11 Tips for Riding Off-Road

How To -



7. Stand Up

If you started riding off-road, this may seem overly simple, but most street riders are surprised to learn that standing up actually lowers their center of gravity; the body’s weight is directed through the pegs instead of the seat. Pinch the tank with your lower legs and knees and keep your legs bent; they make great shock absorbers.

8. Weight The Inside Peg

Want to take a right turn? Push down on the inside (right) peg, while shifting your weight to the outside to aid traction and to keep your weight evenly distributed over the center mass of the bike. You actually steer a dirt bike this way, not by using the bars. Works equally well in lefthand corners, where you weight the left peg.

9. In Corners, Sit As Far Forward As Possible

At least he got the “sit forward so the rear can slide” part right

Completely the opposite from tackling jumps, obstacles or deep sand, in corners you’re going to want to get as much of your bodyweight as possible over the front wheel. More weight equals more traction equals more corner speed. Shifting your weight off the rear also makes it easier to initiate a slide.

10. Lead The Person Behind You

When riding in a group, it’s your responsibility both to warn the person behind you of obstacles and to make sure they don’t get lost or separated from the group. If everyone follows this rule, then everyone gets warned about that water buffalo, or thousand-foot drop  in plenty of time and no one’s going to arrive at a junction with no clue which way to turn. Even if you’re the second-to-last guy and you have to slow down to let the slowpoke (Wes) catch up, this rule should mean the guy in front of you also slows and the guy in front of him too; it keeps the whole group together.

11. Signal Your Group Number

Those two big headlights can’t be seen around corners, it’s your job to let people coming the other way know he’s there.

Come up on someone riding the opposite way on a trail? It’s incredibly important to let them know how many bikes are coming up behind you, so they know when it’s safe to get back on the throttle. Hold your left hand up and raise the number of fingers of the number of guys behind you. The final rider in your group should hold up a closed fist to signal “all clear.” This way, there’s no head-on collisions at speed.

 And When You Put It All Together

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This is not a complete list, but its a good place to start. Share your own tips, or stories about the usefulness of ours, in the comments section below.

Great Off-Road Bikes for Beginners:

Suzuki DR-Z400S

Honda CRF250L

Yamaha WR250R

Related Articles:

Video: RideApart 19: Honda CRF250L vs Suzuki DR-Z400S

Ride Report: Riverside to Vegas… Almost

Review: 2013 Honda CRF250L

Video: RideApart 7: A European Adventure

Review: 2014 BMW F 800 GS Adventure

Gear Review: Alpinestars Tech 10, Fluid Knee Brace, BNS Tech Carbon

Review: 2013 Suzuki DR-Z400S

  • augustdaysong

    just got my first adventure bike coming from three street bikes and couple of people have been giving me crap for never having ridden off road before. great timing. thanks for the write up

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Best advice I can give you is Continental TKC80s. And crash protection, crash protection, crash protection. Then just go out and ride, you’ll figure it out.

    • Robert Reinhardt

      I recently got a CRF250L after years on street bikes. I’m enjoying off-road riding MUCH more. Just go out on trails and ride, you’ll figure things out. I had zero experience off-road but it gets easier every time. First crash was humbling and humiliating, now I just laugh when I fall over. The CRF is a GREAT bike btw! Crash protection for yourself and bike are a must!

  • Jono

    great write up, love it when you guys include a bit of dirt action!
    here area few points that others might consider:
    when changing from a sitting-to-standing position use the big bumps/deflections on the trail to “kick” your butt off the seat into standing. may sound silly but doing this instead of standing up under your own power will save you from early fatigue.

    bring a sachet or 2 of mcdonald’s/diner/cafe pepper, and empty it into your radiator if you get a pin-hole leak. not a permanent fix, but will plug the leak well enough to get you out of trouble with out causing any damage to your water pump/seals

    ZIPTIES!!! you can hold a dirt bike together with zip-ties =P

  • grb

    the best thing you can do as a rider is to ride both street and dirt

  • Tyler 250

    STANDING UP DOES NOT LOWER YOUR CENTER OF GRAVITY! Seriously. Go back to fucking middle school and try to stay awake in class. Just think about it for a second. If you’re going to tell tales out of school (which seems to be all you do), at least study a little bit while you’re in school.

    • Tyler 250

      And trying to be constructive, what you’re doing when you stand up is increasing your moment of inertia. Think of a tightrope walker holding one of those long poles. The longer lever makes it easier to control disruptions near the fulcrum.

      While I’m at it, you weight the outside peg. Watch Motocrossers. Are they weighting the inside peg? No, they’re inside foot’s not even on the peg. You’re counterbalancing when you’re turning on dirt.

      • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

        Per Jimmy Lewis, you initially weight the inside to initiate the turn, then you use your body weight to weight the outside and maintain the counterbalance, using the outside peg to manage that weight.

      • Demian

        “Their” inside foot.

        • Tyler 250

          Jeez. Can’t believe I did that. I suppose I started off writing, “No, they’re [doing whatever],” and then changed it? Maybe Jimmy Lewis doesn’t understand grammar, though. Would that make it okay?

    • Jay

      Right. Standing up raises your center of gravity. It offers more control because it allows your legs to be used as shock absorbers and you can move your weight around on the bike better by standing.

    • Tiger 955

      Standing up raises YOUR centre of gravity but lowers the BIKES centre of gravity because your weight is lower on the pegs than the seat….seriously….just think about it for a second!

    • Mike PB Adventure Camp Riding

      Using ‘center of gravity’ was just the wrong technical term to try to explain weight distribution and balance points. Standing and separating the masses of you and the bike, and using different weight distribution methods like weighting the pegs, works great controlling the motorcycle. The concept of simply standing on the pegs lowers center of gravity would be like saying my beat up chevy can have the same cg of a Ferrari, all I have to do is lower where the engine mounts (foot pegs) connect to the vehicle, at a point below that of the Ferrari and keep the chevy engine popping out of the hood. Now if that chevy engine could move and shift weight during corners it would do great recreationally, until it hit some serious speeds and tight corners and curves, then at that point you could no longer ignore the huge pendulum that stood up and raised the overall center of gravity.

    • somegoofyguy

      Yes it does. Do you not get the concept of CCoG or Combined Center of Gravity. It is similar to a forklift. If you have a load on your forks and it is below the line of the axle it is more stable than if it was empty. So when you stand up you are transferring your weight from off the seat to the foot rest. So you have moved your CG up ~12 inches but put nearly all of your weight 18 inches lower. This will move the CCoG lower in the bike. Now if you were to stand on the seat it would raise the CCoG . I know all of these ideas are way below you since you are the super expert with all of the CAPS.

  • Juan Francisco Castillo Villal

    Hey rideapart! I am looking for a pair of boots that I could use on a Dual Sport bike. I commute everyday on it and ride offroad on weekends. I’m on a budget too! What would you suggest?

    • Piglet2010

      I wear Alpinestars Scout WP boots when riding off road – more lower leg protection than a street boot, but better for walking in (not to mention less gaudy) that a MX boot once they break-in. Good cold weather boot, but a bit hot in summer. They appear to be well made and wear resistant.


      • 65slashtwo

        +1 on the Scout WP! Good all around boot without being too over the top for the commute.

        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          +2 on the scout WP. They’re great boots.

      • Juan Francisco Castillo Villal

        Thanks! I think I’ll give them a shot.

        • Piglet2010

          Just don’t judge them by walking around in a store – they will seem too stiff for the few rides until they break in.

          • Juan Francisco Castillo Villal

            I will most likely have to order them online. I am from México and I have never seen them in person in any motorcycle shop over here

  • Clint Keener

    12. Trust the bike, don’t fight it.

  • Mike PB Adventure Camp Riding

    We had that debate about center of gravity here at the Pine Barrens Adventure Camp Riding School after hearing Rawhyde teach it, because it instantly sounded wrong. You of course Raise your center of gravity when you stand up. The language we use for that concept is you lower your balance point by standing up. When you stand up you are almost completely separating the masses of your body and bike, making them much more manageable. I did not hear Jimmy himself say anything about center of gravity though, just the importance of standing and not letting the bike push or drag you around because of sitting on the seat. Even when paddling in the deep sand, one foot down only, stand and dab / hop, no Harley shuffles.

  • Tyler 250

    That has nothing to do with center of gravity. It may help to understand that center of gravity and center of mass are the same thing when talking about normal conditions on the surface of the earth. When you stand up, does your mass move up or down?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Again, per Jimmy Lewis: standing lower’s the bike’s center of gravity.

      • Nathan Haley

        The bike’s center of gravity/center of mass remains roughly constant – the bike+rider’s combined CG is higher when the rider is standing.

        However, before we knock the concept, we should consider why CG is a good thing to keep low on a bike. A low CG and/or a light overall weight both contribute to a smaller moment of inertia around the axis of the bike’s lateral lean/rotation (the point at which the tires touch the ground) during turns. In other words, a lighter bike with a lower CG is easier to lean over and/or to hold up. When you stand on a bike, you raise your own center of gravity, but you do not change that of the bike. When off-road, you only care about the CG of the bike (not the bike+rider) because only the bike is leaning (the rider generally counterweights).

        It’s almost always better to stand up when off-road, but it’s not because you’re lowering your center of gravity (Jimmy Lewis might say that to encourage riders but it’s not true, as per our definition of center of gravity). Standing gives you better control, traction and comfort because your legs act as shock absorbers for your mass. Standing also encourages riders to balance better, resisting the urge to put their feet down and stabilize or paddle.

      • Tyler 250

        If Jimmy Lewis stands up and Sir Isaac Newton sits down, who has the lower center of gravity?

        And because I support grammar corrections, I think you mean “lowers”.

  • http://madebyfred.com fred vg

    Great article, but what’s with splitting it into two pages? One long page is much better and if you need to artificially bump the hits with pagination, at least give us a one-page option.

    • UrbanMoto

      Ditto. I hate that crap. On the other hand, if it pays the bills to keep the lights on…. I actually missed the link to the second page until I saw your comment.

      At least it’s not a page per item listicle. I usually just click away from that junk immediately, no matter how intriguing the headline.

      • Shanged

        I just wonder how many articles I’ve missed the 2nd page to now.
        At least make it more conspicuous!

    • Chris McAlevy

      Just want more pageviews.
      It sucks.

  • gravit8ed


    This made me ache for my dad’s Kawi Super Sherpa and the single-track trails less than 15 miles from his doorstep in Albuquerque, just east of town in the Sandia Mountains. Some great views, some superb isolated trails, and all within a short canyon ride from home. I know it’s over played, but the confidence you can build on a 250 single dual sport bike is incredible – you feel like you can put it anywhere, and it’s never more than you can handle.

    Some pretty decent pointers up here, especially if you dont have much off road experience.

  • Jimboecv

    I would add that in sand, etc., steer with your feet by shifting your weight on the pegs. Also, don’t chop the throttle!

  • kentaro

    Riding on sand especially on a big adv bike is the scariest thing in the world. Your brain is saying “if I crack the throttle open on sand, I’ll just crash faster!” But nope, your front wheel just glides over everything. Crazy to do it the first time.

  • J. Brandon

    Thanks for including tip Number 11. I wish more riders, actually anyone operating a vehicle in the backcountry, practiced this.

  • peter

    Very good article, thanks.
    Does anyone know what is the brand of the jacket worn in the first and second image?

  • Mike PB Adventure Camp Riding

    Pine Barrens Adventure Camp Riding School hosts Jimmy Lewis training school on the east coast.