Quad Freestyle – Tips for Beginners

Published on January th, 2011


The sport of freestyle motocross has exploded in recent years for both the ATV and bike crowds alike. More and more riders are building ramps and their own private compounds in hopes of catching the attention of big sponsors or landing a spot on one of the freestyle tours making its way around the country. I’ve gotten numerous emails from aspiring freestyle riders asking what it takes to make it in this sport. Freestyle is not for everyone but there are small steps that one can take to give it a shot and see if they have what it takes to ride FMX. The biggest thing to remember is that freestyle takes time. The best riders in the world, guys like the Moore Brothers, the Guetter brothers and numerous others have been riding ATV’s for a long time and have worked up slowly. Ask Colten Moore or Derek Guetter how many years they worked on the backflip before they could say they had it mastered. While you might have wild aspirations of being an FMX superstar, rushing things is the quickest way to land yourself on the injured list and if your sitting out with a broken leg, you’re not practicing and getting better. The proper equipment, safety gear and natural skill can mean the difference between success and failure in the sport of freestyle motocross.

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Safety first
As mentioned, FMX is not for everyone and certainly not for someone new to riding an ATV. It takes a combination of skill, natural talent and some level of disregard for ones health. Lets face it, letting go of a 375 pound ATV 25 feet in the air is not what I would consider a “safe” activity, but man it sure is thrilling. You must be confident on an ATV and have the ability to control the quad off the ground before you start attempting tricks.

Safety equipment is mandatory but when we’re talking about freestyle, the right kind of equipment can make a big difference. Crashing from 25 feet in the air is not like falling off in a whoop section. Both can have devastating consequences but the impact is likely to be much larger in freestyle because it’s a long way to the ground. The industry standard is a good place to start. You should have a quality helmet, goggles, gloves, pants, long sleeves and over the ankle boots. A chest protector might as well be mandatory and your ribs will thank you. Because of the hard landings, quality boots with stiff souls are the best as lower quality boots will cause the arch of your feet to hurt after a solid day of jumping.

An often overlooked piece of equipment that most riders opt not to use is a mouth piece. I know of only two other riders besides myself that use one and I know several guys that should have worn them. Eat the handlebars once and you’ll find it’s the best 99 cents you can spend.

Some riders also prefer not to wear neck braces as they feel it constrains the movement of their head. You can find people who argue both ways but unless you’re competing for a medal at X Games, I’d encourage you to wear one. A little less comfort might spare you a life altering spinal cord injury.

Machine Setup
While racers can spend tens of thousands of dollars setting up their machines, freestyle is relatively inexpensive, at least to get started. Power and weight are two of the biggest factors when picking out a machine. Just about any of the modern 450cc machines will be a sufficient platform for building a freestyle quad as are the 525 models offered by KTM and Polaris.

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As far as power goes, a beefed up modded out engine is not necessary. Some riders will change the gearing on their quads to save them from shifting but spending hundreds or thousands on a race motor is overkill. The Bomb Squad for example simply increases the tooth count on the countershaft sprocket by one tooth to allow them to hit ramps in second gear, just like bike freestyle riders.

If you’re going to invest money in a freestyle quad, the first place you should look to improve is the suspension. Because freestyle involves repeated poundings and hard hits from the occasional over jump or coming up short, suspension is a must if you’re taking it seriously. What many fail to realize is that your body takes a beating weather you crash or not. When I first started jumping, the repeated pounding left my body more sore than any gym workout I could remember. Stiffer suspension is a must and many riders opt to include aftermarket A-arms to increase strength up front. The Bomb Squad freestyle team however runs the stock A-arms on their Polaris Outlaws, coupled with Fox Racing Shox, (www.FoxRacingShox.com) but spending the extra money on lighter and stronger arms won’t hurt you. Stock axle’s can bend or break after repeated abuse so an aftermarket axle will help give your quad a firmer footprint.

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Suspension is important in freestyle but if you’re on a budget and you’re willing to handle the abuse, you can get by. A few items that are mandatory though are nerfbars and heelguards. Even the best riders miss the pegs from time to time and nerfbars are cheap insurance should your foot not quite find its way back to the peg.

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Extension is a key factor in freestyle and the handlebar setup on most stock quads is somewhat constricting. It might make heel clickers easier but all your other tricks are going to suffer because you’ll be so close to the machine. I run a trailtech bar extender to give my bars a few extra inches of lift. This makes tricks easier because I have more room to clear the quad and they ultimately look bigger because I’m farther off the seat.

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While we’re talking about handlebars, if your ATV has any lines or cables running way out off the handlebars you can zip tie them to the bars to ensure you don’t get hung up on them on tricks like barhops, saran wraps or stripers where your feet are up near the handlebars. Just be sure your handlebars can still move freely throughout their whole range of motion.

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Once you’ve got bar tricks figure out, (tricks done while still holding the handlebars) you’re ready to start working on seat grabs. A seat grab is when the rider lets go with one or both hands, floats to the back of the quad and reaches into specifically cut grab holes in the rear fenders. It can be challenging convincing your mind to let go of the bars in midair but with practice it becomes second nature. Grab holes need to be cut in precise locations that might be unique to each quad.

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The holes should be cut in the side panels parallel to the seat and near the rear fender. It is wise to incorporate a sturdy part of the plastic or even a portion of the subframe into the grab hole. Some riders cut the plastic away and rely solely on the seat but if it becomes unlatched while in flight, you’re looking at a painful landing.

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A steering stablizer is another nicety that’s not mandatory but can really save the day if you get squirely on a landing.

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Getting Airborne
So you’ve got your quad all dialed in and your ready to take flight. Predictability is everything in freestyle so that you can confidently let go and know how the quad is going to react. A ramp is the best and most consistent way to get enough air to do tricks. You can catch mega air in the dunes or at a motocross but dirt and sand will shift and become rutted after just a few runs. A ramp will provide the most consistent and safest means of getting the necessary hang time for freestyle.

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That said there are well designed ramps and there are poorly designed ramps. Some are made of metal and others are made of wood. I’ve hit several different ramps and each one has a slightly different feel, even it’s supposedly built to the same specifications. The most important thing is that the ramp has a smooth, consistent curve. A smooth curve will create the most pop and spring you higher and farther than a ramp with a mellow curve.

There are various curves and ramp designs floating around but the biggest thing is to find one you’re comfortable with. Some riders will try numerous ramps and then use a stencil to copy the one they like the best. The average freestyle ramp is around eight feet tall and twenty feet long with an ending curve of around 45 degrees. These dimensions can easily loft a quad and rider up to thirty feet in the air at distances up to 80 feet almost effortlessly.

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The biggest mistake people make when getting into freestyle is trying to go too far too fast. Start small. Some of today’s top riders still move the ramp in close to their landing when riding a new ramp for the first time. They get comfortable at a short distance and then slide the ramp back in increments.

In freestyle, there are enough factors outside of your control that you’re better off taking advantage of the ones you can and keep yourself safe. When you’re just starting out, an ego trip and a “just go for it” mentality can be the quickest way to wind up on the sideline. You’re not getting better if you’re sitting out with a cast or an icepack on an extremity. Take your time, go slow and have fun. After all that’s why you started riding to begin with.

- Seth Fargher

Stay tuned, Ramp plans and Fabrication coming soon!

 

Comments

  1. Posted by Zack hall on February 1st, 2012, 16:17

    This is by far the most helpful info on quad freestyle. Thanks for taking this time to write this. I’m in the process of starting out freestyle. I ride a 440ex

  2. Posted by Ryan Sawyer on August 8th, 2012, 17:36

    Thank you for writing this. but what ramp do you start on or do you just hit a 7ft kicker and move it back from there?

  3. Posted by willy peterson on August 9th, 2012, 19:52

    hi im trying to get in to atv freestyle im pretty experienced on my 97 yamaha banshee that has just some motor work. ive been hitting dirt ramps that me and my friends make and i want to build a metal ramp and hit that im trying to find a good bigginer size ramp to start on. any ideas or sujestions would be greatly apreciated. or a place to get blueprints would be very helpful. i also thought this artical was helpful and very informative to somone starting out like me. so please email back at willy.peterson5@gmail.com

  4. Posted by Derek Anderson on August 14th, 2012, 18:22

    tahnks so much this is really helpful :)

  5. Posted by Jarid on September 20th, 2012, 23:56

    Very Helpful thanks. Any Ideas where I can find plans for a metal jump? I can only find plans for a Rev.1 Dirt bike jump…Do you think the Rev.1 will work for a quad??

  6. Posted by Juanjo on July 22nd, 2013, 12:00

    Hello bro I would like to construct a ramp of freestyle for motocross for me, you have plane to help me ? To construct it since in Uruguay it does not exist. Regards man

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