Sometimes in order to get better at something, it's necessary to take a few steps back and return to the basics and what made you great in the first place.
Trail riders, for example, may find their ability to carve up the most gnarly paths tops out at a certain tier and no amount of practice takes them to the next level.
This is where cross training comes into play. No need to go out and learn a different sport. Stick with your dirt bike but instead of shredding through the woods or tearing up a motocross track refocus on the basics but with a renewed sense of concentration and determination.
Trials (or observed trials) is a great way to learn ultimate control and balance on a dirt bike. Trail, moto and enduro riders can all take their expertise on a dirt bike to a higher level simply by focusing on techniques which help them become one with their dirt bike.
Trail riding is, of course, most fun at high speeds when you can rip through corners, but sometimes it's necessary to slow the pace dramatically and use trials as a way to cross train. In many respects you won't be riding at all. Rather, you'll focus on staying upright on two wheels without moving an inch. Key techniques for cross training include:
- Body positioning and weight
- Clutch and throttle control
Why is all this important?
Everything above is already considered key techniques to riding a dirt bike but if you're like most riders, once the basics got nailed down it was off to the races. Besides who wants to spend an hour on their dirt bike "studying" when the real fun is begging to be had? Just like in any subject, studying gets you where you want to go much faster and the same applies to dirt bike riding.
Now don't dismiss trials as those exercises you hate to do in order to ride. Many riders compete in trials and find the mental and physical endurance test just as big of a thrill as riding. Think of it like a complex game of chess - it can be both challenging and exhilarating but your competition is you!
Difficult riding exercises in the long run give you a great deal of command and control over the dirt bike. Trials take what you learned in an introductory class or practiced on your own to new heights. Ultimately slowing down, speeds you up. Relearning and mastering the basics makes you a faster rider overall on the track or trail.
Taking corners, jumps, uneven trail bed and circumventing around and over boulders and logs, and careening through tight winding paths and in between trees requires serious balancing, traction, body positioning and throttle control. You can master all these elements in a trials course to a degree you never imagined.
In trials, balancing and traction is everything. Lose your balance or traction - lose control of your bike. The same principle applies on the track or trail. Body position and body weight naturally fold into this as both can prove detrimental or beneficial to balance and traction.
The very act of riding through trails with the variety of obstacles and pitfalls makes perfecting balance all the more critical. Can you balance on a dirt bike that's not moving? Mastering balance makes even the most challenging terrain a minor obstacle that others may find too overwhelming.
Clutch and throttle control gives you control up hills or the ability launch the bike in the air. Sound familiar? Not much different than riding through the woods or blazing around a motocross track. When starting out, simply balancing on the bike likely comes naturally as you've probably ridden bicycles. But the weight of a dirt bike and then replacing pedal power for gas power - you're on a whole different beast. Now add figuring out the clutch and brake. This takes a lot of practice for some people and can be a big difference in average versus superior riding skills.
Many professional racers take a trials course to hone the skills they already know. Perfecting the basics not only builds confidence but takes your ability to rip through a corner, open up on a jump and slice through rough terrain like butter to another level of expertise. You will see a difference in your riding skills once you slow down and take a master's course in the basics.
If you do decide to sharpen your skills using trials, you'll need a different bike. A Trials bike does not have a seat, is much lighter and the engine is designed for torque rather than speed.For more information on motorcycle trials, checkout our profile of the Sacramento PITS.
Written By: AndrewT