Hangin Loose on a Dirt Bike
Are you itchin' to hit some wicked turns?
Do you wanna hang some air time?
Are you prepared to get downright dirty?
Strap on your helmet and motorcycle gloves because dirt track riding calls for skills and techniques as diverse as the terrain you're gonna cover. This is a favorite pastime of many motorcyclists. Riding in the dirt is exciting and challenging. It also requires a unique set of skills.
First, get yourself a dirt bike. Don't borrow one because you'll damage it and don't lend it because they'll crash it! If it's your first dirt bike, make it a four stroke. They are easy and fun to ride. A two stroke will give you too much power when the powerband kicks in, when you least expect it, and you'll fall off quick time.
Next, remember that when you jump on a dirt bike with your motorbike gloves and all the other protective gear on, you'll be heading out into the sticks, and you'll need to get back, preferably in one piece, so protective gear is a must.
Stay loose! Off the beaten track, stay in a low gear and "work" the bike. Allow the bike to have its own head, but stay in control. Work that low gear, get up to speed, bend over the bike, bend your arms and stand up. When you stand, you're conserving energy and remaining in control. Stay "loose as a goose", don't grip the 'bars too tightly with your motorbike gloves, but just enough to steer and operate the controls. Keep your elbows loose so you can flap like a chicken, but keep your grip on the bike through your knees and feet. This also allows the bike to pivot backward and forward and through its own steering axis.
When you turn into a dirt corner, keep the power steady, keep your outside elbow up and your inside leg out. This will help you keep balance . This is also where a lot of road riders get the jitters when leaning into the dirt. Remember your feet and knees are still working the bike and your upper body is still loose. Therefore, you can use your lower body to push and steer the bike while your head, arms and shoulders provide only enough grip through your motorcycle gloves to guide the bike around the uneven surfaces.
Now, when it comes to jumping the bike, this is where the fun really starts! Take the little jumps first. The big ones can be scary and before you realize it, you are sitting in a dust bowl, scratching your helmet with your motorbike gloves. When you hit the little jumps, lift the 'bars and stand up a little. You can hit the bottom of the jump sitting down, but by the time your front wheel is off the ground, you should be standing. Once in the air, it's all about landing. If you feel yourself going over the 'bars, hit the rear brake and momentum should level you out and lower you gradually, then twist the throttle to smooth out your landing.
Remember, the throttle is your friend! If you back off too quickly in the dirt in a corner, you may as well have stomped on the rear brake because you'll end up bogged in the sand with nowhere to go. Keep it smooth and balanced with weight transfer from your body and good positive throttle while braking. Yes, that's right. You can brake and give throttle at the same time to create smoothness by keeping the revs up and riding the clutch out, while inevitably power sliding the rear wheel out. You'll develop this skill over entertaining and adventurous hours of dirt bike riding.
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