These pages are design to help the beginner rider. We will introduce you to basic skills and lessons that will help you to become a better rider.
Take your time to learn these skills and try keep your practice sessions down to about half and hour then have a break and come back refreshed ready to do more. Its best to practice with the help of a friend, that way if something does go wrong you will have someone to help you.
When you first get your bike the most important thing is how you sit on it. The correct sitting position affects everything, accelerating, turning and braking. You should be able to sit comfortably in the natural indentation where the seat meets the petrol tank. Your feet should at least just be able to touch the ground and you also should be able to stand flat footed when just sitting off to the side of the bike. Its important to remember this, remember the further back you sit the harder it will be to control your bike.
To test your position try to stand up as you ride slowly, if you can do this without pulling on the bars you are in the right position, so keep practicing this until you find the sweet spot, which generally means moving forward until there is no pressure on your arms.
STANDING V SITTING
The experts say Standing is the best way to ride a dirt bike, it gives you most control and flexibility. You can position your body more effectively and are better prepared to deal with obstacles. However if your not as fit as you used to be, have problems with gammy legs and knees or don't feel comfortable standing up then you sitting down is ok. Even some of the best riders sit down a lot.
However there are times when you should stand, one of those is going over jumps, sitting down just doesn't do it and it actually makes it more dangerous. So pick your times when you want to stand or sit and find the balance you like best.
The standing position should be feet on the pegs, knees gripping the thinest part of the tank, legs bent slightly and positioned forward (picture 5 mins past 5 on an analogue clock, head straight almost over the speedo, arms slightly bent and inline with the bars and your waist positioned over the join between the tank and seat. Never stand straight and always lean forward in an attack position.
When you ride a road bike you are generally taught to hold the handle bars with your whole hand and use all your fingers for the clutch and brakes. However riding a dirt bike you need to have more control of the handle bars so try to keep the first two fingers on each hand (thumbside) for the levers and keep the other two firmly around the handlebars. This will allow you to keep a good grip on the handlebars when going over rough terrain, rocks and logs etc. The first two fingers can swap between the levers and handle bar as you require them to.
LOOK FORWARD & KEEP YOUR HEAD UP
If you are looking correctly you probably won't be seeing very much of your bike. This is good because that means your bike will go where you are looking, so if you come around a corner just that little too fast and saw a big log in the way then the chances are you will hit it because you fixated on it and the bike just go wherever you were looking.
So look forward and let your peripheral vision do the work, it will pick up objects as you ride, you just need to learn to trust it.
EXERCISE #1, STRAIGHT LINES
Now that you are on your bike just ride as slowly as you can in a straight line. Use the clutch and throttle (accelerator) to regulate your speed, pick two points that you can ride between. As you go between the points keep your feet on the pegs and try to go as slow as you can. The goal here is to be able to go in a straight line at half walking pace with both feet on the ground for at least 30 metres. This first exercise will teach you balance which will help you in all other exercises, as long as you can maintain momentum you will have balance.
EXERCISE #2, FRONT BRAKE STOPPING
Keep going between the two points and slow down from about 15-20k/hr to 0. Brake using your front brake only until you can feel the momentum shift to the front of the bike and then keep the pressure on the braking until you come to a complete stop. Keep your feet on the pegs for as long as possible. What will happen after a while is that you will learn the balance required to sit on your bike with feet on the pegs while the bike is stationary. Once you can stop and hold the bike up for 1 second with your feet on the pegs then you have mastered this exercise.
EXERCISE #3, SLOW CIRCLES
Now you have mastered the art of slow riding its time to go round in circles. Go as slow as you can but this time start going round in a wide circle. Narrow the circle as you go until the circle is as tight as you can get it. The goal is to do a full lock circle (where the handle bars are fully turned) and the tighter you get the more counter balancing you will do. Once you have mastered one direction go the other.
EXERCISE #4, FIGURE EIGHTS
Same as above but go from one left hand full lock to one right hand full lock and back again.
EXERCISE #5, LIFT THE FRONT END
The idea here is to lift the front end in order to go over obstacles like logs etc. Please note we are not going to teach wheel stands here and we certainly don't want you to flip your bike but more so we want you to learn a skill that you can use when riding. So lets go back to straight line exercise maintaining a speed of about 10k/hr and do the following (in quick succession).
Clutch in, Push on handle bars, Pull back, release clutch, and a lttle extra throttle (just a bit to start with). You will lurch forward a bit and maybe if your lucky the front wheel will lift off the ground. Keep practicing, the goal here is the get the front wheel up about a foot in the air.
if you get into any problems (in order) let throttle off, pull the clutch in and put the back brakes on.
EXERCISE #6, MORE FRONT BRAKE STOPPING
Most of the time you will use the front brake more than anything so we will do some front braking skills. Go back to your straight lines, increase speed to 20k/hr (go up to 40k/hr as you get mre confident). Slowly pull on the front brake untill you stop, keep practising untill you can do it from 40k/hr to a dead stop with just a little bit of front wheel slide (right at the end). This will teach you to stop quickly using the front brakes and also introduce you to the concept counter steering
EXERCISE #7, COUNTER STEERING
OK back to the straight line exercise, clamp the front brake on and keep it on. Sit in normal position (maybe just a little back from it) and accelerate using clutch and thottle control untill the front wheel starts sliding (remember front brakes are still on). Try to do this for 10 metres. This will teach you how to counter steer the bike when the front wheel locks up. If you get into trouble let go of throttle and then the front brake.
EXERCISE #8, REAR BRAKE STOPPING
Back to straight lines, acclerate to 20km/hr put the back brake on progressively until the back starts sliding, when it does let the brake pressure of a little bit so that you get maximum braking without sliding to a complete stop. Keep doing this untill you can stop from 40km/hr without losing the back end.
EXERCISE #9, REAR BRAKE SLIDING
Using back brake sliding helps you to position your bike when going over obstacles like slippery wet logs. Warning here, slippery wet logs are nasty, dangerous and more hazardous to health than smoking. You should never go over them except from straight on, any deviation to a straight line could bring you down as the wheels of the bike will slide on the log in the angle of the direction you were going in. Be warned. So to fix this start at about 20km and going in a straight line, put your back brakes on so the back wheel locks up and starts sliding and then using your waist and hips move the bike to the left or right. Once you get to a 45 degree slide or more your execrcise is complete.
EXERCISE #10, CLUTCH BRAKING
Going in a straight line in 3rd gear at about 30km/hr only use the gear to slow you down. Pull in clutch go to 2nd release clutch and you will slow down, when you are ready go to 1st gear to complete the exercise. Practise this one untill you can slow down using the clutch and gears from 40km/hr.
EXERCISE #11, COMPLETE BRAKING
Now that you have learnt all three braking techniques try this out. From a given point mark how long it takes to slow down using the front brake, using the back brake and also using the clutch. Once you have done that use all 3(clutch, front & rear breakes) in various different combinations to slow you down. You will soon find that a combination of all 3 gives you the best effective stopping power.