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Jan 22, 2009

Dirt Bikes, How Young Should You Start?

How early should you start your kids on a dirt bike? Since none of our kids race or compete with their dirt bikes in any way, I will be talking mostly about recreational dirt bike riding. I think the most important thing to remember here is that you don't want to push your kids so hard into riding that they won't enjoy it. Each child is different and each will progress at a different rate, but my experience is that they will get over the initial fear fairly early in life and fairly quickly and learn to enjoy riding. It does take time for most kids to develop the skills needed to go out on longer rides with an adult as well as taking a big enough bike to be able to ride in any type of rough terrain. I have heard of racers and FMX riders starting at the age of 4, sometimes earlier and they are usually more successful by starting early, however I have also heard of those that have not taken it up until much older, closer to the teen years and still do quite well.

Legally your child can not ride on public land until the age of 8 in Utah. This doesn't necessarily mean that this law is always enforced. We have rarely had a problem with authorities with our "under aged" kids riding on public land. The few times we have had problems have been in recreational parks such as Knolls. We have been talked to before at Caineville, but they were still allowed to ride with our supervision, and we have never received a ticket. The Blue Ribbon Coalition has recently tried to change this law to allow them to start at the age of six, but they were unsuccessful. Riding on private land of course is allowed, so if you have land it's a perfect way to start your child, and if there are no other outlets there are usually private parks that you can pay a yearly fee to be a part of in order for them to ride.

How early have our kids started? Both our boys started at the age of 6 and both did very well. There is of course a huge learning curve at first especially if you go at it the way we did and start them on a bike that was a little beyond them, but one they could grow into. Had we started them on a slower bike they both would have outgrown the capabilities of the bike rather quickly.

Are there any techniques to make the learning transition easier? Yes! With a bike of any significant power the child could get hurt very easily if you just throw them on and let them work it out alone. Or, at the very least you will have damage to whatever they happen to run into when they are rocketing out of control. We tried two different methods that worked. The first was to put a throttle stop made from pvc in the carb to limit how fast he could go. Below is an illustration of how this is done. This can be tedious and hard to get the correct size of spacer, but it does work and it can be shortened to allow him or her to go faster as they learn. The second method we used was to simply tie a short rope on to the bike and hold on to slow them down until they get the feel of the throttle and the brakes. It doesn't take long for them to learn and it's a bit easier than the throttle spacer, but after you remove the rope their on their own. Some newer kids bikes actually have a throttle limiter on them that can be adjusted as well as some of them having remote kill switches in case they get too far away from you. There are also training wheels available for most bikes should there be a need. Most training wheels will adjust to get narrower as they learn to balance more.



Here is a picture of how I made a throttle stop out of pvc. This is a mikuni carb on a ktm 50 SX. If the throat is round it should work on any carb assuming you can get the correct size of pvc. The spacer simply limits how far the throttle can open.





Here I am with my second son teaching him with the rope technique. I am simply using a short strap and walking around the camp with him until he gets use to it. I could tell when he was ready to go once he stopped trying to jerk away from me.


Finally, make sure no matter what age your kids start to ride that if it is before the age of 8, as soon as they turn 8, get them enrolled in a class to get their certification. My first son was so well prepared from his riding and early preparation that he passed with a 95% on the written test and with flying colors on the riding test. It was a good experience for him because he was prepared. An atv or class 2(dune buggy) license is separate from the dirt bike license, so if they plan driving those they will need more certification. If they are 16 and have a drivers license they would be legal to drive any without a separate certification. Here is a LINK where we found most of our information to get in the class. You need to sign up before hand and they will send you information to prepare your child for the class along with the time when the class and certification will take place. There is also a small fee in order to do this.

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