6 Essentials For Riding Dirt Bike Alone

Finding riding buddies at any given time can be difficult at times. If it’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon and everyone is busy, but you have a perfectly good dirt bike sitting in the garage that is begging to be ridden, what’s going to stop you? Some people will never ride without someone else with them due to safety risks. While I completely understand that, some people have schedules that make it very difficult to find riding partners, and that shouldn’t make you get rid of your dirt bike.

So, if you really want to ride your dirt bike like I do but can’t find friends to ride with, it’s time to get yourself and your bike ready for some  solo adventures. Not only are there things you should bring with you in case of emergency, there’s some general guidelines that you should follow when riding alone so you reduce the chances of an accident.

Phone

Whether you’re out riding in your backyard, or 10 miles out in a forest, it’s a good idea to bring a cell phone. If you or your bike can’t make it back safely, you need to be able to contact someone for help. This alone can save you from most disasters.

Wallet/Cash

Having some ID and cash on hand can also get you out of a jam. In a worst case scenario, someone may need to know who you are and who to contact. A concussion may knock you out and cause some short-term memory loss. Also, if something breaks, you run out of gas, or your dirt bike needs a tow, having some money with you will save a lot of time, and may allow you to get help from the right person. You can put your wallet and phone in zip-loc bags so they stay dry.

Hand Tools, Not Tool Hands

Riding Alone In The Woods
Riding Alone In The Woods

Have you ever tried fixing or replacing parts on your dirt bike without any tools? It sucks, doesn’t it… This is why it’s a good idea to bring a small tool pack along on your solo rides. Adding more weight to my ride is not something I’m fond of, but in this case it can possibly save me hours of frustration. If you already ride with a small backpack, just add some of the most used tools for your bike, such as a few wrenches, a pair of screwdrivers, pliers, duct tape, zip ties, a spark plug, and anything else you might use on a regular basis.

You Might Get Hungry/Thirsty

Always bring water. You don’t always know how long you will be out for, and dehydration can be very dangerous. Not drinking enough before and during your riding session will drain your energy, and it will cause you to lose concentration. A camelbak is the most convenient way to carry water since you can mount a hose to your helmet to drink while riding. You can also store some small snacks or extra tools in the available pockets. Having a couple energy/granola bars with your water can give you just enough juice to safely get you back in home case of emergency.

Don’t Be Dumb

It’s just something I have to say because it seems like every time I get on a dirt bike I feel like conquering the world. Unfortunately, this is not the best mindset when flying solo on a dirt bike. While dirt biking is inherently risk-taking, if you’re pushing yourself as fast as you can go, an accident will happen sooner rather than later. One little divot or tree that you oversee or miscalculate and you’re on the ground. Going fast is fun, and it’s so easy to get the adrenaline pumping, but if you come up to a very challenging and/or dangerous obstacle, I encourage you to take an extra minute to decide if it’s worth taking the risk. You can stay get faster by riding in your comfort zone; it’s called riding smarter. A few little bobbles or near-misses are okay every once in a while; that means you’re running at a good pace. But if you’re coming close to hitting things or wiping out every couple minutes, you need to slow down.

Tell Someone

Last, but not least, if you’re going to ride alone, ALWAYS tell someone where you’re going and about how long you plan on riding for. A family member, a riding friend that couldn’t make it in time, or even a good neighbor if you happen to have one. Even if you’re an experienced rider, all it takes is one little accident to produce a life-threatening situation, and being stuck out in the middle of nowhere without anyone knowing where you are is one of the worst case scenarios.

This article is not to scare you from riding alone (although I believe it’s always safer to ride with someone), but merely to prepare you and to help reduce the number of dangerous situations. So please, plan ahead, ride safe, and have fun!

-Tom Stark

Dirt Bike Trail Building Tips – Know The Land

Hare-Scramble Practice Track

After long and hard work of building a loop of riding trails, it’s a blast to get on them right away. Unfortunately, they will quickly get boring…. That is, unless, you incorporate some obstacles in them. These “obstacles” can range from: fallen trees, to large rock sections, all the way to rutted hill-climbs with a combination of logs, rocks, and tree trunks all the way up.

For most of us that don’t have machinery that can move and haul equipment and obstacles as such, we have to get more creative. Depending on how technical you want your trails to be, the goal is to make the trail so that you can incorporate as many obstacles as possible with minimal/no effort in moving them. I try to make it so that if there is a large/difficult obstacle, such as a downed tree, I make a line that goes over it, as well as one that can go around for less-experienced riders (if possible).

Even if you have a trail loop already, you can still go back and scrutinize what you can add to the trail. Who knows, you may find an even better route than what you had before. Go ahead and change it up if that’s the case, even if you didn’t find any obstacles to include.

 

What I try to look for are some nice rounded logs/downed trees, long fly-aways, steep hills/hill-climbs, valleys, and anything else that will mix it up, while still keeping the trail flowing, which is key (more about that in a later article). For logs, I usually make the trail go perpendicular over them (better for beginners), and sometimes stack them up in a pyramid-like shape to make it more challenging.


Off-Camber Switch-Back Section

If there are any hills, I look for a line to make a sweeping corner that turns and goes up the hill. Once I get near or to the top, I make a 180 degree turn to go back down, if possible. It’s hard to tell you what to look for exactly, since every woods is different. You just have to look for lines that connect and flow well, and possibly include obstacles.

Remember to get some Helmet Cam footage of your trails, and if you have any more ideas, feel free to comment. Ride safe, and stay tuned for my future posts on Trail Building!

-Tom Stark

Dirt Bike Trail Building Tips – Getting Rid of Thorns

If there’s one thing I hate the most when it comes to building dirt bike trails, it would probably thorns. Where I live, they’re everywhere, and often difficult to get rid of.

Thorns On Trail

You know what I’m talking about if you have them or have ridden through them before. It hurts, especially when he thorns are as high as your head. Getting rid of them is the worst part. It gets very annoying when you’re out in the middle of summer trying to cut thorns down when it’s blistering hot out and they just keep poking you. There are ways to make this process easier, quicker, and get around it at times.

Don’t Call Me A Wuss!

I realize that some of you may be thinking to yourself, “Why don’t you just ride over the thorns, you big baby?!” That’s fine, because if I didn’t know any better I would be thinking the same thing. But the thorns on our land aren’t one foot in height. No, they’re often four feet tall, so they get in your face, scratch up your arms and neck. So once the day is over you are more red marks than not.

I would prefer to use big and heavy artillery, such as a bobcat with brush-cutting attachments to mow thorns and weeds down, but that just isn’t probable with the current economy right now. So, instead I’ve thought of other ways to do it with cheap equipment (some of which you might already have).

Suit Up For War…

When tackling sharp and tall thorns, you don’t go out in shorts, sandals, and a beater. No, you will want to wear thick jeans, a long sleeve shirt, and work boots. I know you may say that it’s unbearable to wear that much clothing in the heat of the day, but there are ways to get around this; more on that later. Besides, it better to sweat a little than bleeding your guts out. Some work gloves will also be useful so you don’t tear up your precious hands.

What Tools?

Hedge Shear

There are many tools that you can use to cut down thorns and weeds, but I try to make it as easy as possible. So, after suiting and booting up I took our old (and I mean old) hedge shear, which are fairly heavy duty and started cutting away. I already had my trails marked (click here for previous article Making The Layout), so I just trimmed the thorns and weeds to make about a 2-3 foot wide path. I didn’t take the time to get rid of every last inch of thorn on the trail, but I did cut most of the down close to the ground. They will grow back, so after cutting a good section of trails I hop on my dirt bike and ride over them about a dozen times to rip the rest of it up.

To Make Things Easier

I love it when there is an easier way to get a job done, especially when it’s just as good or better! I figured out, not that this should be surprising, it’s A LOT easier to cut and trim thorns/weeds during the fall and spring seasons. You can do it in the winter as well, but here it’s not very probable because we get quite a bit of snow here. When everything is dead/cold it will break more easily, so cutting them will take less strength and go by much quicker. Riding over thorns when it’s cold out really speeds up the trail building process because the tire really tears them up.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment or add suggestions, as I would love you hear your opinion on whether you like these articles or not!

-Tom Stark

How To Make A Good Woods Dirt Bike

A good woods bike is one that you can ride on at a fast pace for at least an hour and still be comfortable. If you race hare-scrambles or enduros then it’s important that you have the right equipment for two reasons. One, you will be faster if it’s set-up to your liking, and two, you will last the race without getting hurt or completely worn out.

Trail Ready YZ250

One of the first things I would put on my dirt bike to use in the woods would be bark busters/hand guards. They will protect your hands and levers from many could-have-been injuries, bruises, and broken parts.

Setting up your suspension is very important as well. If you have springs that don’t fit your weight you’ll be tired and probably banged up after a short period of riding. First get the right springs, then get the forks and shock re-valved for your riding style.


Flywheel Weight

Next on the list is a flywheel weight. This alone will greatly improve your riding by slowing down engine acceleration, allowing the rear wheel to hook up better. Today’s dirt bikes are very powerful, so it’s easy to lose traction and slide the rear wheel out. Slowing down the engine to get more power to the ground will help you go faster, especially in slick conditions. A heavier flywheel weight will also help prevent stalling because the engine revs at a slower rate. This is very helpful for riding tight single track trails when it’s easy to stall.

If you’re going on long rides or races, a bigger gas tank will reduce the number of, or eliminate pit stops. You don’t want to run out of gas during a race or 10 miles away from your vehicle. A bigger tank can increase your range up to 50% or more.

The exhaust system might also have to be changed for trail riding. DNR requires a USFS-Approved spark arrestor for most state trails. They’re often quieter than stock, which is a good thing because it keeps more riding areas open. Spark-arrestor silencers are fairly cheap and the power-loss is minimal, if any.

Gearing can be crucial for trail riding, so finding the right size sprockets that aren’t too high or too low is important. If you ride single track but have to ride on high-speed fire roads, a good ratio is one that you can lug the bike down low, while still keeping a relatively high cruise speed.

Skid Plate

There are umpteen different things you can do to your dirt bike to make it a woods weapon, but the last one on this list is a skid plate. It may not help performance-wise, but it can and will save you from costly damage. Rocks and logs are a hazard to the bottom of the engine and frame. A skid plate completely covers them so they won’t get scraped up or cracked.

Haul your bikes to the trails with a Motorcycle Carrier.

Feel free to ask any questions you have. Remember, there are a million other things you can do to your dirt scooter to make it the best woods weapon, but the best thing to do is go out and ride it and have fun!

-Tom Stark

Dirt Bike Trail Building Tips – Clearing The Trail

Clearing a section of dirt bike trails is tedious work. There is often a lot to move or cut out of the way, even if you’re just making single track. There are many ways to do it. The easiest is to bulldoze it over or ride over it with a 4 wheeler, but I’m here to help you build trails with cheap tools.

It took a long time and many wasted hours of trying to figure out what routine works best when clearing a section of trails, but I finally figured it out. I was too picky in the early stages of making dirt bike trails because I was trying to get rid of all the sticks on the ground, as well as RAKING LEAVES!!! That’s right, I actually raked leaves. I cannot believe how many hours I wasted trying to rake every last leaf off of the trail just so I could see dirt! That wouldn’t fly, so I quit raking my time away…

Bow Saw

Once you made a layout for your trails, the first thing you should do is clear the big stuff. Use a Hand Saw/Bow Saw to cut down trees that are up to about 5″ (13cm) in diameter that are in the way. If they are much bigger then the easiest thing to do is go around them if you don’t have bigger equipment. Next thing is to get rid off any hanging or fallen branches that you don’t want on the trail. Move them to the side of the trail, use them as a border, or make an obstacle out of them. That goes for fallen trees as well.

Clearing The Trail

After you get the big stuff out of the way it might be time to get out the dirt scooter. Ride over the trails to see how it is. Be prepared to make adjustments because you will often miss things. Different climates call for different actions. Where I live the main problem I have after clearing the big things in the trail is thorns and weeds. I find that it works the best to trim them just enough so that you can ride through the trails without getting too scraped up. The thorns in our woods can get really thick and tall, so I sometimes have to spend a whole day going through a section trimming them.

That’s it for now. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to comment. So until next time, go out and start clearing some dirt bike trails!

-Tom Stark