While sportbikes are our main focus, every now and then we find time to get dirty.
I'll admit, I'm one of those guys who got a late start with motorcycles. I didn't ride dirt bikes or mini road racers as a kid. In fact, I didn't get my first motorcycle of any kind - a 1990 Yamaha FZR600 - until I was 19. Yep, I'm a late bloomer.
You see, I was a car guy growing up. My dad was car guy and it just naturally rubbed off on me, but whenever I saw a sportbike whizz past me on the street or heard the two-stroke ring of my neighbor's dirtbike, my ears would always stand at attention. I wanted to ride a motorcycle.
Needless to say, I've since progressed past those days of the 'ol Fizzer, but the more I study the history of our sport I realize that all of the old greats cut their teeth riding dirtbikes. Indeed, getting comfortable sliding a bike around and playing on the edge of traction is a skill with numerous benefits on a street bike (not to mention it's a great workout). So when some friends invited me out to ride at our local motocross track, I was quick to take them up on the offer.
Now, other than knowing what all the controls do, I'm a terrible dirt rider. It's bad enough I felt out of place without leathers on, but trying to pick up a whole different skill set to ride dirt was more difficult than I thought it would be. I started simply enough - on a Kawaski KLX140L - and actually had a great time sliding the bike around. Being able to put my feet on the ground, just as on a street bike, really lifted my confidence. Heck, by the end of the day I was attacking jumps like I knew what I was doing. Figuring I had this in the bag, I stepped up to a real dirt bike - a Kawasaki KX 250F - and tried playing with the big (well, bigger) boys.
Talk about a zap in confidence. Now, with the taller seat height and not being able to touch the ground it was as if I had no idea what I was doing again. Every jump looked daunting, every turn more harrowing. Talk about getting left in someone else's roost. Which I did. Many times. And it hurt. All that said, I still think riding dirt is a great way to keep the skills sharp. I'm definitely not done with it, though I think next time I'll stick with a little bike.
Go ahead, call me a sissy.