A single track is one of the most difficult types of terrain to master on a dirt bike. It can be very intimidating coming up on a single track trail for the first time, especially if you’re a beginner.
Single track riding refers to dirt bike riding on a narrow, specifically designed off-road track. It is also called as trail riding. Single tracks vary from few miles to hundreds of miles in length and offer various levels of difficulty.
In order to begin your journey on the trails, it’s important to learn some basic techniques. Here are the best tips for first-time single track riders to get started.
How To Get Better at Single Track Riding
Single track or trail riding is different from riding on dirt roads. It requires more technical bike-handling skills and also more from the upper body.
If you are a beginner rider, there are few things you need to learn and to take into consideration before you can hit the trails.
Next, we will cover 11 tips that help you to get started and that will make you better at single track riding.
Let’s dive in.
Read also: The best dirt bike setup for beginners
1. Wear Proper Riding Gear That Fits Well
To start, you want to make sure you have the right gear when you head to the trails. That means wearing at least a helmet, goggles, gloves, boots, and riding pants (not jeans). You should also wear knee braces, elbow pads, and a riding jersey.
It may feel like overkill, but the protective riding gear will keep you safe and allow you to enjoy riding injury-free. Once you get more experienced with single track riding, you will notice how comfortable the protective gear is to wear.
The key is to find the riding gear the fits well. Talk to your fellow riders, read reviews, and test the gear from different brands!
2. Find a Single Track Within Your Skill Level
Find a single track that matches your riding level. If you are a beginner rider and looking for a single track to ride for the first time, choose a track that you know is easy and flows well. Talk to riders that know the property and be honest about your skills.
The best types of single tracks to start with are typically more open, flowy tracks that do not have logs, ledges, deep sand, or mud. This makes it easier to learn the basic techniques and makes the experience enjoyable.
If you start with an advanced single track and do not have the skills to complete the trail, it may become too much to handle, and you risk an injury. Most properties will have trails in several difficulty levels and by asking few questions you can choose the correct one to start with.
Our Trail Finder is a great way to start looking for single tracks and trails near you.
3. Don’t Push Yourself Beyond Your Limits
Know your limits and stick to them, even if others around you seem like they’re going much faster. Many beginner riders will try to keep up with more advanced riders, and by doing so they often get hurt.
Keep in mind that when you’re riding on a single track, you are using skills you have already learned previously. You are using those skills while rarely learning new skills on the trails.
Stick to the techniques you already know how to do and get better by practicing elsewhere. Going fast is a skill but something you rarely learn out on the trail. These skills are acquired with methodical practice, which you should perform in a safe environment.
Read also: Best dirt bike tires for trail riding
4. Ride With a Group
Don’t take unnecessary risks like riding alone. Safety is in the numbers. Getting injured alone out on the trail can be very serious and lead to much bigger problems very quickly.
Always ride with other riders, never alone. If you must ride alone, do it only after you are more experienced and even in that case, let people know your plan and when you expect to be back.
Keep in mind that in many cases you may not have any cell coverage or other communication methods once you head out on a single track. Walking back may take several hours and can even be life threatening at high heat or cold temperatures.
There is another great reason to ride with a group. If you find friends that are better at riding than you, you will learn and progress quickly. Most riders will be very helpful and teach you new techniques and help you improve. Watch how they ride and where they ride and ask a lot of questions.
5. Learn How To Use Your Body
As a beginner, you shouldn’t try to control the dirt bike with your hands only. You have to learn how to use your body. Doing this will help you stay balanced and stable on the bike.
One of the easiest ways to learn better control and improve single track riding is body balance. It takes time to understand how much body movement is required to increase speed and technique through a single track.
Most riders neglect to move the body enough front to back and side to side. This is specifically true with beginner riders.
Here are few exercises that should help with practicing the body movement.
Center Stand Stretch
Stretching on the center stand is a great way to warm up. It also helps with understanding how much movement is needed.
Start by moving your body forward on the seat. Next, move your body as far back on the seat as possible. Make sure to keep you hands on the grips and your feet on the pegs at all times.
Many riders out there seem to neglect how important tool your body weight is and how to use it to your advantage.
Slow Speed Balancing
Single track riding is typically a variation between slow to very slow and fast, flowy sections. Most riders can learn to ride fast in the easy, flowy sections but struggle with the tight and slow cornering.
Improving static balance is one of the easiest things to practice. It helps you on the trails and will make slow tight turns on the trail very easy, safer, and much faster.
Here are few things you can do to improve your static balance:
- Learn static balance with a bicycle. Any bike will do. Start by turning the front wheel slightly to the side and try to stay on the pegs for more than 30 seconds. Look ahead and keep practicing. You can learn to stay on the bike for more than 30 seconds within 2 weeks if you practice 10 minutes every day. You can make the start easier by pushing the front tire against a wall or a tree and then helping the bike to stay up using the handlebar. Slowly ween off and continue to static balance without support.
- Continue practicing with the dirt bike. Boots on and dirt bike off, try to balance. It will be more difficult than with a bicycle but it will transfer quickly. When you are able to static balance with a turned off dirt bike, continue to practice with a running dirt bike. Try to extend the balancing time by moving the dirt bike slowly with the clutch when you are about to lose the balance.
- Each time you come to a stop on the trail, don’t put your feet down. Stay on the dirt bike as long as you can and balance it out.
6. Look Ahead
Dirt bike riding is a fast paced sport. Getting better means practicing the different riding techniques but also training your body and brain to process the inputs of the dirt bike and what the trail has to offer.
Looking ahead is important when riding on a single track. Your brain needs time to process obstacles, riding conditions and where to go, how to turn etc. One of the methods to improve riding is to look ahead as far as you can. This will do two things:
- Your body position improves when looking ahead.
- You will have more time to react and choose lines.
Most beginner riders tend to focus on what is happening right in front of the front tire. This will limit your ability to pick lines, move your body correctly and react to what is coming up. The faster you go the bigger the issues are.
When you look ahead, you brain subconsciously processes the visible track and will automatically start steering the dirt bike to your chosen lines. Looking ahead, even as far as ahead of the rider in front of you, makes a big difference. By the time you reach the next turn or obstacle, you have already picked a line and are positioned well. All this will happen without deciding to do so.
Remember how it is said that you will hit what you stare at? We are using that exact same phenomenon to our advantage. In single track riding, start looking ahead as far as you can. Remind yourself often about it and stop to take a break when you loose focus and practice.
The sooner you learn this the better, since it can be difficult to learn to look ahead if you first learn the bad habit of staring at the front fender. So do it the right way from the start.
7. Stay Focused
Mental and physical fatigue can quickly turn a good rider into a bad one.
As a beginner, it’s important to practice riding in the sweet spot. That is where you learn the fastest.
When you get out on a single track, make sure to start it very easy. Your body will need about 15 to 30 minutes to fully warm up. If you start too fast, you will get arm pump and other types of issues that will affect your riding.
After warming up, ride focused and pay attention to technique. Stop frequently and especially when you feel like you start making mistakes, staring the front fender, or simply feeling tired. Most accidents happen in the beginning before fully warming up and when you are too tired.
8. Stop Frequently to Rest
Your brain will need rest also. Single track riding is different and it means you need to plan more rest stops on the trail.
As a beginner, it’s easy to bark upon a trail and forget how physically and mentally challenging single track riding can be.
When you keep your body and mind refreshed, you will ride better. Pack snacks and plenty of water and stop frequently.
9. Find Flow
Finding flow in riding is important. With experience and practice, you will start learning your limits better and can reach riding flow faster and easier.
To find flow, or the feeling of success and ease, start small. Believe it or not, this is something you can practice. One of the exercises you can use to improve the feeling of flow is to break your riding into sections.
Warm up well. Usually this means about 20 minutes or so of riding. When you start feeling like things are working well and the riding feels good, it’s time to focus on the feeling of flow.
Stop and find a section that you can finish in under 5 minutes. You can also set your watch to 5 minutes. Plan to ride at a slightly slower ride pace and focus on smooth error-free riding. This is priority. Start slowly and increase your speed slowly to about 50 to 70% of your maximum controlled speed. Keep this pace and focus on not making any mistakes. Finish the 5-minute sprint even if you feel like continuing. Take a break and do it again.
This exercise is all about focusing on not making any mistakes while feeling smooth on the dirt bike. This will teach you increased speed control and riding focus as well as eliminate mistakes.
10. Learn From Others
Learning from other riders is a great way to hone your skills. If you tag along with riders that are better riders than your are, some of the techniques are bound to rub off on you.
Most advanced riders are happy to help and give you tips on your dirt bike setup, maintenance, gear, and riding techniques. Ask a lot of questions and remember we all had to learn the basics the same way.
Another quick way to increase your single track riding skills is to attend coaching or training events. You can easily find trainers that focus on your riding style and experience level.
11. Practice Makes Perfect
It’s true. Riding makes you a better rider.
They say each single track is different and that each one requires a different dirt bike setup and set of skills to master. We agree.
To get better at single track riding, ride on a lot of different styles of trails. Not only is it fun to see other trails, it’s also helping you get better all around as a rider. Sand tracks will teach you completely different skills than a rocky river bed.
Single track riding differs greatly from riding on dirt roads and it requires more technical bike-handling skills.
So, if you are new to dirt biking, please take the time to practice and learn the basic techniques before hitting any single track trails with others. Practice the skills every chance you get and listen to the advice of others.
Soon enough, you’ll be able to ride with everyone masterfully.
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Last updated: October 5th, 2022