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Are Dirt Bikes Manual or Automatic?

If you’re new to dirt bikes, then you probably aren’t aware of how the gearing works, and if they’re automatic or manual transmissions.

For the majority of dirt bikes, the following is generally accepted:

Most dirt bikes are manual where the rider is required to change gears using a clutch in the left hand and a gearstick using the left leg. This is typical for the 90cc and above class, including all enduro and motocross motorcycles. Automatic dirt bikes are rare but growing in popularity, with automatic gearboxes found on electric dirt bikes and children’s 50cc versions.

If you’re just getting started riding, learning how to change gears properly is one of the most challenging things. Staying upright is the easy part…until you reach that gnarly section.

Automatic and Manual Dirt Bikes

For decades now, dirt bikes have pretty much come out the factory with their manual gearboxes and a clutch. There really weren’t any variances at all.

Then again – this was an era where just about everyone knew how to drive a manual car with stickshift. Thus, the principles of gear changing isn’t too difficult to learn.

The only real challenge came with the fact that most dirt bikes don’t show the revs. Instead, you’re expected to listen to the engine and change up to a higher gear when necessary. That is – when you’re revving too high.

Current Market Options

There are some dirt bikes which come as automatic straight from the factory. This includes pretty much every electric dirt bike given that they don’t technically have gearboxes and the power is infinite.

That said, if you’re getting started, then you’ll find the torque in an electric dirt bike quite confronting. Learning how to ride a dirt bike with a manual gearbox isn’t that hard.

In addition, there are 50cc and 80cc dirt bikes for children which are single speed. This allows kids to simply focus on riding without the confusion of clutch control and changing gears at speed.

Now – there are some dual-sport options that now don’t have any gears. Their automatic transmission systems are quite revolutionary, with Honda’s CTX700 DCT, the Energica Ego and the Aprilia Mana 850 being favorable options out there. These are ideal for adventure riders who simply want to cruise and may have a leg injury preventing them from changing gears all day long.

Lastly – Honda produces the CT110 for the Australian Postal Workers. These motorcycles are used in offroad environments and some have even gone across the country…and even the world! They do have gears but no clutch, so they are considered to be a semi-automatic dirt bike.

In Short

It’s not that hard to learn how to do efficient clutch control. If you’re just getting started, then it’s best to understand how the revs work which ultimately makes you a safer and confident rider.

Find a wide-open area where you can practice all day long. Stick to your 1st, 2nd or 3rd gear and master the art before you attempt those gnarly hill climbs out there. Stay safe and we’ll see you on the trails!

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How Fast Does a 250cc Dirt Bike Go on Dirt?

A 250cc dirt bike is a very fast motorcycle which is idea for teenagers and adults alike, both for trail riding and touring the world.

KTM, Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki 250cc dirt bikes can reach between 70 and 76 miles per hour (110km/h), though with some performance modifications, can reach 85 miles per hour. That said, these dirt bikes aren’t really designed for top-end speed and are best suited for tight technical trails through the forest, as well as motocross racing and stunt shows.

If outright speed is your preference, then we’re inclined to recommend a big bore 450cc KTM or even a 600cc dirt bike. For the more adventurous riders, a 1200cc motorcycle from BMW would be even more exhilarating.

Higher Speeds on the 250

In the dirt bike world, we refer to 250cc dirt bikes as a ‘250’. Such motorcycles are really designed to be fast enough that it puts a smile on your face, yet light enough in that you can get through the twisty tracks and trails.

Their suspension allows them to be ridden by both adults and teenagers, and we’re often seeing females riding the 250’s given the lighter weight of these motorcycles compared to the 450cc monsters.

While the 250cc dirt bikes are certainly up to highway speeds, they’re actually not the best at these speeds and aren’t so comfortable to ride. If you’re the type that’s going to ride these often on the highway, then we’d recommend a more powerful motorcycle paired with an adventure fairing.

Achieving higher speeds on your 250cc dirt bike is certainly possible, so let’s see how that can be done.

Performance Modifications

To get higher top speeds on a 250cc dirt bike, we’re recommend the following enhancements:

  • Replace the stock air filter to one by a reputable aftermarket brand
  • Change the rear sprocket so the rear tyre isn’t maxing out so early
  • Reduce the weight of the motorcycle as much as possible
  • Use premium fuels. We’ve noticed a mild performance upgrade from choosing 95/98 gas
  • Change the tyres to a fresh set. Older tyres can actually drag your speed down a notch
  • Use an adventure fairing to deflect the wind and create a personal wind tunnel

We can also recommend that you wear all your protective gear, even if it slows you down a little. Your riding stance also places an important factor as you cut through the wind while placing more weight on your rear tyre.

The Reality Behind a 250cc Dirt Bike

As we’ve noted, 250’s are generally best for those who aren’t looking to claim speed records on the dirt but rather those who enjoy the simple nature of cruising around on offroad forest tracks and trails.

While some people have used 250cc dirt bikes to see the world, they are only just able to keep up with highway traffic. Even the very popular Honda CR250L isn’t the best highway machine but certainly is a reliable piece of work that is light enough to get through most obstacles.

Essentially, if you want to maximize top speed and you’re above average on the weight scales, then you’ll want something a bit beefier. You can still get a 250cc dirt bike but consider a 2-stroke instead of a 4-stroke as they are seriously fun to throw around on the tracks.

For the adventure rider, the upgrade to highway gearing will be a lifesaver as will an adventure fairing. Certainly, you can keep up with highway traffic though you’ll probably be out of revs for fast overtaking maneuvers. For many riders, they simply cruise quite comfortably behind the trucks until they reach a great offroad riding spot.

In Summary

If this is your first dirt bike, then a 250cc motorcycle is certainly enough for most people. They’re light enough to throw around yet there’s enough on the throttle to have some genuine fun.

For most people – they never actually outgrow the legendary 250. Technology for these smaller motorcycles has improved year after year, with performance often surpassing that of 450’s from 20 years back.

These are an excellent choice for both beginners and seasoned riders, and we wouldn’t yet the top speed as the sole metric in choosing the right size motorcycle. Take one for a ride and we’re sure there’s enough on that throttle to keep a smile on your face for years to come.

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Why Do Dirt Bikes Have Upside Down Forks?

Have you noticed those dirt bikes racing around on the tracks and trails while their forks are inverted? There is a clear reason:

Upside down front suspension forks on a dirt bike allow the front end to be stiffer. Riders using inverted forks are then able to have greater responsiveness in their steering and this leads to better cornering, as well as better handling in whoop sections. As a result, there is reduced stiction between the lower and upper halves of the fork.

There is a lot of engineering jargon and technical reasons why dirt bike riders choose to modify their dirt bikes like this, but Frontaer will try to keep things simple.

Fitting Dirt Bikes with Upside Down Forks

Having inverted forks has sound engineering principles, but do you really need it? Well, if you’re riding a dirt bike, then it really depends on your riding style. Most commonly you’ll find riders choosing to reverse their forks on their road motorcycles as opposed to dirt bikes.

If you’re the type that wants to win championships or take the lead in a recreational group ride, then you’re going to be pushing yourself behind the limits of your forks. This is when you’re going to move up from amateur to professional, and as a race bike, you’re going to want forks. The same can be said for adventure motorcycles who need to be stiffer in the front end to cater for the additional weight of camping gear and additional fuel.

The rigidity can far outweight the cost, but it still depends on your riding style and type of motorcycle, as well as your weight. For those who love to claim some airtime, the suspension lifecycle will be enhanced through inverting the forks in most cases.

To invert them, you can often get this done yourself or get a mechanic to go through the process. This will cost you $200 or if you do it yourself, 2 to 3 hours of your time on the weekend.

Disadvantages of Inverted Forks

While many sing the praises of inverted forks, and they certainly do have their advantages, there are some downsides too. This is why you won’t see them on most dirt bikes, despite the riders knowing of their upsides.

The disadvantages include:

  1. Challenging to Service. If you’re riding often and clocking up the miles, then you’ll be servicing your dirt bike just as often. The services on the fork seals will be challenging, especially as you won’t have a drain on your upside down fork. How are you going to release the oil? Certainly you’re going to need some assistance there and mechanics themselves have a tough time with this task.
  2. A Hazard to Braking Systems. When your fork seals let themselves go, then you can have a genuine issue on your hands. With upright forks, a leaking fork seal isn’t too hazardous and you can ride it out until you get back to the trail head or finish your race since gravity is on your side. With a USD fork, this is very much a case of gravity working against you. Given the location of the fork seal (directly above the front brake assembly), all that fluid is most likely going to end up on your front pads and tyre.
  3. The upfront cost. To transfer from upright to inverted front suspension forks requires time and patience, with some extra help if you’re not mechanically inclined. If you’re not happy with the handling or the dangers that it poses, then you’ll spend additional time reverting it back.

Now – don’t let us scare you here. Thousands of dirt bike riders would only get behind the handlebars if their forks were inverted already given the advantages.

Closing Thoughts

You really have to weigh up the cost. It’s very debatable among the dirt bike riding groups on Facebook, but one thing is for sure – they certainly do make your suspension a little tougher but aren’t without the risks.

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Can A Dirt Bike Become Turbo-Charged?

Have you been curious about the future of dirt bikes and fitting a turbo on to the engine? Sounds exciting, but why haven’t they done it?

Well, our findings over the last 10 years are quite straight forward.

Dirt bikes don’t need turbo chargers in order to perform well and often perform worse with the rear tire spinning too aggressively for the dirt. It’s also not commercially viable for manufacturers like Yamaha, KTM and Honda to fit turbos on to their dirt bikes, even for motocross or enduro racing. There are some prototypes and home-made versions with turbo-chargers, but nothing has developed in the mainstream market.

Many riders get too excited about the power prospects and don’t realize that their machine is fast enough already. If you don’t have enough power, the best way to achieve these outputs is to actually go up in engine size or to switch to a race-ready manufacturer like KTM.

Turbo-Charged Dirt Bikes

Fitting a turbo on a dirt bike just simply isn’t something that you need. Dirt bikes just don’t have the space capacity to get a turbo fitted, unlike the engine bay of a car. Space really is at a premium there and you’d have to reduce your fuel tank size among other things to even stand a chance.

We’ll also add in the fact that dirt bike turbos also weigh about 100lbs or 30kgs. That’s a lot of weight already for a dirt bike to haul around. So any power gains you’re looking to achieve would mostly be taken up by this additional weight, as well as the lack of space availability.

Probably the most common reason why this doesn’t work out well for the rider is the crazy amount of torque. It’s much like electric dirt bikes where their torque can be so excessive in that you simply lose traction. If your goal is to increase your acceleration speeds, then these gains may not eventuate with a turbo as you simply can’t get enough weight on that rear tire to keep it from breaking ground.

AMA and Motocross Rules

The American Motorcyclist Association Motocross Division is unlikely to ever approve the notion of turbo-charged dirt bikes in events. Generally, once something has sudden successful time in any racing season, that same thing is rolled out into mainstream dirt bikes through stores across the country.

Thus, the biggest lead in taking these mainstream is also the biggest hindrance. Yet that hindrance is justified for the reasons outlined above – it hasn’t been done because it isn’t feasible commercially at scale. If KTM or Yamaha saw a future here, then they’d invest a few million which they haven’t yet. That’s a tell-tale sign.

Dirt bikes in both the recreational and competitive landscape are built for linear power delivery. Turbos aren’t linear and thus, riders would be frustrated pretty quickly in the constant breaking of traction. Yep, we’ve said that twice now.

In Summary

You’re unlikely to ever see turbo dirt bikes in a commercial sense anytime soon. Yet it isn’t actually wishful thinking here. Go on YouTube and you’ll find some good examples. If you did want this done to your dirt bike, then some service operations do exis.

Then again, you can find some used dirt bikes with turbo models on Craigslist and Gumtree, but the gains from these machines are questionable. Most commonly, the rider/owner has regretted their decision.

As they are, dirt bikes do already run exceptionally well, with 4-strokes coming a long way in the last 10 years to become the bike of choice for many motocross riders. With electric dirt bikes being the way of the future, we naturally aspirated dirt bikes continuing to shine until the lights of such factories are switched off.

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Can You Take a Royal Enfield Offroad and Go Camping?

Ever wondered if you can take a Royal Enfield off the beaten track and on to adventures far beyond the polished dealership floor?

As an adventure motorcyle brand, Frontaer often looks at a variety of motorcycles to see what they can and can’t do out there.

Royal Enfield’s can easily be taken offroad and used for multi-day or multi-week camping trips. In fact, dozens of these motorcycles have been ridden literally across the world. Unfortunately, their shortcomings are the low profile tyres which means it’s best to ride a Royal Enfield on dirt roads rather than tight forest tracks and technical sections.

If you’re looking for a good dual-sport that certainly turns heads, then this is it. The perfect classic cruiser which can reach well beyond the pavement.

Royal Enfields Offroad

If you’ve spent any length of time on ADV Rider Forums, you’ve no doubt come across the Royal Enfield subsection of riders. It’s these individuals who inspire others to get out there and start exploring on 2 wheels.

You’ll find all sorts of inspirational threads and comments from people who have found the perfect luggage solution, to those who have discovered the ideal secret campsite. Certainly it’s these riders who are true adventure riders instead of the keyboard warriors found in YouTube comments.

With Royal Enfield’s, you either love them or they aren’t for you. There’s no denying that the classic look is one to be appreciated, taking you back 50 years when engines weren’t dependent on extensive electricial circulatory.

Genuine Shortcomings

Now, it isn’t so popular to take a Royal Enfield into offroad environments. There are shortcomings where it just wouldn’t be our first choice.

It’s not just us and many Royal Enfield riders would agree with us on these points:

  1. The fuel tanks are quite small. To get extra fuel mounted on a Royal Enfield, you’ll need to buy a bigger aftermarket fuel tank (which are hard to find), or carry extra fuel with a Rotopax/Fuelpax container.
  2. You’ll want an adventure fairing pretty soon. Oddly enough, most riders choose not to get a fairing as it takes away from the classic look of this motorcycle. After thousands of miles of being battered by the wind, you may have other thoughts.
  3. The stock tyres aren’t offroad friendly. These are best for riding on the bitumen, though they do well on gravel roads and hard-packed mountain terrain. Take them through the sand and mud and you’ll soon see the genuine shortcomings.
  4. Their power is quite tame. Let’s admit – they aren’t a performance bike, but one to be admired and ridden. You aren’t going to win speed records, nor are you going to have serious power to get over that sand dune that lays in front. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even attempt a sand dune in the first place.
  5. Suspension travel is minimal. Yep, those front and rear forks just aren’t designed for whoop sections and gaining some airtime. They’ll hold you, the weight of your gear and a full tank of gas, but the suspension will bottom out pretty soon.

A Fair Analysis

Now to be clear – this isn’t a hate pitch towards the epic line of Royal Enfield motorcycles. We love them just as much as the next person for their style and sophistication, but for genuine offroad appeal, you’ll find some better options.

For the open country, they are certainly a fantastic dual-sport with a more ergonomic approach to riding. They are the motorcycle of choice for several hire companies throughout South America, India, Nepal and Europe too.

In Short

If you’re looking to ride around your state, your country or even the world, you can easily spend much of that time on sealed highways. On occasions you might find yourself on a dirt road where a Royal Enfield will continue to shine.

For many riders, this is more than enough to ‘see it all’ and experience the thrill of life behind the handlebars, instead of behind YouTube.

Yet if you’re looking for that little bit extra, including that single track off to the side that looks inviting, then the Royal Enfield may struggle on the more technical sections. That’s it.

For crossing Mongolia and Peru with side open country, there is nothing more appealing, unique and individual than these ADV-inspired motorcycles.

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👉 39 Most Common Dirt Bike Terms (How Many Do You Really Know?)

🔥 21 Awesome Dirt Bike Riding Tips ('Cause We Want You Safe Out There!)

🌲 How To Go Camping With Your Dirt Bike (And Arrive Home Safely)

🔧 7 Tools Every Dirt Bike Rider Must Carry (To Avoid Those Awkward Rescue Calls)

🥾 Best Dirt Bike Boots That Go The Distance (Who's Got The Best for 2021?)