so you want to go dirt biking

The bike kicks over and you twist the throttle to hear that perfect “brraaaaap” sound. You give it a second to warm up before pushing the choke back in. The mixture of gas and oil puffs out the tailpipe. Your buddies give you the helmet nod and a reassuring thumbs up that everyone is ready to go.

Clutch in. Down to first gear. Throttle. Gone.

If you’ve ever been on a dirtbike, you know the feeling. If you’re like me and stick to the two-stroke family, you know the smell. If you’ve ever held the throttle wide open in the desert, trees, dirt, or mud, you know the thrill. There’s not much quite like it.

If you haven’t been on a dirtbike or are new to it, here are my tips for a great ride.

Photo by @travisj_lifestyle

THE BIKE

This is for sure the most time-consuming part and can be intimidating for people. I would plan on spending anywhere from 3-5k for a solid dirt bike rather than getting a cheap bike and then having to sell it for a better one later on. You’ll thank yourself for the investment and unless you have cash burning a hole in your pocket you don’t need to drop 10k. Aim for 250cc or above on size, especially if you plan on riding single track in the hills. Honda, Yamaha, and KTM are my personal choices for brands. Honda specifically because of my experiences with their bikes being reliable and long-lasting.

Local classified ads usually have great options, but make sure you do your due diligence. Sit on it. Lean on it. See how it feels for you. Can your feet touch the ground? If not, it’s too big. Knees up in your chest? Too small. Test ride it if you’re comfortable. If you’re unfamiliar with bikes, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Take someone along who knows about them to look over it and ask the right questions. How has this bike been ridden? Well maintained? Regularly serviced? What work has been done on it? Another option is going straight to the dealer to find what you like and learn from the techs there. Then if the prices are too steep you can take that info to find what you like from a personal seller.

Don’t be in a rush to get something just to get something. Take your time and do some research. With that said, if you have a trusted friend selling a bike there’s nothing wrong with jumping on an opportunity!


GEAR UP

The right gear makes the world of difference when you ride. I rode in too small boots for years before I invested in a good pair. I must have been insane. Go to your local moto shop and try on a few pairs to see what you like. They should be snug and secure but still allow you to feel some response from the ground. You don’t need to blow hundreds of dollars here but this is one of two things you should invest in.

The other thing is a helmet. A solid, well-fitting moto-x specific helmet is a must-have in my opinion. Whatever you do, don’t buy used! You don’t know for sure if it’s been crashed in or not and you don’t want to compromise busting your head open. When you try one on, shake your head around. If it moves, it’s too big. If it hurts, it’s too small. Helmets will break in a little so keep that in mind too.

There are other things like pants, gloves, socks, jerseys, goggles, padding, etc. that will come with time. Ultimately you want to be safe first, look cool second. I stick with Fox, Biltwell, AlpineStars, and 100% (goggles) for my gear.


PACK YOUR BAG

If there’s anything I’ve learned (all of them the hard way) it’s that you need a bag with the following things:

  • Water

  • Spare Parts

  • Tools

  • Snacks

  • Portable phone charger

  • Small First-Aid Kit


Personally, I have a utilitarian looking Camelback with all the right straps/buckles so it doesn’t move around while riding. Inside is an extra clutch lever, brake lever, throttle tube, and the tools to replace them. I’ve broken a bunch of these on various rides and there’s nothing worse than trying to traverse down a rocky riverbed with only half an inch of a front brake. Proper preparation always makes for a better ride. The snacks and phone charger are good for sustained energy/if you get in a sticky situation. Plus let’s be honest, if you’re somewhere awesome you’ll want to take a picture and your phone dying sucks.

Photo by @travisj_lifestyle

DON'T BE AFRAID TO FALL

Find me someone who says they have never fallen off of their dirtbike, and I’ll show you a liar. Falling is a part of the experience and doesn’t make you a bad rider. We could dive into the psychological aspect of falling and its relation to progress, but let’s skip that and just recognize that if you aren’t falling you probably aren’t going to become better. That doesn’t mean you should go chuck a backflip on your second time out, but don’t be afraid to take calculated risks and have fun! Some of the most fun rides have been accompanied by my worst falls.

The best advice I could give to be more confident rider is to pick a line. Simply put, this is where you look ahead and draw an imaginary line to follow while you ride. Visualize yourself getting through whatever terrain is ahead, be confident on the throttle, and have fun!  

To see more of Cade's adventures on the bike, follow him on Instagram: @caderade

progress — By ben checketts
48 hours in salt lake city
performance — By matt joseph
a 20-minute hotel workout

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