Off-road riding can be one of the most taxing and fun activities to do on a motorcycle. There are a lot of talented riders that got their start on the dirt, and practice does make perfect. Let’s say, however, that you are just starting out and you’re looking to get your feet wet (or dirty in this case) here are some tips to keep your head in the right place and not in the dirt.
Make sure that you’re in gear when riding a dirtbike. First, make sure that you have a helmet. It doesn’t really matter if it is a dirtbike-specific helmet with goggles, but what matters more is that it can protect your head from a crash. When starting out, you don’t have the get the best gear right away. After your first session, you might figure that dirt riding is not for you and stick to asphalt in the future.
However, if you do picture yourself going more hardcore or getting faster on the dirt, then make sure that you get a good pair of boots, gloves, goggles, and a helmet. Dirtbike-specific gear isn’t like normal road bike-specific gear.
Dirt helmets are among the most ventilated type of motorcycle helmets available in the market, and since you’re not going at highway speeds, it pays to have a well-ventilated lid that can protect you and keep your head comfortable, be sure to buy a set of goggles to keep the dirt out of your face. Either that or you can opt for an adventure-style helmet. Adventure bike lids are also quite ventilated, but they can get a bit heavy. For use with goggles, however, you may want to remove the visor. Opting to keep the visor on because you forget your goggles, however, is the stuffier option, but at least it seals your face away from dirt and other debris—your call.
Following that, you want some protection for your limbs, most importantly your feet. Buy a pair of at least calf-high boots. If you're leaning more on the adventure-riding side of things without some of the gnarlier moves of motocross riders, then an adventure-specific set of boots will do just fine. However, the faster and wilder you go on the dirt, the more emphasis is placed on the protective elements of your footwear. The most extreme type of boot that you can get for dirt riding would be the models that are made for motocross. These come with full calf-length protection along with a steel toe and steel sole.
Finally, don’t forget your upper body’s limbs as well. Get a decent pair of gloves. With a fair amount of protection. You don’t have to worry too much about armor, but it’s still added peace of mind. Some dirtbike-specific gloves are really thin, but the more hardcore you go, the more recommended it is to buy a pair with armor on the knuckles and joint areas of your hand.
Take it slow
Nobody became great at dirt riding overnight. Even some of the best riders in the industry had to train for years before they reached their current levels. Granted, however, they started out young, so learning comes at a much faster rate compared to most of us picking up the two-wheeled hobby later in life.
As such, don’t try to do some of the more advanced maneuvers that experienced dirt riders do. You don’t want to rush into things. Take it slow. Advanced techniques can be eased into, but it’s not worth getting injured over on your first outing.
Rent a bike?
Think about it, riding your bike comes with a good amount of risk, so why risk your own machine that’s probably more tuned for road use. There are a few schools in the Philippines that offer customers the opportunity to rent and learn on a dirt bike. Do some research and look for these places as they can offer coaching, a track, and even equipment.
Thighs, legs, and pegs
Just like riding a road bike, make sure that you’re stabilizing your body on the bike using your thighs. If your lower body is stable, your upper body can be more relaxed allowing you to be more in control. Also, don’t put all your weight on the seat, as it can cause your front to wheelie if given enough gas. For advanced riders, popping the front on dirt is an essential skill, but for newbies, it could be a terrifying experience. As such, try and put your weight more forward into the seat, and also use your legs. Dirt riders also tend to stand on the pegs to allow the motorcycle to move underneath them while going over rough terrain. It’s not a nice experience to have your motorcycle buck you off because you were fully seated while going fast over bumps.
Practice makes perfect
As a beginner, you will encounter a bit of a hill to climb, both literally and figuratively. In terms of skill, there will be a learning curve to riding on the dirt. You don’t want to rush this and you want to make sure that you develop all the habits you can which include weighting the bike properly and using your lower body to pitch and lean the bike in the direction that you want it to go. Also, make sure that you’re learning the proper braking techniques, as the dirt can be quite unforgiving to slow down on if it’s really loose or slippery.
Be sure to revisit your skills regularly. If you’ve signed up for a course, make sure to keep going back to the school regularly to hone your skills on the dirt. Make it a regular thing if you want to get better, and always keep an ear open to listen to the instructors. As long as you develop good habits, you’ll find yourself at home on the dirt in no time.