All throughout my life, dirt bikes had never really been my strong suit. After a self inflicted crash due to a bad case of whiskey throttle, into a tractor grading blade and cutting myself up pretty bad on an Yamaha YZ250 a few years back, I never got into dirt biking. I was always convinced that it wasn’t for me and preferred four wheels and horse back riding than dirt bikes, and I was incredibly scared I would crash again and hurt myself just as bad. However last year, I figured since I love anything with a motor, I might as well woman-up, put my fear of crashing behind and become experienced at dirt biking, as it was the only thing (motorized) I couldn’t really do.
I started on a Kawasaki KLX125 last year (Yes it looked hilariously unbalanced as I’m almost 5”9 on a small wheeled bike) and since then I have advanced up to riding a KX450F on technical rocky trails. Recently I bought a 2003 KX125 two-stroke and I completely love dirt biking now. I wish that I would have womaned-up a while ago! I can confidently say that due to my rapid learning and excel that I am a good rider (not the best, but good). Most of my experience has been off-track and on the trails where I can keep up to the riders who have been riding for years but on a track is a totally different story.
1. don't be intimidated! It's okay to feel nervous.
Going to a full-size dirt bike track can be intimidating, especially the first time when you’re sitting watching younger children, who are probably faster than you, ripping 125 two-strokes and getting decent air and seeing extremely experienced riders literally launching their bikes off doubles and throwing whips in the air. I had never been on a full-size professional track before and let me tell you, the pressure to do well was present – making it extremely intimidating – and I am sure I am not the only one who has felt this way when first riding a motocross track.
This article was supposed to be finished a few weeks ago but however due to two crashes: myself and my boyfriend both crashing our bikes pretty hard on different occasions, this article was postponed and it's why I am starting this article by mentioning a few important safety tips when on a motocross track for the first time.
2. always wear your motocross safety gear
It’s no surprise that much like any extreme sport, motocross/riding dirt bikes can be extremely dangerous and can result in serious injuries – it is imperative that riders, both new, experienced and professional take the right precautions and wear the appropriate gear to protect themselves from serious injuries because for example, if both my boyfriend and I weren’t wearing an appropriate helmet or appropriate motocross boots – we both would be in very bad shape right now.
Protective gear such as helmets, goggles, body protection (chest, knees, etc), boots, and neck braces are key to keeping yourself safe and protected when riding dirt bikes. Now anyone who has been to Royal Distributing or even priced out a neck brace online knows that they are incredibly expensive and not everyone can afford one, however when you’re 10ft in the air on a dirt bike off a jump and something goes wrong – that neck brace will significantly decrease the likelihood of a serious and debilitating neck injury. Many people have come out of crashes not paralyzed solely due to the fact that they were wearing a neck brace – they are worth the investment. Please check out this article on dirt bike safety for more information on appropriate dirt bike gear and safety.
3. ride at your own pace
We arrived at the track early Saturday morning, unloaded the bikes, geared up and went out riding. On the way to the track and while gearing up I felt a whole lot of pressure to ride fast and a whole lot of butterflies in my stomach. However once I got on the bike that pressure decreased and the butterflies subsided, I just rode at my own pace.
If you have even a mild streak of competitiveness in you, you will feel pressure to be fast when riding at a track with other riders. I found that it was important to ride at my own pace and not try to be as fast as the other riders because when I was pushing myself past my limit I felt as if I kept making mistakes—my front end would wash out, I’d fall down, or over rev.
After I realized I was making mistakes, I took a deep breath and slowed right down to a comfortable speed where I could still learn and excel at what I needed to on the track. I found that I learned a lot more about riding on a track when I was going at my own pace than I was going at a pace where I was pushing myself past my limit.
4. Don't worry about what other riders think
An important thing I learned is that no one really cares if you are slower than the rest. The fast, experienced riders will pass you, and know how to pass you so don’t pay too much attention to what they are doing. I spent a lot of time when I first got on the track worrying about if other riders were going to get mad at me, if they were going to run over me if I fell, and staying out of their way. My boyfriend, who is an extremely experienced rider himself assured me that other riders don’t care, they aren’t mad and they know how to ride so if you fall close to them they will know how to get around you. So a tip for riders going on a motocross track for the first time with experienced riders: do not worry about the other riders – no one will make fun of you for learning how to ride a track – if anything they will support you and help you out. Plus, you probably won’t be the only one who is relatively new – there are always riders of every skill level.
5. ask for tips or suggestions if you need them. riders are usually happy to help!
Another thing I suggest for beginner riders, ask any rider for tips or suggestions for on the track. I was constantly asking my boyfriend and his cousin who are both amazing riders, about what I should be doing, what I am doing wrong and where I should practice more.
Constructive criticism never hurt anyone, if anything it helps one become better at what they’re doing. So if someone suggests something for you to do better, listen to them.
Since my first time at a full size track on a full size bike, I have rode at RJ Motorsports track just north of Barrie and the Deaf Camp motocross track just south of Parry Sound and numerous trails. I have fallen down numerous times, crashed a few times, walked away with a few bruises due to wearing the right gear, etc but my overall first time experiences on a motocross track were amazing and I can’t wait to continue to ride and learn more.
6. getting back in the saddle feels good
Many people, like myself a few years back, give up riding after a big crash due to fear of it happening again. One thing I have learned is to never give up, and that you cannot let the fear of something happening (such as crashing a dirt bike, being the new rider at the track or not being fast enough) prevent you from doing something. Fear is nothing more than an obstacle that stands in the way of progress. In overcoming our fears we can move forward, stronger and wiser within ourselves.