As one of the most successful and influential racers of the 90’s motocross scene, Ryan Hughes needs little introduction. Hughes raced for some of the most coveted teams in the paddock, including the now dominant Red Bull KTM team. Nowadays, Hughes traverses the globe, coaching riders in various countries on how to ride a motorcycle properly. How does one ride a motorcycle properly? Read on…

What would you define as ‘proper’ technique?

Proper technique is a functional technique. You’re putting the body in a position where it’s most stable, most coordinated and most efficient on the motorcycle where every joint in the body will move, just like every part on a motorcycle will move to it’s capability. It’s the same concept for technique on a motorcycle – every joint in the body should be able to move to it’s true potential, so you can perform to your true potential.

The body needs to remain very loose and adapt to change, because you’re riding a track that is forever changing and has no real consistency to it. So you need to be very loose and ride with the motorcycle, rather than get ridden by the motorcycle, which are characteristics of when you’re stiff and tight.

When I think good technique, I’m looking at guys like Kenny (Roczen) or (Marvin) Musquin…

Yeah that’s definitely the goal – but how do you go about doing it? And why do they do it? Where do they do it? This is the thing; you need to break these techniques down in order to fully understand what’s going on at any given time. There’s so much to technique, like what happens when you have correct technique? What happens when you don’t? Too often we’re only focused on how fast they go. Like hell yeah they’re fast. ‘Their bikes are good’. Yeah their bikes are good. ‘They’re pros’. Yeah they’re pros, but why can some do things that others can’t? I think most of the time it’s not explained just how difficult riding supercross truly is, the discussion is often two layers too high. Like there’s a root to all of this, and we need to do a better job explaining the fundamentals clearly on just what it takes to ride a motorcycle at that level.

Caption: Hughes approves of Anderson’s outgoing demeanour.

An interesting question for me at the moment is that, we seem to be seeing guys excel outdoors, like Tomac or Roczen, however for whatever reason haven’t replicated that same success indoors. And I’d go as far to say that the rookies on a global scale are finding it more and more difficult to achieve success indoors right away…

Well, a faulty technique can be ridden outdoors more than it can be used indoors. Supercross is a very precise component of this whole discipline, so any little thing can happen. Another part of that would be that there’s really not many guys at all who can ride a 450 at the level that it can be ridden, especially in supercross. That’s why a lot of those guys don’t stay at the top for very long, because not many guys on this earth can do it. There’s really, really not. Even in my era it was tough.

So I’d say that one, the sport of supercross is so difficult. And two, it has to be technique. I’ve had plenty of talks with the guys – I’ve trained Tomac, Dean Wilson, Christian Craig and all these guys – but talks with Dungey, Roczen, Barcia, Febvre – about technique – Chad Reed, I’ve spoken to him many times about stuff. You know, so I think in order to excel nowadays, proper technique is where the difference lies.

When it comes to modern day training, what are some of the key misconceptions you identify in the sport at the moment?

Yeah, I’d say a few things are focused on a little too much. Like you think that someone is fit simply because they’re fit on a bicycle? Bullshit. For me, that’s kind of the last stage of fitness for me. You’re riding a motorcycle that’s 200 and something pounds, and on a track that is changing all the time. For one I would say that you need balance, two you need to have efficiency, three you need to have strength, four you need to have stability and then five you need to have cardio. Because to go fast on a motorcycle, it’s not about fitness. Fitness doesn’t create speed, technique creates speed, and fitness just allows you to do it for an extended period of time. So if we’re just talking about fitness, then I would say cardio is the last phase of it. Holding your breath because the bike is doing something unexpected is the fastest way to blow up which is more a technique thing, and cant be solved by simply adding reps to your gym routine or miles on the bicycle.

Again, a twelve-pound bicycle wont give you the feedback that a factory tuned 450 will; it’s only going to give you a challenge cardio wise. Bicycles encourage very, very poor body positioning too with a rounded back and a tucked butt, so you need to pay attention to that and not program your body to remain static in that position, and also cycling is very slow. It turns the body into a salamander instead of a cat. In supercross, you want to be a cat, not a salamander. So, does cardio have a big place in supercross? Yes, it does – but it’s not the Holy Grail.

I’d also say the constant focus on speed, speed, speed and more speed. Well, you can become very good, but also very good at doing it wrong, and like I said you can only go as fast as your technique allows. So once you get to the point where your technique cant handle it, you become flat or anytime you go over that threshold, riding can become dangerous – and how can you truly work on anything if you’re riding over your head? You need to have the humility to work on your weaknesses, work on your imbalances rather than simply focusing on speed.

What does it take to enjoy your career nowadays?

Everything comes to an end. Guys like (Ryan) Villopoto, or Ricky (Carmichael), even though they looked burned out in the end, they had to have enjoyed their careers or they wouldn’t have done it. Like I said, it comes to a point, and that’s where everyone retires, you know? Like Dungey sure looked like he was having fun in 2010. Villopoto – same thing. His last year (was a struggle). But you look at Eli, he doesn’t have a bad attitude, Kenny doesn’t have a bad attitude, Chad’s not having a bad attitude, so you cant say that those other guys hated it, they just got over it. They were done. And they retired. That time comes in anyone’s career; teacher, CEO, whatever, there comes a time when you say ‘I’m done’.

That was the same thing with me – I quit racing in the middle of a season, leading a championship (Off Road), leading the race and I pulled off. And the team asked, ‘what’s wrong?’ And I said I quit. ‘What, why?’. Because I’m done, I quit. I had a factory Suzuki ride, making almost $300k per year, and I just said ‘I’m done’.

What about someone like Jason Anderson, who looks like he’s deliberately making an effort to enjoy the process of his career. 

He’s just his own character. I don’t think he says ‘Oh I’m doing this to have a good time’, that’s just his character. Myself, Jeremy (McGrath), (Jeff) Emig, we had a damn good time. Now we’re in this era nowadays where you can’t show people that you’re having fun, you need to be so serious. And that’s bullshit. Everyone needs to live the Instagram life where you can’t say a bad word, show anything bad and it’s just boring. Make the mistakes, say something that may offend someone, and that’s what a guy like Anderson does and that’s why he’s got tons of fans because he’s does and says what he thinks.