Dirt Bike Riding Tips: The Basics
There are many small things that go into riding a dirt bike well, and while spending time just riding the bike is a good start, it helps to focus on a few key components in order to make the time spent in the saddle both fun and productive. Body positioning, brake, throttle, clutch control, and learning to balance on the bike in the attack (standing) position are all important aspects of becoming a better rider. Here are a few basic dirt bike riding tips:
Practice standing while riding: Most beginner dirt bike riders feel more comfortable riding while seated, but learning to ride in a neutral standing position will improve your riding exponentially. Known as the attack position, your body weight is centrally located on the bike, head up, knees slightly bent, elbows raised and in line with your wrists, gripping the bike comfortably with your knees with firm, but light pressure on the bike.
Your head should be about even with the handlebars so you'd be able to look down on the number plate while riding. Riding in this central position enables the bike to pivot beneath you, offering better control and enabling your body to react quickly to unforeseen situations, thereby avoiding injuries. The image below shows the basic attack position:
Foot positioning: Riding on the balls of your feet allows for better access and control of the bike's shifter and rear brake pedal. It's also the widest part of the foot which makes it able to bear the most weight for longer periods, which is important if you plan to focus on any type of off-road racing.
Corners: Piloting a dirt bike through corners out on the trails or the motocross track is more a matter of weight transition than an actual turning of the handlebars. Press the bars rather than turning them, and use your body weight to help balance the bike through a turn instead of steering the bike through the turn. It sounds corny, but try to be one with the bike. Riding a dirt bike is much more about your legs and bodyweight than your arms.
Brakes: Braking is another key component of riding a dirt bike well. There's no need to stomp or grab the brakes. Today's bikes are very sensitive to the touch and you want to learn to apply both brakes evenly. Grabbing too much front brake can cause the bike to flip rear over front (endo), and applying too much rear brake can cause the rear tire to wash out and slide sideways. Initially you'll probably use all four fingers to control the brake and throttle levers, but try to get in the habit of using three (or less) fingers in order to make shifting and braking quick and seamless. Eventually you'll learn to use the clutch in conjunction with the brakes for controlling your speed, but in the beginning, strive for steady and even brake pressure.
Heads up: One of the most important aspects of becoming a faster, better, and safer rider is learning to look ahead. Keeping your head up sounds simple, but it's a very difficult skill for beginners to master. Train yourself to scan the horizon because the farther ahead you look, the more time you'll have to react to an unsafe or difficult condition. If you plan to start racing, looking ahead is critical for finding opportunities to pass other riders. Your body will follow your eyes, so if you keep looking at that big rock you're afraid of hitting, you're going to hit it without a doubt. Keeping your head up is one of the best ways to improve safety and increase speed. You can't go very fast if you're wrapped around a tree trunk, or worse yet, wrapped around another rider that you may have injured. Train yourself to look ahead.
Visualization: Try to visualize your body on the bike. Watching the motocross and GNCC pros on television or video is a good way to imprint a picture in your mind's eye of the correct riding form and body position, regardless of your current skill level. Try to get someone to take some short videos to see what you actually look like on the bike, so you can narrow down which riding skills need improvement. It's also a great way to compare how you're progressing as a rider with 'before and after' videos.
Practice, practice, practice: Practice drills can be boring, but try to choose one drill and practice it for at least ten or fifteen minutes before starting to play ride. Concentrate on getting the technique right rather than focusing on speed. If you get the technique right, the speed will come naturally and you'll be much faster in the long run, not to mention much safer.