When it comes to riding a dirt bike, technique is critical. When you first start out as a beginner dirt bike rider you’ll probably feel uncomfortable and probably be a bit out of control.
So how do you get comfortable on a dirt bike? The best way to get comfortable on a dirt bike is to get some lessons. Then try to relax and put in plenty of practice. Seat time is the key to getting better at riding a bike off road and the more you ride your dirt bike the more comfortable you’ll become.
Fitness is important to becoming comfortable riding a dirt bike
Keeping fit is extremely important to becoming comfortable riding a dirt bike. If you are unfit and you take yourself off around a dirt bike track, you’ll find that after just one circuit you’ll be gasping for breath and your arms will be pumped up.
I always remember my first motocross track day when I went out with gusto and enthusiasm. I did this only to find my arms were nearly bursting at the end of the track and I was gasping for breath!
As an aside, you may be interest to read this article on how much land you need to build a motocross track.
The amount of energy you need to ride a dirt bike is high. You’ll burn around 400 calories for every hour of riding. Dirt bike riding is great for core strength too. You might want to read this article about how dirt bike riding is good exercise and how motocross is one of the toughest sports on the planet!
So you are much better riding regularly to keep up your bike fitness. But also make sure you do plenty of cardio vascular exercise in-between to keep your fitness levels up.
What is the best position on a dirt bike to be most comfortable?
Before talking about the best position on a dirt bike for a comfortable ride, it’s important to make sure you buy the right dirt bike for you.
If your dirt bike is either too big or too small, you’ll not be comfortable riding it.
Before you buy a dirt bike you should sit on it. When you’re sat on the seat it is the balls of your feet that should be touching the ground. A dirt bike is too small for you if you can place your feet flat to the floor. But a dirt bike is also too big if only your toes can touch the ground, or if you have to lean the bike to one side in order to touch the floor with one foot.
Having the right sized dirt bike in the first place will help with your position on it. A really useful article to read is this one on dirt bike seat height chart. This article has a handy table of rider heights.
You should position yourself towards the front of the seat of your dirt bike. Your knees should ideally be hugging the petrol tank. This will make it easier for you to put your elbows out, rather than touching your sides. Sitting forward with your elbows out parallel to the handle bars will give you more control. If you are more in control, you will feel more comfortable.
Pro tip: point your toes inward so you’re pigeon toed, as this makes it easier to hug the tank. But also wear knee braces. Wearing knee braces gives more padding around your knees and makes it even easier to grip your bike.
Getting comfortable riding a dirt bike standing up on the foot pegs
One technique to get used to when first riding a dirt bike is standing on the foot pegs. Standing up on a dirt bike allows your legs to soak up the shock of the impacts from the rough terrain. If you don’t stand up when you go over the bumps, you could hurt your back or spine.
But when you first start riding whilst standing on your foot pegs, you have to get used to changing gear and braking. It’s not as easy to use your back brake when you’re standing up. But to make this easier, make sure you ride with the balls of your feet on the pegs and not your heels. Then each time you change gear or brake move your foot forward.
Pro tip: the adjustment of your brake lever and gear lever is key to riding well. Your gear lever should be very slightly above the level of your foot peg.
When you are standing up on your pegs you should allow the bike to pivot round your feet. Let your arms be loose so the handle bars move back and forth easily. You need to learn to ride your dirt bike with your feet and not your arms.
What’s the best stance for riding a dirt bike?
One of the most important points to make about your stance is you should sit forward on the seat of your dirt bike. Your weight should be right over the pivot point and you should lean slightly forward. This will give you more control over the bike.
Make sure you are being pushed by your foot pegs rather than being pulled by the bars. If you feel like you’re being pulled by the handle bars, you will be out of control and you’ll never be comfortable on your dirt bike.
Relax and don’t have the ‘death grip‘ on your handle bars. Also, your elbows should be up and out and parallel to your handle bars too. This will give you more leverage and control over your dirt bike. You need to relax and not be rigid. Allow yourself to float with the bike so that your hands and feet allow the bike to take the bumps easily.
Pro tip: never point your feet out as you may get them caught on rocks or tree stumps or even another rider. If you catch your foot at speed you could seriously damage your knee ligaments!
How to comfortably corner on a dirt bike
One of the techniques you’ll need to perfect is corning on a dirt bike. To be most comfortable on a dirt bike when cornering, follow these three steps:
- Your breaking zone needs to be before the ‘leaning zone‘ of the corner. In other words you don’t want to be breaking when you’re leaning.
- Once you’ve gone through the leaning zone you enter the acceleration zone. If you accelerate too soon your bike will want to go upright and you’ll be bounce out of the ruts and off the track. But note; the period of lean where you’re neither braking nor accelerating is only very brief, but it’s important to get it right through practice.
- You shouldn’t let your foot hit the ground. You’ll find a tendency to put your toot out to stop you hitting the ground, but this can make you do the opposite and you’ll end up falling off when your foot gets caught.
- Don’t chop or blimp the throttle when you going through the corner as this will create instability. Your throttle should be smooth and controlled. Only apply the throttle once you’ve passed through the lean zone and gradually increase your speed as you exit the corner.
You might want to take a watch of this awesome video about the 3 things to follow to improve your cornering technique:
Your dirt bike set up is extremely important to be comfortable riding it
When you buy your first dirt bike it’s important to make sure it’s set up correctly. In particular the dirt bike’s sag must be set correctly for your weight. Dirt bike sag is the amount by which the suspension compresses from when it’s fully extended.
You not only need to have the sag set to your weight, but your dirt bike must also have the correct suspension spring strength for your weight too.
Without your sag set correctly for your weight, you’ll never be fully comfortable riding your dirt bike.
To help understand sag and how to adjust this on your bike, please take a read of these two articles:
- How to adjust dirt bike suspension to your weight.
- How to set dirt bike sag by yourself to your weight using a Motool Slacker.
But setting sag can wait. It’s not the first thing to do as you begin learning to ride your bike. Take things slowly at first. Dirt bike sag becomes much important at speed and when you start jumping.
Is riding a dirt bike different to riding a street bike?
Often times bikers switch from riding street bikes to riding off-road. So it’s important to understand that your body position is far more important on a dirt bike than it is on a street bike.
The key to riding a dirt bike comfortably is to learn how to ride with the rear of the bike and not with the front. You need to get used to feeling comfortable sliding the rear of a dirt bike around and trust the front will grip. Whereas you don’t ride a street bike like that at all and you use the front to steer.
Dirt bikes are much lighter than their similar engine sized street bike counterparts. A dirt bike needs to be light to make it easier to handle on uneven surfaces and for jumping.
The other differences that make dirt bike riding different to a street bike include the tyres. The tyres on a dirt bike are knobbly to help with grip on off-road surfaces. This makes the handling of a bike totally different. If you’re not careful the tyres can grip and bounce you out of a rut. Before you know it you’re thrown off your bike and you’ll find yourself sitting in the mud!
You also need to get used to the extra travel on the suspension on a dirt bike, which is designed to help the bike cope with uneven surfaces.
Dirt bikes also need to have more travel on the suspension for the purpose of soaking up the land when jumping.
Should I take dirt bike riding lessons to get more comfortable?
To speed up your process of getting comfortable on your dirt bike you should take lessons. As with anything you do for the first time there’s a steep learning curve and dirt biking is no different. But you can reduce this curve and cut out mistakes by learning from a pro. If you take dirt bike riding lessons right from the beginning, you’re less likely to get hurt and to form bad habits.
You might like to read this article about which is safer a dirt bike or an ATV or quad bike.
If you can already ride a street motorbike you’ll find that dirt bike riding isn’t difficult to learn. But even if you’ve not ridden a motorbike before it’s not hard to learn either. In fact I first learnt to ride off-road bikes before I road on the road. But I didn’t have any lessons and I’m sure I have many bad habits, which after a while are very difficult to undo!
So even if you have ridden a street bike for years, I still recommend having lessons to ride a dirt bike at the start of your journey.
To conclude about how to get comfortable on a dirt bike
Don’t worry if you feel a bit out of control when you begin to ride a dirt bike, this is normal. It’s like learning anything new. But if you persevere and practice on a regular basis you’ll eventually master dirt bike riding and feel comfortable.
So the answer is to ride, ride and ride some more. But in order to stay safe you must make sure you wear the right dirt bike riding gear. It’s inevitable you’ll crash at some point, and if you do by having the right body armour this will help to minimise your injuries.
I hope you enjoyed this article about how to get comfortable on a dirt bike
I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your adventures of dirt biking in the comments below. Please also share your photos. Either from your cameras or videos from your Gopro’s!
If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions about dirt biking (or specifically about how to get comfortable on a dirt bike), please comment below with your questions.
There will also be many more articles about dirt biking for you to read and learn about this fabulous sport and hobby.
Have fun and be safe!