How to teach myself dirt!?

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by gzr, Nov 4, 2012.

  1. Barry

    Barry Just Beastly

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2002
    Oddometer:
    7,405
    Location:
    Fredericksburg, Va.
    It wants to fall left. That is not the same as the mechanics of weighting the outside peg and driving the rear tire into the ground to maximize traction. This emphasizes one of the key, yet not intuitive, things you CAN NOT teach yourself. Riding dirt is not something you are likely to "just figure out" without instruction.

    Barry
    #21
  2. crofrog

    crofrog Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,455
    Location:
    Annapolis Maryland
    Yep, when standing you can use inside peg weighting to help the bike initiate the turn, but once in the turn you want to push the bike underneath you and hold it down while firmly weighting the outside peg. This will enhance traction.

    But at the end of the day, counter steering more than peg weighting is what turns the bike.
    #22
  3. bobnoxious67

    bobnoxious67 Baby steps...

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2008
    Oddometer:
    3,056
    Location:
    Harrisville, NH
    FIFY

    Pretty sure the OP is just looking for some clues on the basics to start. I think most of us are just here for the recreational side of riding (not that I'm immune to "racing" with my buddies:deal)

    Honestly, I don't mean for bickering and arguing...and that's not what I'm after here, so forgive me now if that's what it sounds like. I just try to be a better rider whenever I get out there, and learn all I can "out there" as well as "in here". I apologize before hand for my sarcasm content...it's a problem I'm working on:wink:

    I'm probably being misunderstood. I was talking about standing up, cruising down a trail, and trying to make the bike go where you want...not so much cornering techniques as directional control.

    Aren't we just arguing semantics at this point...if I control how and how much it "falls" in a certain direction, aren't I controlling it's direction? One day fairly early in my (still short time now) dirt riding journey, while trying to keep up or keep ahead of my buddies, and being frustrated with the inability to make the bike go where I wanted it to down obstacle/debris strewn trails, it dawned on me what was happening...I was afraid to lean the bike, and was actually weighting the opposite side that I wanted to go (let's not confuse "cornering" with "directional corrections" on a trail...do you use "cornering techniques" when navigating 2nd gear rock gardens?) and therefore bouncing from trail edge to trail edge. That day, I instantly got noticeably faster and smoother...suddenly standing up and cruising down a rough trail in 2-3gear was natural and smooth, because I was making the bike weave back and forth where I wanted by "controlling" which way it fell....suddenly it was fun and easier, and I could at least see what I did wrong when I climbed up and out of my desired line.

    Slamming your ass into the seat while hanging the inside foot forward and plowing on the throttle while heaving the bike around a bermed/rutted corner is not really where the OP is right now...at least I didn't think so. Maybe I misread that though.

    That said...I'm all ears for better cornering techniques, as that is where I am not smooth, and lose the most ground to my riding buddies :ear
    #23
  4. bobnoxious67

    bobnoxious67 Baby steps...

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2008
    Oddometer:
    3,056
    Location:
    Harrisville, NH
    My sore pecs/shoulders/arms can attest to that:wink:
    #24
  5. jjustj

    jjustj cum petris et choris

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    5,640
    Location:
    9157 ft Dillon CO
    #25
  6. Rucksta

    Rucksta SS Blowhard

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,710
    Location:
    Gold Coast
    You should have sore quads and abductors unless your over using using the glutius maximus
    #26
  7. runnin4melife

    runnin4melife Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2012
    Oddometer:
    806
    Location:
    "No shit when I was back at Bragg!!!"
    I apologize if this is a repeat for any previous tips.

    Start small. get in the dirt and do tight figure eights, I would do them until you are almost creeping along. I teach a lot of people how to ride off road, I tend to do it specifically on dirtbikes or trials bikes but you have to be very comfortable with balancing your machine before you can do anything else. Then do start/stop drills where you accelerate (maybe a smidge of wheel spin) and then slow down in a straight line. You have to get used to how the braking will be on the dirt or loose surfaces. While you are doing these drills you are learning brake/clutch/throttle control and how to balance your machine which is integral. After this you can set up a cone style square or triangle and practice going around that, keep it close and don't go to fast so you don't wash out. After this you can do a 2 cone setup in a straight line and run that. All of these drills start you from the basics and bring you up to a better skill level at controlling the bike. I do these with just about every new bike I get just to learn the machine before I head off and do something that can hurt me or the bike. Once you have mastered these, a good weekend of drilling would increase your confidence a lot you can progress. I would definitely find someone with a lot of off roading experience on the same style of bike and see if you can ride with them. You will learn a lot from watching there style, some of which may be good and others bad.

    If you cannot find someone you can progress to small trails etc... and just putt around, don't go to fast because you are learning. I used to do eduro gp races and so many people would haul butt at the beginning and I would stay in the middle of the pack until I learned the terrain, no point in making mistakes because you want to look cool, they will cost you. Just take it slow and practice practice practice, also you will crash haha accept it but what you can do is ensure that it isn't a bad one by not getting out of your skill range and doing something silly.

    Always wear safety gear! If I am off roading I have all my hard points covered by armor!
    #27
  8. baldrick

    baldrick Moto-Geezer

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2005
    Oddometer:
    400
    #28
  9. Barry

    Barry Just Beastly

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2002
    Oddometer:
    7,405
    Location:
    Fredericksburg, Va.
    Race speed has zero to do with it. It has all to do with fundamentals of proper riding, proper control, and not fighting the bike, or yourself.

    A perfect example is me and some buddies were at a local off road riding park. We met 2 guys that ride street, but had ZERO dirt experience. So we offered to baby sit them for a lap through the woods, was a few miles, and not difficult. No major climbs, drops, rocks, roots, or mudholes.

    An example of noobs needing instruction is a steepish downhill section as far as the noobs were concerned, and they are sitting on the seat, feet off the pegs, duck walking the bikes. The proper form is feet ALWAYS on the pegs, ass off the seat, ass back, and in control doing down. That isn't intuitive to someone who is new and scared, and assumes ass on the seat is "safe" or proper, even at walking speed, vice race speed.

    Barry
    #29
  10. gzr

    gzr Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2012
    Oddometer:
    43
    I went to practice a bit at the MX track yesterday, didn't do a lot but the 15~20 mins I rode were very educational. I actually met two kids who were riding proper MX bikes (CR80 and CRF450) and they gave me a few tips too.

    Mostly I worked on getting the bike to obey by standing on the pegs and letting it "flow" under me. I also got to touch the lower edge of berms (but I was not confident enough to get myself to ride them on the steep part like the good guys do). At the kids' suggestion I tried keeping my foot out in tight corners to prop the bike if it slides, and it actually worked once in keeping me from falling.

    I went slow and somehow I managed to get a few laps without any crashes or damage to the bike... it was really tough as a short, small guy on a relatively big bike, but somehow I managed.

    Then disaster struck! I parked the bike, and started chatting a bit with these kids, asking about jump technique, the market for bikes, etc... when suddenly we heard a crash and I turned round to see the bike lying in the dirt. Apparently a sand under the sidestand and gusty wind are a nasty combo. I snapped off an indicator, broke the clutch lever, scratched the paint, and some other minor stuff. Luckily I had a spare lever back home, I got somebody to get it over and I managed to ride back.

    Maybe it's time to get some crash bars to protect the bodywork? Does anyone know if there were ever any crashbars made for the XF650?
    #30
  11. GlennR

    GlennR Playin' in the Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2010
    Oddometer:
    2,252
    Location:
    Boone,NC
    Start on a small used bike. You want something that is lightweight and easy to handle. Used is good because it's cheaper and already worn a bit. Crashing a new bike hurts your feelings. You want something that you won't mind scratching & denting some.

    You do not want a big powerful bike to begin on. Power is not a beginner's friend. You need to learn how to turn & stop, on hills, in the mud, through rocks, over logs, around boulders & stumps. You need to learn about the things which can cause crashes, and you want to learn crashing at a slow speed. Crashing while going fast hurts more, and you can't ride when you're hurt.

    After you learn to control your bike, without crashing, then it's time to go a bit faster!
    #31
  12. Kommando

    Kommando Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2006
    Oddometer:
    7,403
    Location:
    Spacecoaster FL
    Scoot your butt way up by the tank when turning in dirt, with your inside foot way forward and your toes up. This isn't as much to catch the weight of the bike and you in a fall (you may actually want to just get/keep your leg from getting slammed under the bike), as it is to weight the front tire more than the rear. This gets the front to bite better than the rear if the bike starts to slide. An appropriate front knobby helps in this respect too.

    You can weld a bigger foot onto the bottom of your stand. Just make sure it clears when the stand is UP too. You can also use a crushed soda can under the foot or something, in a pinch.

    I think I've seen crashbars somewhere for DRs/XFs. I just have sturdy handguards, and touring pegs bolted to a wide skid with ears. My tank is also not the painted-steel stocker, but a beat-up old IMS plastic tank.

    When you replace the lever, install it so it rotates on the bar if bumped hard. You may also want to drill the lever, out near the ball end, to create a pre-determined failure point. Good handguards help a lot too. I also zip-tie spare levers to my bike's frame, underneath the sideplastics, so that I always have a spare with me. You may also want to bypass your clutch and sidestand safety switches, if you're not absent-minded and/or subject to having them governmentally inspected to remain street-legal. Warp9 now offers shorty levers for the DR as well. Procycle is a vendor here in the US, and they probably ship to where you live, if you can't find a local Warp9 vendor.
    #32
  13. Gitana

    Gitana A work in progress

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    7,759
    Location:
    Summit County CO
    And depending on the terrain where you ride, sticking your foot out can result in a badly broken leg. In Colorado, where it's very rocky, I wouldn't recommend it. Just find 309's story about how he broke his leg. If you're on a motocross practice track, it's way different than being on a single track trail.
    #33
  14. crofrog

    crofrog Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,455
    Location:
    Annapolis Maryland
    Obviously it's situational, but toe's UP and knee bent. That being said when it's _really_ rocky you don't really need to put your foot down anyhow because you can't lean the bike that much anyhow.
    #34
  15. Gitana

    Gitana A work in progress

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2009
    Oddometer:
    7,759
    Location:
    Summit County CO
    Yes, but when you're a noob, you need to be careful whom you take advice from and you may not know what situation is applicable to what riding style. I've heard some appallingly bad advice being given to noob riders, who don't know any better and then can get themselves hurt.

    One of the best things you can do for yourself is to go to actual classes and to get coaching from people who are very competent riders. A couple of kids on a motocross track is dubious, IMO.
    #35
  16. High Country Herb

    High Country Herb Adventure Connoiseur

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2011
    Oddometer:
    9,880
    Location:
    Western Sierras
    Heavy bike on dirt...check
    Standing up...check
    Letting the bike move around under you...check
    More throttle...check
    Scratches and broken levers...check

    It sounds like your are progressing very well. You and your bike have been initiated, and now you can focus on the fun part!

    Not everyone has the budget to go buying tires when the terrain changes (at least not me). The next time you do buy tires, you might think about getting hybrid tires such as Anakee or Pirelli Scorpion Trail. This style of tire is made primarily for pavement, but is a little tougher with deeper lugs for more off road capability. After struggling with street tires for a while, they will feel great.

    Don't let the size of your bike scare you. If a 200 lb guy can take a 600 lb bike off road, you should be fine. When I first started, I had an XL185. I met up with a guy who weighed about 120 lbs riding an XL600, and he couldn't even get both toes on the ground. He took me on some trails that scared the crap out of me. He would take the lead, bouncing up 45 degree angle rocky slopes like a mountain goat. Eventually I learned to stand on the pegs and let the bike do the work, and now I have an XL600.
    #36
  17. Cobain

    Cobain night owl

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    132
    Location:
    Spokane
    Practice crashing. The more you wipe-out the better you will get at staying on 2 wheels. :stoned
    #37
  18. anotherguy

    anotherguy Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2009
    Oddometer:
    6,630
    Location:
    the hills
    Pick up this book and read it. Don't let the title scare ya off it covers off road technique step by step including bike and gear selection/prep.

    After reading a couple times pick a technique and go practice it. The skills will become second nature. After you get some feeling of confidence ride with guys that are faster than you are. Don't try to keep up if ya can't but watch and learn. Many fast guys will help you out if asked. Some even do it for free. :D
    #38
  19. Seth650

    Seth650 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2012
    Oddometer:
    473
    Location:
    N. E. Pa.
    This is opposite of what I've read about street bikes going into turns on asphalt; that weight gets shiftted to the peg away from the bike lean. e.g. shift weight to left peg while bike is leaning right and turning right - would this cause a wash-out on dirt?
    #39
  20. Seth650

    Seth650 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2012
    Oddometer:
    473
    Location:
    N. E. Pa.
    Also practice not crashing. The more you stay on 2 wheels the less you wipe out.
    :smile6:smile6
    #40