Top 10 Skills to Learn on Your Dual Sport Motorcycle

Just because you know how to ride a motorcycle on the road doesn’t mean you know how to ride one on the dirt. Purchasing a dual-sport motorcycle opens up a whole new world of riding possibilities. But, before you hit the trail, you need to learn some valuable skills. These are skills that will help you maintain control of the bike and avoid an accident. Some have value on and off the road, while others differ significantly from your on-road driving habits. Learn these 10 skills on your dual sport and become a better rider.


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10/10 Seat position

Photo of a KTM dual sport motorcycle rider

The best body position is one that maximizes comfort while improving your ability to use your limbs. Unlike sport bikes or dirt bikes, where you sit against the tank, you want to create space. Don’t sit too far or too close to the gas tank. If you sit too close, you won’t have the necessary movement and agility. If you sit too far back, you won’t be able to reach the controls effectively. A few centimeters of space should suffice. To ensure you have the right amount of space, you can place a few fingers between you and the tank. Find the number that works best for you and stick to it.

9/10 Placement of hands

Photo of Manuel Lettenbichler on a KTM 300 EXC TPI

Once you have your seat in the right place, the next step is to check your hands. Having more than one finger on the brake gives you more strength and power. This way you can brake faster and harder. Many experienced riders also find it more comfortable to use two fingers on the clutch as well. This gives you more dexterity and control. This is useful during slow manoeuvres. Plus, you can downshift smoothly when you step on the accelerator during on-road maneuvers. Consider the size of your handlebar grips and the size of your hands. They should be large enough for your hands to wrap around comfortably. Too big or too small, and you’ll have a hard time gripping them securely.

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dirt bike motorcycle boot rider

Similar to hand placement, proper foot placement is essential for maximum dexterity and control. Many cyclists use the soles of their feet when standing on the footpegs. However, they move their feet forward when sitting down. Don’t be lazy and let your feet slide forward so that you depend on the heels of your boots to keep your feet in place. Instead, keep the soles of your feet on the ankles. With this placement, you can better support your body weight. This way you can shift your weight better to maintain balance while riding. This foot placement also prevents your feet from scraping the pavement at sharp corners.

7/10 Bent over

dual sports race

People assume that if you’re cornering on a motorcycle, you have to lean. However, beginners tend to bend over too much. Instead of following the movement of the bike, they simply throw their body weight onto the bike. When you ride a dual-sport bike, you lean into corners when riding off-road. This allows tire knobs to dig into gravel and dirt. You have more traction this way. However, when riding a dual-sport bike on pavement, you need to keep the bike straight through turns. This ensures that you have maximum tire-to-pavement contact for maximum traction.

Related: Video: How far can a MotoGP bike lean?

6/10 Strategic braking

dirt bike motorcycle dual sports bike

Braking isn’t just about stopping when you’re on the trail. Good braking can mean the difference between life and death. The biggest mistake beginner cyclists make is relying solely on the front brake. They barely use the rear brake or don’t use it at all. This reduces traction and increases the risk of an accident due to loss of control. In an emergency, always apply both brakes evenly. Using only the front brake can increase forward control due to front load traction. Using only the rear brake can give a smooth and controlled slow down in speed. Plus, there’s no nose dive when you use your rear brake properly.

5/10 Soft limiting

dual sport dirt bike

If you want to be a skilled dual-sport rider that transitions from road to travel seamlessly, you need to have throttle control. When riding off-road, there should never be any downtime. This is because the terrain is varied and unpredictable. You must either accelerate to increase speed or hold reduced throttle to maintain speed. If you don’t give the bike throttle input, you have no control over the bike. Keep in mind that you have more rear traction when you are actively accelerating the bike. You put more load on the rear tire and get more contact. This gets you out of situations where you might lose traction. Less throttle puts the weight back on the front tire, giving you more steering control.​​​​​​​

Related: Locking the throttle then crashing a Harley

4/10 Broad, deep and late

Motocross dirt bike dual sport in the mud

Sportbike riders have the key to cornering success. The safest and most efficient way to take a curve in the road or take a bend is wide, deep and late. Stand on the wide side of the road or path when heading into the bend. For example, if you turn left, you will move to the right of the path. If the turn is right, you will move to the left side of the path. In the middle of the turn, you will go deep. This means allowing the curve to bend around you. You will end up on the other side of the road or path. Wait until you do, in order to drive deeper into the turn, gaining maximum view of the road ahead. Then exit the bend late and return to center.​​​​​​​

3/10 Head up, eyes up

Man riding a dual sport bike in the sand.

Don’t fall into the trap of looking down or straight ahead. Thanks to the slower speeds on the trail, looking outward is much easier than on the road. Don’t just stare directly ahead. Instead, scan your eyes left and right. This way you can see everything in front of you, left and right. Prepare for hazards by speeding up or slowing down. Looking outward gives you more time to react so you can have smoother braking and acceleration. A proactive driver is a careful driver who reduces the risk of an accident.

Related: Should I Stand or Sit When Driving Off-Road?

2/10 Upright

Standing Honda CRF110F

When you stand on the foot pegs, you disconnect most of your body weight from the mass of the bike. You also turn your legs and arms into shock absorbers. This allows the bike to bounce and move under you. Think of the action similar to a jockey on a horse. The horse gallops, but the jockey doesn’t really move. Do not use the handlebars to support your weight when standing on the foot pegs. Use this test to make sure you are standing correctly on the stakes. Let go of the handlebars. You should be able to balance yourself with your knees leaning against the bike to stabilize yourself.​​​​​​​

1/10 stay loose

2022 Dirt Track Royal Enfield Scram 411 Action Shot Promotion

The pavement is generally smooth and the turns are predictable. It makes maneuvering easier because you know what to expect. That’s not always the case when heading off-road. The gravel under the tires shifts and shifts as you drive over it. Your body must be loose to be ready to react. You need to adjust your weight and support the bike to ensure you stay upright. Then there are the really uneven and unstable lands. Riding in the desert requires you to be loose and ready for anything. If you feel tense, actively focus on relaxing those muscles. Tightening your muscles also creates fatigue earlier. It’s the last thing you want when you have a long drive ahead of you.

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