The appeal of off-road biking is obvious – a rugged, adventurous ride that sees you getting stuck in to nature, covered in dirt, and tackling challenging terrain. For many, it’s the only way to ride!
Off-road riding is often a big attraction for beginners, and it’s important to make sure you know your stuff so you can choose the right bike first time. It’s not at all the same as on-road riding, and neither is off-road bike insurance. There are plenty of different kinds of dirt bikes, with a range of differences between them.
Motocross bikes are designed for racing on short tracks, with a focus on navigating obstacles and jumps. They can be expensive and hard to maintain, with limited capabilities away from the track, but they’re essential for motocross and supercross riding. Engines vary in size from 50cc to around 650cc, so there are plenty of options for learners, beginners and long-term riders.
Enduro bikes are motocross bikes modified enough to be road-legal. Horns, lights, number plates, mufflers and turn signals mean they can be ridden on and off-road. It’s more about versatility, choice and freedom than a “best-of-both-worlds” scenario, as you will lose some of the competitive capability.
Trail bikes are similar to enduro bikes, but with more focus on a longer, more comfortable ride rather than being set up to compete. Trail bikes are more likely to have an increased number of road-ready features as well. For truly recreational on- and off-road riding, they’re ideal.
Trial bikes are for off-road competitions, but not for speed-based contests like motocross. Extremely lightweight, and often lacking seating due to the highly-skilled obstacle courses they’re designed to navigate, trial bikes are highly specialised. Smaller engines are more common, usually 125cc to 300cc.
Off-road bikes are often available in both a two and four-stroke variety, with the four-stroke arguably a better option for beginners as they’re generally cheaper to maintain and run, and tend to have a longer life.
When it comes to choosing an off-road bike, there are plenty of options available, and every rider will favour something different depending on their size, experience and preferences. Here’s a few choice options to start with:
Kawasaki KMX125 or KX100: Plenty of power on a light frame with great suspension, these Kawasaki bikes have been popular with many a present-day-pro when they were starting out.
Honda CRF Series: These are among the most popular and best-selling dirtbikes in the world, and with good reason! Reasonably priced, with plenty of options for both bike and engine size – there’s learner-legal and more advanced models. They superseded the old XR series, which are still worth a look if you’re after something a bit cheaper second hand. It’s worth noting that the XRs are probably a bit more reliable, as the CRF series trades longevity for power, but the power in a CRF is something else altogether.
Yamaha TT-R Series: A great beginner bike – particularly the TT-R125LE which, at less than 32″, is ideal for younger and smaller riders, but has enough ground clearance and solid suspension to make it a contender for serious trail riders as well.
Just remember: don’t be blinded by something flashy. Make sure your bike is the right size for you to ride comfortably, isn’t too powerful for you to handle, and requires an amount of maintenance that you’re able to provide. Also make sure you get yourself insured with off-road motorcycle insurance. But most important of all, have fun out there!