Why Do Dirt Bikers Whip? It’s Probably Not What You Think!

Many people are amazed at the aerial maneuvers of dirt bike riders and their bikes when they become airborne on a jump. This is tactic is more often seen on motocross tracks where there are significant jumps, rather than on dirt bike trail riding or other forms of off-road riding. Does whipping have a purpose for the rider, or is it just showboating?

Dirt bike riders whip their dirt bikes while airborne after a jump to correct the tracking of the bike after an incorrect line taken on the face of a jump. The incorrect line may take the bike off track and cause the rider to land the bike off the track after the jump. Whipping the bike while airborne returns the bike to the correct line and will allow the rider to land the bike after the jump on the track and on a correct line.

Whipping looks dramatic and is a crowd-pleasing antic, so dirt bike riders will often perform the maneuver for effect and to wow the crowd. While it looks dramatic as it increases the air time of a jump, it can cause the rider to lose ground against competitors who get their wheels back on the ground sooner, with less hang time. But what is whipping on a dirt bike?

What Is Whipping On A Dirt Bike?

For the uninitiated or those new to dirt bike riding, whipping is an impressive move you see some dirt bike riders perform while they and their bike are airborne during a jump. The whip move in effect is when the rider lays the bike on its side while in the air after a jump and then brings the bike right way up in time to land safely on two wheels.

The bike can be laid over to the right or to the left and then returned to the center for landing. Advanced riders and riders who perform as trick riders rather than competitive racing have pushed the whip to the extreme. They turn the bike completely vertical, in other words, upside-down before returning it right side up for landing.

Other riders have taken the whip even further and perform a complete rollover while in the air, which is a spectacular move that is always appreciated by spectators!

Why Do Dirt bikers Whip?

Riders have been demonstrating the whip in motocross since the 1970s, but it is unclear as to who was the first rider to pull it off. One of the early riders to perform the move was JoJo Keller, but James “Bubba” Stewart is the rider who is considered to have popularized the move in more recent times.

As we have mentioned earlier, the maneuver started off as a technique to realign the bike during a jump if the wrong line was taken and the landing needed to be corrected. The correction would allow the bike to be brought back to a correct line and land on the track as opposed to off the track.

The move could also be especially useful to get the bike of a correct line if there was a tight turn immediately after the jump. This move may give the rider who whips at the jump a better line going into the corner and therefore, an advantage over competitors.

It needs to be noted, however, that while a bike is in the air, it is not possible to accelerate, which in some circumstances could be a disadvantage.

Riders that don’t catch as much air on a jump will get their wheels on the ground quicker, allowing them to hit the throttle sooner than riders who are still in the air! This may allow the rider who gets wheels on the ground sooner to gain ground or overtake a rider who spends more time in the air.

What Is The Opposite Of Whipping?

If whipping on a dirt bike is the act of laying the bike sideways while in the air after a jump, what is the opposite of this? Motocross riding is a sport where there is a name, often a slang term, for every move on the track, so yes, there is a term for the opposite of whipping!

Some riders will opt for less height on a jump to get their wheels on the ground as soon as possible. The term for this move in motocross is scrubbing since you are so close to the ground on a jump that your bike is almost scrubbing the top of it as you go over.

Riders use this move to hit the ground sooner which enables them to accelerate the bike as soon as possible after the jump.

How To Whip On A Dirt Bike

Many riders want to learn how to whip on their dirt bikes because it looks cool! We will give a few pointers here to get you started. But before you hit the jumps to try out your whips, you need to remember some basics.

  • Always wear your protective gear. This is truer than ever when learning a new skill on your dirt bike!
  • Learning to whip on a dirt bike can be dangerous. Make sure you are aware of the dangers and familiar with your equipment!
  • Start learning to whip on a small jump. This will give you more confidence as you learn and work your way up to bigger jumps.
  • Don’t get fancy and try to over-extend the whip while you are learning. Keep it simple until you have mastered the basic whip technique.

It is time to get into the pointers to learning to whip on your dirt bike so that you can include this skill as part of your riding repertoire!

Learning to whip can be broken down into 3 sections, namely your approach to the jump and your body position, what to do at the jump face, and, lastly, bike control while airborne and the landing.

While it is possible to whip a dirt bike in the standing as well as the sitting position, the sitting position is the easiest to master and the safest. We, therefore, recommend that beginners start with the sitting position whip.

Steps to whip a dirt bike:

  • Jump Approach And Body Position. Find a smooth line or a straight rut leading up to the jump. Keep your body position neutral rather than an aggressive forward-leaning pose. Keep your knees and hips at 90-degree angles. Keep your throttle action smooth as you approach the jump face. At the base of the jump, accelerate hard to compress the rear suspension, causing the back wheel to dig in.
  • At The Jump Face. Approach the top of the jump face in a slight curving trajectory, depending on which way you are going to whip. Most people favor a certain side and learning to whip on your more comfortable side is the best choice. The angle of attack to the jump may look like you will land off the track, but the whip will bring the bike back on track.
    • Lean the bike to the right to whip left, or to the left to whip right.
    • Towards the crest of the jump, lean your head and shoulders to the right (if whipping left)
    • As the bike gets airborne, it will slip away from under you, towards the left.
    • Don’t force the whip; let the bike’s momentum move it naturally.
    • The weight of the engine will act as a pivot point and bring the bike back in line.
  • Control While Airborne and Landing. Getting the bike back under you is important for a safe landing.
    • Relax, don’t try and force anything, let the bike flow and move naturally.
    • The bike will pivot around the weight of the engine and float back under you. Don’t try to try and force the bike back with your hips or legs.
    • Keep your knees bent and tight to the bike. This will help to absorb the landing shock.
    • Keep your feet on the footpegs for a safe landing.

Hopefully, if you have performed all these steps correctly, you will land safely, right way up on both wheels! Congratulations! You have just completed your first dirt bike whip!

Louis Pretorius

As an amateur off-road enthusiast, I have always been drawn to outdoor adventure. I have decided to share all of my learning experiences with you as I dig a little deeper into my new-found passion and wonderful world of off-roading. My mission is to create the Ultimate Off-roading space on the internet in the process. Stay safe and happy Off-Roading!

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