Despite all the money and research manufacturers put into creating the perfect dirt bike seeing one ride past you complete with stock parts, right off the showroom floor is like seeing an old Model A on the freeway.
It's a rare site.
That's because most riders tend to make immediate modifications to their dirt bikes whether to race more competitively, ride more comfortably, maximize the potential of the bike or all of the above.
Whether on the track or trail an off the showroom floor dirt bike just can't compete with one that's been fine-tuned and modified to an individual rider's ability, size and overall preference. Modifying a dirt bike for off-road riding is a bit different than modifying one for Motocross racing. It's a good thing we have access to pro Rory Sullivan who has not only raced his share of off-road races but knows a thing or two about the best modifications you can do to make your day on the trails a fun and productive one.
1. Aftermarket Exhaust System
Investing in a new aftermarket exhaust is so common a lot of buyers tend to roll in the cost of a new pipe into the financing for the new bike. Yes, it's that expensive but it's also that important. If it's not done at the beginning of purchase then it's typically what a rider saves up for. An aftermarket exhaust system is lighter, offers more performance and just as important to the off-road community is the spark arrestor. You'll need one, especially for trail riding (especially in the United States).
- Suggested exhaust system: Check out products from FMF (2-stroke or 4-stroke) and Pro Circuit (2-stroke or 4-stroke)
2. Suspension Re-valve
The last we checked not all riders are created equal. There's tall and short riders with body weights all over the map. That's what's cool a dirt bikes, the machine doesn't discriminate. Anyone can ride. But customizing a bike's suspension to your weight and ability goes a long way towards long-term enjoyment of the sport and even safety. Most bikes get delivered to dealers with a suspension set to a specific weight and intended use.
A suspension re-valve is serious work. Unless you're thoroughly knowledgeable on the subject (Read that: A licensed mechanic or you could pass the test with flying colors) take your bike to a licensed mechanic.
3. Chain and Sprocket
OK, so maybe we were a bit wrong. If money is an object, the first modification to just about any dirt bike might is not the exhaust but the chain and sprocket. You'll get more durability and can tweak the power output from high end to low end and vice versa depending on the riding condition.
The best part about changing out the chain and sprocket is it's relatively inexpensive, very easy to do and you'll notice an immediate different as soon as you get rolling. In fact some riders, like Rory, have several sets and change them in and out depending on the riding conditions.
4. Heavy Duty Chain Guide
Off-road riding inflicts a lot of abuse on a dirt bike. Never mind crashing, there's tree roots and tree trunks, large boulders and if you're racing, you've got other riders to contend with. That stock chain guide won't put up much of a fight so replacing it with one that's strong and can take a lot of abuse without bending goes a long way keeping you in the race and riding for the day.
- Suggested Chain Guide: TM Designworks
5. Hand Guards
Off-road riding doesn't create the roost that beats riders up in Motocross but you'll still get your share of it. What's probably a bigger threat is low hanging branches and in the event of a spill-over crushing your hand on a rock, log or other hard debris that peppers the land.
You might get away without hand guards the first few times but eventually you'll wish you had them. It's rider preference as far as the wrap-around kind or the flag style guard but both shield your hand and fingers from flying objects and the whipping of branches as you fly through the woods.
6. Skid Plate
You might end up with some bumps and bruises after a day on the trails but there's a good chance your dirt bike might endure a few as well. An easy installed skid plate protects your bike frame and vital engine parts from fallen logs, rocks and anything else that temps you to climb over.
- Suggested Skid Plate: Cycra
7. Disc Guards
Sticks and stones may break your bones but they also get tangled into your rotors wreaking havoc and causing chaos. Add rotor guards, especially in the front, and whatever kicks up from the ground out of your brake system.