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Dirt Bike Riding

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Whether you're on a motocross track or an outdoor trail, dirt bike riding is a fun way to keep fit and get dirty. Motocross combines motorcycles and cross-country. It has been developing as a sport since the 1920s. But in North America the sport really took off after the Second World War.

The popularity of the sport has been growing steadily. The action and the challenge of dirt bike riding make it a hit with spectators. The sport's popularity has increased the competition at better-known events. The AMA Motocross and Supercross championships draw millions of viewers. That's according to the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). In 2008, AMA membership was nearly 270,000.

You don't have to race to enjoy dirt bike riding. But races are a great way to get together with other people who enjoy the sport. There are many types of competitions and some are just for fun. For example, some clubs organize trail rides for kids.

Motocross is where most kids start racing. Racers use off-road motorcycles on a closed outdoor circuit. Jumps, bumps, hills, corners and straights are all part of the track.

There are different classes of competition depending on a rider's age and skill. Amateur races may take five minutes while pros can race for half an hour. Up to 40 racers line up together and start at the same time.

"I would definitely encourage young people to get involved with motocross. It's not only fun and a great way to get in shape, you get to meet so many other kids that race. And it gives you something to do in the summer," says Dallyn Giroux. She has been riding for 10 years.

If you take motocross into the woods, you have what's called a hare scramble. In a hare scramble, the course takes riders over rugged natural terrain. So riders race the course as much as they race the other riders.

An enduro is another type of off-road race, which includes many different obstacles and challenges. Wooded trails and dirt roads make for challenging outdoor rides.

Arenacross is indoor motocross. On indoor tracks riders need good technique, finesse and fitness. Supercross is also run indoors on a man-made track with lots of jumps.

Dirt track racing is more traditional. It started when riders competed on horse tracks at country fairs. A newer generation of racers may choose road racing to show off their sport bikes. These super-fast races are on paved tracks.

Other types of races include drag racing, dirt drag, observed trails and ice racing.

Motorcycles used for riding in dirt are usually lightweight, high-powered and have good suspension. The suspension gives riders a smoother ride over rugged terrain. Terrain can include dirt, sand and mud.

Typically, riders must pay a user fee to use the tracks. However, outdoor trails are free. Dirt bike riding is dangerous and you should never ride alone. People under 18 usually need a parent or guardian to sign a waiver before using a track.

Riders should also keep important medical information with them when they ride. Broken collarbones, elbows and legs are common injuries.

"Motocross is one of the most physically demanding sports out there and you do need to be in good shape," says Carrie Giroux. She suggests exercise and a healthy diet to improve strength and endurance.

Giroux, her husband and their four children are all riders. For those interested in the sport, she recommends getting involved at a local track. During race times volunteers are needed to help with flagging, gate admission, lap counting or posting results.

Getting Started

David Graves is a rider from Texas. For those who want to learn more about dirt bike riding, he suggests talking to people who are into the sport. He also recommends checking out races in your area. Decide whether you're into dirt biking, street riding or both.

"If you don't know where to start, just ask your local bike dealer and they can give you the name and phone number of your local club representative," says Giroux. Staff at bike dealers usually knows where the local riding areas and motocross tracks are. Contact the track to see if and when it's available for practice. Find out if the track offers riding clinics or other events for beginners.

Dirt bike schools offer safety training and other introductory courses. Usually instructors supply students with the equipment they need to learn the sport. You'll learn the basics, such as starting a bike, using the clutch and brakes, and turning and operating the bike.

Once you've mastered the basics, you might consider renting a bike or buying your own. Remember, if you buy a bike, you'll need a truck, trailer or some other way to transport the bike.

Start with an inexpensive bike because chances are high you're going to crash. An inexpensive bike will lower your replacement or repair costs.

There's lots of gear to protect yourself from injury. Essential safety gear includes a helmet, riding pants, motocross boots, gloves and goggles. It may also include chest protectors, knee guards and kidney belts.

"Depending on what kind of gear you get, it really isn't that expensive, and is definitely worth the money," says Denaye Giroux. She has been riding since she was three years old, and has broken both her collarbones.

Bike maintenance is also important. A gas can, gear oil, filter cleaner, filter oil and other supplies come in handy.


American Motorcyclist Association


Women's Motocross Association
Visit this site for women in the sport

Motorcycle Safety Foundation DirtBike School
Learn safety basics before you start riding

Motorsports Network
Find out more about motorsports with this online magazine, shopping and buyers guide

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