By Rowan Page | Published on 2020-05-10
Dirt bikes are great, but as with most hobbies the fun always amplified when shared. Having learnt the hard way some of the bigger do’s and don’ts, I find it very rewarding to help (or maybe coerce) friends into the sport. Those around me know my passion is enduro riding; getting out into the mountains and going places that few other vehicles could imagine. You might get there on foot, but your range is then so severely impaired it just isn’t the same. There is an unrivalled freedom, and it seems that with the current state of affairs this is more in demand than usual.
So, what is some advice I can give to someone wanting to get started with enduro? Well for starters in 2020 in South Africa you are probably going to need a budget of around R40k. You can probably get away with bare-minimum gear for just over R5k, which leaves around R35k for the bike. It can be done cheaper, and obviously more extravagantly, but that is a good safe bet to make sure you can get a reliable secondhand bike and some proper gear.
One important decision to make before you start searching for bikes is whether to go full-sized, or three-quarter frame. Generally speaking, most adult dirt bikes are pretty similarly sized, irrespective of manufacturer or engine size. For some beginners, the seat height can be a tad intimidating. When you first get on a motorcycle, not much is more comfortable than having both feet planted firmly on the ground. On a full-sized dirt bike, this might not be the case. A three-quarter sized bike should let have most adults flat footed while sitting comfortable – a big advantage if you are a little nervous to start.
The compromise here is quite simple; a three-quarter bike will be less intimidating, and you will feel more comfortable, more quickly. The full-sized bike might be a little more challenging at first, but you will be much less likely to outgrow it within a few months. This is also exaggerated depending on whether you are taller or shorter than usual.
Here are some good options to start with:
This list is by no means comprehensive, and definitely not right for everyone. On my advice, Jaco started on a KTM XCF 350. Despite a trip to the hospital after the first outing it has definitely proven to be the right choice for him. Daydreaming about bikes is half the fun, so grab your future riding buddy and get searching.
When it comes to gear, a few things are non-negotiable:
The helmet is fairly obvious but there is a caveat; DO NOT BUY SECOND HAND. It’s a nuanced topic, but the biggest issue is you don’t know what the helmet has gone through. Improper treatment and previous crashes could compromise its ability to protect you. It’s simply not worth the risk.
Boots are almost as essential as a helmet, but secondhand ones won’t pose a safety issue. If you disagree about the knee guards, go to a concrete floor and drop straight to knees. Plus, cheap skateboard knee guards usually work just fine. Gloves are fairly obvious; at the very least they will let you ride longer before the calluses set in. Obviously, there is a lot more safety gear I would recommend, but this is the absolute bare minimum you should have before you even look at the bike.
Do you need to buy a trailer? Short answer, no. Not having a trailer to tow your first dirt bike is almost a rite of passage as far as I am concerned. The extra cost, storage space required and other inconveniences of owning a trailer will put a lot of people off the idea of a dirt bike completely. I have been on both sides of the coin and I can honestly say I will happily go out of my way to help someone out who doesn’t have a trailer. It’s a small sacrifice which makes a big difference, and ultimately means more people out riding. Just return the favour when you can.
And finally, the most important thing to do is find the right riding buddy to show you the ropes. They can help you check out which bikes to buy, give you advise on gear, show you their best riding spots, and hopefully load your bike on their trailer!
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