Chris Birch has had a long and very successful career. Conquering some of the worlds toughest races on two wheels: the ISDE, Dakar Rally and Hard Enduro.
Hard Enduro being one of the most notable. Between the years 2008 and 2010, Birch held the title at Roof of Africa. Among this he fought his way to three podiums at Red Bull Romaniacs. Never finishing less than Top Ten throughout the years 2007-14. When Chris is not riding competitively, he passes on his skill and knowledge at his off-road racing course.
I would think it’s safe to say Chris has a good handle on taking a bike into the extreme. As well as knowing what it takes to make it out in the best position possible. Here are his 10 deadly sins to riding dirt bikes, which apply not only to racing, but also day to day riding.
1) Running out of fuel
This seems like it would be common sense. However it happens more than you would think. Remember dirt bikes are being pushed hard almost 100% of the time, due to this fuel tends to be eaten away rather quickly. Chris recalls a time fuel was an issue to him; “One time in Lesotho we pulled into a town thinking that there would be fuel available and they didn’t have any petrol at all. This guy with a big smile on his face pulled some fuel out of a barrel. I got about five kilometers down the road and the bike started to belch smoke. It turns out he’d sold us lamp oil. I discovered that a two-stroke will run on lamp oil – but not very well. It was enough to get us to the next town where they had some proper fuel. If I close my eyes, I can still see the black cloud billowing out the back. We used up three spark plugs as well.”
2) Tools: Don’t forget them
Breaking down in the middle of a race or deep in the trails can be a dangerous thing. Even more so if you don’t have tools to attempt fixing whatever the issue is.
3) Not checking your tire pressure
Starting a ride with the correct tire pressure is essential to riding. It’s your very first line of defense. Leaving from the staging area with correct pressure allows you to air the tire down a bit when you encounter slippery terrain. Airing down will give you a bigger footprint. However starting a ride with lower tire pressure can backfire, you would just be asking for a flat.
4) Leaving the group
You may be tempted to take a side trail that you saw may led to some cool new terrain, but you need to resist if the rest of the group does not want to join. A lot can happen if you become separated, getting lost or hurt is at the top of the list.
5) Putting your helmet down on a hill
Save yourself some headache and just hang your helmet up on your bars. I’ve seen more than a few guys take off their helmets, put them down on a sloped area only to watch the helmet roll away.
6) Jumping over something without looking
The old saying ‘look before you leap’ heavily applies here. The way Chris tells it, he learned his lesson very fast. “In the forestry near where I live, they often dig a big ditch and pile the dirt up on the other side in an attempt to stop four-wheel drives from going through. At first glance it looks like they have made you a perfect jump. When I was a kid I launched off of one of them without thinking where the dirt had come from and tossed my XR100 into this huge hole on the other side.”
7) Do not admire your own skill
At least not while mid-ride. It’s easy to carve a new berm and feel amazing about it, so you look back at what you just rocked, only to run into something in front of you. Admire your skills and feats after the ride.
8) Do no ride alone without telling someone where you’re riding
Common sense right? You’d think, but that’s not always so. Let’s say you go on a solo ride, you don’t tell anyone where you’re going and you break down or get hurt. You’re miles from the nearest help and you possibly can’t walk. Now what are you going to do? Don’t take that risk and just tell someone where you will be riding and about how long you’ll be gone.
9) Wrong choice of tires
This is a mistake made far too often. Think of your tires as shoes. You wouldn’t play football in flip flops, right? Choosing the right tire for the terrain you’re on, is absolutely essential
10) Don’t forget riding dirt bikes is supposed to be fun
It’s not worth getting upset or frustrated. Yes it’s going to happen from time to time, but just try to remember why you started riding in the first place. Get back to those roots and keep enjoying the sport.