Motocross gets the headlines but most riders including the track setters take it off the grid and spend long afternoons circumnavigating paths through forests trails or opening the throttle on miles long desert roads.
So if you don't ride track or want to put the whoops on hold for a bit where exactly do these optional places exist to ride your dirt bike or ATV? Trails and other options might be closer than you think however you'll have to do some research for legal purposes, and ensure you're equipped.
Riding on private land is pretty much the only place you can rip around your 2-stroke or 4-stroke without riding fees, land-use fees, breathing fees and taking up space on your dirt bike fees. And that's if it's your land. You'll of course need the permission of said land owner if it's not your place and as long as he or she says "Brap on" you're good to go.
Forest Trails/Desert Trails/Mountain Roads/Dunes
See that sign? OHV stands for Off-Highway Vehicle. (That's in most states, yours might have something different but equal). If it's not posted or not designated OHV, you can't ride. Most states employ the Bureau of Land Management (or similar) to keep tabs on all public lands with trail systems which includes forest areas, the desert, mountain roads and sand dunes whether at the beach or in spots like Palm Springs. This government body determines who or what can use public trail.
When open to dirt bikes and ATVs, these trail systems offer an abundance of obstacles and varying terrain for endless fun. Loam, hard pack, fallen logs, giant boulders and creeks only begin what's in store. You can ride at your own pace and often won't see another rider, mountain biker or hiker for hours.
You'll need a daily use-permit or some other pass for your dirt bike or ATV and a spark arrestor on the exhaust. Expect a hefty fine and possible confiscation of your ride if you get caught blazing down any public trail system not designated for dirt bikes or ATVs, or if you fail to have the proper permitting documentation, or you've not equipped your exhaust with a spark arrestor. The public land-use authority people don't like fires or noise.
Hare Scrambles and Off-Road Races
If you're the competitive type check out local hare scrambles or other off-road competitions similar to the Grand National Cross Country series. These events require an entry fee but usually pretty moderate and you'll also need that spark arrestor. It's always a wise choice to check the series' rules to ensure your bike passes muster - not all track bikes conform to the trails or these off-road races.
If you've got the itch to ride something other than a Motocross track this is a great way to challenge your skills, keep the competitive fire lit and ensure you won't have an encounter with Johnny Law.
Sanctioned off-road races offer great opportunities to ride
Just because sedans and SUVs don't typically travel along those side roads you see jet off into oblivion when driving along a highway system confined by dense forestry doesn't mean it's OK to unload the truck or trailer and go for a 2- or 4-wheeled adventure.
Semi-trucks regularly use these roads to transport fallen trees for the timber industry which means you can use them, unless restricted as private property. But you'll need a street legal dirt bike, or preferably a dual sport bike, with license plate and everything else that goes with getting tags and ensuring your ride is allowed for highway travel. So that usually means the ATV is out and if you're dirt bike is not approved for street riding by the Department of Motor Vehicles, find somewhere else to ride.
Far Off Rural Areas
Some places exist where just a handful of people know. It's where that age-old philosophy question "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around does it make noise?" originated. It's literally out in the middle of nowhere where nobody gives a second thought. If found, you can probably ride here for years and years without a care in the world or anyone caring. Sooner or later though, government always steps in and ruins it for everyone. Don't they always? So enjoy while it lasts.
It's not always easy to find places to ride your dirt bike or ATV especially if you live in the city or other urban areas. Most, if not all, city parks ban the use of motorized vehicles and it's unrealistic to ride around your neighborhood. And nowhere near as fun a trail system provides.
Check out county and state web pages, ask fellow riders or check chat boards for legal places to ride. If you're new to riding dirt bikes, learning on trails without the pressure of other riders or the challenge of a Motocross track provides a great introduction to the sport.
Don't be a Jerk
Finally, wherever you ride, obey all rules, clean up after yourself and don't be a jerk. Not everyone loves a smoking machine "ruining" their paradise but the more we can coexist peaceably with nature lovers the less likely we'll lose even more trails than we already have and the better leg (or is it kickstand?) to lean on when fighting for more.
Check out these other delightful articles on trail riding and places to ride:
- Best Places to Ride Series
- 10 Reasons You Should Trail Ride Rather than Race
- The Difference Between A Motocross Bike & Trail Bike
- Cross Training Tips For Dirt Bike Trail Riding
- Fall Off-Road and Trail Riding With Kids
- How To Convert a Motocross Dirt Bike to a Trail Dirt Bike
Written By: AndrewT