Riding a dirt bike is a skill, and you only get better with practice. But there are a few hacks you can use to improve your skills much faster, and some that will instantly change the way you ride. In this post you'll find 11 of these dirt bike riding tips, and a few hacks that you can start using today!
Dirt bike riding tips
1. Bike setup
This first dirt bike riding tip is often overlooked, but it can instantly improve your riding. Most people (myself included in the beginning) get themselves a bike, and take it straight out to the track to ride, without even thinking about the setup.
Even simple things like the brake and clutch lever position, handlebar position, and tyre pressures can change your riding for the better. But one important thing to get set right is your suspension. Setting the sag is very simple to do, but so many riders neglect to do it!
When your suspension is set up correctly, the handling of the dirt bike will improve enormously, and setting the sag is the simplest adjustment you can make. Stay tuned to xtreme motox for a full explanation on how to set your suspension sag.
2. Mix it up!
If you ride the same few motocross tracks over and over, you become accustomed to these tracks. And if the tracks aren't challenging you enough, you can hit a kind of plateau. I've met some really fast track riders over the years, but when you put some of these guys on natural terrain they suck!
Riding motocross tracks is important for developing skill and stamina, but you also need to start riding natural terrain. When you ride on a smooth, perfectly constructed motocross track, with jumps that feel the same every time you hit them, this doesn't help you reach your full potential.
What helps you grow and improve fast, is riding in the hills, woods, mountains, or whatever natural terrain you have access to. Find rough rocky, rooty tracks, and start hitting natural jumps that don't have a perfect man made lip. Look for hill climbs, and steep downhill tracks with drop offs, and ride in all weather conditions.
3. Stand up
Standing up over rough terrain is another thing you can do to instantly improve your riding. When you stand up on the bike you remove your body weight from the seat, and you send the weight down to the foot pegs. This lowers the centre of gravity of the bike, to assist you over the rough stuff.
When you stand up, you also take weight off the front of the bike. This lets you lift the front wheel easier to get over rocks, tree sumps, logs, etc. As you start to stand up more often, you may want to adjust the position of your brake and clutch levers. This is important so that you don't have to rotate your palms to reach them from the standing position.
4. Learn to wheelie
I just mentioned lifting the front wheel to help you get past logs, etc, but if you aren't comfortable wheelieing, this could be a problem. Slow controlled showboating wheelies will take a lot of practice, but wheelieing for the purpose of getting past obstacles can be learned very quickly.
Check out my full guide to wheelieing HERE.
The easiest and safest way to wheelie is while you are standing. As previously mentioned, the centre of gravity will be lower while standing, meaning you aren't as likely to flip the bike and crash.
Start by attempting this in 3rd gear at low revs. If you make your first attempts at higher revs, you're more likely to flip the bike. So keep out of the power band initially, and try bouncing the suspension and pulling back while standing. As you pull back give the bike some throttle, the wheel will come up, and you can adjust the amount of throttle to bring it higher, or to lower it back down.
You can also move your body backwards or forward, weight-shifting to control how high the wheel comes up. This basic stand-up wheelie will get you over obstacles, and will also be useful on the track. As you become more confident with stand-up wheelies, you can progress to trying it sat down and more controlled, this will really impress your friends!
5. Gear up
This may seem like a no brainer to many of you, but I still see a massive number of people riding in everyday work boots, while wearing a $40 helmet. If this sounds like you, this will do nothing good for your skill development whatsoever.
If you wear proper protective gear: good boots, a good helmet, goggles, and gloves at the very least, you'll be far more confident on the dirt bike. When you feel more confident and safe on the bike, you'll push yourself more, and you'll take more risks. This will lead to you learning new skills faster, and ultimately becoming a much better rider.
To add even more protection, which will further improve your confidence, use elbow and knee pads, a neck brace, and body armour. This is advisable for everyone when racing, or when practising things like jumping.
6. Learn to jump
Jumping is super fun, and it's still my favourite thing to do on a dirt bike. In addition to being fun, it's also very useful for trail riding, and essential for track riders. Learning to jump can be a little scary for beginners, especially if you're watching the pros launching 50 feet over the triples. But everyone starts somewhere, even the pros.
Start small by finding some natural jumps, or by slowly hitting table top jumps at the track. Be sure that the bike is setup correctly, and never come off the throttle as you hit the jump, as you will go over the handlebars.
7. Add Power and Lean back
When you're riding over rough or very muddy terrain, you may be tempted to slow down and ride through the area cautiously. In some cases this is a good idea, but in many situations, leaning back and powering through it will be the better option.
Providing you're travelling fast enough, your momentum will carry you through the area, and the gyroscopic effect of the wheels will keep the bike upright, and in a straight line.
As you add power, and before hitting the area, lean your body back, to shift your weight over top of the rear wheel. This will help the rear wheel to find traction, to stop the rear end sliding sideways.
Leaning back will also take weight off the front of the bike. This will let the front wheel glide over the rough muddy terrain, while bouncing off anything that's hidden inside it. Be sure to keep the handlebars straight, and keep your arms locked until you're through the area.
8. Grip the handlebars
When you start riding you'll use all four fingers of each hand to pull your brake and clutch levers. This means you're only gripping the handlebars with your thumb during shifting and braking. This can leave little control of the handlebars while riding over rough terrain.
A better method is to use just the index, and middle fingers to pull your levers. This way you still have a very firm grip of the handlebars, helping you to remain in complete control 100% of the time. But remember not to grip more than necessary, as this can lead to arm pump!
9. Avoid arm pump
Arm pump haunts every dirt bike rider on the planet, but some riders seem to get it worse than others. Some of this is obviously due to strength and fitness levels, but a massive factor is the way you ride the dirt bike.
A good way to reduce arm pump is to squeeze the bike with your knees, this will allow you to lessen the tightness of your grip at the handlebars. This should be done at all times, whether standing or sitting; and on top of reducing arm pump, it will also give you better control over the bike.
Also try to avoid anything that will cause you to grip on tighter. Being in the wrong gear, harsh throttle movements, intentionally wheelieing the bike too early in the race, etc. Try to use smooth movements at all times, and work on finding the correct gear.
10. Cornering wins races
If you're looking to win races, you'll need to perfect your cornering. The more speed you can hold going into a corner the better, so lots of practice and a good technique is key.
Always keep your head up, and look ahead as you enter a corner. The bike will always go the way you're looking, so keep looking ahead at your chosen line. Lean with the bike, but keep your elbows out so that you can easily move the bike to where you need it.
Be smooth and consistent on the throttle, and keep the power on throughout the corner, rather than dumping the clutch to exit. Dumping the clutch just causes more fatigue, and heightens the chance of arm pump when done continuously throughout a race.
Perfecting your cornering will take time, and only happens through a lot of practice, but the end result is well worth it!
11. Start slowly
It's common to see riders trying things that are way to advanced for their level of experience. They crash, or hurt themselves, and they'll never try again due to fear. So instead of going straight out and hitting the 30 ft double, or taking on one of the toughest hill climbs, start with the smaller stuff first.
By going big straight away you may get lucky, and I'm sure many good riders did start that way, but it's far more likely to go bad than good. So start slowly with all of these dirt bike riding tips, and work your way up one step at a time.
Thanks for checking out these dirt bike riding tips, one little bonus tip is handlebar choice: your handlebars can make a massive difference to your riding position, and to the way your bike feels and handles.
Check out my full guide to choosing the correct handlebars by clicking > HERE and you'll also see the 5 top choices amongst the pros!
or you can check out some awesome accessories that all riders should have by going HERE.