The best way to start playing tennis is to grab a racket, some tennis balls, a partner and head to the closest court. You're going to suck at first, but over time with practice and perhaps some lessons you'll get the hang of it and decide whether to keep playing or find something else.

In many respects, you can employ the same foundation when getting in to dirt bikes.

But, it's one thing as a parent to help acquaint your children to riding dirt bikes. It's another if you're an adult who discovered the sport late on your own, or friends or family members who ride finally broke you down to give it a try.

So where do you start?

Like any sport, you simply jump in feet first but unlike tennis or many other recreational hobbies it's not as simple as buying a $50 racket and a tube of tennis balls at the sporting goods store.

Understand the Commitment

Riding dirt bikes is unlike any other sport or hobby. You're riding a gas powered machine! Plus it's expensive and time consuming. Some dirt bikes cost as much as a car and all require lots of maintenance. It's not for people who live paycheck to paycheck. It's also not for the lazy or corner cutters. After a day of riding, a dirt bike requires a thorough cleaning and possibly some fluid and filter changes. Add in several more rides and you've got further maintenance needs which add up to more dollars and time. Then the inevitable crash. Even a minor wreck can equate to hundreds of dollars in replacement parts.

Starting the day from the comfort of your backyard is unlikely in the cards. You'll have to load the bike on a trailer (another possible investment) or back of a truck and drive somewhere. For city slickers that often means an hour or two away from home. Which means an hour or two drive back home after a long day of riding. It can be a big pain in the butt and for many riders it's a tedious process just to enjoy a few hours of fun.

Finally, you need riding gear and it's not inexpensive. Buy a helmet, riding boots, gloves and goggles. You can wear jeans and a heavy jacket your first few times out. But once you decide riding dirt bikes is now part of your life, grab a jersey and pants. The appropriate riding gear is cooler, fits better and allows for additional protection like knee braces.

Crash! Everyone gets hurt sooner or later. Generally it's bumps and bruises but as you immerse yourself in the riding community, eventually you hear about the broken bones, shredded ACLs and concussions. It could happen to you.

Beg, Borrow or Buy Used

It is certainly within your rights to drop Ten Grand on a brand new KTM 450. But if you're like most people who get into an exciting new hobby, that enthusiasm eventually wanes to a more reasonable level and heading out every weekend, as noted above, might lose its appeal especially after a 40 hour work week. Before long, a $10,000 machine sits in your garage that never gets dirty.

Instead of investing a large chunk of change, borrow a dirt bike from that friend who rides (if they'll let you) and start out on a small bore engine like a 150cc. A 450cc bike is extremely powerful and even a 250cc might knock you flat on your back. First impressions go a long way and if your first riding impression is fun it's likely you'll stick around for the long term.

If your friend wisely refuses to let you borrow a bike or doesn't have a beater a few options exist to get you on a dirt bike. Check local appropriate businesses for renting a dirt bike or see if the nearest track provides a beginners riding class complete with a loaner dirt bike.

Otherwise, buy a used dirt bike. Spending $1000 on a used dirt bike makes a whole lot more sense than $10,000 on a brand new one.

Trail riding with a friend is a great way to familiarize yourself with riding dirt bikes

Don't Ride Alone

If you're as new to the dirt bike scene as this article assumes, then you probably don't even know how to start a dirt bike much less ride one. If you're completely alone in this venture then it's highly recommended you find a riding school. Otherwise, grab an experienced friend, neighbor or family member who can help get you started, literally.

Hit the Trails

Just forget the Motocross track (unless you're going for a riding class). You're not hitting a double anytime soon so there's no reason to risk injury before you even have a chance to enjoy riding. Go trail riding. This allows you to ride at any pace you're comfortable with and poses less danger than deep ruts, wide berms and tabletops.

All activities and hobbies require an investment. Dirt bikes register on the upper end of that spectrum. If the dirt bike thing doesn't work out, cut your losses and move on. But if the riding bug bites, prepare for a whole new world of excitement and you just might find as much joy in caring for your dirt bike as you do riding it.

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Written By: AndrewT