Video Analysis in Motocross: Benefits & How to Use

Video Analysis in Motocross: Benefits & How to Use

Everyone in motocross and supercross knows what good riding looks like when they see it thanks to the constant stream of instagram bangers getting uploaded daily.  Using those videos to improve rider technique however has been historically reserved for the elite factory level teams - and even then only to a limited degree.  On the other hand, every other mainstream sport has adopted video into training programs down to the most elementary club level.

So, what keeps more athletes from benefitting from the wealth of visual learning data locked up in gigabytes of video content stored in your photo library?  One common reason is that unless you've reached that pinnacle of elite riding technique, it's difficult to really watch yourself ride.  As in, getting off the bike and feeling like you just put in a hero ride, only to see your video footage and realize you look like the slow guy - or at least you don't look like it felt.  Don't be discouraged here... more on this later.  There are many other barriers as well:

  • Difficulty getting usable footage
  • Getting too much footage and being overwhelmed
  • Learning from video footage can be difficult
  • Knowing what to look at in a video can be difficult
  • Attention span
  • Too much work

No Excuses!  You need to add Video Analysis to your program

Every rider/athlete needs to spend a little more time off the bike planning their training program, building confidence identifying their strengths, and looking for their weaknesses. You really can't over-do this side of the sport! Yes, it is technically possible, but we're so far from this now that let's just say it is impossible to overdo this off-bike side of things. Even if it were possible for you to put in more than 2 hours of seat time on a bike every day I don't know any trainer who would prescribe that. This leaves you with 22 hours for endurance/strength training, eating, rest, etc.  Most people reading this will actually have the opposite problem; of wanting more seat time that they can get leaving them with a craving for it. No matter where you are coming from, you need and have the capacity to spend more time on the intellectual side of your development.

Some studies show that the effectiveness of visual learning (from demonstration) is 30%, but that effectiveness rises to 90% if you can immediately put the learning to practical use. "Immediately" here means within a 1 to 6 hour window and is scientifically referred to as the "reconsolidation window".  Throughout this article we're going to make a case for the off-the-bike type of learning that is proven to be helpful in any sport (motocross is no exception).  In this article we might refer to this as open or closed loop training and we'll explain this more later in the article.  If you are taking your training seriously and expecting improvement out of time and money invested into a training day at the track and not using open/closed loop training techniques then you are severely limiting your potential.  You can learn more about open/closed-loop motor skill training and the reconsolidation window in this Huberman Labs podcast:  How to learn skills faster - Huberman Labs Podcast.

Focused intellectual development track-side is, however, very difficult!  The noise, brightness, distraction all make this kind of cognitive learning difficult (especially when a screen is involved).  Setting up a comfortable, quiet space track-side out of direct sunlight will make this much easier but is yet another barrier for some.  Getting the most out of your training requires a solution to this!  Notice all of the elite riders in the sport have a quiet, shaded space to retreat to.

What should you focus on track-side at a minimum?

These are the basics that you can do if all you bring to the track is a toolbox and your bike.If you aren't doing these and expecting to improve you are crippling yourself. In this minimal approach you should be doing the cognitive development side listed further below at home.

  1. Have a training plan that covers both fitness and skill development
  2. Know your lap time and have a realistic lap time goal
  3. Be working on a skill
  4. Do at least 3 motos, with a quiet break in between each for reflection on your goals

What should you focus on track-side for maximum potential?

These are for maximum potential, and require support from at least someone else -if not a coach or trainer - as well as a quiet, shaded place to retreat to.  The difference between this and the minimums listed above is shortening the reconsolidation window down to the prescribed length of less than 6 hours.

  1. Same as 4 points above, but layer in intellectually focused development as described in the following points:
  2. Look for lines you aren't trying (either by watching what others are doing on the track, or by going through LITPro lap analysis, or the LITPro recommendations feature to find a line you aren't trying).
  3. Review video (have someone aware of your skill development goals that knows how to capture short videos where that skill is involved).
  4. If you are following the Huberman Labs advice, close your eyes and visualize the adaptations you are going to make.

Why does video analysis improve skill learning? 

To answer this we, surprisingly, refer to volumes of research on golf swing perfection.  Why golf swing?  The golf swing, like many aspects of Moto is an open-loop motor skill.  An open-loop skill is one where when the skill is engaged - it all happens so fast that there isn't time for sensory feedback to actively change the outcome; the only feedback comes when the outcome is reached (which in moto can be disastrous).  In golf, the swing is open-loop because it happens so fast the feedback only comes from the outcome (where the ball landed). Golf relies heavily on video analysis for this open-loop skill development and so should athletes in moto and for the same reasons.  

Before proceeding too far though, let's get on the same page about what is open-loop in moto skill development.  Put yourself in this scenario... you are on the bike and you see an obstacle approaching. As it approaches and your visibility of the terrain ahead and instinct on how the bike is about to react to that terrain all give you time to adapt in real-time. This part of it is closed-loop, but this is just the setup for the open-loop portion that is coming; it's much more difficult and the outcome is far more significant. How you set up is important, but once the setup is complete you are just along for the ride with just the trained motor skills at the helm with no time for your brain to take over. This is precisely why video analysis is important and why real skill development is important.  The good riders set up well and quickly.  We call this good technique, riding on the balls of the feet, standing, elbows up, toes and knees pinching the bike...  More on open-loop vs. closed-loop skills here in this timestamp of the Huberman Labs podcast. The proper setup or application of good technique puts you in the best possible position for a positive outcome where your muscle memory has the best chances of taking over with maximum effectiveness. You analyze video in your training to determine if your setup is correct more so than to observe the outcome (even though when we watch something on Instagram the outcome might be the most entertaining).

So back to the golf swing analogy...  in my intentional naiveté for golf swings, I see it as one swing you have to perfect. You put the ball on the T, draw the club back and let it go. I don't mean to offend anyone with that and I know it is way off but let's keep it that simple for golf and contrast that with motocross where you need infinite variations of the setup... but like golf the setup looks pretty similar each time to the observer.  You setup (closed-loop skill), react (open-loop skill) and repeat thousands of times over the course of a moto.  Your ability to return to the proper setup quickly, and to have the proprioception of what that proper setup even is in the infinitely changing environment is what sets you apart as a skilled rider at an elite level.

In golf, as should be in moto, here's what video analysis is proven to bring to the cognitive development of the athlete:

  • Visualization and correction (can you identify proper technique in your riding and do you know how to correct it?)
  • Muscle memory and cognitive processing (external feedback on your riding is crucial to acquiring and refining a skill that is otherwise difficult through proprioception/body awareness alone)
  • Consistency and repetition (tracking deviations from proper form or technique over time)
  • Psychological benefits (seeing your performance on video can build confidence when improvements are visible)

Slow down to go faster

There are few "generational" talents in our sport that have achieved the level of skill and technique where their departures from the conventions of the time taught the world a new way of applying correct skill and technique - for the rest of us we can safely say if our riding body position and setup don't look like those elites in the sport then we are doing it incorrectly, and we need to improve quickly.  In other words, focus on proper form and avoid stubbornly ignoring it or thinking you're developing something new. In nearly every conceivable case, slow down and focus on proper technique before trying to go faster.

One more thing here... motocross is a comparative sport, in the sense that there is no objective good speed, jump distance, corner angle, lap time or anything else.  Good can only be determined in comparison to the performance of someone else - or yourself previously. Good technique on the other hand is more of an objective determination in that it can be judged without comparison to someone else, and is eventually a good predictor of a good outcome (staying healthy, going fast, winning races, etc including all of the comparative metrics mentioned above). This is just another reason why using video analysis is an essential tool for your development as a rider. Literally, if you don't visibly see objectively good technique in your riding then you are doing it wrong and you should slow down to correct those bad habits, and this is regardless of how fast you feel you are going or whose lap time you are beating. If you don't, you'll plateau as a rider and fall short of your full potential or, worse, get injured.

A note to coaches and trainers in motocross

Coaches and trainers in motocross have a unique challenge if you compare them to coaches in other sports that have successfully adopted video analysis. In motocross the level of noise, dust and direct sunlight are a real challenge track-side where most coaches do their work.  If you need to communicate something that can't be communicated at yelling volume then it can be very difficult or impossible.  This means if you don't have the ability to sit one-on-one with your rider away from the track then you are very limited here in what you can do.  Here at LITPro we understand... and we honestly don't have an answer for you. We think there's incredible value to bringing video analysis to your program - and that capability should be one that in an ideal world you can charge for. The willingness of your riders to pay for your valuable time away from the track to provide this kind of service to them is something we hope increases over time.

A note to riders looking for a coach or trainer

If you are a rider looking for a coach, look for ones that also provide video analysis service... and be willing to pay for it. Insist on carving out time with your coach in a suitable environment or away from the track to review video (virtual or in-person).


How to capture videos for analysis in Motocross

Here are a few quick tips for a task you probably think is a no-brainer:

Have someone record third-person footage of you in short clips of around 8 to 25 seconds in length. The video length is solely determined by how long you stay in camera view where you are clear enough on the screen to be able to judge technique . Usually in motocross this is a lane or two max, depending on the layout of the track. Record in landscape mode on your camera to get the most usable view for your rider... this may not be ideal for posting an instagram banger, but it is a better use of the visual area on your screen from a learning perspective.  Use optical zoom as much as possible since this will allow you to preserve as much original detail as possible.

Another essential tip is that there needs to be good communication between the rider and the cameraman.  The rider ideally should know when the camera might be out there and recording. Knowing they are being recorded, and why, will help the rider showcase their best technique. It ends up being a frustrating waste if the rider comes in and has an excuse for not believing what they are seeing in video.

Finally, go out with a plan as mentioned at the beginning. The rider and the cameraman should know what skill is being worked on that day. The rider should showcase that skill as well as possible, and the cameraman should position themselves around the track where that skill is most likely to be in demand and provide the most learning opportunity (basically, film in the challenging areas).

Quick-tip for the cameraman... Heart/favorite videos you know were good or delete bad videos you know were bad right after taking them. Even waiting a few minutes to do this organizational step can be much more time consuming and/or lead to mistakes.

So to recap how to shoot good video for motocross video analysis:

  1. Use third-person footage (not gopro)
  2. Short clips where the rider is in clear view (8 to 25 seconds in length)
  3. Shoot in landscape
  4. Agree in advance on the skill to focus on
  5. Rider showcases the skill - no excuses
  6. Cameraman positions themselves on the track where the skill is in demand
  7. Cameraman keep their videos organized as they go

How to do Video Analysis in Motocross

Video analysis (even before mentioning anything specific that LITPro has developed) can be very basic.  Do video analysis away from direct sunlight and noise. Without any specialized software you should watch videos in real time as well as slowed down. When viewing video in realtime speed you can get the advantage of your trained eye perspective, meaning, your trained eye can quickly assess the level of technique, or if someone is going fast even if you can't yet quite tell why. This can easily be demoralizing and confidence killing for the rider but is an important process to work through. Next is to watch the video slowed down, or step through it little by little to identify the proper application of technique and come up with a plan on what to work on next.

What to look for in video analysis

Step through the video little by little looking for skills or technique in these areas:
  • Head and eye position
  • Back and elbow position
  • Hip and knee position
  • Foot placement relative to pegs and distance from frame
  • Foot brake touches or distance from toe
  • Shift lever touches
  • Suspension on take off or landing
  • Suspension recovery time
  • Sitting/standing position on seat
  • Line or angle through a turn
  • Lean angle at the turn apex
  • Body position on the takeoff of a jump or in the air
  • many others...

Can LITPro VISION help with Video Analysis

LITPro VISION, which comes as part of the LITPro app (requires a $8.99 subscription with a 30-day free trial), aims to solve a few pain points, as well as unlock a few helpful capabilities.  At the most basic level it is a tool for synchronizing two videos together, and then letting you step through them frame by frame with the two videos displayed side-by-side.  This task doesn't require any specialized software - we just simplify something that could be done on your laptop by making it an even easier task on your phone. Everything else we do spawns from this simple starting point.

Make Fine-Tuned Measurements

With LITPro VISION you can measure even some of the most detailed movements detectable by a camera. If you record using 4K and 60 frames per second, which is what we recommend for video analysis with LITPro VISION, you can see changes that happen even at 0.013 second increments. The fine grained scrub bar lets you move precisely through those frame by frame and you can count the time between events. This is great for measuring suspension recovery time or anything else at that level of detail.


Auto-Zoom Keeps Rider in Perfect Focus

LITPro VISION automatically identifies and tracks your rider (at least most of the time), which means it automatically keeps your rider in perfect zoom.  This makes the task of staying focused on technique analysis really easy.

Compare Two Riders (or two videos)

Perhaps one of the most powerful features of VISION is comparing two riders or two videos of the same rider at different times.  The simple capability of being able to measure and track progress, or focus on technique differences or any of the other many benefits that come from a good side-by-side comparison is what LITPro VISION makes incredibly easy and intuitive to do within the app in just a few taps.

Builds Rider Confidence

LITPro VISION can play back video in realtime, but the default view is to show two synchronized videos and a fine-grain scrub bar for moving slowly through the videos. When you compare videos this way your attention is drawn to the differences in riding technique and it is actually really difficult to see which rider is faster as they both reach the different points on the track at the same time.  What is left visually is only a difference in technique that you can learn from.

 Check out the launch video for LITPro VISION:

Contact LITPro if you have questions about how to use LITPro VISION in your training program

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