Destry Abbott EnduroCross Riding Tip—Downhill Matrix

How to to ride through unevenly spaced logs

For less experienced riders, the Matrix can be daunting—and a downhill (or uphill) Matrix doubly so. It’s vital to maintain momentum and avoid hitting the underside of your bike, which inevitably leads to grinding to a stop as this rider has.Mark Kariya

One of the original obstacles in AMA EnduroCross, the Matrix replicated the task of crossing logs in the woods, but made it far more challenging by requiring multiple, consecutive crossings of unevenly spaced logs. The spacing was always such that the average motorcycle fit neatly between them in several spots. This meant that if you lost any momentum, you were going to drop into that void and get stuck.

Since very, very few riders in the world have the ability to wheelie through a Matrix—much less do it consistently lap after lap—most must negotiate it one log at a time. But what happens when the Matrix is on a slight downhill? Does it change the plan? Not especially. We let off-road legend Destry Abbott explain his strategy for dealing with it.

“The bigger the log is, the more you want to put emphasis on the front wheel three-quarters of the way up the log [on the approach] and then using that to put compression onto the rear tire,” Destry begins. “It’s a double-blip [of the throttle technique] from the trials guys (first blip to lift the front wheel, placing it three-quarters of the way up the log, and the second blip quickly following to drive the rear wheel over with momentum as the front rebounds and clears the top of the log). You never want to hit your skid plate on the log because there’s no suspension on that! Once it hits the log, the bike will stick.” (In this shot, he’s already done the double-blip, so his front tire is up and over the log.)Mark Kariya
“We always try to carry that momentum and keep that throttle steady [except when doing the double-blip]. You never pull on or push with the handlebars. You’re using the clutch and the throttle to either get the motorcycle up or ‘hinging’ with your hips to compensate for what the bike’s doing [underneath you].”Mark Kariya
“We want to get that weight back [which includes keeping your feet back on the pegs]. You can see the rear tire’s soaking up [the impact on the log], my hips are going back getting weight to that rear wheel. A lot of people want to give it a lot of gas [on the approach], but once you break traction, you’re getting less traction. It’s really [all about] trying to get that wheel grabbing. Once that [rear] tire starts spinning, you’re not going to go anywhere.”Mark Kariya
“You want to put weight to that rear wheel and basically lug it out of there, and that’s what’s going to get you traction. The big thing is momentum. Momentum is key, for sure.”Mark Kariya
One way to weight the rear wheel is to move your feet back on the pegs. Look closely and you’ll see Destry’s got the balls of his feet on the pegs, putting his heels and much of his body weight far to the back of the bike. “By having your toes back, you’re really helping your weight [bias] by even moving three inches, two inches back on your pegs, it really pushes your hips back so much farther and that’s a huge weight difference. I always want to have my heels lower than my toes. People ask, ‘What about the rear brake?’ Well, you shouldn’t have to need the rear brake [in the Matrix]. If I do, I just take my foot off the peg and touch the rear brake if I have to, but I always keep my finger on that clutch. Even if you have a Rekluse [auto clutch], you still should be using [it].” But he admits, “I have my weight too far forward [here], for sure,” as he was a little off-balance.Mark Kariya