Half the fun of owning a dirt bike is modifying it so it looks, sounds and performs like no other bike on the track. However, souping up a dirt bike can be an overwhelming and costly process, especially if you focus solely on cosmetic upgrades rather than upgrades that will increase your bike’s productivity on the tracks. Though there is nothing wrong with beefing up your bike’s appearance, if you want to make the most of your money and labors, you need to focus your initial efforts on performance upgrades. Read on for five dirt bike aftermarket mods that will yield the most bang for your buck. 

Perform a Suspension Tune-Up

Whether you’re a flat-track rider or you race motocross, your suspension is one of the most important aspects of your ride. Because of this, modifying the suspension to fit one’s unique style and preferences is one of the first modifications most new bike owners make. 

While you could invest in a whole new aftermarket suspension kit, that investment will cost you. Not to mention, a shock or fork swap is not a job for the novice rider — it requires skill, knowhow and prior experience. If you’re new to the biking world, or if you’ve never made a suspension modification before, consider going with the cheaper and easier route first: tune your bike’s stock suspension for your weight. 

Tuning your stock suspension for your weight and the weight of your gear should only take one to two hours, and, best of all, it’s free. Though simple, this modification will drastically transform the character of your bike and result in a significantly more comfortable and smoother ride. 

Of course, if you ride your bike hard on a consistent basis, there will come a point when you must consider new suspension. If you do get to this point, investing in a quality setup will be well worth your resources, as you know you’ll actually use it. 

Replace Your Tires 

Dirt bike tires can make or break a ride, yet many new bike owners try to perform on the stock tires with which a bike came. Don’t do this. One of the first things you should do when you get your new bike to your garage is change the tires. Quality tires can help your bike perform more efficiently, provide you with greater traction and improve your bike’s handling.

It’s important to note that new tires do not equate to better performance. The tires you equip your bike with should be designed for the type of track on which you will be riding. If you plan to ride motocross, invest in off-road tires. If a majority of your races take place on gravel or loam, purchase soft-terrain tires. Do you prefer to ride through the desert? If so, a sand hybrid tire might be the best option for you. If you plan to use your bike both on the road and off, be sure to look for a “DOT” stamp, which certifies that a tire has been approved for on-road use. 

Install an Aftermarket Exhaust 

A new exhaust doesn’t just help your bike sound tough and mean (though it helps with that, too), but also, it can help boost your bike’s overall performance. Bike manufacturers equip their machines with exhaust pipes that are designed to be quiet, efficient and aesthetically pleasing. While there is no harm in those traits, they won’t earn you recognition on the tracks. 

Aftermarket exhausts, on the other hand, are focused on gains. The pipes are usually lighter in weight, simpler in appearance and louder in sound. Less weight equates to a better center of gravity and a more malleable ride. Though the lack of resonance chambers and catalytic converters means less emissions control and more noise, it also means more power. Just be careful if you plan to use your dirt bike for on- and off-road use, as the lack of a catalytic converter might put you in a legal gray area. 

Replace Your Sprocket and Bike Chain 

One modification many bikers often overlook is the gearing. As with an OEM exhaust, factory gearing was designed to be efficient. There’s no room for efficiency out on the tracks. Rather, top speed and quick acceleration take priority.

The right gearing setup can help you achieve one or the other: acceleration or top speed. If you want to be able to accelerate at a faster rate, equip your bike with a larger rear sprocket and smaller front one. This will result in a lower gear ratio, which is ideal for punchy courses with a lot of tight turns. If you want to achieve top speeds, do the opposite—equip the front with a larger sprocket and the rear with a smaller one. This will give your bike more legs to cover greater distances at a faster pace.

Aftermarket bike chains are usually lighter in weight than factory chains yet much more durable. Chains designed for motocross and hard riding feature seamless roller construction that allow the chain to feed through the teeth of the sprocket with ease and without generating friction. 

Equip Your Bike With Hand Guards 

Finally, add hand guards to your bars. This particular modification is not designed to increase bike performance but rather, to boost rider safety. As you very well know, dirt bike riding is not for the faint of heart as accidents do happen. Low-hanging branches, flying rocks, loose gravel and other dirt bikes all pose a threat to your safety and well-being. A full-faced helmet, gloves and hand guards can all protect your face and hands should debris come flying your way or, in a more unfortunate instant, you crash. Moreover, hand guards can help reduce the possibility that you roll your wrists or break a bone in an accident, injuries that could keep you off the bike for a few months at a time. 

Modifying your dirt bike can be a lot of fun — if you do it correctly. If you don’t have a ton of resources to spare but still want a machine that can compete with the best of them, start with these affordable modifications. Though simple, they can make a world of difference in the way your bike performs. Shop for the parts you need to beef up your bike today.