Jason Raines has an impressive list of wins and championships, which include six National Hare Scrambles Championships, two GNCC Series runner up series finishes, and three ISDE Gold Medals. Well he’s not keeping his speed secrets a secret any longer. He has an intense training course that covers everything from warming up and working out your body to racing tips for the trail.Dirt Rider got invited to attend the Raines University in April, so we got Jason Raines on the phone to get some information about his program before heading off to get the full experience (Look for a feature story on it in an upcoming issue!)
Pete Peterson: How long have you been doing your riding schools and where did the idea for them come from?
Jason Raines: I started about three years ago with two younger riders, Steward Baylor’s one of them, he actually won the XC-2 class in Florida [the 2011 GNCC opener]. I worked with them back when they were on 85s. Their dad just called me up out of the clear blue sky. I was hurt at the time, I was coming back and starting to train to get ready for my racing. I told him I’d never worked with anyone before. He told me just to take ‘em with me, give them some tips on training, take ‘em riding and see what they’re doing wrong… That’s how it really started. They told a couple people that it was a really good experience. I think I really target racers, the training aspect of it, and then the aggressive part of it. Working with them really made me learn a lot about myself. When we all ride, no matter what level your ride at, you just do what you do. You don’t think about it. I really had to start analyzing myself to see precisely what I was doing as far as weighting whatever part of the bike at each moment, and they really thought it was beneficial. I worked with them for an entire year, three days a week. They were my first students and they passed the word on to other riders and [the training course] kind of evolved into what it now, which is doing it on the road and it’s really done well with not just the number of students but with Yamaha being involved with the demo rides, the program has expanded to be more than just a school.PP: How long are the schools?
JR: I tell the students that I’m going to deliver as much as I can for your money. Some of the riders have told me it’s too intense, it’s too long, but when I do the schools I feel like I’m in a race. When I start a school I’m really intense. I’m not like a drill sergeant but I’m very focused on providing the best service that I can for each and every rider. We usually start at 9:00 and I’ll burn the daylight out.PP: How many days is the class?
JR: Classes range from one to three days. I’ve had some riders that just sign up for one day because they’re on the fence if they want to spend $360 to do a two day or $450 to do the three day, so they can do the entry level for $190 as a one day just to kind of get their feet wet and see what’s it’s all about. And I’ve seen every person that just signs up for a one day go all three days. I think they’re just feeling it out and seeing what they’re getting for their money. Returning riders can just do the third day, which is what I call the ‘ultimate day.’ Day one is a lot of your basic fundamentals because in my opinion every single thing you do on the dirt bike boils down to your controls and using the controls the way they’re meant to be used and using your body position the way its meant to be used on the bike. So we do a lot of fundamental drills, throttle/clutch control, balance, coordination, vision focus, body position, how to weight the bike. Day two we apply all those tools to single obstacles like logs, rocks, roots, motocross, hill climbs, things like that. Day three we do the actual race track. We apply the ability to hop things, to use your body position, we work on raw speed and aggression. We work on braking later into the corners, because if you know how to use your brakes properly you should be able to brake later. Day one you learn how to use the brakes, so day three you should be able to apply it. If you know how to use your body position right, you should be able to get on the gas sooner. And I’m a very big believer in lap times, so everything we do is recorded. After the morning workout on day one we go out to a very short course, I haven’t told the riders anything yet, I let them get warmed up and learn the track, then I pull everybody off, and each person gives me two laps. I write down the lap time for each and every person. Then after we do every drill on day one, it’s getting dark, I say, ‘Alright guys, now it’s time to apply what we learned. You don’t have to go faster, but apply the body weight drills, apply the throttle/clutch control, the vision focus, to the track.” And I take another lap time. And I’ve seen lap time improvements that have been absolutely crazy, from five to… my biggest lap time improver was 28 seconds, on a minute track. I believe in taking lap times, just like wearing a heart rate monitor. If you can’t track your progress, you don’t know if you’re doing anything. And we’ve all be in the position where we say, ‘today I rode great,’ but if you’re looking to improve, be faster over a length of time, lap times will track your progress. And we do the same thing on day 3. Day three is a different track, it’s a lot longer, about three minutes, and I try to incorporate everything – it’ll have tight stuff, fast stuff… If feel if you’re an off-road rider you’ve got to be the most versatile rider on the planet. You’ve gotta be good at motocross, you’ve gotta be good at rocks, roots, sand… During your race season you’re going to find every one of those obstacles, sometimes all on the same track. And my greatest accomplishment at the end of the day is to see that look in the riders’ faces when they make that second lap and say, ‘Man, I gained ten seconds. I don’t feel any faster, and I’m tired [from 3 days of classes]. Man, I wish I could try this when I’m fresh.’ And it takes two to three weeks, usually after they try it in a race, but I get so many emails after a guy goes to the class, improves so many seconds, then he goes to his first race. A guy I worked with in January got his first trophy after the class, and that made him a believer. And that makes me feel as good if not better, than winning my first GNCC.PP: How many people are in the class?
JR: My maximum amount is 14, but I’ve only done one class of 14. I try to limit it to 10, because I’m all about personal attention. Each person has their strengths and weaknesses and I never want to move on until everyone has it figured out. That’s why it’s better to work with smaller groups. This is just a starting point. You can’t learn to be a national rider in three days, it takes years. I’m giving you all the tools. After the class you get the training manual to show the exercises you should be doing, you get the diet and nutrition guide, you get the practice drills to go out and practice. I stress this a lot during the class, practice is what it’s meant to be, it’s practice, not just go out and ride, you need to practice and work on your riding skills.[When I started racing professionally] I’d go home each week and I’d work on those things, and I’d work to make my weaknesses strengths. And Scott Summers was unbelievable about that. If he was struggling, or his bike wasn’t working, or he was struggling in a certain section of the track, after the race he and his dad would take pictures of the section, they would measure the size of the bumps, measure the length of the section, and they would re-create that same scenario at their practice track. I think it’s like anything in life – Find the problem, work on it… Also, everybody gets a copy of the DVD of the class so they can analyze themselves. It’s a totally different association when you see yourself ride versus feel yourself ride.PP: Do you have any simple drills, maybe something to correct bad habits that most riders have, that you could explain to me now that they could go out and practice?
JR: Probably the most beneficial drill that the entire Am Pro team utilizes is the figure eight drill. You set up a figure eight [60 feet apart from the corner exit to the next corner entrance, with four cones marking the turn, each placed six feet apart (yes, Jason's practice guide is this detailed)]. There are three points to ever corner, the entrance, the middle and the exit. For the entrance, bodyweight’s gotta be forward. I call this “jumping into the motorcycle,” basically when you are coming into a corner you primarily are standing. If you actually throw your body weight as hard as you can, like if you are jumping onto a trampoline, force your bodyweight down, you have the opportunity to put twice your body weight on your front tire at that moment. The timing is crutial. You don’t want to put your body weight at that point until you actually need traction on your tire. That’s one of the things I stress at the class – don’t sit too early. Always sit as late as possible. Sit late, sit forward, and have your inside leg up at the same time. In the middle part of the corner, now your front tire’s got traction, you’re starting your turn, now you need to emphasize three different areas. You need to weight the outside footpeg, which weights the outside of the rear tire. Then you weight the outside of the seat by shifting your butt. Basically you put one butt cheek on the upper side of the seat. And the third part is you have to put pressure on the outside of the handlebar which gives you front tire traction, and the only way to do that is if you have your elbows up. Then at the exit of the corner, number one you have to get the bike straightened up. Get the bike straightened up to the big part of the knobs, shift your weight back, get that inside foot back on the footpeg as soon as possible and accelerate hard. With the riders I worked with at the first National Enduro this year that was the biggest problem they were having, the accelerating between sections, between corner to corner. Through the corners they were good but when they came out of the corner they rolled on the throttle. Once you get that bike straightened up and you’ve got that weight back, you’ve got 100% traction – go wide open. Straightaways are the easiest place to make time. Once you have traction, get on the gas. The figure eights are explained really well in the practice guide we give out with every class, and this drill is probably the most beneficial single exercise you can do to get your more fluid in the corners.PP: You mentioned demo rides with Yamaha. What bikes do riders get to pick from?JR: I’m doing the demo rides at every school and every race that I go to. We have a multitude of bike to chose from – and 85, WR250 WR450, YZ450 and a YZ250 two-stroke. At the school the riders have the opportunity to test these bikes on our lunch break. [NOTE: These bikes are only available for demo rides, not available for use or rental for the complete class].