Pro Riding Tips with Johnny Campbell - Dirt Rider Magazine

Most of the time, the whoops dirt riders come across in off-road situations are fairly evenly spaced and shaped. That makes negotiating them at speed predictable. There are times, however, when large four-wheeled vehicles or the forces of nature conspire to manufacture whoops of odd sizes and/or that are oddly situated. These irregular whoops are quite a bit more challenging.To help us figure out how to tackle irregular whoops, we turned to Honda's Johnny Campbell. With six consecutive Baja 1000 overall wins from 1997 to 2002, plus many more race victories and series championships, Campbell has lots of miles over some of the roughest, most-desolate terrain on which man competes. He was more than willing to share his secrets on conquering irregular whoops when we visited him at Honda's test location in the SoCal desert."In my races, we're always trying to conserve energy because we ride long distances," Campbell explains. "What we try to do is focus and find the smoothest line we can—the smoothest line's going to be the fastest line, thus requiring the least amount of energy to get through it."You always need to be loose on the bike when you're in whoops that are at different angles," he adds. "The bike's going to squirt in different directions, so you need to be able to react to that in a split second. It's so critical because if you hit a bump that's going to the right and the bike goes to the left, you need to be ready to react to that as the next bump might be the opposite."I think being cautious enough to be able to do that rather than just pound through is going to save a lot of time and possibly an injury!"Read on, apply the lessons the next time you find yourself in similar conditions and you're sure to be more confident and quicker.A. Here, you get an idea of how the section looks. It's a bit difficult to tell from a photograph, but if you were actually there and able to inspect it closely, you'd see that the whoops are not spaced evenly, plus the trail is slightly off-camber, as there's a hillside to the right, out of the photo. That fact alters how they should be attacked, though it won't be substantially different from how you ride evenly spaced and shaped whoops. "In our arena, you're always looking ahead because the speed average is ," Campbell begins. "When I come into a section that's off-camber with a lot of angled bumps, different-sized and -shaped bumps—round and square—I really have to be on my toes because the bike reacts to round bumps differently than it does to square bumps."B. "A lot of times what you can do in these sections is ramp off a larger bump and try to carry the front wheel over some of the smaller ones or in between bumps. That way, you use a little energy to get the front end up but less energy further down the trail once you clear a few of the bumps and set down."C. "Body positioning really depends on the bump that you're hitting. In this particular section, I try to stay neutral , but most of my positioning is rearward in order to keep the front end light so that I have quick reflex/reaction to get the front end up as quickly as possible ."D. "Sometimes when you get the front end up and you're back , the bike may be coming off a bump and you may need to push it forward to get the front end down. Also, in this type of section—usually where we ride is really dry—it's hard underneath, and you're searching for traction. So trying to keep the bike in contact with the ground as much as possible is important unless you're trying to jump an obstacle in order to keep the bike straight and your momentum going."