The first thing most dirt bike riders do when getting their brand new dirt bike home is check on possible upgrades.
The first thing that same rider does after losing the checkered flag by two seconds is get those upgrades done.
It's quite possible to change out nearly every aspect of your bike with aftermarket improvements but it's hardly necessary. However, there are a handful of upgrades that may be worth your while in order to improve power and handling, and thus your overall edge on the track. Whether you're looking for extra power, old parts finally wore out and you're looking for a replacement upgrade, or you simply want to run something better than what you've got now, better aftermarket selections can definitely improve your performance on the track.
You can certainly spend hundreds, if not thousands on upgrades you don't need. So, what's the best way to upgrade your dirt bike? The following is our list of what you should focus on to improve your performance on the track and overall ride-ability of your dirt bike. First things first...
Upgrade Your Dirt Bike Skills
The first upgrade, before you dump a bunch of cash into your already expensive dirt bike, is to upgrade You. Sometimes it's hard to be honest with yourself. Just how good are your dirt bike skills? If Ryan Villopoto gave you his 2014 Supercross winning Kawasaki it wouldn't do you a bit of good if you're not a great rider too. If you need dirt bike lessons - get some. If you're not sure - ask for honest feedback. This is the best and most practical upgrade.
So before hitting the store and spending a bunch of money on upgrades make sure the problem isn't you. But, win or lose, once you're competing every week then it makes perfect sense to see where to fine tune your ride and shave seconds off your lap times.
We'll start right off with probably the biggest and most common upgrade which is to your dirt bike's suspension. It's one of the most expensive dirt bike upgrades to invest in and hardest to install. Most riders hire a mechanic to make the change. However, a new suspension is the one upgrade you'll notice a difference right away. Glide along whoops and save your arms on those triples.
Upgrading your pipe is a bit more involved. First, do you ride a 2-stroke or 4-stroke? If you ride a 2-stroke the type of pipe upgrade depends on your style of riding. Riding Supercross dictates a different pipe than Motocross and trail riding, and vice versa. You can also focus on low- and mid-range power or top end power. Check out our 2-stroke exhaust guide for more information.
As for a 4-stroke, much of the same applies but you can also exchange the slip-on or the entire system. Upgrading your exhaust system is the best way to reduce weight. If you're seconds from the Top 5 every race and struggle every time out to pass the podium riders then shedding some weight by upgrading your exhaust is a great idea. Check out our 4-stroke exhaust guide for more information.
Jetting your carb is not a walk in the park. It's a pain to do but can make a world of difference. You'll usually know right away if you're running rich or lean and when all the adjustments in the world can't fix the problem, you'll want to get a jet kit. Generally, one jet kit isn't necessarily better than another, in fact many stick with OEM. However, the right jet kit can make it easier to adjust the amount of fuel/air mixture. Check out our Simple Guide to Jetting Your Carb for more information.
If you're lucky enough to ride one of those fuel-injected 4-strokes skip this part. All you need is a power tuner that you plug-in and easily adjust the fuel and ignition maps to address riding conditions and personal preference.
If you're riding a 4-stroke. Move on. Reeds apply to 2-strokes only. Upgrading reeds offers better airflow into the cylinder and more throttle response. After market reeds are made from carbon fiber which open and close the reed quicker eliminating "flutter" when the engine revs at high RPMs. Most riders upgrade to a complete Reed Valve system designed to provide more horsepower and better throttle response.
Upgrading your chain and sprocket is probably a close second to suspension as far as noticing a boost in performance. Remember, any upgrades to your dirt bike's gearing should address what you're trying to accomplish. Faster acceleration uses a smaller front sprocket or larger rear sprocket, and faster top speed uses a larger front sprocket or smaller rear sprocket. Check out our Ultimate Dirt Bike Gearing Guide for more information.
Steering dampers stabilize your handlebars and are often cited in reducing arm pump. Some dampers allow you to adjust your steering while you ride. Helpful, especially in off-roading where you encounter various styles of terrain, steering dampers absorb the constant pounding from rough terrain riding rather than your hands and arms. Fastway Steering Stabilizers are the best in the business.
The Simple Stuff - air filter, brake pads, levers, etc.
The easy upgrades won't necessarily make your bike perform better or ride faster but like any higher end product, can certainly help extend the life of your dirt bike and enable you to ride more comfortably which should equal to better results on the track.
Upgrading grips, foot pegs, levers, even your seat, can be the right adjustments needed to feel one with the bike - an especially important aspect to dirt bike riding. Other upgrades like air and oil filters and higher end fluids can extend the life of your engine and other working parts. In some cases, like riding in hot desert dunes, it's critical you use specific air filters and coolant for the extreme conditions.
Let us know what upgrades you swear by that helped up your game and provided personal best lap times.
Written By: AndrewT