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Have you been actively and regularly riding dirt bikes on trails for a while now and are looking for the best dirt bike setup for advanced riders?
Sounds like it’s time for you to take your dirt bike setup to the next level so that you and your dirt bike are ready for enduro and hard enduro!
We are here to help you to setup your dirt bike. This way, you can elevate your dirt bike riding experience and hit the gnarlier trails, steep slopes and massive rock gardens with confidence.
We once took the same leap from easier trail riding to enduro and hard enduro riding. Along the way, we have learned what are the best setups for dirt bikes and what gear you really need.
Get ready and attack your goals with our dirt bike setup for advanced riders.
Table of Contents
- The Best Dirt Bike Setup for Advanced Riders
- Setting Up Your Dirt Bike for Advanced Riders
- Step 1. Traction
- Choose the Correct Tire Protection Setup
- Choose the Correct Tire for the Terrain and Riding Style
- Step 2. Protection and Recovery
- Protect Your Radiators
- Install a Lift Strap and Pull Straps on Your Dirt Bike
- Cut Handlebars for Tight Single Tracks
- Change Grips for Comfort and Better Stamina
- Change Better Fitting Foot Pegs
- Remove or adjust Steering Stoppers
- BONUS 1: Air Filters for Quick Trail Side Change
- BONUS 2: Consider Getting Rid of the Auto Clutch
- In Conclusion
Setting Up Your Dirt Bike for Advanced Riders
Advanced riders already master the basic techniques with the dirt bike. And they are typically looking for improving their riding skills by bettering their techniques.
This naturally demands more from the dirt bike and usually requires a slightly different setup. The level of performance and protection required by your dirt bike varies mostly by the chosen riding style and terrain.
In this guide, we focus on the next level dirt bike setups that increase the performance of the dirt bike and make learning easier and more productive.
Next level improvements mainly focus in areas such as different tire setups and tires, protection against flats, getting unstuck and other configurations that increase the riding performance. We have divided these into three key setup steps: traction, protection and recovery as well as performance.
But first, make sure to check out our beginner rider section for tips and setup choices for basic trail riding settings and configurations. After all, our dirt bike setup for advanced riders below rely on these basic concepts of setting up your dirt bike.
In the dirt bike setup for advanced riders below, we use our own dirt bikes as examples. When it comes to the recommended products, you should naturally select the matching make and model that will fit your bike.
Our example dirt bike is 2018 KTM XC-W 300. It is a very common hard enduro second hand dirt bike and also our recommended dirt bike for advanced riders and racers.
So, let’s get started with the dirt bike setup for advanced riders and dive into the details.
Read also: The best dirt bike setup for beginners
Step 1. Traction
The traction and methods of improving traction is the first main topic an advanced dirt bike rider should concentrate on. After all, traction is the key to performance.
There are several ways to set up your dirt bike for better traction. But we will focus on tires and setting them up for the trails you are planning to ride. The more technical and demanding the conditions are, the more important the tire selection and tire supportive solutions will become.
For advanced riders who already master the basic techniques, these choices will make riding more productive, safe and fun.
In this step 1, we will take a closer look at the different tire types that suite best for each riding style. In addition, we will explore the different methods of protecting against flats and punctures as well as methods of increasing traction.
This step covers the following topics when it comes to the dirt bike setup for advanced riders and traction:
- Tire protection
- Tire selection
Read also: Where to ride my dirt bike near me
Choose the Correct Tire Protection Setup
When it comes to the dirt bike setup for advanced riders, the very first thing to do is to protect your tires from punctures, flats and tear outs.
A normal inner tube style stock tire setup is good for beginner riders. But when you start practicing more technical riding and your riding speeds increase, you will start to suffer from frequent flats.
Another issue with the stock tire setup is the tire pressure, which will have a big impact on traction. With inner tubes, you will typically inflate tires to 10–15 PSI to avoid punctures. With Tubliss or Mousse (we will explain these in detail below), we can run pressures ranging from 0–10 PSI with much improved traction without any risk of damaging the tires or wheels.
When the stock tire setup with an inner tube doesn’t suffice anymore, you basically have two different popular protection options to choose from:
- Tubliss, which is a high pressure inner tube system, and
- Mousse, which is basically a foam inner tube.
Both technologies protect the wheels and tires from damage and offer great options to increase traction. Naturally, they both have their pros and cons. And we will sum them up in order to help you to decide which one to choose for your dirt bike setup for advanced riders.
A Tubliss offers a great option for your dirt bike and setting it up for more technical trails out there. The system is easy to install and practically maintenance free between tire changes. In addition, it offers easier tire changes compared to a Mousse.
The biggest advantage is the capability to set your tire pressure the same way you would for a normal inner tube. The 100PSI inner tube is covered with a thick rubber bladder that also works as a rim lock.
The setup is slightly lighter than the Mousse but it can still suffer from punctures in the tire itself. Even if this were the case, you can continue riding as the inner tube still maintains the pressure and protects the tube and wheel from damage. You can plug the tire trail side or keep riding and fix the flat at the camp. If you do get a flat, check out our step-by-step instructions for how to change dirt bike tire with Tubliss. Our tips will make the tire change a breeze and you will be back on the trails in no time.
A Mousse is basically a foam tube that replaces the inner tube. And with the Mousse, you don’t need to worry about punctures or flats of any kind.
The downside is the fact that you cannot control the tire pressure. And in order to change the desired softness, you need to change the Mousse inside the tire. In addition, it wears out much quicker than a Tubliss requiring frequent changes with new tires. Most people run one to two tires per Mousse, which can quickly become expensive.
This setup is the most reliable for most conditions except in very high speeds as the Mousse might deteriorate very quickly. Tire changes are much more difficult with a Mousse. They require some practice and usually more robust tools to change the tire quickly or while at the camp.
We definitely recommend the Tubliss system for the completion of the dirt bike setup for advanced riders. It has only few drawbacks and it is affordable, long-lasting and most importantly a great option to eliminate flats, punctures and increase traction.
Choose the Correct Tire for the Terrain and Riding Style
The type of riding and trail conditions define what tires you should choose for your dirt bike.
As you start getting better and start mastering the basic riding skills, you will start noticing the tires more and more. In this dirt bike setup for advanced riders, we focus on enduro, single track style riding in the woods and less on motocross or desert style riding.
Generally, people start favoring softer tire compounds in technical hard enduro riding conditions. The gummy tires are gaining popularity and there are many to choose from.
For advanced riders, we recommend taking into account few different factors when choosing the tires. Each tire is different but there are few high-level principles that will help you choose a tire category for your riding style.
Tire Rubber Compound: Soft, Intermediate and Hard Tires
Sometimes people confuse the tire softness to terrain softness. Some comparisons and reviews seem to mix these two, so it’s worth clearing some terminology here before digging deeper.
Soft terrain tires usually contain hard rubber compounds, whereas hard terrain tires are usually soft, sticky or gummy tires. When we talk about soft tires, we mean the soft rubber compounds that are great for hard terrain such as rocks, and vice versa.
Soft tires generally work best on hard terrain, at lower speeds and in slippery and wet conditions. They offer great performance on rocks, roots and ledges and in overall challenging mix of technical trails sections. And they offer great traction but wear out quicker. Some of them may even chuck easily losing knobs in higher speeds or tear off easily. These are typically called gummy, sticky or cheater tires.
Intermediate and hard compounds are usually better at higher speeds, in deep sand and in somewhat moist conditions and they offer a longer wear. They are ideal for a mix of faster speed trails and when there are less rocks or slippery roots. In addition, they work great in mainly drier conditions or muddy, sandy or loamy conditions regardless of the speed. They usually last much longer but offer poor traction in wet and slippery hard terrain conditions.
Tire Sidewall Strength
The tire sidewall effects the performance and feeling of the dirt bike in several ways.
Tires with a soft sidewall tend to roll in high speeds and make the dirt bike feel unstable in cornering. They usually require little more air pressure in higher speeds to compromise the rolling feel. The upside is an excellent traction when combined with soft rubber compound knobs.
A hard tire carcass and sidewall makes the tire maintain a great stability in higher speeds. However, they may result in lack of traction in some conditions, such as hard enduro, trials style or very technical sections when the tire needs to grab well.
Knob Spacing or Lug Pattern
The lug pattern and spacing is an important factor when choosing the correct tire.
If you plan to ride in mud, the wider spacing between lugs or knobs will help clearing the mud out and make the tire grab better. Especially if the track has a mix of mud and some hard terrain, selecting a hard side wall tire with soft lugs with an open lug pattern works well. This way, the tire will clear itself out quickly after the mud section and be ready for the hard-packed section and the soft rubber compound will stick to the rocks well.
Have you noticed that trials tires are usually super soft and have knobs spaced out very closely? This gives great traction in obstacles but the tires are not good at muddy conditions as they permanently fill out with mud. The spacing and pattern of the knobs affect how well the tire grabs in different conditions. Choose the pattern well based on where you ride and not on their look.
You will be surprised how differently different tires perform in different conditions. Read reviews and test them out—that’s the only way you will find your favorite tires for different riding spots. Also make sure to check out our instructions for best dirt bike tires for trail riding to find out more tips for your tire setup.
With these factors in mind, we chose the best OVERALL advanced rider tires for hard enduro style riding below.
These tires are perfect for completing the dirt bike setup for advanced riders as they perform well in all conditions and excel in very hard and technical conditions when combined with the Tubliss or Nitro Mousse setup. We recommend a 5 PSI inflation or a soft Mousse for rear tire and a 9 PSI or a soft Mousse for front tire.
Step 2. Protection and Recovery
When your riding skills improve, you will most likely find yourself riding in more and more difficult terrains and situations where damaging the dirt bike or getting stuck is inevitable.
Enduro riding is very physical and conserving your energy also becomes a factor in riding. Getting stuck—or rather getting unstuck—can drain a lot of energy.
In this step 2, we talk about different setups that will help further protect your dirt bike against harsh conditions and free your bike when getting stuck.
We will cover the following topics when it comes to the dirt bike setup for advanced riders and increasing the protection and recovery:
- Lift strap and pull straps
Read also: Do you need a dirt bike skid plate?
Protect Your Radiators
Radiators break easily and are expensive to replace. In case of breakage, radiators are also difficult to fix and often need replacing.
We recommend adding some form of protection, such as radiator supports, shrouds or complete guards to your dirt bike.
Radiators usually break in few ways. When you drop the dirt bike on a rock or a log and the hit is sideways to the radiator, it usually bends the radiator in or backwards. The other common breakage happens when a stick punctures the radiator from the front. Complete guards effectively protect the radiator in both scenarios and they are a relatively affordable solution that will last a very long time.
This is our choice of radiator guards for the dirt bike setup for advanced riders:
Trail Tech Radiator Guards (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – We love the durability of these radiator guards and the level of protection they provide. In addition, they are easy to install.
Read also: Why you need a 2 stroke pipe guard
Install a Lift Strap and Pull Straps on Your Dirt Bike
Getting stuck in challenging conditions is part of dirt bike riding.
There is an art to getting unstuck and it requires some skills. Over time you will learn all the techniques that usually will keep you out of trouble and also get you unstuck. And most importantly, when you do get stuck, you will get out without losing too much time and conserving energy.
This is where straps come in handy. Needless to say, they are a part of the dirt bike setup for advanced riders.
A simple lift strap can help in many ways. If you’re alone, you can lift the bike in different ways from the strap in the front or in the back. Lift straps are also handy when riding with buddies as they make pulling much easier for your friends. In addition, your friends are more likely to give you a quick pull if you have the straps in place instead of watching you do all the work.
Some straps can be reused in several ways in case of breakage or emergency.
Some riders also pack a rope or a longer strap to pull the bike up hills or when getting stuck. It makes the world of difference in deep rudder mud pits. And you will thank a friend later.
We recommend keeping a front strap in your toolbox for getting unstuck in normal conditions. If your dirt bike doesn’t have a clear handle type slot in the rear fender or a similar easy handle place, consider adding a strap to the back also. They are inexpensive and make lifting the dirt bike very easy.
Here is an affordable example strap that you can use when completing the dirt bike setup for advanced riders:
Giant Loop Lift Strap (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – This is a great little helper for pulling of lifting the dirt bike in tough spots. It installs to the front forks near the triple tree or the rear of the dirt bike and has a supported pull handle.
Read also: Ultimate guide to dirt bike plastics
Step 3. Performance
Performance comes in many different forms.
Like we explained in the beginner rider section, we focus on other methods beside modifying the engine to increase the overall riding performance.
We will discuss the different ways advanced riders can get an edge and increase the dirt bike performance for hard technical enduro riding.
In this step 3, we will cover the following topics when it comes to the dirt bike setup for advanced riders and increasing the riding performance:
- Foot pegs
- Steering stoppers
- BONUS 1: Air filters
- BONUS 2: Auto clutch
Cut Handlebars for Tight Single Tracks
When completing the dirt bike setup for advanced riders, cutting handlebars is a very popular option for riders that ride in very tight single tracks.
Dodging trees in high speed trails is a skill. You probably have noticed that some of the handlebars have intentions or stamped marks at the end of the bars. They are designed for making handlebar cutting easier.
We recommend cutting the handlebars between a quarter to a half an inch on each side, resulting into 0.5–1″ in total reduction in handlebar width. If you wear full wrap around handguards, the cut will make the handlebars much easier to slide between trees and narrow trail sections.
Once you cut the handlebars, you will notice the difference very quickly and easily. It will take some time to get used to them (it took about two riding days for us) but it’s definitely worth it.
Slightly narrower handlebars will first feel more sluggish. But this will quickly change and the steering becomes very accurate and stable and you are able to hug trees in a completely new way.
Our favorite dirt bike setup for advanced riders for a super tight single track is to cut the handlebars a half an inch on each side and add a good set of wrap around handguards.
This setup helps you to avoid trees and effectively protects your hands and wrists from slappers. And when you do hit a tree, the narrower bar and the guards usually slide off the tree without a complete stop or pushing the handlebars.
Here’s our top pick for a good set of wrap around handguards:
Cycra hand guards (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – These handguards are strong and sturdy. They are super easy and fast to install. In addition, they look great! Nice selection of colors available.
Make sure to also read our instructions for setting up dirt bike handlebars for trail riding to get more tips for adjusting your handlebars. You can also learn more about different types of handguards in our post how to choose the best dirt bike handguards.
Pro tip: Find out other ways to make your dirt bike turn faster and perform better in a tight single track by checking out our post 7 best mods to make your dirt bike turn faster.
Change Grips for Comfort and Better Stamina
The longer you ride, the more comfortable you’ll be on the bike. And you start noticing the small things such as seat materials, grips and levers.
When it comes to the dirt bike setup for advanced riders, it is important to choose and configure the grips and lever setup correctly so that they work just right for you.
Grips come in several different designs. The thickness and the surface material affect greatly on how the grip feels and performs in technical riding. Some grips are very thin and some are thick and your hand size will have a big effect on how they feel and how long you can ride without taking a break.
Grips can also affect on how quickly or if at all you will develop hand pump or fatigue. If you suffer from hand pump or feel like riding is quickly wearing your arms out, you can most likely make it better by changing the grips and setting your controls better.
Many aftermarket grip manufacturers and most dirt bike manufacturers are now offering lock-on grips.
Lock-on grips don’t require gluing or wiring the grips in place. Instead, they normally come with a sleeve that clamps on to the handlebar. This usually makes the grip thicker than the old-school sleeve designs. The thickness is a bad thing for some riders and good for others.
Test out different styles of grips and grip materials to find the ones that suit best for your hands.
Our personal favorite setup for long continuous technical rides and hard enduro consists of thin lock-on grips and padded gloves that fit tightly. These are our all-time favorite grips that work great for the dirt bike setup for advanced riders:
Pillowtop – Pro Taper Clamp On Grips (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – These clamp-on grips are comfortable and slip-free. They are extremely easy to put on and take off. We especially like the fact that they don’t noticeably increase the diameter.
Change Better Fitting Foot Pegs
Different style foot pegs affect the way the dirt bike handles and how easily and effectively you can maneuver your dirt bike. That is why they have their place in the dirt bike setup for advanced riders.
Foot pegs need to have a good grip even in muddy conditions. Many stock foot pegs are narrow and not very durable and they bend easily.
Changing foot pegs comes with many advantages. With different kind of foot pegs, you can change the height, move the leg position forward or back and change the angle or position of your neutral position. Sometimes, shorter and taller riders are able to fine-tune their riding position enough to feel comfortable on the dirt bike only by changing the foot pegs.
These are the main things to consider when selecting the correct foot pegs for your dirt bike setup for advanced riders:
- Positioning. Do you need to change the height, angle or move back or forward?
- Material and durability. Do you bang foot pegs regularly into rocks, logs and obstacles?
- Grip technology. Some pegs eat your boots quickly but offer great traction, some are too slippery.
We recommend choosing durable foot pegs that either offer a way to change the sharp contact points or cleats or that can be manually sharpened with a file.
You want the foot pegs to feel wide enough for your boot size so that standing on them gives a strong support and stable feeling. Too wide or large foot pegs are uncomfortable and may restrict the boot movement causing missed gear shifts or missing rear brake.
The boot movement should never be restricted. The fancy heel type or foot pegs that are built for looks are not worth trying out. They mostly restrict the movement of your boots and can easily get caught in the worst moment causing a crash. Simple designs are the best.
Foot pegs with no middle support or a more open design clear mud and debris better, which is important for muddy conditions.
Some stock pegs are great but you should try few aftermarket designs before choosing your favorite. As foot pegs are quite expensive, we recommend trying out your friend’s dirt bikes for easy reference on different designs.
This is our top foot pegs choice for the dirt bike setup for advanced riders:
Fastway Evolution Air Mount Kit (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – These foot pegs offer a great grip and have replaceable cleats that won’t ruin your boots too quickly. For KTMs, they retain the stock height and center position for normal height riders.
Remove or Adjust Steering Stoppers
Most dirt bikes have adjustable steering stoppers in the frame in between the triple trees. They restrict the movement of the handlebars from side to side.
In technical riding, the turn radius is important. It helps you to maneuver obstacles and makes the dirt bike more responsive in slow technical sections.
We recommend completely removing the steering stoppers or adjusting them to allow as much movement from side to side as possible, if possible. In some dirt bikes, the front fork may start hitting the radiator or the radiator support or guard when you remove the steering stoppers or adjust them too much, so adjust carefully.
You will immediately notice how the wider turning angle affects the slow speed maneuvers.
Removing steering stoppers is the first and most effective way to help the dirt bike to turn on a tight single track. Find out other ways to make your dirt bike turn faster and perform better in a tight single track by checking out our post 7 best mods to make your dirt bike turn faster.
Read also: How to adjust the front fork height and why
BONUS 1: Air filters for Quick Trail Side Change
While we don’t focus on maintenance tips in this dirt bike setup for advanced riders section, we recommend packing few essential things for your longer ride weekends or riding trips.
One of these essentials is an extra clean air filter or two.
If you ride in dusty conditions, the air filter will get dirty very quickly. Cleaning them trail side or at camp is not fun and therefore we recommend buying extra air filters and changing them during longer ride weekends or riding trips.
After a ride weekend, we wash two or three air filters at the same time and then pack few clean and pre-oiled air filters into plastic ziplock bags. After each riding day, we inspect the air filter and if it’s dirty, we swap a fresh one for the next day.
Washing the air filters is easy. Just fill a bucket with one gallon of air filter cleaner solution. Drop the air filters in and let them soak for few hours while you clean your dirt bike and then rinse off. The cleaner solution can be reused several times and you can use a coffee filter to filter out the sand from the bottom of the bucket. Remember to re-oil the washed air filters once they have dried. Make sure to also check out our step-by-step instructions for how to clean the air filter on a dirt bike.
These are our favorite air filters and air filter cleaner:
Twin Air Pre-Oiled Air Filter (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – These pre-oiled air filters come in a handy re-sealable bag. Just throw it into the bike and you’re good to go!
Twin Air Filter Cleaner (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – This cleaner works great and quickly dissolves grease and dirt from the air filters. It’s one of the best cleaners out there.
BONUS 2: Consider Getting Rid of the Auto Clutch
Did your dirt bike came with an auto clutch or did you add one to your dirt bike? Now is the time to consider going back to the stock version when you complete the dirt bike setup for advanced riders.
If you don’t suffer from injuries or have other reasons why an auto clutch is a must, you should use a normal clutch. We say this because an auto clutch will make learning proper techniques much more difficult. And if you have used one, it has probably already taught you some bad habits to break free from.
The most common incorrect riding techniques you can easily spot among riders using an auto clutch are in the areas of overall cornering, the difficulty to master hard technical climbs and a lazy gear shifting.
An auto clutch is usually added when riders start suffering from an arm pump or when they stall the bike, especially when riding 4-stroke dirt bikes. There are conditions where an auto clutch is great. But a tight technical single track usually is not one of them. You can read more about the benefits and disadvantages if an auto clutch in our ultimate guide to Rekluse clutches.
All of the issues that are tried to be resolved with an auto clutch can be fixed with small changes in the riding position and the dirt bike setups focusing in ergonomics and by learning the basic techniques to control the dirt bike.
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Read also: The best dirt bike setup for racers
The dirt bike setup for advanced riders usually consists of fitting the dirt bike better for your rider profile by changing small things on the dirt bike.
When your riding skills improve, you start noticing how making a change in the setup changes the feedback the bike gives you and how the dirt bike feels like under different conditions. These small differences quickly add up and affect how long you can stay aggressive and/or comfortable on your dirt bike.
Ever tried your friend’s identical factory dirt bike? You probably noticed how different the dirt bike feels like compared to yours.
More hours on the dirt bike will help you to choose the correct setup that works for you. Always take your friend’s recommendations with a grain of salt. We all recognize the riders in our group of friends that buy all the cool looking trendy accessories for their bikes but by doing so make dirt bike riding much more difficult for themselves.
Remember that you are setting up your dirt bike for you and only you. Better choose the items that help you get better and be safer on the trails rather than those that look good.
With your improved riding skills, your dirt bike setup usually becomes simpler and you start focusing on things that matter more. You will spend more time on the trails and with that comes the demand to stay comfortable on the dirt bike and conserve energy.
Do you feel like you need help with finding new riding spots? Feel free to use our easy-to-use dirt bike trail finder to find new trails near you or in any state in the United States.
If you are planning to start racing, take a look at our racer section once you have completed the dirt bike setup for advanced riders. It contains a lot of tips for beginner racers and advice on how to setup your dirt bike for races as well as how to prep for a race day.