When I was younger with little funds and would work on my car, a used car that is, I always tried to find ways to make it run better, improve its performance and of course make it last longer.
Short of simply buying a brand new car or replacing the engine and related components outright, I looked for small tweaks here and there and even bought fuel additives to make my car purr down the road. Then I got to thinking - what can be done to a dirt bike?
If you own a dirt bike you're already pretty far into the woods financially, even when buying a used one. Performing the proper maintenance is the best way to get the most out of your investment but over time just like anything mechanical it can lose that edge. Even a dirt bike fresh off the factory showroom floor can't compete on the track with one outfitted with high-end aftermarket parts that cost as much as the bike.
So how can the rest of us challenge those factory guys or riders with unlimited means? If you're looking to boost the performance of an older dirt bike or find that extra edge on a new purchase but haven't a lot of cash to drop there's some adjustments and not too expensive aftermarket add-ons that should give you the most bang for your buck.
Upgrade Your Gas
We get it, gas isn't cheap, especially racing fuel. So don't buy that stuff. Instead invest a few more dollars into a higher octane gas at the pump. It's not like you're filling your 20 gallon rig with premium, it's your two gallon dirt bike. The 30 to 50 cents more a gallon for high octane gas is well worth what you'll get in return on performance.
One thing to also consider is avoiding ethanol-based fuel. In some parts of the country during certain times of the year it may be hard to find but if you can you'll save on some maintenance headaches down the road. Plus, it's just crap gas.
Doesn't cost a thing for this adjustment
Adjust Suspension Clickers
Totally free. Adjusting the clickers helps in overall riding comfort which reduces rider fatigue. That means you won't limp to the finish line in the final laps of a Moto. If you can swing it, grab a Digital Sag Scale for $140. This gets you dialed in much faster rather than spending hours (and gas) figuring out the right measurements.
New Seat Cover
This is a must especially if your bike is a few years old or you're spending all your energy trying to keep from slipping off. Grab a pleated or gripper seat cover and stay planted on your bike. Not only is it more comfortable you'll get a confidence boost. The cost? Get a seat cover for less than $50.
Adding a new seat cover to your dirt bike is pretty cost effective
You'd be amazed at how much your body adjusts to not-so-perfect-settings without you even knowing it. Check out your grips. Warn and beat down? Get new ones. A set of sticky, soft grips helps reduce arm pump and once on it'll feel like a brand new bike. New grips are cheap! $10.
Add a Slip On
Forego the expensive complete exhaust system change. Yes, a new slip on is pricey compared to the rest of this list but far less expensive than a system overhaul and a heck of a lot easier to install. You'll definitely get added performance and enjoy the great sound. It's hard to go wrong with an FMF. Price ranges from less than $200 to just more than $300 depending on bike model.
New Foot Pegs
Another comfort-equals-performance enhancer. Body position is crucial to nearly every aspect of riding and keeping your feet anchored on the pegs is necessary to proper body position. Aftermarket pegs typically offer better traction than stock and Turner makes one of the best reviewed on our site. $80.
Ideal Tire Pressure
Totally free unless you don't have the pump and air gauge. Read How to Get the Ideal Dirt Bike Tire Pressure if you have more questions.
Get in Shape
You've heard of boot camp for riders, right? Get in shape! Riding is hard both mentally and physically and there's a reason why the pros put themselves through an exercise regimen most of us wouldn't dare try. Training is for the most part free but if you can swing it (under $200) you'll recover and get stronger faster using the Ryno Power Complete Supplement Fitness Package.
New Spark Plug
You just realized it's been a while since you changed it, didn't you? One of the most overlooked maintenance checks on dirt bikes is the spark plug. Go check it right now. If you need a new one check out the NGK Offroad Spark Plug. $15 or less.
Air Filter Intake Kit
Ranks up there in price like the slip on but what you get is well worth the investment. The Loudmouth High Performance Air Filter Intake Kit makes changing the air filter a snap and seals out dirt and debris better than anything on the market. The extra air it flows into your engine gives more power, too. It installs into the stock air box but we hear it's a bit more difficult than the manufacturer claims. Cost is around $200 depending on bike model.
Do you wear shorts and t-shirt on a first date? No. You dress up so you look good, but also, to feel good about yourself. It's called confidence and that's what a new set of awesome looking graphics on your dirt bike gives. Yeah, it sounds like we're just pushing our ability to make custom graphics but seriously it does help. $50 or less.
Pick your poison as they say. What do you need most? Everything on this list gives you a leg up on your competition whether it's in your head or actual bike performance. You don't have to do everything at once and in fact can make some serious changes to your dirt bike for about $100.
Wait! What about gearing? We didn't forget about gearing we've just covered it extensively and it is actually one of the more common adjustments rider's make. It's also the reason why we didn't mention cleaning your air filter because that's one of the first jobs riders tend to tackle. Gearing is also more complex to just skid by so check out The Ultimate Dirt Bike Sprocket & Gearing Guide.