A paradigm shift seems to be happening at present in the dirt bike scene. As numbers dwindle at many local motocross tracks, and as the cost of four-stroke dirt bikes continue to creep ever-higher, more-and-more riders have decided to turn their attention (and dollars) toward offroad. This is evident through the huge turnouts at offroad racing series lately not only the national level, but also at the regional and local levels. The reasons for this are quite simple.
For one, offroad provides so much more for the money. Riders fed-up with exorbitant sign-up fees, four laps of practice, and all-day wait times for two four-lap motos at the motocross track have realized they can instead head to a local hare scramble or enduro, get in two hours of racing, and still be home before dinner.
Then there’s the social aspect and sense of camaraderie that’s such an integral part of offroad and that happens less often in the ultra-competitive world of motocross. Offroad riders seem less obsessed with results and instead focus more on having fun on their dirt bike in picturesque settings with good friends.
And there’s the fact that the two-stroke is alive and well in the offroad world (maybe even on a major comeback) with its less intimidating power delivery, easier maintenance, and cheaper overall operating costs.
The OEMs have taken notice of this shift and as a result we’ve seen more offroad-specific dirt bike and adventure models introduced to the market in the last few years than in a long time. If you think back just five years, would you have ever thought a major OEM would bring-to-market a fuel-injected two-stroke dirt bike? I think a lot of people (including myself) thought it was possible but were still surprised when it happened.
The offroad segment could be a saving grace for the powersports industry. It’s hard enough for a new rider to take up the sport of dirt biking because of the initial outlay for bike, gear, fuel, and transportation. But even harder is for a new rider to learn how to ride, build confidence, and hone his/her skills without feeling the competitive pressure of the motocross track. That’s where the accessibility of offroad riding becomes clear: for a new rider to be able to ride without the pressure of competition in a comfortable setting is essential for them to build confidence and create an environment of fun instead of fear.
Brands like Gas Gas and Beta are already looking toward the future by building user-friendly kids' electric e-bikes in order to attract a new generation of young riders to the offroad market. Let’s face it, in order for us to continue to enjoy the sport we love our industry needs to attract a new generation of riders. Harley-Davidson has faced this challenge on the street side as its original base of riders continues to grow older and they’ve been forced to build new models that interest the younger generations. Let’s hope the popularity of offroad continues and we begin to see even more new riders get out and enjoy the sport we love.