Motocross, Enduro, Freestyle, Trail, Adventure, Supermoto, Trials. Which Riding Style Are You?

dirt bike riding styles

Summary

#1 To figure out which type of riding style is right for you, ask yourself how you were originally inspired?

#2 How much time do you want to commit to riding?

#3 Do you have the health to ride?

#4 Do you like getting dirty?

#5 How much money do you want to spend on dirt bike riding?

All styles are completely different!

#6 Motocross is for dedicated, closed loop tracks with plenty of jumps and hard turns to test your skills.

#7 Freestyle is mainly for performing aerial manoeuvres like the Nitro Circus.

#8 Enduro is for dedicated dirt trails and competition.

#9 Dual Sport is a dirt bike for riders that want to ride mostly in the dirt but also need a compliant road bike as well.

#10 Adventure bike riding is extended, cross country road riding as well as easy dirt and sand trails.

#11 Supermoto’s (motards) are dirt bikes that are modified for dedicated road use.

#12 Trials bikes are like the parkour of the dirt bike world.

In my travels I get asked a lot of questions about dirt bike riding.

One of the top 12 questions that I get asked is;

Which type of dirt bike riding is the best? And which type of dirt bike riding style should I get into?

Well firstly, I think they are all great. Because dirt bike riding is the most awesome sport out there in my opinion.

But it really comes down to the style that matches your personality and lifestyle.

This is dependent on a whole bunch of things. So to figure this out, I ask a whole bunch of questions right back.

In this article I go through all these questions in detail.

As well as this, I will guide you through the different dirt bike riding styles that are available in depth and explain their characteristics.

After you have read this article you should be able to make a better informed decision.

And you should be able to get into the style of dirt bike riding that suits your wants, needs, goals and aspirations.

 Also, after you have read this article, also read my guide for finding the dirt bike that’s right for you.

in that article there are some important points that you also need to know when you are ready to buy your first dirt bike!

But Some Questions for you First.

#1 What Has Influenced You to Get Into Dirt Bike Riding?

What I find here is that people who want to get into dirt bike riding have been influenced or inspired by something.

Usually by something they’ve heard or something they saw in the media or in real life.

The way I got into it was because I remember guys that used to ride around on dirt bikes in an old timber mill near my house when I was a kid.

The timber mill had accumulated huge piles of wood chips over the years.

riding style - motocross
wood chip piles are the best for motocross!!

I loved watching the riders launch themselves off those wood chip piles and into the air.

They would fly over old cars and trucks and land on the other side like it was no big deal.

Also, the old timber mill had tracks built to retrieve timber and to use as fire trails.

These trails led out into the forest and they went for days, deep into the mountain woodlands.

These tracks were magic for enduro riding.  They were so long in distance that if you didn’t stop and turn back in time, you would run out of gas!

I was so inspired by what I saw that I scraped my savings together and bought my first bike.

It was a beat up old 1984 Suzuki RM125 motocross that I bought for 400 bucks!

The frame was cracked, the suspension was broken, it leaked oil and blew too much smoke but I didn’t care. I was hooked!

1984 Suzuki RM125

The good ole’ 1984 RM125 BEAST! lol

This is what inspired me to get into dirt bike riding and I now ride in both motocross and enduro. I will ride for the rest of my life.

So back to you. Did you see riders in your area? Or did you see super cross riders in the media doing back-flips in the air?

Maybe you saw a fully geared out adventure bike go past you and riding off into the sunset? Or did a friend give you a quick double down a dirt track?

Whatever it was, something has inspired you, and this inspiration will most likely guide the style that you want to try.

#2 Do You Have the Fitness?

Dirt bikes may appear to be easy to ride but let me assure you that they are a lot of hard work when you are riding in the dirt!

A dirt bike places a lot of directional force on every part of the body and your muscles are constantly worked.

For example, trying to pull 230 odd pounds of bike out of a rut or getting stuck halfway up a hill while you are trying to balance at the same time in full protective gear is really tough!

It will test the strength of every muscle that you have available.

If you want to know what the ultimate in core training is, well dirt bikes are it.

 If you want to learn more about physical fitness, have a read of my dirt bike fitness article.

Dirt bikes will test your fitness levels and cardio to the very maximum! And so you must have a minimum standard of health to ride in the dirt.

If your fitness isn’t up to standard, you will need to be realistic and start a workout program.

Alternatively another style like road and Adventure may suit your level of fitness better.

#3 Do You Like Getting Dirty?

This may sound kinda’ obvious! But if you want to ride motocross or track, be prepared to get really dirty, wet and sweaty.

Dirt bikes look bright and exciting on the cover of a magazine (which they are!) But the reality is that they will make you filthier than a pig in mud.

dirt bike riding styles
You are going to get dirty!

If you are not okay with getting down and dirty, maybe adventure or road is for you.

#4 Do You Have the Time?

Commitment in dirt bike riding can range from the weekend dirt rider all the way up to a full time schedule as a professional.

Most people starting out will just want to take their bike into the forest on a weekend to try it out.

If you want to enter into professional races though, be prepared to put in serious time, effort and money.

Riding only 1 day a week won’t cut it!

 I’ve written about going pro in another blog post so if you are interested, be sure to check that out.

Even going on an adventure ride can take some serious planning, not to mention being gone for days or even weeks at a time.

My point here is to just make sure you are realistic about your dreams versus your time commitments. Otherwise you may overspend on gear and a bike that you will just never use.

#4 Do You Have the Money?

If your dreams of going all out on a new bike and gear and be a moto master, but you only have a budget of $3,000, you will need to pull back your expectations a bit.

In this case, you will need to buy a used dirt bike and build up your dreams (and gear) slowly over time.

Gear is not cheap and all new gear can run you into some big money.

 If you want to learn how much a decent fit out of a bike and gear will cost you, check out this article about the costs of dirt bike riding.

Saying this, there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a second hander and building up your gear slowly over time.

I started with a second hand junker and it forced me to learn some really valuable lessons along the way.

I learned all about second hand bikes and having a greater appreciation for my gear.

You will also be learning a lot about mechanical stuff because old bikes will have more mechanical issues. This will make you a better mechanic in the long run.

So the moral of the story here is to not expect the latest, shiniest gear on a limited budget.

The good news is that you can still participate in all styles of dirt bike riding on a small budget! But your resources may not allow you to buy the very latest gear (for now).

Also, mechanical issues will be more common on second hand bikes.

Dirt Bike Riding Styles>>

This is the area where I detail each riding style available. After this you should  have a better idea of what it takes to ride in these areas of dirt bike riding.

 Motocross/Supercross

Fitness level needed: HIGH

Motocross has been around from the beginning and is a very exciting style of riding to get into.

A motocross track is a closed loop circuit. They are made up of different turns, jumps, berms, hills, drop offs, stutters and straights.

These stages are all designed to keep you and your machine fully tested to the limit.

The riders that can get around a track the fastest and most consistently win motocross races.

But you don’t have to be a pro to ride on a motocross track.

Motocross clubs allow anyone from beginners to experts to ride around the track at their own pace if you have the right bike and protective gear.

Some motocross parks even have kids, beginner, intermediate and advanced tracks which is even better for newbies.

 Supercross tracks are also way more difficult than motocross and they are for experienced riders only.

Supercross is the elite of the motocross world.

@elitomac @cooperwebb2 Showing everyone how it’s done in supercross.

 

 The 250cc is the most common size of bike that’s ridden by adults on motocross tracks. They are the ideal weight and power.

 Adult beginners should stick with a 250cc, 4 stroke engine and teens should start on 125cc also in 4 stroke.

If you want to try a 2 stroke, ask a bike rider with a 2 stroke to swap bikes for a few laps. This will give you an idea of what a 2 stroke feels like without having to buy one.

 Starting out, motocross is really hard! But don’t be discouraged if you go out and hate it at first.

Motocross takes time and patience while you are learning to balance the weight of a bike that is moving around violently underneath you.

Also, your body is still learning to adjust to the severe forces and stress that is being placed on you as you ride around a track.

After a while though, it will become second nature and you will start to really enjoy the excitement and challenge of it.

 When you are starting out in motocross, take it really slowly.

 Forget about what everyone else is doing and just focus on what you are doing.

 Forget about trying to getting ‘airtime’ over jumps and just roll over them to start with.

 Really take your time around the track. Get used to the feel of the suspension and being able to stand up on your pegs permanently.

 Take regular breaks every 10 minutes and stay hydrated.

If you are a bit self-conscious and don’t like looking like a dick (like I was when I first started in motocross), ask the motocross marshals when the quiet times are and practice at those times.

With this technique, sometimes I would have the whole track to myself. It gave me the ability to increase my skills rapidly.

I was way more confident when I later rode in motocross traffic.

For more tips about riding at your local motocross track, read my article about starting out in motocross clubs.

There are 2 types of motocross riders out there; the recreational rider and the racer.

Racers practice hard and join motocross competitions and compete professionally, whilst recreational riders just do it for fun.

 If you want to become a professional motocross rider, have a read of my article that talks about how to break into the professional circuit.

Freestyle

Fitness level needed: HIGH

If you have ever watched the Nitro Circus then you’ll know what freestyle is.

Freestyle is a high risk style of riding that involves launching motocross bikes in the air and performing the big, daring aerial acrobatics.

This genre was born from motocross riders that were having more fun with performing aerial manoeuvres off large jumps.

Freestyle riders have their own extreme ramps and tracks to meet their ever-growing thirst to fly higher and longer through the air.

@nitrocircus dudes pulling off a triple backflip!!

 

 This style of riding is extremely high risk and definitely not for beginners.

 To get into freestyle you need to be a seasoned motocross rider and know your bike inside out.

 You also need to have a deep passion for it and have to be willing to practice every day for years to perfect your craft.

 You also cannot be afraid of getting injured badly.

 Freestyle riders crash fairly regularly and they pay a hefty price for their passion with lots of dislocations, concussions and broken bones.

Freestyle bikes are basically motocross bikes with modified fenders, stiffer suspension and custom handles and grips.

The grips are attached to various parts of the bike so the rider has something to hold onto when performing acrobatics.

Enduro

Fitness level needed: HIGH

If you want to ride a dirt bike on trails through forests, woodland, up and down mountains, through rivers and creeks and anywhere else off-road, then the enduro style is for you.

Enduro riding suits beginners to advanced riders all the way up to the pro competition level.

Check out this awesome video that sums up enduro perfectly.

Enduro bikes are designed for dirt bike riding at very long distances.

They have a larger fuel tank and are fully equipped with a powerful headlight for night riding.

Enduro bikes have wider gear ratios than a motocross for more speed on longer sections of the track.

They also come standard with dual purpose tires that will give you traction in dirt, mud and gravel.

 Enduro bikes can be made road compliant but they aren’t ideal for the road.

Their engines wear out faster from prolonged road use and their gear ratios are too low for the road.

If you are looking for road use, go for a dual sport or adventure.

Enduro bikes have become really good over the last 15 years as the market has demanded more choice in power and features.

Enduro enthusiasts can now choose between 125, 200, 250, 300, 350, 400, 450cc sized engines in both 4 and 2 stroke.

Before this, riders had to choose between a 250 or a 450 or a heavy 600cc (XR600) which either had too little power or way too much.

Enduro also has some pretty awesome competitions held all around the world.

 What I really like about enduro is that it’s a great way to see the world.

Trail tour operators in virtually every country in the world have some sort of trail riding adventure package for any skill level that includes accommodation and food.

 They will even supply the bike and a backup mechanical crew in case of breakdowns. I’ve made a list of dirt bike tours here.

Once you get your experience up on your dirt bike, you can travel to many parts of the world and experience different countries first hand on the back of a bike.

You will meet like-minded riders who share your passion for riding. Very cool!

When you are just starting out, take enduro riding slowly at first to get used to the way the bike feels.

 Also, make sure you have geared yourself and your bike with the right dirt bike gear just in case you get caught out with a mechanical issue.

I really recommend finding an enduro riding buddy.

Breaking down in the middle of nowhere or getting lost can get a little scary when you are on your own.

Having someone else riding with you can help you get out of trouble quickly and make it back home in one piece.

There are plenty of riders out there so jump onto your local meetup groups in your area and you will easily find a riding partner or even riding groups that matches your skill level.

 4 stroke or 2 stroke? I would lean toward 4 stroke for beginners because the power is more even..

Trails/Dual Sport

Fitness level needed: MODERATE

If you need a dirt bike for trails but also need to ride it on the road as well, the dual sport is for you.

Think of it as a bike that can get you to work every day and you can also ride it on dirt trails on the weekend.

The dual-sport is probably the most popular dirt bike out there. This is because of its versatility, low maintenance, high speeds, cheap parts and they are super easy to ride.

This video from everide explains the dual sport perfectly.

Dual Sport bikes aren’t usually used in competition but I have seen a few in comps over the years.

Their super popularity means that there are enthusiast groups pretty much everywhere that will go riding with you whenever and wherever you want.

 Do a search for Suzuki DR or the Kawasaki KLR dirt bike groups and you will see what I mean.

There are some really hardcore, dedicated fans in this genre.

A dual-sport bike is just like an enduro except that it is designed for road use as well as dirt.

It is fully road compliant and have softer suspension, dual purpose tires, a wider seat and wider gearing range to handle the road.

The bike contains all the front and rear lights and electricals for road use.

Engine wise, dual sports come in 125, 200, 250, 300, 350, 400, 450, 500, 600 and 650cc sized engines and most come in both 4 and 2 stroke.

Mechanically, the dual sports engine is designed to be the most reliable out of all dirt bikes.

They require less scheduled maintenance than their harder working cousins.

You really don’t want to do an oil change every 200 miles if you ride that sort of distance every week!

There are 2 types of dual sports, the hardcore and the moderate bikes.

 To learn more about the bikes, go to my article here about dual sport bikes. 

Adventure

Fitness level needed: MODERATE

If you like the idea of getting away for a few days/weeks/months on a really comfortable bike, then the adventure style is for you.

An adventure bike that can easily handle roads and freeway conditions as well as moderate dirt and sand tracks.

An adventure bike is like a road bike and a dirt bike rolled into one and they have become really popular over the past 5 years as riders of all ages continue to discover their versatility.

adventure bike riding styles
@stephenwclark27 blasting through Baja on the @honda_powersports_us adventure bike.

An adventure bike is larger in size and more powerful than enduro and motocross.

Engine sizes range from 600cc and go all the way up to 1200cc.

Saying this, in 2017 a new lightweight trend has formed in the adventure biking world with engine sizes starting at only 250cc.

Manufacturers say that this new trend has grown from riders who like to take ‘mini adventures’, which makes sense in this busy world.

An adventure bike has wide gear ratios just like a dedicated road bike and freeway use is common.

The advantage with an adventure bike is you can keep riding when you hit dirt roads, which you can’t do with a road bike.

An adventure bike has tall, soft dirt bike suspension and a wide comfy seat.

They also have a windscreen to reduce wind and noise.

They are all 4 stroke and have large 15+ liter fuel tanks to handle long distance rides.

This video compares adventure bikes as they ridden across the USA.

An adventure bike can also carry plenty of gear on the rear travel rack and optional saddle bags.

Within the adventure bike genre, there’s a really big range of bikes that offer a ton of different options and features. So it’s really worth checking out all the models carefully.

 If you think you want to try an adventure bike, really take your time to research all the bikes that are available on the market before making a decision.

Unlike other dirt bikes where all motocross or enduro bikes are very similar in shape, weight and performance, each adventure bike is very different in shape, size, height, power and features! And so it’s best to take your time to find a bike that’s right for your needs.

@birchynz doing a wheely on an adventure bike!

Supermoto/Motard

Fitness level needed: MODERATE

If you want a dirt bike that’s a dedicated road bike then the supermoto (motard) is for you.

The supermoto looks like a motocross but rides like a road bike and is fully road compliant.

They have slick tires and very wide gear ratios to get you moving off the line quickly at the lights (just like a road bike).

the supermoto
Photo courtesy of @lettmc.norge

Supermotos start at a 450cc and go all the way up to a 1200cc engine.

 Supermoto’s are ideal for cities and for cruising around town. If you are interested in getting into this type of biking, join a local enthusiasts group.

They have a loyal following! An enthusiasts group will quickly get you up to speed on the best type of bike that you should be getting.

Check out this video made by Supermoto enthusiasts. Cool stuff!

Supermoto’s cruise really well but I would not recommend them for freeway use as the wind resistance is very high at high speeds. Also they aren’t as comfortable as a road bike.

If you are looking for highway use, get an adventure bike.

Trials

Fitness level needed: HIGH

Trials riding is like the parkour of the dirt bike world and is in a genre all of its own.

It is super impressive to watch and the most difficult genre out of all dirt bike riding styles.

A trials bike is a cross between a motocross and a mountain bicycle. They designed for maximum low geared power and supreme balance.

They have 4 stroke engines and have over sized wheels, which provide a lot of balance.

Trials riders have immense amounts of balance!

They can ride over ridiculously difficult objects like rocks, planks of wood, vertical walls, up trees and over buildings.

To watch these madmen in action, check out this YouTube video.

Trials riding takes immense amounts of patience and dedication.

It takes many years to properly master!

Daily practice is essential with this riding style. Professional riders usually have their own obstacle course setup in their backyard to practice on.

 If trials is what you want to try, I really recommend finding a trials specialist and having a chat to them first.

This will help you understand the gear required and the type of commitment that you will need for this type of riding. Because it’s a lot!

 To get in contact with a pro trials rider, join an enthusiasts group and they can steer you in the right direction.

 Alternatively, you can contact pro riders on YouTube or on social media and most will be happy to speak with you in between their busy riding schedules.

 

Conclusion

As you can see, there are plenty of styles to try out and enjoy.

What is your favorite type of dirt bike riding? Be sure to let me know in the below comments. Also don’t forget to like and share this article on social media.

Happy riding!


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