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Are you a beginner rider who just recently bought their first dirt bike and is looking for the best dirt bike setup for beginners? With all the selection out there, it might be overwhelming to get started. Especially when you don’t yet know a lot about the sport.
That’s where we come in.
We are here to help you to set up your dirt bike so that you can hit the trails knowing that your dirt bike and you will come off victorious at the end of the riding day.
And we will guide you through each step of the way and shine a light on what is on the must to do list when it comes to the dirt bike setup for beginners.
We once started from the same place you are at right now so we totally understand you. Through trial and error, we have learned what are the best setups for dirt bikes and what gear you really need when riding on trails.
This guide shows you how to avoid the same mistakes we did—and save a lot of time and money along the way. Your path will be easier and you will get better at dirt bike riding a lot quicker.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- The Best Dirt Bike Setup for Beginners
- Setting Up Your Dirt Bike for Beginners
- Step 1. Ergonomics
- Set Your Dirt Bike Riding Height
- Adjust Your Dirt Bike Sag
- Move Your Dirt Bike Fork Height in Triple Trees
- Consider Your Dirt Bike Seat Height and Seat Ergonomics
- Fine-Tune Your Dirt Bike Handlebars, Lever and Grips
- Configure Your Dirt Bike Suspension for Your Riding Style
- Step 2. Protection
- Install a Skid Plate for Engine and Frame Protection
- Choose a Pipe Guard (a Must for 2-Strokes)
- Protect the Rear Sprocket With a Chain Guide and Protect the Engine Case
- Cover Front and Rear Brake Discs
- Protect Levers and Forward Controls
- Step 3. Performance
- Choose the Correct Tires for Your Riding Style
- Set the Correct Tire Pressure
- Set Your Suspension for the Trail
- BONUS: Consider Adding an Auto Clutch to Your Dirt Bike
- In Conclusion
Setting Up Your Dirt Bike for Beginners
So, you have your first dirt bike in your hands—congratulations! Now all you need to do is to convert your factory bike for trail riding.
Do I have to do anything if I don’t want to, you might ask?
Well, you don’t necessary have to but few tricks and upgrades help to protect you and your dirt bike when riding on trails. We highly recommend that you perform all three setup steps we have listed on this guide: ergonomics, protection and performance. Riding on trails will be more fun and easier after that!
In the dirt bike setup for beginners below, we use our own dirt bikes as examples. Naturally, you should select the matching make and model that will fit your bike when it comes to the recommended products.
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.
Now let’s dive into the dirt bike setup for beginners and go through the whole setup process in detail.
Read also: Best beginner dirt bikes
Step 1. Ergonomics
The very first topic to concentrate on after acquiring your dirt bike is ergonomics. The better the bike is set up for your chosen riding style, the easier it is to learn new techniques and to become a better rider.
If you start learning with a properly set up dirt bike, you will enjoy the sport more, sustain much fewer injuries and learn faster.
In this step 1, we will cover these most important things to focus on when it comes to the dirt bike setup for beginners and ergonomics:
- Overall dirt bike ride height
- Front fork height
- Seat height
- Handlebar position
- Suspension setup
Read also: Where To Ride My Dirt Bike Near Me
Set Your Dirt Bike Ride Height
Setting your dirt bike overall ride height correctly is important when it comes to the dirt bike setup for beginners. As a beginner rider, there are few different ways to start off easily.
And the very first thing is choosing the correct bike. You can check out our tips for choosing a bike and our overall recommendation for the best dirt bike for trail riding.
We are both 5′ 8″ and in our opinion this is the minimum height for most full-size dirt bikes, such as KTM, Husqvarna, Beta, GasGas, Yamaha and similar brands. If you already have a dirt bike, perfect! Then let’s focus on making it fit you.
If you are shorter than 5′ 8″ or you feel like getting a stable footing would make it easier to learn beginner techniques, you should look into lowering kits. Keep in mind that dirt bikes by design try to maximize the clearance and therefore sit much higher than street or adventure bikes. They’re made for off-road riding and for more challenging terrain.
For beginners, we recommend that you are able to reach the ground.
Sit centered on your bike with your body in a neutral position and your arms slightly bent. In this position, when the bike is standing up right, can you reach the ground at least with the ball of your foot on one side? If yes, you’re good. You don’t need to reach the ground with your both feet or with the heel.
If you cannot reach the ground with the ball of your foot on one side, consider lowering your dirt bike.
In addition, you should note, that setting the sag of the dirt bike will affect the active ride height. So, we recommend setting the sag correctly before deciding to lower the bike. More on that below when we discuss the next topic of the dirt bike setup for beginners.
This is the best recommended lowering solution for beginner riders:
KTM PowerParts Suspension Lowering Kit (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – We recommend this complete lowering kit, because it has both the front fork and read shock parts and it lowers the bike about 3/4″. They also have a 1.8″ inch lowering kit available. This lowering kit doesn’t require changing springs, which makes it an affordable option.
Make sure to read our instructions on how to find the correct dirt bike size, where you can find more information about choosing the dirt bike height for your size and adjusting the ride height to fit you.
Adjust Your Dirt Bike Sag
When considering the dirt bike setup for beginners, we know from our personal experience that the dirt bike sag gets neglected the most.
Setting your dirt bike sag is very important. It makes trail and enduro riding much easier and more enjoyable.
Setting your dirt bike sag is easy and it can be done without any prior maintenance experience. We have created simple instructions on how to set dirt bike sag so make sure to read them.
Basically, setting the sag will enable the dirt bike rear shock to work on the ideal range it was designed for. It’s important to use the shock travel as much as possible without bottoming out or riding too high or low on the shock movement range. Most modern dirt bikes call for about 100–110mm (about 4 inches) of sag.
The first step is to take out your owner’s manual or service manual and look for the instructions for your specific bike for numbers and instructions on how to set the sag. Most brands have an identical process and it can be completed in 20 minutes or less.
If you are not able to set the sag, the reason usually is that your total weight (you and your full riding gear) is lower or higher than the rear shock spring rate. New bikes come with a spring ideal for a rider weighing around 170 pounds and it has a fairly small range.
You can find your current spring rate by rotating the spring when the bike is on the center stand. You can see the spring rate stamped on the spring.
Another thing to consider is the spring age. If you have an older dirt bike and you cannot set the sag correctly, the spring may be worn out and needing a replacement.
In case you do need a new, heavier or lighter spring, there are multiple options out there to choose from. The rear shock spring is fairly inexpensive part so we recommend getting a new one. If you consider a used spring, check the age or hours before buying.
Here’s our tip for all dirt bike riders who are completing the dirt bike setup for beginners:
Motion Pro Folding Sag Scale 2 (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – Measuring and setting dirt bike sag is easy and precise with this tool. It can also be used to measure the front fork sag. Sure, you can use a simple tape measure but this tool makes it easy and you don’t need two persons for the job.
Move Your Dirt Bike Fork Height in Triple Trees
As we have learned by now, setting the bike for comfortable riding is what the dirt bike setup for beginners is all about. Therefore, it is important to set the front fork height in the triple trees correctly in order to tune the bike towards your desired riding style.
We wrote a complete step-by-step guide on how to adjust the front fork height and why in our recent post so make sure to check it out.
Most dirt bikes have an indicator, a set of rings on top of the forks, that makes it easy to set and see your fork height setting.
If you look at your dirt bike, from either side, you should see one or two rings near the end of the fork where it connects to the triple tree. The rings indicate the height and there are typically between 3 to 5 of them depending on the manufacturer.
Fork height affects how the dirt bike reacts to turning and how stable it is in higher speeds. It’s a trade-off—in most cases you forfeit in cornering if you want to make the dirt bike stable in higher speeds.
If you move forks lower, the dirt bike generally is more stable in high speeds and turns slower around tight corners. If you move forks higher, the dirt bike turns around corners easier but can be twitchier in higher speeds.
For beginner riders, we recommend setting your fork height to the factory setting or in the middle position.
If your dirt bike has three rings, set the forks to the second ring. This has many benefits for beginners. First of all, the bike behavior is more predictable and the dirt bike will feel generally more stable. This feeling of stability is important starting point.
If you are planning to ride on a very tight single track with lots of turns around rocks and trees, we recommend starting with the third ring setting (counting from the top). This way, your dirt bike will turn more rapidly into corners.
Sometimes, setting the fork height is not enough. You may need to replace the front fork springs with heavier, lighter or shorter springs to achieve the correct spring rate. Or you may need to shorten the front fork height as well as install the rear lowering kit. It is important that the front forks are in your correct weight class. Therefore, set the front sag correctly to maintain a balanced active riding position.
Your dirt bike owner’s manual will explain the factory set spring rate. So, you can check if you need to change to a different spring.
With new front fork springs, you will be able to set the front forks with the correct spring rate for your weight. Those are the ones you also need for lowering the front suspension.
Again, we recommend buying springs new instead of buying used ones. New springs are relatively inexpensive and not worth trying to save few bucks because it may be difficult to estimate wear on old used springs.
When adjusting the front fork height, you will need a torque wrench. It is important to torque the triple tree bolts correctly and within recommended torque setting. If you tighten the forks too much, you risk damaging the thin outer wall of the forks and restrict the movement of the inner parts.
A torque wrench is a must-have tool for any dirt bike mechanic whether you are working on the dirt bike setup for beginners or for riders on any other level. Here’s our favorite:
BikeMaster Adjustable Micrometer Torque Wrench (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – This torque wrench has a handy reversible ratched head that gives you different options when adjusting the front fork height. In addition, you can set accurate pre-set torque values which makes setting up your dirt bike quick and easy. We especially like the durability!
Consider Your Dirt Bike Seat Height and Seat Ergonomics
Setting the seat height is an affordable and simple solution to fine-tune your riding position and height as well as the overall ergonomics of your dirt bike. That’s why it’s a perfect solution especially when dealing with the dirt bike setup for beginners.
There are multiple different styles of seats out there. But in the interest of becoming a better rider and setting the bike up for trails riding for beginners, we recommend keeping things simple.
Most dirt bike stock seats work just great for beginners. If you already went through setting up your dirt bike height and tuned the bike to your style, the seat is one additional option for fine-tuning the dirt bike to match your desired riding style.
There are seats that lower the ride height up to one inch. However, these seats can be a bit harder because they typically contain less cushion material in order to achieve a lower profile. They may become uncomfortable in some riding styles but are a great option for beginners instead of lowering the dirt bike.
Generally, these are the things to consider when choosing the correct style seat. They make your dirt bike perform better while keeping in mind the dirt bike setup for beginners at the same time:
1. Design and Shape
For beginners, we recommend stock style, no bumps style regular seat. Don’t choose the seat solely based on its looks. Many manufactures focus on different seat shapes that just look pretty but are really not designed for performance or comfort. Keep in mind that you will be sitting a lot so the seat has to be a good fit for your riding style.
2. Friction and Surface Materials
Seats and seat covers come in many shapes and finishing materials. Think about the friction and how well your pants will stick to the material and prevent you from sliding on the seat. We recommend choosing smooth textured surfaces without ribs or bumps for beginner riders.
You will be dropping your dirt bike into rocks and sticks for sure. Some seat materials and covers rip easily so think about the durability when choosing a seat or seat cover.
This simple solution for a seat cover is a great fit for the dirt bike setup for beginners:
KTM PowerParts Gripper Seat Cover With Ribs (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – If your current dirt bike has a correct height seat but the seat material is not ideal for you, this is a great option. This is a seat cover and it only replaces the original material easily. The ribs give out extra friction and are very comfortable and durable.
Make sure to also check out our tips for choosing the perfect dirt bike seat and seat covers. They will give you more detailed information on how to find the perfect dirt bike seat combination for your riding style.
Fine-Tune Your Dirt Bike Handlebars, Lever and Grips
The handlebar setup has a big effect on how your dirt bike performs in different riding styles. You have probably already noticed that the handlebars have different sweep and height dimensions. But they can also be rotated and moved in the triple tree.
Taller or shorter riders most likely will need new handlebars to get the riding ergonomics perfect. But for beginners, there are a lot of small adjustments you can do that can make a big difference on how the dirt bike performs.
Considering the dirt bike setup for beginners, we recommend again starting with the factory setup and tuning from there based on your riding style.
There are three things to focus on when it comes to handlebar setup.
1. Handlebar Position
Set your dirt bike on the center stand. Look at the dirt bike from either side. The handlebars should follow the line of the forks. Most dirt bikes have four positions to set the handlebars in the triple tree from forward position to back position. Set the handlebars to the center position. This can usually be achieved by setting the handlebar clamps to the first threaded hole and making sure the offset of the clamps is set to normal and not turned 180 degrees.
2. Handlebar Rotation
Notice how the handlebars have a printed chart in the center of the handlebars under the bar pad if you have one? It shows the center position and incremental lines for rotating the handlebars forward or backward. Start with aligning the handlebars to the neutral or center position. If you rotate the handlebars forward, it will give you more space and generally helps the dirt bike to turn more aggressively. If you rotate the handlebars backwards the dirt bike tends to be more stable. Also, see how the ends of the handlebars are pointing higher or lower depending on the rotating angle of the handlebars.
3. Lever and Grip Setup
After setting the handlebars, make sure you align the levers and grips correctly. We see many beginner riders struggle because the controls are incorrectly set. Start by making sure the grips are correctly in place, centered and properly fixed where there is no movement. Next, move the levers to a downward pointing angle. Good starting point is one finger thickness down from the level position.
After setting the handlebars as instructed above, do you still feel like the they need to be higher or lower or reaching is an issue? The next step is to get new handlebars that fit your height. Stock bikes are set up for riders that are 5′ 8″ to 6′ 2″ tall. So, if you are taller or shorter or have short or long arms, you may need to change handlebars for a better fit.
There are also other options for adjusting the handlebars, such as bar risers. But because our topic is the dirt bike setup for beginners, we recommend simply replacing the handlebars. Make sure to read our instructions for setting up dirt bike handlebars for trail riding to get more tips for adjusting your handlebars.
These are the handlebars we recommend for beginners to purchase for a better fit:
Renthal Fat Bar – Oversized 1-1/8 (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – Renthal has a great selection of lower or higher sweep handlebars. We recommend these for replacing bent handlebars or for finding the correct height and sweep for your height and riding style.
Configure Your Dirt Bike Suspension for Your Riding Style
With the correct suspension setup, the dirt bike will be more forgiving. And it will be easier to learn the basic techniques. Therefore, it is important to set the dirt bike suspension to fit your riding style when completing the dirt bike setup for beginners.
The owner’s manual usually lists the specific suspension settings for your dirt bike. And there are usually three categories: comfort, normal and sport.
We recommend setting the suspension softer than usual for trail riding so follow the instructions to set the forks and rear shock to comfort.
Your dirt bike has separate rebound and compression settings and some forks also have a spring preload. The first two have clickers or an air pump setup and the spring preloads are usually rotations on the top of the fork. On our example dirt bike, we would set the forks to 18 clicks out on both the compression and rebound and set the spring preload to one rotation out. This is a typical setup for KTM and Husqvarna style WP Xplor forks.
The rear shock has rebound and compression settings and also high/low speed adjustments. Set the shock to comfort settings according to the instructions of the owner’s manual. On our example dirt bike, we would set 18 clicks out on both the rebound and compression as well as set the high speed to middle position.
The reasoning behind the softer suspension setup for beginners is that this way the dirt bike generally feels more comfortable and easier to handle. And that is exactly what the dirt bike setup for beginners is all about: making things easier.
A softer suspension setup will wear you out slower and kick less in bigger obstacles or on hard terrain.
Also, the riding speeds are typically slower for beginners. Thanks to a softer suspension setup, the suspension uses more of the travel and works in the area manufacturers have designed the suspension to work in.
Make sure to check out our instructions for how to set up dirt bike suspension for trail riding. After reading our post, you will understand how the suspension of your dirt bike works and how to tune and maintain the suspension. This way, you can get the best out of your riding.
You definitely want your suspension setup to be perfect at all times. With the right tools, you can adjust the settings anytime and anywhere. We recommend all riders to always carry a small tool with them when riding on trails. Here’s our favorite:
BikeMaster Multi Tool With Sockets (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – This portable BikeMaster multi tool is golden. It is small enough to throw into your hydration backpack for easy, trail side use.
Step 2. Protection
Dirt bikes are built well and they sure can take a beating.
Some manufacturers add protective parts to the dirt bikes already at the factory. There are also a multitude of additional protective products out there. So, it can be difficult to decide what is the best solution for your dirt bike.
In this step 2, we will discuss the most common and recommended dirt bike protective products that we think are must-haves for beginners. You as a rider should always be protected but your dirt bike also has needs for protection.
We all know that dirt bikes are expensive. With carefully selected products, you can ride worry free when you don’t have to worry about failures out on the trails. In addition, you can save money both short and long term.
Next, will cover the following topics when it comes to the dirt bike setup for beginners and protecting your dirt bike:
- Engine, skid plate and frame
- Exhaust pipe (mainly 2-strokes)
- Sprockets and chain
- Brake discs
- Levers and forward controls
Install a Skid Plate for Engine and Frame Protection
A skid plate is a great way to protect the dirt bike frame, engine and sometimes even the clutch case.
Especially if you plan to ride a single track, enduro or on rocky terrain, the skid plate is the first item to look at when protecting your dirt bike. It really is a must-have for the dirt bike setup for beginners.
A skid plate protects your dirt bike efficiently from rocks, logs and other flying debris. It’s relatively easy to hit your engine case to a log or a rock and crack the engine beyond repair. So, if you are on a tight budget, look for a cheaper solution available but definitely buy one.
Skid plates come in many shapes and materials. Some prefer plastic or composite materials and some aluminum or steel. But the main factors to consider are durability and the performance of the skid plate in different riding conditions.
A skid plate is an important protective item but it also affects the riding performance.
Plastic and composite skid plates are usually less durable and lighter in weight. In addition, they slide over obstacles much better creating less friction. Advanced riders use the skid plate a lot to get over obstacles and slide over logs in tight spaces.
Aluminum and steel skid plates are heavier and can take harder hits. But the trade-off comes with added weight and higher friction. In addition, they are louder and may rattle in the dirt bike driving some riders crazy when they try to find the source of the noise. You can easily feel the friction when crossing a log and when the skid plate slides off the log. Plastic skid plates seem to slide over easily whereas aluminum ones may even stop you aggressively on top of a log.
You can find more important information about skid plates in our post about do you need a dirt bike skid plate. We will also help you to find the dirt bike skid plate that best suits your riding style and the conditions you ride in.
When it comes to the dirt bike setup for beginners, we recommend starting with the skid plate your dirt bike came with. If your bike doesn’t have one, this is our top pick for an affordable skid plate for a beginner:
Acerbis Skid Plate (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – Acerbis has a lightweight skid plate that works great for beginner riders. They offer models for most dirt bikes and are an affordable choice for beginner riders.
Choose a Pipe Guard (a Must for 2-Strokes)
The exhaust pipe is a fairly expensive part and can easily be dented or twisted when dropping the dirt bike. With a proper pipe guard, you can extend the exhaust pipe’s life span.
A pipe guard is even more important for 2-stroke engines because the head pipe (sometimes called an expansion chamber) is large and hanging low and front thus being prone to hitting logs and rocks.
As for the dirt bike setup for beginners, it is more important to protect the head pipe than the silencer.
You might notice that more advanced enduro riders may not have any protection. Their advanced riding style allows this because they are able to avoid dropping the bike or hitting the pipe into obstacles. But as a beginner, you will find it best to invest into a good pipe guard. Otherwise, you need to be prepared for denting and replacing your head pipe regularly.
There are multiple different styles of protection, especially designed for 2-strokes, that suffer most issues with head pipes.
Carbon fiber and composite materials are very light and offer a great protection against dents and harder hits. Steel and aluminum options generally are less expensive options. But they are smaller so they sometimes may lack in fully protecting the entire expansion chamber area.
You can read more about pipe guards in our post why you need a 2 stroke pipe guard. We will also help you to find the dirt bike pipe guard that best suits your riding style.
If you have a 4-stroke dirt bike, you don’t really need a pipe guard because the pipe sits much higher and is not that prone to harder hits. Therefore, you should not have major issues unless you’re extremely unlucky.
If you have a 2-stroke, we recommend this pipe guard for the completion of the dirt bike setup for beginners:
E-Line Pipe Guard (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – Carbon fiber pipe guards are great, durable and lightweight. E-Line has developed an affordable choice for beginners that offer the same level of protection than the more expensive choices out there. It’s a great choice for a beginner rider who is looking for a good protection. In addition, it looks great on any dirt bike!
Protect the Rear Sprocket With a Chain Guide and Protect the Engine Case
Riding dirt bikes is a fun and an exciting sport. And along with it come tumbles and crashes.
So, protecting the most vulnerable parts of the dirt bike after protecting yourself will save you a lot of money towards riding more. You definitely want to keep this in mind when completing the dirt bike setup for beginners!
Protecting the sprockets and the chain is one area that is often forgotten until they need fixing after a mishap.
Protective parts are not expensive and they will last a long time when properly used. Unless your bike already comes with these protective parts, consider buying them before hitting any advanced single trails or tougher terrain.
You will need to protect the rear sprocket and the front sprocket area for chain failures.
Most dirt bikes come with a factory installed lower chain guide that installs in front of the rear sprocket. This will protect the sprocket from direct hits and prevent sticks and rocks being lodged between the chain and the sprocket. In addition, this usually saves your chain from breaking.
In addition to a lower chain guide, invest into a case saver. It installs on the top side of the front sprocket protecting the chain from lodging itself into the engine case when the chain snaps. It can save you from cracking the engine case and therefore save you a lot of money. A case saver is a must for a beginner dirt bike. It will last the lifetime of the dirt bike and is cheap to buy.
This is our recommendation for the dirt bike setup for beginners:
Acerbis Chain Guide / Slider Kit (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – Acerbis has a great kit that includes a chain guide block and a chain slider to protect the case. The chain guide protects the rear sprocket well and has a replaceable lower sliding kit. This kit is all you need.
Make sure to also check out our post: dirt bike chain guides explained. It will give you more detailed information about chain guides and also introduces additional ways for chain, sprocket and case protection.
Cover Front and Rear Brake Discs
Protecting your brake discs is one step further for making sure your training day will go smoothly.
The discs are lightweight and prone to bending—sometimes very easily. If your bike doesn’t have any protection, consider adding few simple products for lowering the risk of bending the discs.
You can find plastic, more light weight solutions for the front brake disc that cover the disc well and also keep the disc and brake pads cleaner in muddy tracks and conditions. They are ideal for completing the dirt bike setup for beginners! They will also last long and save you money.
More robust, aluminum or steel protective guards are also available. For beginners, we recommend a less expensive plastic style front brake disc guard and heavier, more robust designs for the rear brake disc.
Usually, the front disc is more prone to bending for beginners. So, if you need to choose only one, buy the front brake disc guard.
We chose separate brake disc protection products for completing the dirt bike setup for beginners below. They both are great and durable options for beginners in the lower price range.
You will find more information about brake disc covers in our post dirt bike disc brake guards explained. Make sure to check it out to find what kind of brake disc cover best suits your riding style and the conditions you ride in.
Protect Levers and Forward Controls
When you drop your dirt bike, levers are very easily bent or snapped off. You can protect the levers and other forward controls in your dirt bike with durable and long lasting products.
Your options are wrap around handguards, deflector style handguards and different style levers.
For beginners, we recommend either full wrap arounds or deflectors. They both protect the levers (and your hands) very differently. Here are few pros and cons to help you to decide on which ones to choose for your dirt bike setup for beginners.
Full wrap around handguards protect the levers very well and they also protect your hands the best in many types of riding styles. On most single tracks, you will continuously get hit by branches, trees and riders roosting in front of you. Full wrap arounds offer great protection and are very robust. They can also be adjusted separately from the level height and width positions giving more precise control on how the set them up.
The deflector style is a more lightweight solution for protecting your levers and other controls. They also deflect roosting, offer a good sliding off of trees but can jam your fingers on impact.
Cycra makes arguably the best complete handguards out there. We recommend these ones below for beginners for many reasons, mainly for safety and durability. You can also find aluminum ones for even more durability for slightly higher price point.
Cycra Composite Pro Bend Handguard Kit (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – These full wrap arounds are made of composite and they are easy to install. We simply love them!
Make sure to also read our post how to choose the best dirt bike handguards where you will find more detailed information about handguards. You will also learn helpful tips for how to choose the right type of handguards to match your skill level and the conditions and trails you ride in.
Step 3. Performance
Dirt bikes are usually ridden in technical and challenging environments.
The dirt bike engine itself is rarely underpowered for a beginner rider, no matter what type of a modern dirt bike you have. So, we will focus on choices and types of products that will make it easier to learn and get better at your chosen riding style without touching the motor to increase engine power.
The power delivery and controlling it in technical riding is key to success. Therefore, we are concentrating on tires and suspension.
In this step 3, we will cover the following topics when it comes to the dirt bike setup for beginners and increasing the riding performance:
- Tire pressure
- Suspension settings
- BONUS: Auto clutch
Read also: The Best Dirt Bike Setup For Advanced Riders
Choose the Correct Tires for Your Riding Style
The tires are the only surface touching the ground in a dirt bike and they must have enough friction to do what you’re asking the bike to do. Tires can be roughly divided into the following three categories:
- Soft or gummy tires
- These tires are great for rocks and trails with lots of roots, rubble and logs. They will wear and chunk off easily in high speed and hard packed corners.
- Intermediate tires
- Intermediate tires withstand higher speeds better and work great on sand and faster single tracks as well as in rain or on wet surfaces. They are a great choice for beginners as all around tires.
- Hard tires
- Hard tires are usually chosen for soft sand and high speeds. They are usually slippery in wet and muddy conditions as well as on rocks and logs.
We recommend choosing intermediate tires from your budget range when completing the dirt bike setup for beginners. Great beginner intermediate front tires run anywhere between $50 and $65 US dollars, whereas rear tires go between $75 to $90—and there are plenty to choose from.
If you plan to ride in deep sand or muddy conditions, choose tire patterns that are more open because they clear and grab better. Whereas the normal spaced knobs are great for rocks, roots or similar.
Shinko and Tusk offer affordable choices for beginners. Their tires are comparable in performance with many high-priced options so they are a great choice for beginners. These are our recommendations:
Make sure to check out our instructions forbest dirt bike tires for trail riding to find out more important information on what to consider when selecting tires for your dirt bike. You will get great tips for choosing tires for different terrains.
Set the Correct Tire Pressure
Setting the correct tire pressure is an important element in dirt bike riding.
We see beginner riders and often even advanced riders neglecting to check and adjust the tire pressure before riding in different conditions. And this can lead to several different problems, such as flats, harsh or hard feedback through handlebars, unstable feeling on different surfaces and much more.
When it comes to the dirt bike setup for beginners, a stock tire and tube setup is adequate for beginner riders and works well for most terrains and riding styles.
Once your riding skills evolve, you should start thinking about different options for protecting against flats and increasing traction. Our advanced riders section provides lots of tips and options for tire setups so make sure to check them out once you get there.
Start by setting your tire pressure to around 10–12 PSI for your front tire and to 9–11 PSI for your rear tire. This works great with most intermediate tires and in most conditions.
If you plan to ride on rocks, roots and sharp ledges, set a slightly higher pressure to avoid punctures and snake eyes. (Snake eye happens when the inner tube is punctured by the wheel hitting the tube against an object resulting into two pictures each side of the tube.) What you want is a soft enough tire pressure to maximize the tire surface area to the ground without resulting in flats.
If you do get a flat, you can quickly change the tire by following our step-by-step instructions for how to change dirt bike tire with Tubliss. The same instructions apply also for the normal inner tube setup.
Check the tire pressure often. This is important because each trail and riding day is different. Tires also lose or increase pressure over time and with temperature changes. A tire pressure that worked great yesterday in 80-degree heat will not work the same the next morning in low 50s.
We check the tire pressure each morning and tune it throughout the day when needed. This is the cheapest and quickest improvement next to suspension setup that can be done anywhere and anytime. Talk about an easy dirt bike setup for beginners!
Make sure to also check out our ultimate guide to dirt bike tire pressure. It will give you more tips for how to find a good tire pressure setting just for your dirt bike as well as different conditions and riding styles.
We recommend investing into a good manual floor air pump and tire gauge. Buy the good quality stuff and you will use them for years to come and avoid many flats and other issues down the road. These are the ones we have and vouch for:
Lezyne Steel Drive Floor Pump (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – This floor pump has a durable construction so it lasts a long time. It also has an easy-to-read pressure gauge attached to it.
KTM PowerParts Tire Gauge (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – This tire gauge is easy to use and read. In addition, it has a convenient pressure release button.
Set Your Suspension for the Trail
Suspension settings affect the riding and rider performance. Incorrectly set suspension settings will make riding difficult and wear out the rider quicker.
The same principle applies to suspension and to tires: set the suspension for each riding spot and conditions, every time. This will make learning easier and more fun. Furthermore, it makes the dirt bike more controllable and safe.
Start with the factory recommendation for a soft suspension setup. Above in step 1 of the dirt bike setup for beginners, you learned how to set up the basic starting point. A softer suspension is usually more forgiving and a good starting point.
When adjusting the suspension, we recommend keeping notes on your suspension clicker setup for different riding spots. The more comfortable you get with adjusting the suspension, the more you will start noticing the different feedback and how the bike feels. Below, we have listed some principles of where to start.
Set up your dirt bike to a soft setting or if you have notes from a similar riding spot, apply those settings. Take a short warm up or test run.
- If the bike kicks the handlebars and feels like it’s deflecting off the obstacles when riding over bumps, obstacles or similar:
- Open the rebound setting two clicks to make suspension react quicker on the front forks.
- Open the compression setting two clicks to make the forks softer and to remove the hard-hit feeling on the handlebars.
- If the front of the dirt bike feels like it’s diving down especially when cornering or dropping off obstacles:
- Close the compression clickers one to two clicks on the forks.
- If the bike kicks too much up when going over logs, rocks or roots with higher speed (second gear and up):
- Open a quarter turn on the rear shock high speed setting. This will make the rear kick less and feel more stable.
- You can also soften the slow speed compression setting after another test run to see if that further increases stability.
Setting the dirt bike suspension is really quite easy and definitely something you should learn to do. After all, suspension is an important part of the dirt bike setup for beginners. Make sure to also check out our detailed instructions for how to set up dirt bike suspension for trail riding.
We recommend carrying a multi tool or a small set of required tools in your hydration backpack to adjust the suspension at trail side. This way, you can quickly adjust the clickers to your liking and continue having a great riding experience. Here’s our favorite:
BikeMaster Multi Tool With Sockets (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – This portable BikeMaster multi tool is golden. It is small enough to throw into your hydration backpack for easy, trail side use.
BONUS: Consider Adding an Auto Clutch to Your Dirt Bike
What is an auto clutch? An auto clutch automatically engages the clutch when revving the engine. It effectively eliminates stalling and can help some riders to learn how to ride.
Based on our experience, the auto clutch setup comes with few crucial caveats. Firstly, if you plan to become a better technical rider, manually modulating the clutch is a very important skill you need to learn early on. Secondly, using an auto clutch drastically changes your riding style.
For that reason, we do not recommend getting one when you complete the dirt bike setup for beginners unless you suffer from physical injuries or similar conditions where using the manual clutch is difficult. An arm pump or getting tired or simply not knowing how to use the manual clutch are all poor excuses to get an auto clutch.
Once you get better at riding, you start realizing how important the clutch is and how you need to constantly use it to obtain traction and maneuver the dirt bike in different techniques.
While auto clutches still enable you to use the clutch normally, they affect—in all conditions—the finesse and friction point as well as the accuracy of the clutch engagement area. And this has a big impact on how accurate and precise the clutch actuation is.
Before you buy one, we recommend trying it out on someone else’s dirt bike to feel the difference in the clutch feel. Also make sure to check out our ultimate guide to Rekluse clutches to weigh all the benefits and disadvantages. Having said that, auto clutch setups are something to look into for some riders. Here is a great option if you decide to get one:
Rekluse Core EXP 3.0 Clutch Kit (click to check the current price on MotoSport.com) – Rekluse makes a great auto clutch that is adjustable and great choice for riders looking to get into dirt bike riding but cannot handle the manual clutch. This auto clutch is easy to install and helps you to tackle more challenging trails without killing the engine.
Wow! That was a lot of information for a beginner rider. Our aim is to help you set up your dirt bike and make learning conditions ideal for beginner riders.
Throughout our riding careers, we have seen a lot of beginners coming into the sport. It’s always great to see new people joining the sport and like us, most people welcome new riders with open arms into the sport.
You will gain lots of experience by talking and riding with skilled riders and discussing about how they set up their dirt bike for different conditions. And this is part of the dirt riding community, we learn from others.
In the meanwhile, use our dirt bike trail finder to find riding spots for practicing your skills. Practice makes progress and you will notice your skills improving in no time.
The story continues in our advanced rider section where you can find more dirt bike setup tips and configurations. Make sure you check it out once you have completed your dirt bike setup for beginners and improved your skills.
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Keep riding and stay safe out there!