Ask the MSF: Taking Off-Road Skills To The Next Level
October 28, 2013
Q: “My 14-year-old daughter is learning to ride a dirtbike. She’s pretty proficient with the clutch and shifting. It seems like the next step would be improving her riding skills in general. What are some good, general skill-building drills she could practice in our flat field?”
A: Your daughter should focus on braking, cornering and riding over obstacles because these skills encompass the basics of off-roading. Because your daughter is under 16, you should supervise her at all times, whether she’s practicing in your field or riding on a trail in the forest. Of course, she should wear the full complement of riding gear. You two can also take the MSF DirtBike School together to further refine riding skills and make you a more effective supervisor.
If there are different surfaces on your field (dirt, grass, rocks), she should practice braking and cornering on all of them to gain experience on how the bike responds differently on each. For braking, she should practice from moderate speeds in first and second gear, using the brakes together, applying them smoothly and progressively. Encourage her not to grab the front brake lever or stomp on the rear brake pedal.
For cornering, you can set up a variety of sizes of circles, figure eights, and weaves using markers, and monitor how she initiates lean with the handlebars, adjusts body position to maintain balance, and controls steering to maintain the desired path. For obstacles, you can use regular lumber (two-by-fours or four-by-fours), landscaping timbers (three-by-fours), or tree branches (under four inches in diameter, with no sharp protrusions). Coach her on approaching the obstacle slowly, at a 90-degree angle, while she rises up on the footrests; applying a bit of throttle to lighten the front end as she contacts the obstacle; and returning to the normal riding position after the rear tire clears the obstacle.
You can also print out a “Parents, Youngsters and Off-Highway Motorcycles” booklet at DirtBikeSchool.com, in which you and your daughter can find more details on these practice exercises and safety tips.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (www.msf-usa.org) is internationally recognized for its comprehensive, research-based rider education and training programs. It offers a wide range of programs, from hands-on training to online opportunities. The group's Basic eCourse (http://online2.msf-usa.org/msf/ecourse.aspx) is an interactive computer-based program that provides riders of all knowledge and skill levels with the basics of motorcyclist safety, while recognizing the best first ride is in the hands-on MSF Basic RiderCourse.
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