Right so you’ve got a dirt bike to go riding with and you’re new! We’re going to guess that you’re super motivated to really improve your skills.
These 21 dirt bike riding tips will help you simply get better behind the bars and essentially become a better rider on 2-wheels.
This applies whether you’re just into recreation or racing MX or enduros. Given the evolution of models now available in the dirt bike world, the sport is now accessible to riders of all backgrounds.
Best Dirt Bike Riding Tips
There are many things to learn and we will cover plenty of them here. Through learning to ride your dirt or trail bike properly, your skills in throttle control, selecting the right gear, clutch control and situational awareness on the trails will improve massively.
From this you can expect to power more confidently through turns and handle varying terrains at any speeds. Essentially – you’ll be safer and faster.
This all begins with practice and lots of it. You can’t expect to become Travis Pastrana or Ricky Brabec overnight.
For total beginners, here’s our 21 dirt bike riding tips that will massively improve your skills:
1. Learn To Use The Brakes Properly
It’s much easier and often safer to use the front brakes, but using the rear brakes softly is also recommended. At times if you apply too much rear brake then you’ll feel it locking up and while this feels unsafe, it can also lead to faster track times.
Excessive use of the front brake and catching it too quick could send you over the handlebars. At the same time, slowing down too gradually is also counter-productive for fast flowing enduro tracks and competitive racing.
The trick is to find where you can stop as quickly as possible while also maintaining control. Practice stopping hard in a straight line in an open and flat area multiple times and you’ll get a good sense of feeling and control.
2. Grip With Your Dirt Bike With Your Knees
Often we see new dirt bike riders using their hands in a death-grip position. Wrong move! This will fatigue you very quickly and you’ll be out of the game in under an hour.
Riding a dirt bike is very different than riding a mountain bike. You’ve got a large area at the front for the fuel tank on a dirt bike and we always recommend beginners to grip with their knees. Modern day dirt bike trousers actually have grips sewn in for this very purpose.
Use those knees for grip so your arms can now be free to actually handle the bike properly. Your arms should actually be quite loose and you should build enjoy confidence to actually ride one-handed if needed.
3. Use Your Body Weight
As Bruce Lee said “Be Like Water, My Friend”. Use your body weight to help you with cornering as well as keeping the front tyre down when going full throttle.
When you’re descending, it’s also good to keep your weight all the way back with weight on the rear wheel. If your front tyre locks then you’ve still got a second or two up your sleeve with your body weight at the rear of your dirt bike.
If you watch MX racing videos you’ll see riders turning with their leads pointing in the direction of travel. This heaps them get around those corners quickly.
4. Master Your Dirt Bike Throttle Control
Learning to throttle out properly ensures you can actually accelerate properly and are maximizing the entire rev range for your motorcycle.
You’ll want to switch gears at the right time for the current conditions and the upcoming ascent, descent or corner and you’ll want to do this as smoothly as possible.
Not only can good throttle control help you improve your speed, but also help you slow down your dirt bike too through gear compression. Ensure you’re properly ‘revving out’ without reaching the red line if you’re optimizing for speed.
5. Know Your Gear Ratios
Knowing how fast you travel in each gear and how aggressive you get up to speed is very helpful for simply becoming a better rider. With most dirt bikes, the lower gears are where you’ll get the most aggressive acceleration and need to change up quickly.
If your terrain is open country side and you’re a speed demon as opposed to the tight forest rider, then you may wish to upgrade your rear sprocket which will give you a bit ‘extra’ on the throttle with wider ratios.
Knowing your gears is also best done through listening to your motor, as opposed to listening to the rev range. To practice, we recommend finding a wide open area with no other dirt bikes around so you can hear when you’re revving out and ready for the next gear.
6. Follow Existing Riding Lines
If you’re racing or simply partaking in an organized dirt bike ride, then it’s always best to follow existing riding lines with fresh ruts and lines. Other riders have already figured out where to take their front tyres and experienced riders are always up in front.
Also observe how they rode up those hills. Did they simply keep the power on or did they back off in certain sections? Did they stand in the attack position or simply sit and ride it all the way through?
These existing riding lines are also those which have compacted soil. There’s nothing worse than having your dirt bike bogged or simply slipping over in a muddy section when everyone else chose the existing line. Success leaves clues out there.
7. Train Your Eyes To Be Like a Pack Predator
You really need to stay alert out there and avoid any accidents which could impact you or other riders. Being mindful of what’s coming up on the track and what’s happening around you is very important.
In the wild of the animal world, pack predators look for their targets as well as their hazards. Often we see riders with tunnel vision who are simply focused on the next obstacle. Where they look is where their handlebars also go. Wrong move!
You need to look ahead, left and right…as well as listening for dirt bikes coming up behind you! It’s quite a lot to take in and you need to be prepared mentally as you often aren’t riding solo. Now don’t get us wrong here – you will also want to look where you want to go, but don’t ignore the hazards on the trails.
8. Become a Clutch Master
Once you’ve got the gear ratios mastered, you also want to become a master of your own clutch. You’ll want to know *exactly* where that contact point is.
Avoid dumping the clutch or applying too much gas. This costs you lap times, acceleration, fuel and also creates more wear on your clutch and gearbox. Let’s not forget the embarassment of a non-intended wheelie or motor stall.
For many riders, it takes months until clutch and gear control become second nature. There is nothing that really speeds up this process other than practice and using the same dirt bike over and over again.
9. Learn The Attack Stance
To really become a performance rider, you’ll want to get away from the ‘Sunday rider’ style of sitting on your seat and cruising along with all the time in the world.
If you really pay attention to the top dirt bike and enduro riders in the world, they all have an attack stance. That is – knees bent, elbows bent and they look 50 to 200m ahead on the trail.
As they are riding significantly faster, they can absorb the shocks with their body after their dirt bike suspension has worn away most of it. This stance is also quite neutral and is ideal for mild hill climbs and descents.
10. Use The Two-Figure Rule
What is the two-figure rule? No – it’s NOT something done late at night in the bedroom. In the dirt biking world, the two-figure rule provides better handlebar control for the rider.
We’ve mentioned prior about using your knees to grip. As you do, your hands can become more lighter and nimble. A mistake that many beginner dirt bike riders make is using their entire hands to use both the front brake and clutch.
All you really need is 2 figures as these levers don’t have that much resistance to be properly used. The two outer fingers and the thumb should remain on the grips while the index and middle fingers are used on the levers when necessary.
11. Have Your Suspension Adjusted or Upgraded
If you’re a new rider, then this is best done is a dirt bike shop. They’ll often offer to do this for you if you’re buying one from a dealership.
Essentially manufacturers always set up the suspension for average-weight riders of average height and experience. You’re probably not that person.
By having your suspension adjusted or even upgraded you can actually get better control and improve your riding skills and lap times. With suspension it’s essentially the sag with the springs. You can actually do this yourself with some YouTube tutorials.
12. Build a Better Cockpit
Most dirt bikes come stock standard. After a few months, they are anything but stock-standard because riders realize how much adjusting they need.
If you’re new to riding, you’ll soon discover that many dirt bike riders make changes to their handlebar areas. But why? Manufacturers set their cockpit areas up for average riders just as they do for suspension. You aren’t average and to find the best fit takes some experimenting.
You may find narrower bars or wider bars are better suited for you and your style of riding. There are actually many more variations in handlebars which include the rise, height, control length and amount of clamp area. We personally like anything from Renthal and Protaper.
13. Adjust The Footpegs
If you’re riding your dirt bike long distances then eventually you’ll get sick of the short footpegs commonly found on dirt bikes. Extending these out an extra inch or two can literally make all the difference between confidence and concern.
Most riders on stock dirt bikes are riding with their instep as opposed to the ball of their feet. Given how much wider dirt and adventure bike boots are when compared to the human foot, manufacturers are simply making pegs too lean so they look flush in the dealership but don’t meet real-world requirements. An upgrade to a proper enduro or adventure-spec foot peg is one best things that a beginner can do to improve their skills.
This way your ankles can really move around properly and securely while becoming another swivel and shock absorber. Not only this, but it really helps with steering as you can now steer with your feet, not just your hands or body weight.
14. Use Bunny-Hops To Get Over Obstacles
Just like when you were a kid and did little wheelies to get over obstacles, you really need to do the same with riding your new dirt bike.
By lifting up the handlebars and doing bunny-hops, you reduce the pressure on your front suspension while also lessening the shock on your arms and shoulders. Most importantly – you simply get over these hazards quickly and on to the next.
To go one better – add a little throttle just before the log/bump that you’re coming up to pop that front tyre slightly in the air while leaning back. The rear tyre should gracefully pounce over it.
15. Wear The Right Protective Gear
We’re not referring simply wearing protective gear. Yes – that’s important and yes, you should wear it. Instead, we’re referring to the right gear for the conditions.
If you’re wearing a winter enduro jacket on a hot day, you’ll simply fatigue so quickly that your riding skills will dimish. If you’re on a group ride, expect to resort to being the last rider before the sweep.
When going for a ride, plan to wear the right gear and always ensure you have a hydration pack, even for a cold day. You’ll be surprised by how much water you drink out there.
16. Adjust Your Dirt Bike Tyre Pressures
Tyre pressures really are based on different riding conditions and adjusting the tyre pressures really can improve your speed and reduce the ‘jumpy’ nature of your handlebars when transcending hazards.
If you’re in a rocky outcrop area then you’ll want to pump up pretty high to avoid pinch-flats. Sand riding with a dirt bike or on a muddy MX track and you’ll want to drop them a little.
A note on this though: 4×4 enthusiasts typically drop their tyre pressures very low when riding on sand or mud to have a bigger tyre footprint. On a dirt bike, you’ll only want to drop a little bit of air since your dirt bike weights much less than a car and will still ‘glide’ over the sand.
17. After a Few Months, Start Smoothing It All Out
Riding motorbikes offroad is like yoga. Yes – we’re serious about that. If you look at the best enduro and MX riders in the world, what they do is move into a flow-state with everything smooth and consistent.
You won’t find crazy stopping or inconsistent gear changes. Instead they simply maintain momentum and flow on the trails whether riding for recreation or racing on the competitive scene.
Smoothing it all out will stop you becoming fatigued in the first 20 minutes of a weekend ride. Sure – you might not be so fast on the trails initially but you’ll enjoy the ride and gradually improve your skills.
18. Know Your Existing Limits
Did you know other riders who are total show-offs? They aren’t the type to read dirt bike riding tips and believe they simply know it all. You’re just waiting for them to take a spill on the tracks. Yeah…don’t be that person.
Most dirt bike riders are males and therefore give in to peer pressure. Avoid this bravado and need to show off. Beginners to the dirt bike riding world should focus on enjoyment as opposed to the need to prove skills and ability.
Avoid powerful big bore bikes. For total beginners, we recommend a 250 initially and a 450 after 2 to 3 years of riding, unless you are sand riding most of the time. Also – join a riding club and hang at the back of the pack and see how they ride.
Your main focus should always be on coming home with a smile on your face, not injuries and scars to prove your worth. That starts with finding an enthusiast bunch of fellow dirt bike riders who have less of an ego.
19. Buy The Right Upgrades For Your Dirt Bike
We’ve talked about the right dirt bike protection gear but many people also forget about the gear for their dirt bikes. You know – things that can improve its performance.
Let’s start with the tyres. Most manufacturers use pretty average tyres and when it’s time to upgrade, we’d recommend spending the little extra for quality. Tyres can massively improve your lap times and cornering abilities, but also reduce your likelihood of a pucture.
Other upgrades include steering dampners and a quality seat. The dampner can create more of a flow and reduce the ‘stutter’ when steering through heavily rutted sections, while seats simply lead to move comfort. Some of them have extra grip so you can further use your knees.
Lastly – the grips. Most grips are pretty average even if you have a good set of dirt bike gloves on. Get yourself on to a brand-name grip that’s designed for your style of riding, whether that’s MX, weekend trails or enduro racing.
20. Your Mindset Is Key
Riding a dirt bike is like learning anything new. It’s 80% psychology and 20% practice. One of the most often missed dirt bike riding tips is based on your mindset and honestly, you and your mindset will make or break your abilities out there on the trails.
Yeah…we get it. Thinking positive and motivational pump-ups aren’t the style of dirt bike riders globally. We’re already pretty well sorted in our lives, but trust us…this stuff works.
Keep an open mind and be prepared to learn from others who are much more experienced than you. But just remember – no matter how experienced you find other riders, they are also still learning every day, albeit with more experience under their belt.
Instead of thinking “I won’t be able to do this”, just break things down into bite-sized chunks. That way the next 200-foot hill climb starts to look easy once you plan it out and see how other riders accomplish it without breaking traction at the rear wheel.
21. Get Some Professional Dirt Bike Riding Lessons
Dirt bike riding lessons aren’t just reserved for those who are beefing up their MX skills or are becoming adventure motorcycling junkies. Joining a dirt bike riding school or simply getting some private lessons 1-on-1 is plenty to help you master the skills.
How do you find these? Often you won’t find trail bike riding schools out there. The best way is to join a club and find who’s running it and approach them to see if they can help you with a few hours of training and coaching.
Call up your local dealership which often can point you in the right direction. You can also jump into local dirt bike riding Facebook groups and see who’s leading the group as they’ll be open to spending a few hours with you one afternoon to help you improve your skills.
Trust us – it’s only going to cost you a few hundred dollars but creates so much confidence out there on the trails. Often these guys and girls just want to see beginners become more capable riders and don’t have the judgement that MX riders typically have.
It’s time to start
We hope these dirt bike riding tips have really opened your mind as to what’s possible. What was your favorite? You can let us know in the comments.
Just remember that riding a dirt bike offroad as a beginner isn’t hard. It just takes lots of practice and a willingness to learn.
Find a cool group of riders to hang with and follow their lines. There is a lot that beginners can learn from other riders who have been on the trails before.
Fuel up that bike and start twisting that throttle a little more.