Welcome to Netrider ... Connecting Riders!

Interested in talking motorbikes with a terrific community of riders?
Signup (it's quick and free) to join the discussions and access the full suite of tools and information that Netrider has to offer.

Dirt Riding - how to get experience?

Discussion in 'General Motorcycling Discussion' started by nicola, Aug 24, 2012.

  1. Hey all,

    I'm a newb rider and own a VTR 250, but I'm getting pretty interested in getting experience in riding on dirt tracks. In fact, I'm generally wanting to improve my riding skills across the board. I love being on the bike, but I'm also hungry for something more thrilling than commuting!
    I am projecting into the future and want to do rides overseas on dirt tracks, so am interested in finding out more about how to get experience. What kind of bike is required? What are the big differences between a dirt bike and a road bike? Remember... I know nothing. Hehe.

    Also, if anyone in Vic knows of any good areas to ride off-road or potentially off-road training courses, let me know?


  2. I'm actually in the opposite situation to you, Heaps of off road experience but new to road bikes, while I'm not really going to be able to give you a comparison I can give you some tips from my experience :)

    Firstly, I'm sure your going to love it! It's probably the most fun you can have on two wheels and I'd say it would be less intimidating than road riding to learn skills on as you don't have to worry about other vehicles so much.

    The only Issue could possibly be your height? I don't know how tall you are but generally dirt bikes seat highs are a fair bit higher than road bikes due to extra suspension travel required. I'm average height for a guy at 5" 10" and I can say on a WR250F you wouldn't want to be much shorter to be able to confidently get your feet down all the time, so you might have to get the suspension modified unless your tall.

    As far as what bike to get, I'd recommend a Yamaha WR250F, very reliable and a solid performer, but it might be an overkill for what your after... I don't know, how serious are you about getting into off road riding? you might be more interested in the yamaha TTR range, don't expect an abundance of power but they are fairly cheap and reliable oh and as they are not as much of a serious 'enduro' bike as the WR series so the seat hight is lower which might be an advantage.
  3. Hi Brad!

    I'm not even clear on whether or not a dirt bike is 'required' for off road (obviously they are recommended) but I guess I have read so many Ride Reports where people on long tours have done a big combination of both on- and off- road riding on bikes not made specifically for dirt... hell I even read about a guy doing a mixed road tour on a Ducati Paningale.

    I'm still learning the difference between the types of bikes.... so please pardon my ignorance. Thanks heaps for the recommendation on the Yamaha, I guess I'm not really yet able to buy a second bike (with a car also, that would be super indulgent) so I'm totally not sure where to start when it comes to improving off-road skills.

    I'm 5"7' so a few inches shorter than you...

    Your stats don't say where you are from... if you happen to be from Vic, do you know of any good off-road places to try out?
  4. Newb questions are fine with me, we all start somewhere! :) (I'm sure I'll be asking my own ones about road riding soon enough)

    As for whether a dirt bike is required for off roading, well I think we are on a slightly different page here when we are talking about off road riding...:p when I suggested the WR I was thinking off road enduro type riding, which is like very steep rutted hill climbs, rocky creek crossing ect, which you wouldn't dream of taking a road bike on, they just wouldn't do it for so many different reasons.

    From what your saying it sounds like you want to do more maybe, what they call 'adventure' riding which can consist of 'off road' riding, but usually those sections would be still considered roads, just not sealed roads.

    For that type of riding you could just look up 'adventure bikes' I know KTM make some good ones, but maybe a bit pricey, a cheaper option might be the Suzuki DRZ either the 400 or the 650 depending what your after.

    If you just wanted to do a bit of light off road work on the bike you've got now I guess you could, but at a minimum I would want to put duel purpose tires on it. Though I really can't give much advice on this as I've never ridden a road bike on the dirt before.

    As far as places to ride, unfortunately I can't help you with that as I'm from Brisbane (just added it so it shows up now).

    Hope I've helped :)
  5. you werent the only one thinking that.....

    your definetly talking adventure bikes.... the soft roaders of the motorcycle road.

    the vtr has an awesome engine, but isnt really suited to dirt roads. it will do it. but i recomend a bit more experience and confidence first.

    a dual sport (klr650/dr650) or adventure bike would be the go if you want to do it seriously, not just the odd dirt road every now and agian.
    road bikes do not have the suspension or the ground clearance.

    and with the pinagale..... theres a guy who went round the world on an r1
  6. A VTR is certainly capable of tackling unsealed roads, but I certainly wouldn't take it too far down a dirt track.

    The secrect to riding a road bike on an unsealed surface is simply to have the confidence/experience to not fight the bike, and let it do it's own thing. But of course if you're planning on spending a considerable amount of time off-tarmac then you certainly don't want to be running the grooved slicks common to most road bikes (ie tyres are the important thing).
  7. i take my gs500 off road a lot and i can tell you now if your going on gravel roads or off road buy a trail bike like the dr650
  8. Hey nicola
    I'm the same would luv to get into the of road scene, I think h.a.r.t offer of road training courses and awsome road training check em out
  9. If you look at my...ahem, I mean the, A photo from your ride thread in Multimedia you'll see plenty of road bikes cruising along unsealed roads. The simple response to you is simple: get out there and do it!

    There are some basic good techniques though for riding a road bike on road tyres along such surfaces but I'm to tipsy to mention any.

    All I can say is, 1.Yes your bike can do it (cruise on unsealed roads, that is. Remember that 60 years ago dirt bikes and road bikes were the same thing) and 2.It opens up a lot of wonderful aesthetic experiences, my friend. Many of my best experiences, as a road rider, have been on dirt roads. I haven't taken my Bullet out to such roads yet, so if you want to do such a ride sometime give me a hoy - I'll be taking it easy and on my 1930s technology I set a good pace for learners.

    You will however need to clean your bike a bit more, especially the chain, and perhaps change the air filter more often. And NB that roads that are popular through roads for the 4x4ers are hazardous for that reason. There's nothing like a pair of Oakleys to bring out the idiot in somebody.

    • Like Like x 2
  10. Hi Nicola,

    Firstly you need to work out what you mean by 'Dirt Riding', as there are so many disciplines. ie.. Motocross, enduro, trail riding, trials, ADVENTURE RIDING...etc..

    So I am guessing you are interested in Adventure riding; in order to explore this country of ours in a relaxed way.

    As has been mentioned your size may influence the type of bike you wish to ride.

    You will find a lot of information at: http://advrider.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=32

    There are quite a few female riders of all skill levels on this forum, who like you have been through the decision making process for bike/training/ riding etc..

    I ride a DR650, for adventure type riding, which I have found very enjoyable and opens up accessibility to the other 90% of Australia, that is difficult (not impossible though) to reach on a 'road bike'.


  11. This is the main rule on taking bikes on the dirt:

  12. ohmygod. I owned & rode a KLR650 back in the early ‘90s (1989~1995), how on earth can it be regarded as ‘popular’ in the dual sports\touring segment in 2012?? Hasn’t the game moved on?
    The next vid of him picking it up maybe funny, but if you do use a low point of leverage like the seat area, or whatever he was holding down near the footpeg you are going to make it hard for yourself. You need to use the highest & outermost points of the bike for leverage, the handlebars/grips works the best in 90% of cases. Holding the brake on gives the bike a fixed point to pivot up on as wel instead of moving about sideways as in the videol.

    If anyone is looking to venture out into the rough stuff, even on a roadbike, & have concerns, just bring along an once of insurance – spare font brake/clutch levers & the tools to replace them. Also the gear lever seems to get a hammering with some falls & it may be bent to far to be of use, so maybe one of those too.
    Although my personal biggest fear of taking any bike offroad is getting a flat tyre. Even on non-tubeless tyres, getting a motorcycle wheel off & then getting the tyre off the rim enough to patch/replace the tube, always ends up being a mammoth task with a on-broad tool kit of basic hand tools.
    So my short list for stuff to take on a bumpy ride:
    Tyre flat sealant (aerosol can),.
    Hand pump or CO2 canisters with fitting to top up the tyre pressure after getting the sealant in.
    Spare clutch & front brake lever, spare gear lever.
    Tools to cover most jobs on your bike.
    Zip ties, electrical tape.
    I would probably take some time at home when you have some time spare & have a quick go in replacing the levers. Sounds dumb, but you will be surprised how complicated & confounded your head is when you drop your bike on a lonely road.

    With riding on dirt roads, its good to keep it easy & smooth, like sailing a boat. Don’t expect to brake, accelerate or turn in an instant & be able to pull it off. Also sometimes your bike has a better idea of where you should be going, so go with the flow & maybe plan a change of course a little bit later on even though you don’t fancy getting whipped by passing branches or bushes. Pulling an upright bike out of a bush is heaps easier than following the trail of furrowed gravel road verge & peering through the hole in the undergrowth where most of your bike might be.
  13. Hey everybody. There has been some great advice here and I'm starting to clarify 'dirt riding' from 'dirt riding' so to speak. I would LOVE to do some motocross-style riding just for fun (or at least just some seriously bumpy twisty tracks), but don't think I'm at the point of actually buying a true dirt bike just for this reason.

    Ultimately I want to tour Europe and then Canada/Alaska. Kind of 'easing into' the touring on a motorcycle thing. I want to stay away from tourist traps and big cities so I will hopefully be finding the back roads and mountain ranges which will probably just be unsealed/packed gravel roads. So an 'adventure bike' would work I guess for that.

    If I become obsessed then I will next want to take on Africa and South America in which case I will probably looking at getting a proper off road bike and getting more dirt riding experience. Looking a bit too far ahead perhaps!

    Hey @mattb this sounds exciting, I would love to find beautiful and interesting places around Melbourne that I can explore on my VTR off-road (like where you are in the picture you posted). I see you're in inner Melbourne too - can you recommend any areas to explore?

  14. If u havnt already get hold of these and see it in the extreme ..it will either dispel your dreams or inspire them!.....:D

    Long Way Round

    Long Way Down
  15. They are the reason I'm working towards what I'm working towards!!!!

    On that note - Ewan and Charley did the Road of Bones and Mongolia on an adventure bike. Was that a poor choice do you reckon? Should they have pared their gear back and ridden a dirt bike instead of a big heavy 1200cc? Would they have struggled less?
  16. I guess the "struggle" makes for better viewing but they always seem to be trying to pick up or push the bikes out of situations where something nimble and lighter would make it all easier.....but I have no experience at all on such bikes and riding like that!
    I would think though if you were doing it as a normal everyday person (without all the support team) u would like something very strong and plenty of power to cart u and all the gear ,including spares etc., along the way.
  17. Proper bike-lifting technique is well worth learning: pretty sure there's a good post about it around somewhere.

    And that's all you're ever likely to need for riding on roads.

    Proper hardcore trail riding is another thing, and for that you may need to pick it up in non-ideal conditions (mud, ditches, upside down, etc!), so you do want something lighter.

    Sounds like the OP is talking about adventure riding, so yeah, in many ways the question becomes about an appropriate adventure bike. Aren't some of the BMWs (F650GS from memory, but not my kind of bike so the memory might be shaky) a fair bit lower in the seat while still tall enough in the shocks?
  18. Yep, only about 30 mm taller than the VTR. (Memory ain't that bad after all!)
  19. I love adventure riding. There are plenty of great places in this country where you can really get way out there.
    Going on a three day trip and having to take everything you will need on you and the bike is great fun. Weight, Where your going, consumption, where your sleeping, changing flats. Hunting dinner. Good stuff.
    You can really bond with your bike on trips like this. They become way more than a machine or toy