So, how is dirt bike riding working out for you?
If you're like many who jump into this sport, perhaps you too bought a dirt bike some time ago thinking it's little more than a mountain bike on steroids. Actually, that's not too far from the truth however the ability needed and time required to master a dirt bike is far greater than anything you'll experience on two-wheels. Instead of fun day on the track or trails, you're still taking it easy or hitting the dirt every time you open the throttle.
This article is for those dirt bike riders going it alone without any professional instruction or schooling for whatever reason. Riding by yourself and taking advice from your friends can only get you so far. The tips below should help get you to the next level of riding comfort but to really grasp the power of a dirt bike and all that Motocross and trail riding offer, it is necessary to get personal instruction or take a riding class at your local track or Motocross school. Check out 5 Mistakes Dirt Bike Beginners Make if you're gearing up for the first time.
Speed on a dirt bike is less about experience and getting used to the raw power, and more about technique. Riding well and riding fast doesn't come until you really know how to ride. When do you sit? Stand? Lean? Let up on the throttle?
A quick tutorial begins with watching the pros. Take note of how they tackle the whoops and come in and out of turns. Getting a visual is important for some riders before they implement it on their own. Jumps come later. First, get comfortable and confident riding on your dirt bike.
The following tips and techniques are not exhaustive but represent more of a foundation you need cemented before building on other skills. Practice days should always include a refresher round of the essentials otherwise everything else tends to crumble.
Nailing down the correct body position is probably the hardest part of riding a dirt bike. It's more than just standing or sitting. Correct body position incorporates how and where you grip your knees, where your feet go on the foot pegs, your arms, fingers and back posture.
It's not a stretch to say that most of your time on a dirt bike is in the standing position. You just can't race effectively or tackle the variety of obstacles in off-roading in a sitting position. The best standing position includes the following features:
- Don't lean straight-up or back - position your head over the handlebars in a crouching stance. This enables you to...
- Use your knees to grip the bike's gas tank for better control
- Find the best location on the foot pegs for your size and comfort - usually centered on your feet
- Lean forward, keep your arms up and elbows out - away from your body
You might hear the above described as the "attack" position.
Elbows out, son!
This is the "attack" position you want
A dirt bike is not a car - there's no reason to use the clutch for down shifting. Many riders try downshifting to slow down coming into a turn. Don't worry about saving your brake pads. Like a car, when downshifting on a dirt bike you interrupt the flow of your run. That's the last thing you want to do during a Moto. Just use the brake and figure out how little you need to breeze through the turn.
Remember at A1 when James Stewart went for the lead on the whoops and his rear-wheel starting bucking and eventually kicked up and threw him off the bike?
One way to prevent this is dragging the rear brake. Once you feel the rear wheel start to kick, don't grab the brakes, drag the brakes. This keeps the suspension from bouncing around which usually results in losing control of the bike.
Use Your Feet
You've probably seen the photos but lowering your foot like a landing gear as you round a corner is something you have to do. Yes, this is a common way for riders to blow out their knee but with patience, practice and skill learned over time, it'll become automatic. Dropping your foot helps balance weight distribution. If you're struggling around corners and not dropping your foot, start learning. The trick is to put your leg straight out and point your toes up but stay aware of your surroundings. Getting your foot caught in the dirt is when bad things can happen.
Luckily, getting your leg caught on a turn is usually a non-injury slip-up
You might get tired of hearing it but you'll never get better unless you practice. It's easy to forget what came naturally last week and falling back into old habits tends to sneak up on you. If you get discouraged - know that even the pros continually practice their body position, clutch and brake use, and using their feet among many other techniques.