How to Win Freestyle Contests

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by Johnny Airtime


Freestyle contests are highly competitive contests, and they're paying nicely these days. There's a freestyle contest going on somewhere in America from coast to coast almost every weekend. If you're in pro freestyle motocross, you need to know how you're scored if you want to win. If you follow my advice here, you'll score your best. Some of these things seem obvious, but there are nuggets of information here that could help your score.


1. START STRONG. Your first trick on the course should be big, technical and hard to do "cold". This will give you more points.

If your first trick on the course is weaker than another rider's first trick, you obviously won't score as highly on the first impression. First impressions are lasting impressions.

2. FINISH STRONG. Your last trick should be huge and spectacular. Usually this includes being on one of the largest jumps on the course. Finishing your routine on a small set of bumps is a weak finish. Finishing on a big jump with a big trick could sway the judging and give you an extra point.

3. THROW SOME KIND OF TRICK ON EVERY JUMP. Dead Sailors, regular old straight jumps and Barrel Cactuses cost you. If your routine has none of these, you'll score higher. If you're blowing a trick, throw a One Hander at least – do some kind of trick. That will be noticed and the judges will like the fact that you went ahead and threw some kind of trick, instead of just settling for a straight Dead Sailor.

4. THROW EVERY TRICK SOLIDLY, WITH PERFECT POSTURE. Look at gymnastics and diving. Notice the way they stick it. You have to stick your move in perfect posture like a gymnast or a diver. You need to have good form and posture for the trick.

5. HOLD YOUR TRICK FOR A LONG TIME. When you jump and go into a Superman, for instance, you don't bounce into the position and rebound immediately. That's weak. Hold your position for a long time. That looks great to the judges.

6. START YOUR TRICK EARLY. It's hard to start a trick early. It's easier to wait until you're halfway out and settled down to start your move. It looks better if you start early. You'll score more points this way, because it's more technical and difficult. It also shows that you're riding with a lot of confidence and fearlessness.

7. FINISH YOUR TRICK LATE. Not too late, just late. If you're holding a position such as a Superman, you want to hold it as long as possible. The later in the trajectory you can hold the position in perfect posture, the better. Just make sure you can get back on the bike in total control with no glitches.

8. SET A FAST, ENTERTAINING PACE. Attack the course like it's a motocross race, but don't push so hard that you're out of control. Keep the pace comfortably fast. This will get you points. If you have an unnecessarily long straightaway on the course, don't blip-blip-blip and bog your way down it. Hammer it! I know it would feel a lot better if you could take your time.

9. THROW DIFFICULT TRICKS. The riders with the hardest tricks score the best, all other things being equal. If you blow a trick that's technical, you'll suffer in points. Try not to throw tricks you can't throw well. Simpler tricks thrown cleanly may outscore more complicated tricks blown. The harder the trick you can throw cleanly, the better you'll score.

10. DON'T REPEAT. If you do two Dead Sailors, that costs you for doing a Dead Sailor, then it costs you for repeating a trick. It just looks bad, like you forgot a trick or blew the last attempt. It sticks in the judges' memory.

11. DON'T DO SIMILAR TRICKS BACK TO BACK. It bores us to watch a One Hander, then a Salute, then a Wave. Doing only hand tricks or only foot tricks for too many jumps in a row will cost you in points. Even if the jump is technical, don't session out on similar tricks.

12. FLOW THE COURSE. Keep a smooth, flowing pace. Keep the pace fast and smooth, not starting and stopping, unless you can do something good with it – usually it's not good to blow the flow.

13. DON'T BLOW ANY TRICKS. If you decide to go for a balance move like a Fakie Rollback, don't dab. We know the intent of a balance move.

14. DON'T HESO. Never hesitate. If you're throwing a Cliff Hanger and you don't let go of the bars, it will cost you. Try to throw a Superman Seat Grab and get halfway in position, it's a hesitation. It will cost you. It looks bad.

15. BE EXUBERANT. Going out there lackadaisically won't help your Amplitude points. Throw those tricks with enthusiasm.

16. DON'T JUST GO THROUGH THE MOTIONS. Going into position and back to the bike can look very boring, easy and just too boringly smooth. Don't get it wrong, you have to be smooth, just not boring. Spice it up and give it something extra. There's a difference between somebody going through the motions and somebody who really wants to shine.

17. DO COMBINATIONS. Doing a Superman looks cool, but if you do a Superman and look right at the crowd, that's harder to do and it gives you more points if you make both components look good. Add a Double Grab to it, then give it an Indian Air. Now we're talking combinations.

18. USE FULL RANGE OF MOTION. When doing a No Hander, don't keep your elbows in your front pockets and pivot your forearms up to shoulder height. That looks gay, to say the least.

Instead, your arms might be straight overhead at full extension. Now that looks manly.

19. DO LOTS OF TRICKS. Make it hard for the judges to write fast enough to keep up with you. To do lots of tricks, you'll have to go at a fast pace and you'll have to do complex combinations. Then, you can wheelie while doing a headstand all the way down a straightaway. Wheelie around a turn. That adds to the tricks list.

20. DON'T BE STIFF. It just looks bad and boring, and you look out of control when you ride stiffly. It's just not good form.

21. RIDE WITH GOOD STYLE. Show off and look good. Goobering around with your elbows in your pants won't get a good score unless you're obviously mocking the style. You might gain points by mocking the goober style.

22. BE CREATIVE AND ORIGINAL. That's what makes you unique, and it's what makes you special. It's up to you to decide how you select combinations, and it's up to you to try to innovate. New tricks score well in Originality, and new combinations score high also, as long as they're good tricks. Picking a good line and creating a new jump on the course will give you some points. Try to stand out and do something original.

23. USE VISIBLE, CONTRASTING GEAR & BIKE COLORS. What? Sometimes a rider's trick is hard to see from far away. A rider might be on the far side of the course and throw a Rodeo and the judges might think they saw a Heel Clicker. Wearing colors that blend into the bike, or into the background, might cost points. Attractive looking gear can't hurt either.

24. PLAY TO THE CROWD. They are your fans who make it all possible. At least you can make them feel you care. Look at them when you do a trick, wave at them, point to them, include them! Everybody will like you then – judges included.

25. PLAY TO THE JUDGES. These guys write your paycheck. Include them by making sure they see every trick and that it looks good from the judges' angle. Every trick should look good from the judges' perspective in order to earn a good score. Looking at the judges in mid-air will also establish a bond.

26. KNOW WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO DO BEFORE YOU GET THERE. Aimlessly going from one jump to the next looks bad and disorganized. You're doing a routine that has supposedly been worked out in advance. When you finish one trick, you flow right into the next with purpose. Some riders tape a list on their crossbar pad. Know your routine cold.

27. DON'T CRASH. It's not advisable to finish your routine with a get-off. It all started when Travis Pastrana won the first IFMA contest in Las Vegas. Then other riders thought they needed to finish by crashing in order to win. It's better now, and the judges don't want to see a crash. It will cost you.

28. SHOW BRAKING, TURNING AND ACCELERATION SKILLS. The tight courses of freestyle MX tax your skills. Hit berms with authority. Accelerate hard and in control, or smooth and entertaining, at least. If you can't turn well, everyone can see it. If your acceleration skills aren't up to the ruts and bumps of the course, you'll be noticed. Be talented enough to ride a chopped up course and make it look good. These skills come from riding on motocross tracks.

29. SHOW WIND SKILLS. When the winds are blowing, are you blowing tricks? Get practice in wind. It's better to practice in a steady wind than a gusty, on-off-on wind. Be extremely careful.

30. DON'T LOSE CONCENTRATION. When jumping under less than ideal conditions on big jumps with hard, scary tricks…don't brain fade. Your ability to concentrate is being judged. Stay focused and do your tricks. Don't let a mistake take you out of your game and blow your routine.

31. DON'T COME UP SHORT. Part of throwing a trick is accurately controlling your speed so you land the downside perfectly. Coming up short means you miscalculated and it forces you to come out of your trick early, making you look bad, or it causes you to hesitate, which makes you look sketchy. Land the downside perfectly, without clipping it at all, for the best score.

32. DON'T JUMP LONG. Don't flatland. The judges know that's bad. Jumping too far down the landing can make for an impact almost as bad as flatlanding. It will cost you in points. Again, accuracy is important. Going long looks bad. The judges notice.

There's only one good thing about flatlanding. You get to hold your trick really long.

33. BE VERSATILE AND THREE DIMENSIONAL. If you can't ride sand, or if you can't ride vert walls, or if you have any weakness that will make you finish worse when conditions aren't just one way, you'll lose more than you'll win. Practice in varying conditions with different dirt compounds and different traction. Get practice on a wide variety of high difficulty jumps.

34. GET PLENTY OF PRACTICE DURING PRACTICE. Dial the course in. Repetitious practice will give you your range on all the jumps and you get more mental rehearsal for your real tricks later. You can also dial in moves in practice. Don't think that practicing your tricks during practice will hurt your score later.

Some riders don't practice much, then they go short and long, brain fade and hesitate.

35. TALK WITH THE JUDGES IF SOMETHING IS ON YOUR MIND. If you think you're getting the short end of the judging stick, ask the judges to go through your routine with you. Always hold your temper and be professional. They should be able to repeat your run back to you. It just might remind you of what mistakes you might have made. If you ask the judges what you can do to score higher, they might tell you. Listen to them.

Hopefully this will help you if you are a professional freestyler looking for spending cash.

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