Without a doubt, you’re living on the edge. Off-roading can be as close as many of us will get to flying on a motorcycle.
But, you probably still wear your helmet when you take your bike off-road.
You most likely have a lot of “safety-enhancing” gear to suit up with before you hit the trails. You might even have ABS breaks on your bike too. But none of this matters compared to how you manage yourself on the trails and anticipate the obstacles coming your way.
Off-road riding is both exhilarating and very dangerous. Off the road, there are no rules, and that goes for both you and the terrain. Anything can happen, which is why making safety your first priority is more important than that safety gear that won’t help you as much as you think.
The best way to protect yourself on your bike is by knowing how to anticipate and avoid obstacles. Read on for some more safety tips to take with you on the trails.
9 Off-Road Riding Safety Tips
If you’re a seasoned trail rider, you know the challenges, excitement, and freedom that taking your dirt bike off-road brings. But whether it’s your first time taking your dirt bike off-roading or your thousandth time, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Or paralyzed, in a coma, or dead.
Here are 9 off-road riding safety tips for you to take with you the next time you hit the trails.
1. Always Be Prepared
Not just for what obstacles may be waiting for you on the trails, but mechanically speaking, make sure you have back up. When you’re off the beaten path, there’s a good chance that cell phone reception will be non-existent. So, if something goes wrong, you won’t be able to simply google it.
Make sure you equip yourself will the right tools, extra parts, a tire patching kit, and an extra jerry can. It’s better to be prepared than stranded with a broken down bike, especially if you’re riding by yourself. You should also have an understanding of basic repairs, otherwise, those tools will be useless to you.
2. Adjust Your Clutch Level For Two-Finger Control
Your throttle and clutch control are what stand between you and a coma. You will probably spend most of your time standing on foot pegs, so you’ll want to adjust your clutch lever to be operated by just your middle and index fingers.
By adjusting your clutch to accommodate your middle and index finger, it will allow you to operate the clutch without messing up your grip on the bars. This will make your responses quicker and much smoother.
It will also fine-tune your level of control rather than rendering your clutch as a simple on/off switch. This is especially important at low speeds when you have obstacles in your way.
3. Learn How to Manage Your Bike
When you’re trail riding, your form is important. When you’re riding off-road, remember to bend and thrust your bike downward as much as you can. At the same time, make sure to keep your body as straight as possible. By doing this, you will have more control over your bike, especially downhill.
If you’re in deep stuff, otherwise known as sand and silt, knowing when to speed up and slow down is key. If you’re riding a heavy bike, slow and steady wins the race. Adversely, if you ride a lighter bike, you’ll maintain a better balance and a faster and constant speed.
During these times you’ll also want to exert more force towards the rear to give more power to the rear wheel. This will reduce the weight in the front, adding traction to the rear wheel to help to keep moving your motorbike forward with less effort.
4. Keep Off the Brakes During Turns
Riding on the street compared to riding off-road. Your front brakes should be used more often when you’re riding in a straight line, with no obstacles in the way. However, when you’re taking turns on those trails it’s best to avoid using your front breaks.
Drag down on your rear breaks instead, or slide down your rear tire to slow your momentum. Use whatever terrain you’re riding on to your advantage in slowing you down when necessary. Front breaks can become a bad habit sending you head first over your bike.
5. Set Your Eyes in the Right Direction
This safety tip goes for street riding as well as off-road riding, but it’s even more important in unknown terrain. You have to force yourself to keep your head up and your eyes forward, focusing on the direction that you want to go.
Your body, —and the bike will follow your eyes. If you are looking down at the terrain, trying to avoid large rocks and figuring out which line to keep your wheels in, it is highly likely that you will hit an even more damning obstacle than the ones you were trying to avoid.
Practice keeping your head up at all times so it becomes second nature to you. It’ll decrease your risks of getting hurt in the long run.
6. Stand Up on the Pegs
This may be a no brainer but it’s worth repeating. Standing up can actually help to lower your center of gravity. It also shifts the majority of the weight onto your feet rather than your seat. This is actually more of a necessity than anything else since you won’t be able to properly handle your bike by remaining seated the whole time.
Pro tip: By pinching the tank with your lower legs, keeping your knees bent, you’ll have a built-in shock absorber.
7. Learn How to Shift Your Weight
Want to make a right turn? Push down on the inside of the left peg and shift your weight to the left. You’ll also want to shift the rest of your body weight in the outer direction for more equal distribution. This will counterweight the shifting of your center of gravity as you are turning.
The same has to be done when initiating a left turn. Knowing how and when to shift your weight is what will keep you on your bike and not on the ground.
8. Sit as Far Behind as Possible on Corners
More weight will equal more traction, which will equal more corner speed. In other words, when taking corners, you’ll want to push your body weight over the front wheel as much as possible.
The more weight, the higher the resistance will be which means a higher corner speed. Shifting your weight off the rear will also make it easier to get your bike to slide. This will also keep you from falling when your center of gravity begins to shift.
9. Lead the Person or People Behind You
If you are riding with a friend or an entire group, you are responsible for warning the other riders behind you of obstacles and turns. You also have to make sure that they don’t get lost or separated from the rest of the group.
Everyone has to look out for each other, but everyone should follow your signal if you’re in the lead. They will have enough time to react to obstacles and everyone will stick together.
Depending on where you are in the group, if someone slows down, then the riders in the front and back of them should slow down as well to ensure that the group stays together. All of this can help avoid accidents and collisions with one another as well.
As the leader, it’s also crucial to signal oncoming riders of how many people you have in your group. Most off-road trails don’t have two designated lanes for coming and going, so when you come across other trail riders be sure to use your left hand to signal how many are in your group.
The final guy or gal in your group should hold up a closed fist to let them know that there is no one else coming up from behind and they’re good to go.
Now Get Out There and Ride
Of course, there are more than just nine ways to stay safe when off-road riding or even riding on the road. For example, wearing the proper clothing and padding as well as a snug fitting helmet, and even more important: inspecting your bike before each ride.
For more about bikes, on and off the road, visit us. We’ve got you covered from biker laws, to routes to the newest models on the market.