4 Essential Dirt Bike Riding Tips The Pros Use
Follow my 4 essential dirt bike riding tips and you will take your riding to a new level in no time.
Being able to ride a dirt bike successfully is more about technique than it is about strength, speed and experience.
My advice is to get the basics right first and the rest will take care of itself. Lets not stuff around here and go straight to number one.
1. Correct Body Position
Being able to deal with all the challenges that dirt bike riding throws at you means getting your body position set up so you can deal with all the challenges. The first of these is getting off your seat and onto the pegs into the standing position.
Standing VS Sitting
One of the first mistakes new riders make is sitting on the seat too much. Watch any of the pro riders and you will soon realise they are off the seat for the majority of the time they are riding.
The key reasons for standing when riding are as follows;
- Standing up prepares you for whatever changing riding conditions might occur
- The standing position allows you to grip your fuel tank with your knees which creates a stable riding position, particularly when dealing with ruts, rocks, holes in the track etc.
- When going up hills, the upright position allows for greater bike control and assists in reducing the front wheel from lifting off the ground when the hill gets steep.
One of the best ways to practice getting off the seat is to do some hill climbing.
In the video below Graeme Jarvis shows how a pro rider uses balance and coordination off the seat to get up a very challenging climb. Graeme is the master of dirt bike riding and a great person to view some riding tips.
As a contrast to the pro demonstration above, the video below shows attempts of a novice rider to get up a steep hill. Note the differences in riding position, primarily the time spent sitting vs standing.
If you are not convinced that standing is the best way to go when riding then take a look at a trials rider in action. Their bikes literally have no seat so you don’t have a choice but to stand up.
A large number of dirt bike riding tips come from the trials riding category of dirt biking.
The Correct Riding Position
So now that we have established that standing is the way to go, what is the correct standing position?
Firstly, make sure the balls of your feet are on the pegs.
This allows for greater control whilst riding but also limits the accidental use of the rear brake or accidentally downshifting a gear.
You may still need to lock the peg into your heel at times such as the constant use of the brake for cornering but at least you can minimise the risk at most other times by resting on the ball of your foot.
Get Your Knees Locked Into The Fuel Tank
This is a really important tip for stabilising the bike. When you are in the upright/standing position, locking your knees into the tank or body of the bike really improves your riding stability.
For a test of this tip, try getting a mate to shake you in both the standing position with the knees locked and without knees locked. You will soon feel and see the stability of locking your knees into the tank.
When riding, this becomes an invaluable skill to use for dealing with ruts, rough terrain and other track issues that can create instability.
Keep Arms Bent And Elbows up
With the lower body take care of, make sure your upper body is also well positioned by ensuring your elbows are bent (not straight arms) and lifted slightly up.
This combination of positioning is also the best for control and stability when riding.
Chin Over The Handle Bars
The final body position component to take care of is ensuring your chin is over the handlebars.
This allows for better control by keeping your weight forward over the front wheel.
When To Sit
For the majority of riding, standing will be the way to go but sometimes you still need to sit.
This can occur when doing tight turns such as motocross style, or saving energy on long straight runs.
2. Correct Use Of The Clutch/Throttle
The clutch and throttle control of a dirt bike is one of the most important elements in developing your dirt bike skills. There is no more evidence of this than when looking at trials bike riders.
Success within this sport is all about the clutch throttle control. Whether you are popping a wheelie or getting over a log, the correct use of power can only be managed by using both elements together at the right time.
There is no easy way to develop this skill other than getting plenty of time to practice there use.
Utilising the clutch during riding can smooth out the power on the rear wheel and improve traction and acceleration.
Keep A Finger On The Clutch At All Times
One skill to learn for better clutch and riding performance is to keep one finger (usually finger closest to thumb) on the clutch at all times.
This allows for a quick change gear change should you need it and using one finger (or two) also allows your other fingers to grip the handlebars and increase your stability and safety.
This video provides a good demonstration of single finger clutch use and the benefits.
Whilst the video is promoting a brand for a short lever it still provides a good demonstration of single finger clutch use. You can still use a single finger (or two) with a standard length clutch also.
3. Correct brake use
On the surface, it would seem a simple process when braking on a dirt bike, pull the lever in right? Well, in the good old days when brakes weren’t that great you really had to jump on the breaks to slow down.
These days modern brakes really pull up a bike fast and if you give them too much pull juice you are going to lock the wheel up. Squeezing gently at first and then firmer as the bike starts to slow is the way to go. This allows the suspension, time to compress and allow for greater traction.
The main concern with front braking is going too hard early when applying the brake. This can be a real problem because the front wheel may lock up and throw you over the front.
The way to do it is to apply enough pressure to start slowing and allow the front suspension to take up the load and improve traction and then you can apply more pressure.
Remember to downshift your gears so that you can accelerate after breaking is completed. This sounds easy but requires a lot of practice when braking at the same time.
Using the rear brake is often a safer option when riding as it is not a bigger issue if it locks up.
The rear brake can also be used for skid steering around corners at certain times.
Often the quickest way to slow down is to use both front and rear brakes together. This requires some practice as you don’t want to go too hard on each as you will be out if the front brake is applied to harshly or slide out if the rear is too hard.
Steep hills can be really scary for new riders and rightly so.
Too much application of the front brake and over the front you go.
After much trial and error, I personally like to apply a little front brake pressure and use the engine and rear brake to slow down.
This provides 3 different methods for gaining control whilst navigating down a steep hill.
The main issue you want to avoid downhill is your wheels locking up. If you feel a lockup is happening ease off the lever until the wheels move freely and reapply pressure gently.
Braking when cornering can be really challenging at first.
Often the first thing that happens is a new rider will overshoot the turn then brake late in the turn or midway.
The best way I find to deal with corners is to quickly assess the turn by looking ahead.
As you make this decision, brake enough prior to the turn so that you can smoothly ride through.
As you are coming out of the corner you can start to accelerate out of the corner.
With a powerful bike, there may be enough grunt in the bike to just slip the clutch and stay in the same gear, or you may need to downshift as you are braking.
Control is the name of the game and whilst my advice above seems simple, in practice we often don’t get it right and change gears and brake midway through the corner.
Don’t stress, practice makes perfect in this area like all things dirt bikes.
Make sure you have a good set of boots when practising cornering as you can easily damage your feet and ankles if you don’t have a good set of boots. See my dirt bike boot guide if you require some information regarding boot selection.
4. Dealing With Small Objects
Often when riding you come across small objects such as tree branches, particularly when riding on trails.
For beginner dirt bikers this can be a little confronting as often these come up quickly after a corner. The first reaction is to stop which can be a good idea if it is a big log, but for most issues, slowing down and keeping your momentum is better.
If it is just a small log you can simply slow down (make sure you are off the seat), shift your weight back a little and ride over the log.
If the log is a little larger, compress the suspension before you hit the log and just before hitting the log release the suspension and use the unloaded suspension to get the bike over.
Don’t go too hard on the throttle or the rear wheel might skip out sideways. Momentum is key but not too fast!
The Video below shows the main idea I am talking about regarding suspension use although the log is quite large.
Dirt Bike Riding Tips Bonus -Dirt Bike Tire Pressure
Tire pressure is one area that often gets overlooked when setting up a bike for riding.
If you run your tires too hard when riding on muddy soft ground your control will be severely compromised.
Setting the correct tire pressure often means experimenting to get the right feel as you ride. Remember that it is easy to let air out of your tires but not so easy getting it back.
See my recommended air pump in this blog article that will allow you to carry it whilst riding so you can adjust tire pressure on the fly.
The Final Take
Anyone can be a flat track bully when it comes to dirt biking, but if you can master these dirt bike riding tips the pros use you’ll take your riding to the next level and be able to tackle a wide range of riding conditions.
1. Body Position
2. Correct Use of The Throttle/Clutch
3. Correct Brake Use
4. Dealing With Small Objects
Make sure you run the correct tire pressure to suit the conditions.
All the best!