You are currently viewing A Beginner’s Guide to Beginning Dirt Riding: How to Go from Street to Adventure Riding

A Beginner’s Guide to Beginning Dirt Riding: How to Go from Street to Adventure Riding

Are you planning to go from street to adventure riding? Bravo! Many of us here at Women ADV Riders are ardent dirt fans for a variety of reasons; some of us started out as street riders, while others have no experience at all. There are many of benefits to off-road riding, like discovering new routes, seeing off-the-beaten-path locations, traveling on dirt roads, and having thrilling experiences. We’re so glad you’re here.

It’s always difficult to transition, however, whether it’s on a bike or in life. You don’t have to do this alone, which is wonderful news. We are here to assist you! However, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all recipe that ensures rapid success. We think that’s a good thing since studying on your own terms and at your own speed is far more fulfilling, and you should be the only one to establish any goals or benchmarks for your own development. Later on, we will discuss this in greater detail.

We’ve outlined a thorough beginner’s approach to riding dirt in this post, and we strongly advise you to always, always follow your gut and take your time becoming better. You’ll discover that certain skills—like standing up on the pegs—feel completely new when you go from street to adventure riding, while others—like looking ahead—will help you become proficient in the mud more quickly. We’re betting you’ll have an amazing adventure exploring the world of ADV riding if you make use of your current talents and remain receptive to new concepts and experiences.

So let’s get started: where to start, how to use newly learned abilities, what’s the best method to go from street to adventure riding, and what are the finest bike and gear options?

Which is Better: Dual Sport, Adventure, or Dirt?

To begin with, what distinguishes adventure, dual sport, and mud riding? Even if we may be starting out with too many notions, it’s still helpful to know what to expect and identify the things that most appeal to you before diving in.

Road and off-road riding are both included in the category of adventure riding; however, the majority of adventure motorbikes are big road bikes that can handle some dirt. That is to say, they are heavier, cozier, and more focused on the road than pure dirt or dual sport bikes, but if you acquire the feel of them, they can cheerfully tackle gravel, forest service roads, and some somewhat more challenging terrain. The BMW GS850, BMW GS1200, Honda Africa Twin, Triumph Tiger 900, and other models are a few examples of adventure bikes.

Similar to ADV riding, dual sport riding involves riding motorbikes that are designed for the dirt but can also function very well on regular highways. Generally speaking, they are lighter, have more ground clearance for improved off-road performance, and have a lower capacity than ADV motorcycles. They are more content on off-road trails and can be a lot of fun on any terrain, but they will still have enough power and speed for paved mountain twisties. Motorcycles such as the Suzuki DR650, Kawasaki KLR650, Ducati Desert X, Aprilia Tuareg, and others are examples of dual sport bikes.

You got it: dirt is the main ingredient of dirt riding. Pure off-roading—forest trails, singletrack, desert riding, and pretty much anything else on dirt—is the focus of dirt bike riding. Dirt motorcycles are made exclusively for off-road use; they are compact and light. The main goal of dirt motorcycles is to avoid paved roads completely, while some may be able and legally travel some tarmac kilometers. Examples of dirt bikes include the Husqvarna 350, Yamaha WR250, Honda CRF250, and similar models.

To begin with, should I start with an adventure, dual sport, or dirt bike?

It seems straightforward at first glance. Buying an adventure motorbike is the appropriate move if you want to start adventure riding, right? Not exactly. Riding dirt is the most crucial new ability to pick up when switching from street to adventure riding. Learning to ride off-road on a smaller, lighter motorbike, like a dual sport or dirt bike, is usually simpler, even if you don’t have any plans to tackle any rough terrain anytime soon.


Horses for courses: off-roading is the exclusive focus of dual sport and dirt motorcycles. As we said before, adventure motorbikes are essentially comfortable, big road bikes that are meant for long distance rides on gravel and woodland roads.

Dirt motorcycles and other lightweight, nimble dual sports are more forgiving, simpler to handle, and boost confidence. Learning the fundamentals on a smaller dual sport before upgrading to a large-capacity, heavy adventure bike is much simpler than attempting to become proficient on a 1200 CC beast. Riding an ADV motorbike will be easy for you to pick up the abilities and, most importantly, the confidence you receive from riding a dual sport or dirt bike, giving you a strong base upon which to grow.

That’s not to imply, however, that an adventure bike, such as a BMW GS1200, cannot be converted from street riding. You certainly can, and if that’s your ideal bike, go for it! Large ADV bike owners may attend a lot of adventure motorcycle training sessions, seminars, and events.

But, learning to ride off-road on a smaller, lighter, dirt-friendly motorcycle will make it so much easier, faster, and, let’s face it, a hell of a lot more fun if you’re not quite sure what kind of riding you’ll end up doing (adventure travel? Road trips with a few gravel roads here and there? Mostly off-road expeditions with a few tarmac liaisons in between?).

Which Starter Motorcycle Is Best for Making the Switch from Street to Adventure Riding?

In summary, it is contingent upon your objectives, aptitude, anticipations, and financial resources. When you first start off, we advise keeping things simple and focusing on a few factors:

Dimensions, mass, and force. If you were a street rider in the past and rode something like a Honda Goldwing, then a 539-pound KTM 1290 Adventure may not seem like a huge issue. A big, hefty adventure motorbike, however, could be a little too much for you if you’re accustomed to modest urban commuters or scramblers. It’s not about forcing women or men to ride smaller or less powerful motorbikes; it’s simply that learning to ride off-road on lighter bikes is just plain simpler. The weight to power ratio of the motorbike is another crucial factor to keep in mind. For instance, a Suzuki DRZ400 with a 411 CC engine weighs 100 pounds less than a Royal Enfield Himalayan, which weighs 439 lbs. While the DRZ is more enjoyable to ride, the Himalayan seems more stylish.

dependability and simplicity. Purchasing a motorbike that is mechanically straightforward and simple to maintain will result in lower expenses, a longer lifetime, and lots of space for improvements as you advance—even if you don’t intend to do your own motorcycle maintenance. Dual sports motorcycles, such as the Suzuki DR560, Suzuki DRZ400, Yamaha Tenere 700, and others, are robust, no-frills, off-road ready vehicles that will withstand occasional drops and bumps and last for many years.
Purchasing a $20,000 adventure motorbike as your first ADV bike is…brave, even if money isn’t a problem. Modern motorcycle manufacturers provide a wide range of excellent choices, with prices ranging from $5,000 (Kawasaki Versys X-300, Royal Enfield Himalayan) to $7,000 (Kawasaki KLR 650, Suzuki DR650). These are all excellent motorcycles for first-time riders. Additionally, you may always edit and enhance them later to suit your requirements.

Street to ADV: What Equipment Is Necessary?

We’ve discussed riding styles and bike selections; now let’s speak about gear. You already own the equipment you need for street riding; is there anything else you need for adventure riding?

Indeed, without a doubt. Once again, adventure motorcycling entails riding inclines, and such riding may result in unintentional falls on a variety of uneven surfaces; for this reason, adequate protection is essential.

Adventure riding gear is usually textile-based, four-season GoreTex reinforced clothing with abrasion and tear-resistant textiles for protection against knee, hip, back, elbow, and shoulder strains. Look at manufacturers like Klim for women’s adventure riding gear; they have a good selection of gear and provide excellent quality and durability.

Klim Artemis

Gear for dirt bike riding is often modular, consisting of body armor, knee braces, or pads, and lightweight jerseys and trousers. Aimed for riders facing more challenging terrain, dirt riding armor provides greater protection than adventure riding gear.

The function and design of ADV and dirt bike helmets are different from those of street riders. The majority of adventure and dirt riding helmets include a peak that shields your face from sunlight, tree branches, and other potential hazards while riding on forest routes. The majority of ADV and dirt bike helmets come with additional sun visors for comfort, and goggles are an option for further eye protection.

When switching from street to adventure riding, is equipment specific to ADV or dirt riding needed? Once again, it will depend on the kind of riding you want to perform, but an excellent set of protective adventure motorcycle gear is always a good place to start.

What Makes Street Riding Different from Dirt Riding?

Is learning to ride dirt going to be simple if you’re a skilled street rider? Both yes and no. On the one hand, you don’t need to start from scratch since you already have a strong foundation of abilities and are comfortable on two wheels. And that’s a big plus.

Traction, however, is a crucial distinction between street and dirt riding. Because your tires have sufficient of traction on paved roads, you may navigate and lean into turns at a fast pace without worrying about toppling over.

But you lose a lot of that grip when you’re on dirt. Hard-packed dirt, such that found on graded farm roads, offers very little in the way of traction loss, allowing you to ride it much like asphalt. Conversely, loose surfaces—imagine fine gravel, sand, or mud—mean a considerable loss of traction and grip.

You’ll have to learn a new riding style that relies heavily on momentum, body posture, and balance in order to make up for it.

Additionally, when you go off-road, your motorbike will shift underneath you due to the unstable ground. As a street rider, you’re accustomed to the bike being steady, smooth, and stable, so at first, it seems unsettling. The bike will, to a greater or lesser degree, move, skid, and slide below you over dirt. That’s OK! You’re correct; that’s very natural. The key to riding mud is to learn to embrace that movement and work with it rather than against it. Riding dirt may seem like something you’ve never done before, but once you flip a switch in your head, you’ll quickly discover that it’s more simpler than you first thought, and most importantly, you’ll be having a great time doing it.

Making the Switch to Dirt: Fundamental Methods

Alright, your bike will shift beneath you since you have less traction and grip. Then, how do you ride the thing? Ideally, you should enroll in classes or go on a training trip to help you lay a solid foundation under the guidance of an experienced off-road instructor. To begin enjoying adventure riding more quickly (and safely!), you must be trained. Experienced instructors can teach you more than any blog article, YouTube video, or friend’s advise could ever do.

However, if you don’t now have that chance, the following advice may be helpful:

Taking a Stand with Your Footpegs

You’ll need to become better at standing up on your footpegs to make up for the lack of grip on dirt. Your handlebars and your weight are your only two areas of control while riding a bike while seated. In addition to the first two, you may still influence the bike’s movement and speed when you stand up by adjusting your feet, knees, and body posture. This allows you more flexibility and control while riding your bike.

After that, your center of gravity will drop such that it is now on your footpegs rather on your seat. Reducing the center of mass enhances stability and facilitates bike control.

Finally, you can kind of float over bumps instead of hitting every single one and feeling the impact on your neck and back when you ride upright because your feet and legs work as shock absorbers. Standing also helps you maintain your balance, suppleness, and flexibility—essential for smooth, continuous movement as opposed to rigid, erratic bouncing.

Riding upright is intimidating at first since it seems like there is a longer fall route in the event of an accident, and you are unable to “save it” by extending your leg. We understand, but the truth is that standing upright increases your chances of staying upright far more than sitting down does. You may get additional stability, control, and balance by sanding up on the pegs.

The Trick with Jelly

Take it calm and easy while learning how to bike while standing. Select a straight section of road, shift into second gear, maintain a constant throttle, and raise yourself to the pegs almost exactly as you would if you were standing on the ground. Maintain a straight back, relaxed arms and hands on the bars, a tiny hip bend, straight legs (don’t lock your knees; simply stand as feels comfortable).

You don’t need to stoop or bend your knees while riding in a straight line, nor do you need to arch your back or put yourself in uncomfortable postures. Instead, ride gently and attempt to establish a natural, comfortable position. If riding upright is unpleasant for you, you may need to modify the bike’s ergonomics to fit your height. For instance, you might need to elevate the handlebars if you find that you are stooping too much while you ride.

Practice being flexible and balanced once you’ve found a standing posture that feels good. The worst thing you can do while riding off-road is tensing up. Imagine that you are composed of jelly, which is pliable, soft, and flexible as opposed to hard and inflexible. It is difficult to keep your bike upright with only muscular strength; balance will help you maintain control. Gravity will always prevail over force. Consider yourself to be a spoonful of jelly pudding on a dish. The jelly moves with the plate as it shakes, but it doesn’t fall off.

Riding a bike standing up should feel like this: the bike may shift under you, but as long as you’re still there, it’s almost hard to get off. Now picture a hard stone on the same plate; if you shake it, it will bounce right off; the same is true of you if you stiffen up and get tight. If you don’t change, you’ll remain standing.

Navigating and Scaling Hills

As soon as standing on the pegs starts to seem more comfortable or natural, you may start experimenting with your weight and body posture. In order to maintain balance while riding uphill, you need usually move your weight and body forward and feel the motor of the bike pushing you up via your feet. Clinging to the bars while riding uphill with your weight back will probably cause you to lose momentum, stop, topple over, or do all three at once. When climbing, shifting your weight forward helps you stay balanced.

Similarly, while descending, move your body and weight back, bending your knees so that it seems as if you are sitting down, but without really contacting the seat. In order to maintain the bike’s stability, you leave the front wheel light and shift your weight to the rear.

The secret to spins on dirt is to once again adjust your body posture and weight to make up for the lack of grip. On dirt, the bike will lean into the turn; however, you will need to learn to lean the opposite way, adjusting your body posture and weight to compensate for the lean angle.

Lastly, consider applying brakes. You will need to stop more slowly on dirt, and applying force to the brakes is never a smart idea. Rather, feather them and schedule your slower speeds and pauses ahead of time, particularly on loose, slick surfaces like mud and fine gravel. When possible, practice using the engine brake; this will provide you better control and stability in turns and on steeper descents.

Anticipating and Scheduling Your Scenes

You already understand goal focus and gazing through to your desired destination rather than your undesirable destination as a street rider. The same holds true with dirt: if you gaze at a dangerous rock for too long, you’ll strike it. Instead, you’ll easily dodge it if you focus on anything that is beyond the rock.

In relation to rocks, you will develop the ability to ride over barriers of any size on your own schedule as an adventure rider. But for a pleasant ride, whether or not you’ve conquered obstacles, line planning is essential.

What is meant by that? Consider yourself cycling a route that is covered with puddles; rather than slicing through the muck, choose a path that skirts it. Why? It simply makes things simpler. In addition, you never know how deep those puddles can be, and if you hit one quickly, you might end up with an unwelcome flight over the bars or splattered with mud from toe to helmet peak. It is not necessary to soak up every bump, stone, and hole in the ground if you are faced with ruts, rocks, puddles, or any other difficulties. Instead, plan excellent lines ahead of time and adhere to them.

Applying Knowledge: Enjoyable Adventure Riding

Whether you ride a huge ADV motorbike, a dual sport, or a dirt bike to transition from street to adventure riding, two key things to keep in mind are practicing your abilities and having fun. Ride your bike whenever you can; your backyard, forest service trails, or smooth, hard-packed dirt roads are all great options. You’ll grow better the more time you spend in the saddle.

Joining a local riders’ organization, contacting online adventure motorcycle groups, or going on a women’s motorcycle tour might be a great way to combine confidence-building, travel, and skill development if you don’t feel comfortable enough to ride alone just yet.

Recall that the experience itself is the main focus of adventure riding, thus you don’t need to reach any goals. Progressing at a quicker rate than others is common, but not abnormal. It’s more about fun and confidence than it is about power slides, desert riding, or jumping logs. Rather of believing that you should be able to ride dirt quicker or that you should be riding singletrack by now, create new objectives for yourself. Some examples of these goals are to feel more at ease in the sand or to increase your endurance. Wheelies may look good, but enjoying the pure thrill of adventure riding and feeling secure are much more important than skillful maneuvers or quick speeds.

Cognitive Capabilities for Novice Adventure Riders

Riding dirt requires more mental toughness than it does physical stamina or even proficiency. Gaining confidence, doing new things, taking chances, and overcoming fear are all crucial, particularly for women riders like us. For too long, we’ve been told not to take chances or go on adventures, and it might be intimidating to do so. Yes, such training may be gone, but its consequences still exist, and even when female riders are objectively superior to their male counterparts, they tend to greatly underestimate themselves.

An extensive essay on adventure riding’s mental abilities component is needed. But there are a few easy tips and methods that may boost your self-assurance and help you face your worries head-on:


Yes, simply take a big breath anytime you sense that a “oh sh*t” moment is about to happen, such as when you realize you’re approaching a puddle you don’t want to confront or see a deep rut too late. Just take a big breath. Don’t brake, don’t move suddenly, and don’t swerve erratically. You will have overcome the impediment by the time you exhale.

Adventure bikes are designed to tackle ruts, rocks, and puddles, and the thing that stops you most of the time isn’t the bike itself but rather your lack of confidence. By concentrating on your breath instead of The Scary Thing Ahead, you may divert your mind from worry and discover that the scary thing is really behind you. This is where conscious breathing comes in handy.

Accepting the Drops

It seems wrong to drop your bike when you go from street to adventure riding. Riding dirt, however, is different since everyone ditches their bikes. Occasionally, often. And that’s okay—we promise. It’s not that you’ll fall off every ten miles, but tip-overs are inevitable and often occur at modest speeds on soft terrain. Although dirt, adventure, and dual sport motorcycles are made to handle some damage, it’s perfectly OK to fall off them sometimes. Safety and protection should always come first, but try not to let those falls get to you. If they do, all you have to do is go through Instagram’s #bikenap images to realize you’re not alone.

Considering the future

Although goal fixation has previously been discussed, line planning also gives you the ability to ride smoothly by allowing you to disregard little barriers like pebbles or ruts or potentially dangerous surfaces like loose gravel. Envision yourself down a slope with a somewhat uneven surface and a slight incline at the base. Fix your eyes on the furthest point you can see, ignore everything occurring under your tires, and ride without paying attention to the surface or the dip. Looking as far ahead as possible causes your body to automatically reposition itself in the ideal posture, allowing you to ride steadily rather than erratically or with abrupt brakes. Before you realize it, you’ve completed the trip. As you put this into conscious practice as often as you can, you’ll quickly see an increase in your confidence.

Although there is much more to be written about the tactics, mentality, and abilities of dirt riding, we hope this article gave you a better sense of how to go from street to adventure riding. Always remember to go at your own speed, choose the bike that best suits your requirements, and most of all, have fun on the ride and the experience.

Making the switch from street to ADV? Have comments or inquiries? Please let us know by leaving a comment below; we look forward to hearing from you!

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