By Jaco du Plessis | Published on 2020-06-24
I've been the owner of a dirt bike for about eight months now. Before that I rode only adventure bikes for almost a decade.
After watching some footage of a recent enduro ride with friends, I thought it a good time to reflect on some of the things I've learned since I first experienced motorcycling as a sport. To some degree each of these are opposite to what I expected initially.
You can turn yourself into a pulp and your friends will still be able to ride the bike home while you're being loaded onto a stretcher. These machines were designed to sustain abuse, and almost seem to revel in it. All they ask in return is a clean air filter and fresh oil every now and then.
During lockdown I went out riding on my own. To my surprise it wasn't enjoyable despite having infinite riding terrain. And I'm someone that has toured many thousands of kilometers on a bike - I usually embrace solitude.
The fun lies in chirping each other on the trail, helping to push bikes up hills, and laughing about all the mistakes after a ride. On your own it’s just not the same.
You're going to fall, and Murphy will ensure you hit an exposed body part on something hard. Hospital trips are, apart from a waste of time that you could be riding, very expensive. Buy and wear all the protective you can while still maintaining unrestricted movement. Buy good gear that will last and I can guarantee that you will save money in the long run.
I thought ten years of riding taught me to be a good rider. But you only really learn how to work a clutch lever when the difference between stalling and doing a cartwheel is a millimeter or two. Modern road-going bikes also have a lot of rider aids that easily become crutches you start relying on, like traction control and ABS. On a dirt bike there is nothing to hide behind, and because the bikes are so light you learn how to move your weight around effectively.
Initially the rock ledges and steep hills made my butthole bite into the seat from fear. Those same obstacles are now fun to ride. I still crash and fall a lot, but now I enjoy the challenge more than it scares me. Personally I'm driven to improve my riding ability, and tackling the terrain that I find intimidating forces me work on technique and also gives me confidence when I conquer it.
Finally, not a lesson but a tip to others starting out: find a mentor / riding buddy. Without someone to help me choose a bikes, show me places to ride and in general make me excited about riding, this list would have been a lot shorter, and my bike would have been standing stationary a lot more. And a stationary motorcycle is a sad motorcycle.
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