Riding out of your comfort zone usually results in two outcomes. You either get better or end up in the dirt.

To effectively operate a dirt bike you need some finesse, lots of patience and a bit of timing. Like anything worth pursuing, you won't develop your skills without practice and pushing yourself a little. But on a dirt bike, taking it too far can result in injury. Therefore, knowing the fine line between mastering the necessary tools while in your comfort zone before stepping out of your comfort zone makes a big difference in your development as a rider.

Some riders have no problem keeping within their comfort zone, others tread lightly outside and a few grip it and rip it ready, willing and able to throw caution to the wind. Personality certainly factors into your preference, however the ultimate goal should be about having fun on your bike. Getting hurt isn't much fun but a casual quarter pinned ride gets boring pretty quickly. So let's talk about pushing the limits without riding out of your comfort zone.

Rider standing on the foot pegs of a dirt bike

Learning to Ride a Dirt Bike

1. Technique

You need to know proper riding technique before taking the next step. Technique involves:

  • Body Position
  • Clutch Use
  • Brake Use
  • Using Your Feet

Learning to effectively use the controls while maintaining proper body position takes time and practice. You will get bored but just when you think the time has come to step it up you come crashing down, literally sometimes. Don't jump the start gate (figuratively) and practice, practice, practice while slowly rolling the throttle a bit more every time out.

It really helps to take riding lessons and you will get a lot further in mastering riding technique in less time. Additionally, riding lessons help correct areas you think you have nailed down.

Slow Your Roll: Hesitating or "taking a chance" means riding out of your comfort zone and signals a need to work on your technique.

2. Go Slower to Go Faster

Veteran riders know this very common saying around the track all too well and multi Supercross and Motocross Champion Ryan Dungey proves the point. You don't need to be the fastest rider to win and when learning to ride slowing down helps you go faster.

Riding slowly helps you focus on gripping with your legs, proper foot position and holding a loose grip on the bars. Ride too fast and your brain automatically forces you into a death grip resulting in, at best, arm pump, but usually you getting dumped into the ground. Working with the dirt bike instead of against it keeps you on two wheels.

Slow Your Roll: If you grip the handlebars for dear life and/or put yourself in a hair raising situation you have gone out of your comfort zone.

Dirt bike rider slipping off left foot peg

3. Pick Sections of the Track (or Trail)

The versatile nature of a dirt bike allows you to ride on land and in areas seemingly un-traversable. But this takes time to master. Pick a section of track or trail to nail down before moving on to something more challenging. While there, work on your technique and go slow. No need to bust out laps or sprint through the woods just yet.

Slow Your Roll: If you feel tempted to try Horsepower Hill or Larocco's Leap resist the urge because you have stepped out of your comfort zone. Master the less challenging sections of track before attempting heavy hitters and even then you need to take it slow and focus on technique.

4. Corner Speed

Corner speed is king. Have you seen those videos of riders going round and round in a figure eight pattern? There's a reason for that. Mastering corner speed offers a great way to stay within your comfort zone while slowly pushing your limits. And, many riders will say one crucial component to winning rests on your ability to corner.

Pick a corner on the track and have a friend mark where you start braking and where you hit the throttle. Once you have these spots marked, you can slowly work on braking later into the corner and hitting the gas sooner.

Slow Your Roll: If you risk it for the biscuit as you whip around a corner at high speed, routinely hit the dirt or send it over the berm you have pushed the limits of your comfort zone.

5. Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone

Eventually, you need to get out of your comfort zone and little else breaks the barrier than actual racing. Once you have mastered riding techniques within the confines of your personal comfort zone, getting behind the gate with other riders appropriately pushes yourself to try harder than regular practice days.

Just remember, this level of riding doesn't mean forgetting about all the proper techniques so if you have a death grip on the bars or taking unnecessary chances, slow your roll and dial it back to a level of comfort that allows you ride another day even if that means finishing in last place. The next time out you can push the limits a bit and eventually work your way towards a new level of comfort just as you did when first starting out.