The Doctrine of Dirt


Everyone knows someone or has themselves gotten hurt riding bikes. Some are deterred, often permanently, and then there are those of us who are invigorated by the experience. I, obviously, am the latter. However, after 3 painful experiences in a row on dirt bikes in the mid 90’s, I did not ride an off road motorcycle again until 2007 when I went to the mountains with some friends on a borrowed bike. Well, after a few trips I was hooked. I got a KTM, but after riding a friends Honda CRF450R, I quickly sold the KTM and got myself the Honda race bike and began to frequent the tracks.


My mountain trail riding buddies would not go to the track back then (except Kyle and Matt). I actually did convince several of the others to visit with me, but they were not willing to take the risk. I guess I can understand. Well, not really…

The first 6 months of consistent visits was not without frequent, intense contemplation of my sanity as I continually placed myself in quite dangerous situations on the edge of control. Many times I would pull off the track, my head screaming at me, “you don’t belong here, you fool. Go home now!” However, I was and still am rewarded each time I persevere and enjoy marked improvement with each visit.

As I attempted to convince my more conservative riding buddies to come to the track with me, I documented what I think has been the governing mentally I employed that enabled me to remain confident in my endeaver. You probably call it a load of BS, but I call it…

The Doctrine of Dirt

The Doctrine of Dirt dictates that dirt bike riding can be performed with a minimized risk when particular principles of discipline are adhered to. These principles will be outlined and are applicable in the most challenging of circumstances. It is the opinion of the author that riding a dirt bike on a motocross track offers a level of exercise, thrill, challenge both physical and mental, and discipline that few sports can match.

Ride Within Your Limits

The problem is that it is too enticing to twist the throttle and attempt to fly, or to just let the performance capability of the machine get beyond your control. This invites injury. Know your limits. Avoid racing in practice (don’t be a Chet). Learning to stay in control requires much discipline and patience. Staying in control for long periods of time requires physical endurance. Overcoming the risk and challenges requires great mental strength, physical strength, and courage.

Important mindsets when learning:

  • Learn jumping last
  • Focus on cornering, braking, accelerating
  • Learn the handling characteristics of the bike
  • Do not take jumps until you find yourself having to slow down on your approach
  • When you do take jumps, learn how the bike launches
  • Practice knowing the attitude of the bike off of jumps
  • Be patient – improvement takes time and much repetition
  • Do not try to ride fast, it will just happen
  • Let go of the bike – stay relaxed on grips (grip with legs)
  • Relax your grip – ride it, don’t fight it
  • Pace yourself
  • When accelerating, the bike should be pushing you (balance)
  • Stand up on the pegs as much as possible (low center of gravity)
  • Look ahead
  • Get on the throttle early through turns
  • Weight the outside peg when turning
  • Slow and smooth…the speed will come
  • Don’t give up
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