Dirt Riding for older nOObs?

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by BCKRider, Mar 8, 2013.

  1. BCKRider

    BCKRider Been here awhile

    Dec 24, 2012
    There seems to be a pretty common consensus of opinion here that "dirt riding" is the best way to start riding and that the skills you acquire in the dirt translate to pavement riding. As one who took up MC riding at the age of 49 and rides pavement 99% of the time, I question that advice.

    Hey, I know from experience that what you learn when you are young stays with you in a way that what you learn as an adult does not. So I am not questioning the value of youths learning to ride on dirt at an early age. I AM questioning this idea for adult beginners who are not much interested in off-road riding starting in dirt.

    It seems from my reading, EVERYONE who rides dirt has repeated falls. If you are young and wear good gear, you bruise and learn. If you are older and wear good gear, more likely you break some bones and learn. But then you fall some more. I would think the dirt riders in their 60's (my age) should be people who not only have the skills they learned much younger, but also the sense to ride speeds/trails where they don't crash. Old bodies heal much slower.

    Most road skills I think are very different than dirt skills. Reading your other road users (situational awareness,) mirrors and head-checking, front brake use, positioning yourself in traffic, etc. I don't see coming from even great "dirt" skill.

    I've promised myself to practice the "quick stop" and swerving skills as soon as I get the bike on the road (which should be soon) and also to practice my scanning and "look where you want to go" skills. Probably won't take any riding classes this year. Hope my sharpened skills and a sense of self-preservation will let me log another crash-free year of enjoyable riding.
  2. ParaMud

    ParaMud Been here awhile

    Jun 8, 2008
    Orange, CA
    Usually kids start riding in the dirt before pavement because it is 100x more convenient. The only way to teach them on pavement is at a private place such as a track. Way more expensive.

    I never did dirt as a kid and learned on the street. I think the kids who are coming from dirt bikes onto street bikes think they are better riders than they really are. So they have a bigger chance of getting hurt on the street. (That is just an over generalization and just something I thought of right now)
  3. PeterW

    PeterW Long timer

    Nov 11, 2005
    Gold Coast
    Still valid, the ability to control a bike that's sliding all over the place is the big win. And the ability to cope gracefully with crashing :)

  4. Luke

    Luke GPoET&P

    Aug 25, 2004
    Beaverton, OR
    According to the Hurt report (and possible others) that's not true. Dirt riders are less likely to wreck on the road.

    Dirt riding teaches you to deal with lousy traction which is a totally unnecessary skill for riding on the street right up until the moment you accidentally over brake or steer get a flat tire or encounter gravel, oil, etc on the road.

    Learning to deal with lousy traction usually results in some crashing, which is a lot less painful on the dirt than on the street regardless of your age.
  5. JRP

    JRP Old guy

    Apr 4, 2004
    Hampden, MA
    I've been riding for 50 years. Street mishaps; skinned knee, minor bruises.
    Off road ; ER visits...broken bones :D

    I think riding off road does help quite a bit, at least no one is turning left in front of you, well for the most part anyway.
  6. westerlywinds

    westerlywinds Two Wheels-Ride it

    Oct 8, 2009
    El Paso?
    I started riding 50 years ago dirt, many scrapes and falls due to "Young and Dumb Syndrome" The only street injuries have been due to OTHER PEOPLE IN CARS. I think that you must remember that they are all out to get you and you have to watch constantly!:eek1
  7. fallingoff

    fallingoff Banned

    Jun 11, 2011
    syd oz
    car drivers don't watch the road surface as much as riders

    riding on dirt u learn very quickly to watch the surface u are ridding on

    at slow speeds,if u make a mistakeand come off, less chance of injury

    and u learn a very important lesson

    much harder to learn on the tarmac.

  8. O.C.F.RIDER

    O.C.F.RIDER Loose nut behind h/bars

    Feb 28, 2004
    Hewitt,New Jerseystan, OBAMANATION
    I've got 46 years of riding, and encountering countless riders along the way.
    One thing has held true ALMOST 100% of the time, the best pavement riders, were also dirt riders first. You get bike control skills from the dirt that directly translate into pavement skills.
    That being said, staying alive in the "civilized" world takes a skill set that cannot be gotten in the woods.
    If you have zero desire to go dirt riding, then don't! Unless....... someone you know will lend you a bike and all the right gear, you might find out that it's a whole lotta fun!!!!!!!!!! If someone will lend you the stuff...........do it. What do you have to lose? As long as you don't go bustin' yourself up, that is! :lol3
    Also, where you take your first venture into the woods may determine how much you'll like it. I've had quite a few people come riding out of my place exactly once-in-a-row. :lol3

    Have fun!
  9. Grinnin

    Grinnin Forever N00b

    Dec 10, 2005
    I'm glad I added more dirt practice in my mid-50s.

    I rode some gravel, but not a lot, before turning 56. I started riding more gravel then and some single-track ATV trails after that (on a bike that is considered heavy for ATV trails).

    • Bone density remains higher if we exercise and eat right.
    • Other injuries can be reduced by being in reasonable condition.
    I can be injured, but my durability is better because I use my body regularly. I don't tumble around off the Mt. Bike as much as I used to, but I do still occasionally tumble off it. And I tumble off the motorcycle too (off-road only so far). I garden and fell all the wood for my winter heat.

    If an "older noob" spends more time in the office chair and La-Z-Boy and carries more spare tire and has less muscle tone and lower bone density, then YES, they will be more prone to injury.

    Fitness is no more of a guarantee of safety than ATGATT is. But I won't neglect either of them.

    EDIT: BCKRider may have a valid point, but I'm not sure that years are the best measure.
  10. Kommando

    Kommando Long timer

    Nov 28, 2006
    By the Great Lakes
    IMO, dirt riding IS the best way to start riding. That said, I don't think anybody makes the claim that it's the ONLY way to start riding. Think of it this way...A BRC is a common way for many people to start riding who have never operated a moto. Where are these classes typically conducted? On the street? How about a quiet street? Heck no. They're conducted away from traffic, where noobs can focus on learning how to operate the moto before having to contend with traffic. I don't think that any dirt proponents would suggest learning on rocky, technical, tight, high-trafficked single-track either. Start a noob off in a wide open flat and forgiving area with no obstacles. Once they can safely operate the moto, THEN you move them on to things like cruising easy trails and clearing triples. :huh

    Turning a noob loose right out onto the street, even quiet streets, right after learning how to navigate a wide-open parking lot, is not a good idea, IMO. Nobody says that a dirt noob has to race down singletrack at 30MPH-60MPH their first weekend. This is how fast a noob rider is going to have to go to keep up with any traffic on the street though, and they will only have the experience of learning to control the bike under ideal traction conditions. A noob with a dirt BRC and pavement BRC under their belt, or even just a pavement BRC, AND with further dirt/parking-lot practice is typically going to be WAY better prepared for traffic than a noob with just a pavement BRC and parking-lot practice under their belt. If something goes south and the bike loses traction or the rider has to swerve/brake suddenly, a dirt-experienced rider will typically have a more-practiced handle on things. They don't have to consciously think about controlling the bike. It's already ingrained in their muscle memory. They can focus their conscious effort on traffic, rather than having to consciously control the bike while trying to keep tabs on traffic.
  11. Two Wheeled 'Tard

    Two Wheeled 'Tard Banned

    Jul 2, 2011
    Chicago (sort of)
    I started riding on the street, and am slowly transitioning to dirt. While riding dirt doesn't teach you the situational awareness that is important on the street, it DOES teach you much better motorcycle control.

    As others have said, the value of riding dirt comes from learning how to handle sudden and abrupt changes in traction, and this skill is EXTREMELY useful on the street. I've had three crashes on the street, and two of them were from going from good traction to low traction with very little warning (Hitting ice on an on-ramp, and then a patch of gravel in an intersection). I think a rider with some dirt experience would have been able to handle them and not go pirouetting down the road on their ass (like I did).
  12. Celtic Curmudgeon

    Celtic Curmudgeon Indiana Jones wanabe

    Feb 6, 2011
    Fort Liquordale FL
    I got my first bike at 22, and learned to ride on the street, now that I have an ADV bike, I'm learning to ride dirt. I don't have any aspirations of being Travis Pastrana, but want be confident on gravel and dirt trails. However, at 49, I have more concern over getting injured that I used to, particularly blowning up a knee (had an ACL job 6 years ago), or breaking an ankle. As the above poster mentioned, staying in shape helps a great deal, and I'd add that flexibility training is just as important as strength for injury prevention. I'm also a lot more attentive to wearing proper gear than I used to be. Still I realize a 500+ lb Capo probably isn't the best beginner dirt bike, and am considering getting a 'beater' 250 of some sort to play with. The biggest difference between a good dirt rider and me is that dirt riders don'w wig out when the bike wants to slew sideways. A lot of road-only riders tend to panic when that happens. Dirt teaches you to manage traction. Just my.02
  13. blues

    blues Long timer

    Feb 29, 2004
    Burlington VT
    You'll have more 'situations' to deal with in a day of off road riding than you will in a life time of road riding ( unless you are a Moto bike messenger in Buenos Aires ). Beside if you are going to Adventure ride you will need some basic off road skills.
  14. smj

    smj Been here awhile

    Oct 15, 2010
    Dirt ridding... A lot has been said, but let me point out that on the dirt, off on some trail or out in some field with space around you, there is no speed limit, there are no laws about conduct. Go slow, play with the throttle, do a wheelie, figure 8's, drift a corner, slam on the breaks and see how fast you can stop - and so on. Go out and see how long you can get away with that on the road... This is why you can build skills quickly on the dirt. Plus, the road is tame, when traveled within the bounds of the law. They are made to be safe. Trails are just made - which is why people talk about learning "skills" in the dirt, plus the challenge is a blast! You could learn skills on a racetrack, but as pointed out before, why pay for track time when you can go find a trail?

    As for skill transfer... I can tell you that being able to ride a 210 lb YZ250 over a neat trail does not mean you will be able to do the exact same - just as easily - with a 500 + pound loaded GS bike. Anyone who says you can simply hasn't a clue, or is an exceptional rider indeed. That said, the experience will help you better understand what can be done with your 500+ pound loaded GS bike by you - given your own personal abilities.
  15. Rucksta

    Rucksta SS Blowhard

    Oct 26, 2008
    Gold Coast
    Situational awareness?

    Horses, stock,wildlife.
    Washouts, fallen logs, jumps water hazards changing terrain, lighting conditions & surface - traction
    Lack of trail design re limited visibility, fixed radius turns and hairpins at the end of a long straight just after the erosion mound and before the cliff face.
    Errant 4x4s,MTBs, other cycle based & pedestrian trail users travelling much faster or slower, general oncoming trafic.
    Level of rider exhaustion/dehydration and the every present trap of "I am the only one out here"

    Trail riding is a state of relaxed attention assesing risk and making decisions constantly, using muscle memory
    and learned response to deliver the decisions at a level of intensity way beyond that required for road riding at anywhere near the legal limit plus 50%

    There is a whole lot more to situational awareness then cruising the 4 lane at 5 over lane speed watching out for cages.
  16. HooliKen

    HooliKen Awesome is a flavor

    May 13, 2007
    Hampton Roads, VA
    Get over the back of the bike and pin it! :D
  17. dirtrulz

    dirtrulz Been here awhile

    Oct 26, 2006
    denver co
    For me the dirt skills come into play the most in accident avoidance. Certain muscle functions become second nature faster with dirt riding becasue you have to avoid danger constantly, street riding not so much. I honestly find street riding to be fairly stress free for me. Have avoided many possible accidents without having to really think about what to do. Will think back about it and think, Boy that could have been bad.

    If I were to start riding at the age I am now I would still likely ride dirt but I dont think I would be fearless like you are when you are a kid and most of your muscle memory takes shape. It would likely not have a great a benefit, but would still help.

    Just because dirt riding makes you a better street rider doesnt mean that you cant ride street without it.
  18. Solarbronco

    Solarbronco Long timer

    Jun 5, 2012
    Boise, Idaho
    If you start riding dirt AFTER street experience, remember one thing.

    Don't cover your front brake with your hand or finger. You will flip it on a steep scary downhill out of instinct. Seen it happen so many times.

    I prefer dirt. street is boring unless ya ride like a maniac or in heavy traffic alot. Maybe not, I dunno. My opinion.

    I ride off road with guys whose abilities are far greater than mine. They make it a point to take me on trails that scare the crap outta me, seriously. And at speeds that require me to just flat out learn. It has made me a better rider but I really should get some Medical insurance.
  19. Hawk62cj5

    Hawk62cj5 2 Cheap 4 a KLR

    Aug 11, 2010
    Southern Va
    Im learning both on my super sherpa ride the street some ride the woods some . The dirt has painfully thought me some lessons quicker and less deadly than Im learning them on asphalt. I rode a little offroad today and took my successful first run at deep clay mud today ... I did fine .. last time I hit deep mud/water at 40 mph and it put me off the bike for 3 weeks with a bad elbow . See lesson learned , dont over drive your sight line , on the road I could have hit a car ,on the dirt I hit water and did a midair trick and if Id been wearing gear I would have been fine but I wasnt so a rock left its mark on me . When they chip sealed my road it didnt bother me none while my cruiser friends refused to ride on it , they acted like it was going to form a chip seal monster and eat their bike . Im really glad Im learning both side by side .
  20. judobiker

    judobiker Been here awhile

    Dec 28, 2010
    It's true that people wreck more often off road, but that doesn't mean that it's inherently more dangerous. It's perfectly reasonable to hit trails on a 200 pound dirtbike and gain valuable experience with throttle/clutch, braking, and traction control. Fairly low risk if you keep speeds at a sane pace (of course it's more fun to push the limits). I would rather fall off my KDX twenty times at ten miles per hour than a streetbike once at any speed.

    As far as safety goes, there's a huge difference between racing and trail riding. I feel completely safe cruising trails but harescrambles still tend to have many frightening moments for me.