If you're in the market for a bike, you may be wondering how to choose a dirt bike that's right for you. The fact that there are countless options to pick from doesn't make it an easy process. If you don't have a friend to guide you, and you're hesitant to rely on a local dealer for information, below are some alternative methods you can take to find the perfect bike for your needs.
Demo A Bike
Dealerships don’t offer test rides on dirt bikes, but some manufacturers host demo days throughout the year, and at various locations, where they let anyone who is signed up take their bikes for a spin. This is an incredible opportunity to try out different bikes in new and stock condition. These are not learn-to-ride days; these are events set up for riders with experience who are in the market for a new bike.
KTM demo days are especially great because KTM offers so many models in their lineup. They make two- and four-stroke bikes, motocross and off-road models, and in more engine displacements than any other manufacturer. KTM brings out a major support effort, and they are known for throwing a fun event. Check the KTM website for locations and dates; most events require you to contact your local KTM dealer to get an invite.
Yamaha also offers a demo ride opportunity through its association with the Raines Riding University. Yamaha brings out the race models (two- and four-stroke, motocross and off-road) but also lines up some beginner bikes for test spins. Check the Raines Racing website to see if a demo day will be coming your way.
Borrow A Bike
Borrowing a bike can be very informative when trying to figure out how to choose a dirt bike. And don't worry, it's not uncommon for riders to try each other’s bikes when they’re in the market for a new machine. This is a convenient way to get an idea of a different bike’s characteristics, but it’s not the same as riding a new, stock bike.
Check The Setup: Your riding buddy likely has his bike set up just for him. His handlebar and lever positions might feel awkward, his suspension (valving, springs, or the need for a refresh) could be all wrong, and his motor set up and tire choice might prove only that he's better at picking friends than bike mods. Take note of the aftermarket items and maintenance level. If he doesn’t mind, mark where his bar and levers are and adjust them to you. This goes a long way toward getting the feel of the bike, not the set up.
Set The Sag: Take the time to set the sag for you, then let your buddy try that new setting before he readjusts it for himself. He might like the new setting better.
Let Him Thank You: You might wind up doing your friend a favor by giving him a fresh perspective on his bike’s performance. If it has slowly gotten worse, he may not realize some maintenance or modifications are needed.
Rent A Bike
Renting a bike is not very common, but there are rental businesses out there. If you have one nearby, consider yourself lucky, then check it out as best you can to make sure their equipment is relatively current and in proper and safe condition.
Rent A Beginner Bike: If you’re just learning to ride, check your ego and learn on an entry-level machine (Yamaha TT-R and Honda CRF-F [not R] models are popular examples). If the rental outfit doesn’t provide gear, buy or borrow a good off-road–specific helmet, goggle, and pair of boots (make sure a borrowed helmet hasn’t taken any hard hits). The rental shop likely offers basic instruction, or you can take a friend who can teach you. Stick to flat terrain and focus on bike-handling skills over speed.
Go On Vacation: There are motocross riding vacation businesses that provide prepped bikes, lodging, and transportation. Several are in southern California, and if you time your trip to coincide with the period between the supercross and motocross seasons (usually May–June each year), you stand a good chance of seeing many of the top racers practicing on the same tracks you will be riding.
Hit A Distant Trail: There are also trail-riding vacations. These are a great way to experience new areas of the country (or the world) with a local guide or to chase riding weather when you’re snowed in. Be honest about your riding ability so the guide can match up a compatible group and pick a route that will be the right mix of fun and struggle.