“Complex by design, simple by nature. The bike is nothing more than circles turning circles. It’s the human motor that makes it elegant.” This is a quote from a great documentary I saw back in 2010 called “Life Cycles” and it is what actually got me into mountain bike dirt jumping. I used to cycle before that, did a little cross country and loved it, but when I got my first dirt jumper, it opened up a whole new dimension for me.
There is no doubt that any form of cycling is a great activity that comes with many benefits, however, mountain bike dirt jumping allows you to interact with the environment in ways that no other vehicle can (if you could call mountain bikes vehicles). Now, owning a top-notch mountain bike wont necessarily make you an excellent biker. It takes a fair amount of experience and dedication to be able to dominate rough terrain. On the other hand, you do need a solid reliable mountain bike that won’t fall apart on the first bump. After all, mountain bike dirt jumping, does fall in the extreme sports category and requires appropriate equipment.
A dirt bike is specially designed, using years of experience, to be lightweight, fast, stable, maneuverable, comfortable, and of course, durable enough to withstand all sorts of abuse. So, here are some things you need to have in mind before you start your mountain bike dirt jumping adventures.
First, let’s talk about prices. Top quality mountain bikes can cost up to 10 grands, but that’s a huge commitment unless you are a professional biker. If you are a beginner and just want to take your off road game up a notch and see how it goes, you can easily find dirt bikes that cost around $1000 or less and will do the job just fine. Have in mind that nearly all of the components of today’s bikes are replaceable which means if you decide to upgrade your bike you can do that gradually according to your needs.
That being said, you need to have a good foundation for all the components and that is the frame of the bike. The frame should be stiff, sturdy and lightweight. The most common materials used to make dirt bike frames are aluminum, steel, and carbon fiber. Steel is the strongest but also the heaviest. Carbon fiber is stiff and extremely lightweight, but also comes at a bigger cost. With aluminum you cant go wrong since its is strong, light-weight, durable, and the technology has been around for years and it well tested.
Obviously, suspension is a key component when it comes to mountain bikes, especially dirt jumpers. Ideally, a dirt bike should have suspension at the front and rear, but as I mentioned before, if you are a beginner, you can start with front suspension only. When it comes to the wheels, again, aluminum is a safe cost effective option and you should go for fat aggressive tyres for better grip and control. Mechanical disc brakes have proven to be the most effective and reliable, and when it comes to gears, well, even a child will tell you that nothing beats Shimano at that.
You should also remember to use a proper helmet, I don’t need to explain why, and have fun shredding the trails.