

The three-hour class went by quickly, but delivered more information and impact than anything else I've taken. When it comes to riding technique, nothing beats an expert's eyes focused only on you.

Riding with Marty Smith was a true fantasy-camp experience, but I came away most impressed by his "Less is More" teaching philosophy. Marty offers semi-private lessons ($250) and group classes ($225), too. My advice: Keep it simple and sign up for a private lesson ($350). Bring an open mind, pen and paper-and definitely a camera.

By Pete Peterson/Dirt Rider
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