"My background in trials has helped so much when it come to the technical bits" - Jonny Walker
We've put together a video here on which type of bike will best suit for cross training, but if you are literate then scroll down to the text. Please DON'T email us asking if a certain bike would suit you! That's what motorbike forums are for... sorry but we've given up even responding to that sort of thing.
As most experienced riders will tell you, your riding skills are what count, not the type of bike you are on. Cross training is about applying trials techniques that emphasize balance, traction and throttle/clutch control - these can be learned on any bike regardless of whether you potter around on a dirt bike or are getting into endurocross and extreme enduros.
Having said that, you will definitely find that the major factor involved with your choice of bike is weight - the lighter your dirt bike is, the more you can apply cross training techniques. Anything over 110kg starts to get hard to manage with more advanced techniques like pivot turns, and personally we set 115kg as the upper limit (e.g. the four stroke enduro bikes).
A motocross bike? While it's light, many find the engine's not suitable, the suspension too stiff and chances are the gearbox is too close ratio. Motocross bikes tend to be a handful for just dirt riding, let alone cross training but some fast aggressive do adapt them successfully with some work.
So this list just looks at the practical bikes for cross training. We'll start with the lightest bikes and work through to the heavier ones.
TRIALS BIKES <70KG (155LB)
A modern trials bike typically weighs under 70kg (155 pounds). Forget the ramp, you just lift these babies on to your trailer or truck! They are incredibly responsive to changes of body position - trials riders can bounce from a stand still and flick the bike through 180 degrees.
Serious about learning cross training techniques? A trials bike is perfect for learning techniques, then transfer the skills to your dirt bike or enduro bike. They obviously are not intended for enduro riding, although some riders do fit aftermarket seats and fuel tanks for dirt riding - however the short wheel base and short travel suspension mean you won't be riding it like a hard core enduro bike over jumps and the like.
Like to know more about trials? Click here.
HYBRID TRIALS/ENDURO BIKES 74KG T0 100KG (165 TO 220 LB)
A very interesting development over recent years is a hybrid range of bikes that cross over between dirt and enduro riding. These have the added advantage of being street-ready in many countries which opens up the possible areas you can ride them in. Bikes in this range include:
Ossa Explorer 74kg
KTM Freeride 250R 92.5kg
Sherco X-ride 92.5kg
Beta Xtrainer 99kg
There are drawbacks to that light weight - you won't be able to ride these as hard due to lighter suspension components, less suspension travel and detuned engines, and while the fuel tanks are usually bigger than a trials bike they are usually much smaller than those on enduro bikes. A telling sign is that none of the top riders in extreme enduros or endurocross events race on these hybrid bikes - they aren't built to handle the stress of a hard enduro ridden by good riders, although the Beta Xtrainer comes close to this - Ben Hemingway rode a stock Beta Xtrainer in Hells Gate and came 8th!
TWO-STROKE ENDURO BIKES 100 TO 105KG (220 TO 230 LB)
This category is dominated by two-strokes from 250 to 300cc size due to their light engine weight (four-strokes will typically be 7 to 13kg heavier). Two-strokes tend to be the bike of choice in hard enduro, endurocross and extreme enduro events and thus very good mounts for cross training. Almost always you'lll find the world's best extreme enduro and endurocross riders on these bikes.
Once dominated by KTM, other bikes now include the Beta RR300, Gas Gas EC 300 and the TM 300. Most of us are swinging over from KTM to the Beta RR300 which at least matches the KTM in most respects and also features lower seat height, more tractable power, less exposed exhaust and other features that suit our cross training style of riding.
FOUR-STROKE ENDURO BIKES 110 TO 115KG (240 TO 255 LB)
Many riders will happily choose a heavier four-stroke if it suits their riding style. Traditionally four-strokes have been up 13kg heavier than two-strokes but some European bikes are now closing the gap substantially, such as the KTM 350EXC, Beta 350RR and Sherco's four-stroke enduro bikes. Advantages of a four-stroke include:
- longer engine life due to a dedicated lubrication system
- no messing around with pre-mix fuel
- better fuel economy and less emissions for the environment
- far more engine braking than a two-stroke.
Disadvantages? Four-strokes have more complicated engines so servicing is more expensive and tedious when it does occur. They only fire half as often so cannot match the two-strokes for outright power. As mentioned, they are usually a heavier engine too. Nonetheless, you will occasionally see the top riders in endurocross and extreme enduro events on four-strokes. When the going gets really tough and slow, the four-strokes are more likely to overheat.
As we said in the intro, your style is by far the most important factor, not your bike's weight or bling so don't get too hung up on what you ride. A top rider on an old ag bike will smoke any of us average joes in any conditions other than an outright drag on smooth ground!