Do you like the feeling of wind rushing past you at high speeds? Then dirt biking might be a fun sport for you. Whether on a track or in the great outdoors, dirt bikes are made for fun! Riding one can give an unforgettable rush of adrenaline, and it’s a great way to spend time with your friends outdoors.
Riding a dirt bike gives you a chance to let yourself get a little messy in the best way possible. That’s probably why it’s one of the most popular adventure sports in the world.
One thing you should be mindful of when you take up dirt biking is that it will take some time and effort to bring your skills to a point where you can have fun and stay safe. It may seem a bit intimidating at first, but the basics are actually not that hard to learn, so you’ll be going on exciting rides in no time.
If you’re a beginner and need some help, you’ve come to the right place. This article will go through what a dirt bike is, the different categories and some key tips on riding them. Keep in mind that the best way to learn how to ride a dirt bike is with an instructor or an experienced friend, but reading articles like this one can still help give you a better understanding of what this awesome sport is all about.
What Is a Dirt Bike?
As the name suggests, dirt bikes are designed for riding off-road. However, there are a lot of different types of dirt bikes for different purposes. This makes it confusing for beginners to choose the right one.
The basic definition of a dirt bike is a bike that you can ride off conventional paved roads. Then you have dirt bikes that you can ride both on the street and on dirt roads or bikes that are built exclusively for off-road. You can also find different categories better suited for obstacle courses and motor cross circuits.
Types of Dirt Bikes
Motocross bikes are high-performance machines specifically built for racing on circuits that involve banked corners, jumps and ruts. They’re light, the suspension is made for jumps, and they can accelerate and stop quickly.
Their equipment is kept to a minimum to maintain the low weight, and they usually have a small fuel tank. The suspension set up also makes them quite tall.
The high-performance design requires more maintenance, which means more frequent visits to specialised bike shops for servicing.
Unless you’re really into motocross, we recommend you start with a trail bike instead since they’re much easier to ride and require less maintenance.
To beginners, dirt bikes designed for trail riding can look very similar to motocross bikes. The differences are subtle.
Trail bikes usually have better top-end gearing and more safety features such as radiator guards and hand protectors. The easiest way to tell them apart is to look for front and rear lights typical for trails bikes.
Another difference is the suspension. Trail bikes have softer suspensions since they’re made for long hours in the saddle. In contrast, motocross bikes have stiff suspension, ideal for big jumps and landing.
Lastly, trail bikes have bigger fuel tanks to allow for greater distances.
Trials bikes have a rather distinct appearance, so they’re not hard to distinguish from motocross or trail bikes.
The key characterises are the chassis design with a low centre of gravity, suspension with reduced travel, and little or no seat. The tyres differ according to the obstacles used in completion.
Trials bikes are made for specialised low-speed obstacle courses, which require a lot of skill.
Once again, as the name suggests, enduro bikes are made for endurance. They have excellent suspension for different types of terrain, larger fuel tanks for long rides, breaks that can withstand constant starting and stopping and engine performance for managing this kind of riding style.
Compared to trail bikes, endure bikes tend to have better but also more expensive specifications. This is something you’ll want to consider when buying dirt bike insurance.
Dual sports dirt bikes can be ridden both on and off-road. They’re still designed primarily for off-road riding, but the ratio between on-road and off-road will depend on the manufacturer.
The main advantage is that they’re more versatile. However, they also tend to be heavier, and since you’ll be riding them on-road, this means they need to conform to licensing requirements like indicators, front and rear lights and so on.
The tires can also be problematic. If you rarely use the bike for on-road riding, you can get knobby tires but know that knobby tires will wear out quickly on hard-surfaced roads.
Adventure touring bikes are essentially road bikes that you can ride on dirt roads. They tend to be quite large with engines that allow for high-speed cruising. Adventure touring bikes also offer more comfortable riding positions.
Similarly to dual sports bikes, the ratio between on-road and off-road will depend on the manufacturer.
How to Ride a Dirt Bike – The Basics
Dirt bikes usually have a key or button to start the engine. On the right handlebar, you’ll see a clutch for gear selection. Slowly releasing the clutch engages the gearbox with the engine. And you’re off!
The gearbox configurations can differ, but typically there is a lever on the right side of the bike that you can engage by pressing with your foot. For second, third and subsequent gears, you raise the lever.
For braking, there’s usually a front lever that operates the front breaks, and the rear brake is controlled by a foot lever.
We also need to mention the riding position. As a beginner, when you hop on a dirt bike, your instinct is to sit comfortably. That’s fine when you’re on a flat road, but not when you’re on bumpy, aggressive trails.
Then you want to get the correct rider position that will give you better shock absorption so you can protect your spine. It will also make it easier to control the bike.
But what is the correct rider position? You stand on the footpegs and lift yourself a few inches from the seat. Keep your back straight and stick out your elbows. They should be parallel to the handlebars, which will give you a better reaction time.
It’s also important to place the ball of your foot on the pegs and not your heel. Your head should be forward so that your chin is over the handlebars. This position may not be particularly comfortable, but it will make it a lot less likely to hurt yourself while riding your dirt bike off-road.