As much as we love dirt biking and off-roading, there is no denying that it's a dangerous sport. There's no way to control the people and environment around you, but there are things you can do to help protect yourself, your passengers (if applicable) and the people around you—and make sure everyone has a fun trip.
Here are the 10 key things every beginner should know before riding. This is in addition to—or possibly even before—knowing how to work your bike (clutch, throttle, brakes, etc.) We call these the MCREY Riding Rules.
You can watch our Youtube episode on this topic by clicking here.
1. Just like driving a car or boat, please don't drink and drive. It can be easy to get carried away while at the campsite or stopped for lunch, especially since the desert has a tendency to feel "lawless;" but your ability to comprehend and react significantly decreases the more you drink. Imagine coming up on an unexpected gulch or another vehicle and not being able to stop in time... not good. The extra beers can wait until you're safely at your campsite and not going anywhere else.
2. Always, always, ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET, and as much protective gear as you need to feel comfortable. You know what's cool? Being safe and protecting your brain from turning into mush when you crash.
3. Never ride alone! If something happens to you, you want to make sure there is someone else there to either help you, or go get you help (and vice versa).
4. Always communicate with the person(s) you're riding with to ensure you're on the same page. Are there hand signals you all will use to turn/stop? Will you be stopping at forks in the road to wait for the whole group? Which direction are y'all headed? Don't be afraid to say if you're not comfortable doing something or want someone to spot you.
5. Ride at your own pace. This is especially important when you're riding with a group of people of varying skill levels. It's good to challenge yourself, but that doesn't mean putting yourself at risk. If you're riding with a group that doesn't respect your boundaries, or you don't feel comfortable riding at your own pace with, it may be time to find a new riding group.
6. Carry a phone, GPS and/or map with you. We recommend a map or GPS in addition to your phone—what if you don't have service?! This is old school, but look at a map before you go anywhere so you have a general idea of your surrounding area. And whether you're leaving your house for a day ride or leaving the campsite for a cruise, make sure someone knows where you're intending to go/that you're leaving.
7. Carry water! Even if you don't plan on going out for a long time. What if you find a fun trail and want to stay out, start feeling dehydrated, or someone else in your group starts to portray symptoms of dehydration? It can be life-saving to have water on you.
8. Check your gas before heading out for a ride. You never know how long you'll end up riding, or if you'll need to do additional (unplanned) traveling. Our general rule of thumb is to always top off your tank. Also, know how much gas your bike holds and about how many miles you can ride on a full tank. We've upgraded from OEM tanks (1.5 gal) to desert tanks (3 gal) which takes us about 70 ish miles depending on the terrain we're riding
9. Routine maintenance. Make sure you perform routine maintenance on your bike before taking off for a trip. This includes checking your oil, lubing your chain, cleaning your air filter if needed and adjusting the pressure in your tires for the terrain you'll be riding. If you don't feel comfortable doing this yourself or want your bike looked at in more detail, take it to a professional! If you're in Southern California, our friends at Madjack Racing will take great care of you! Additionally, carry a mini toolkit in your riding pack. This will help if you bend your clutch lever too much, or maybe something comes loose. Don't know how to work on your bike? Someone else passing by probably does...
10. Look both ways before crossing intersections. This one is close to our hearts as we lost a family member in an off-road crash at a blind intersection. You can't assume you're the only person enjoying the trails, especially on a busy weekend. Everyone is enjoying their ride and going fast. Take note of your surroundings/if you can see other vehicles/dust clouds ahead of you or on your sides. If you're coming up on an intersection or a blind turn and can't see what's on the other side, just slow down and look both ways.
I'm sure there are many more things that can be added to this list, but these are the 10 rules we follow when going on a ride. What would you add to this list if a beginner asked you?!