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Old 03-08-2013, 11:31 PM   #1
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Dirt Riding for older nOObs?

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.
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Old 03-08-2013, 11:53 PM   #2
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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)
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Old 03-09-2013, 12:02 AM   #3
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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 :)

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Old 03-09-2013, 12:04 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by ParaMud View Post
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)
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.
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Old 03-09-2013, 03:48 AM   #5
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I've been riding for 50 years. Street mishaps; skinned knee, minor bruises.
Off road ; ER visits...broken bones

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.
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Old 03-09-2013, 04:20 AM   #6
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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!
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Old 03-09-2013, 04:29 AM   #7
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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.

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Old 03-09-2013, 04:59 AM   #8
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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 it. What do you have to lose? As long as you don't go bustin' yourself up, that is!
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.

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Old 03-09-2013, 05:50 AM   #9
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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.
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Grinnin screwed with this post 03-09-2013 at 06:24 AM
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Old 03-09-2013, 06:44 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by BCKRider View Post
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.
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.

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.
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Old 03-09-2013, 01:00 PM   #11
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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).
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Old 03-09-2013, 01:43 PM   #12
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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
Speed never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that's what gets you. - Jeremy Clarkson
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Old 03-09-2013, 04:39 PM   #13
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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.
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Old 03-09-2013, 05:05 PM   #14
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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.
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Old 03-10-2013, 07:20 AM   #15
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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.
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