Dirt bikes are already pretty versatile, but off-road races like GNCC or WORCS require special considerations and demand a few specialized parts. There’s no shortage of potential add-ons, but if you get excited about them (like I do), it’s easy to unintentionally drain your wallet.

So we’ve pared the choices down and picked the modifications we think are most important to have on an off-road racer. We even took these parts, put them on a new YZ450FX, and made a video about it that we’ve conveniently placed below.

Skid Plate

It’s incredibly important to protect the underside of your bike, and if you need a reason why just look around at the terrain. Rocks, stumps, and obstacles are all over the place and each one has the potential to come up and knock a hole through your case halves or side cover. And that means either spending a chunk of money or better yet starting a complete rebuild.

Depending on your bike, there’s a healthy selection of skid plates to choose from. Aluminum, plastic, and carbon fiber should all work if they’re from a high quality manufacturer, but for off-road racing you really need a plate that reaches out a little wider to protect your engine side covers. We’d also recommend getting a skid plate with as much front to back coverage as possible.

Enduro Engineering skid plate on kx250f
This Enduro Engineering plate on a customer’s KX250F is a great example of a skid plate with excellent side case protection.

And remember that maintenance needs to be considered too. So while protection in this case is more important than convenience, it’s still not a bad idea to take note of any cutouts or holes that will let you keep the skid plate on during an oil change.

Handguards

If you’ve had your knuckles whipped by a branch or your hand mangled during an off, you probably already know the importance of handguards. If you don’t, it’s simple. Handguards are there to keep your hands from getting smashed and your controls from getting broken.

 

enduro engineering debris deflectors hand guards
Here’s a good shot of the typical components you’ll get with a set of wrap-arounds, including the backing bar, deflectors, brackets, and hardware. These are from Enduro Engineering.

There are different types of handguards with different mounting options, but for anything more than putting around off-road you really need a good pair of wrap-arounds. Why? Because wrap-around hand guards have a massive protection increase thanks to the solid aluminum bar that runs over your hand from mid handlebar to bar end (that’s why they’re called wrap-arounds).

But the mounting is so much more stable and secure on wrap-arounds as well, that 95% of the time your guards will have the same position and strength after a crash as they did before.

Larger Fuel Tank

Production tanks on most bikes tend towards the smaller side, so when it comes to off-road racing a larger tank is pretty much a requirement. Sometimes you can solve the problem with a fuel bottle or two, but that may depend on race regulations and your personal preference.

We opt for the larger tank because during a race, the fewer times you have to pit for gas the more time you can spend moving ahead. It’s also worth noting that most over-sized tanks from well-known brands will have a better fit and finish than you may expect. So fitting the tank alongside your existing plastics shouldn’t be a problem, and some tank (like the one in our video) may replace your tank shrouds entirely.

acerbis tank on yz125
This is a 3.2 gallon over-sized Acerbis tank on a customer’s YZ125. Notice the good fit between the tank, shrouds, and seat?

Steering Stabilizer

A steering stabilizer is pretty crucial for high-speed, off-road racing. But it’s also a fairly specialized piece of kit, so many people may not even be familiar with what they do.

In short, a steering stabilizer is like suspension for your handlebars, it dampens out the sudden, harsh twisting feedback that’s created when your front wheel is pushed out of line. And really, anything can push your wheel out of line, from rocks bumping your tire left or right, to changes in the terrain that amplify slight movement and produce massive headshake-and probably a highside.

So when you think of going full throttle down constantly changing, potentially unknown terrain, it’s the perfect recipe for unstable steering. And that makes it the perfect situation for a steering stabilizer.

The video below shows how to install a GPR Stabilizer, but it’s also good for getting an idea of how stabilizers work with the bike and where they go on one.

 

 

Suspension

Lastly, one of the most important mods. Make sure your suspension is set up correctly for your weight and riding style.

Depending on the state of your suspension, this can mean properly setting your sag and getting your clickers set where you like, or you may have to get more in depth like we had to by sending your components off for a professional revalving.

But, keep in mind that you most likely won’t have to invest in that professional work unless your suspension is massively out of shape and not working for you, or you’re well outside the weight range the bike is set up for from the factory.

And remember that simply having your suspension in good working order makes a huge difference as well. So if nothing else, make sure your seals and bushings are up to snuff with a rebuild kit on both the shock and forks.

Honorable Mentions

Linkage Guard

Works like a skid plate but for your linkage assembly. But they don’t just deflect damage, they also help you scoot over logs and rocks since there’s a uniform sliding surface instead of the bolt heads and knuckles of your uncovered dog bones. As a bonus some models have a replaceable, super slick UHMW slide face, and a few even have multiple mounting positions so the guard can pull double duty as a lowering link.

 

fastway linkage guard/slider
Fastway’s Adjustable Linkage Guard is a solid, simple option with every feature mentioned above.

Tires

Most riders realize that tires specific to an application make a massive difference, and it’s no different for cross country racing. Because you’ll run into different types of terrain, changing conditions, and long races you’ll need a tire that does pretty much everything well. We like the Dunlop Geomax series and Maxxis Maxx Cross lineup, but whatever you choose, make sure you’re confident it will throw off mud, not lose any knobs, and keep consistent performance.

Disc Guard

Your brake rotors are pretty dang tough so normally you wouldn’t be worried about them getting damaged. But if you’re racing in rocky terrain the chances for rotors to take a serious hit shoot way up. So while a guard is great for preventing damage, more importantly a guard can keep your race going because if your rotor gets bent enough, it can catch on your caliper or pads and lock up your wheel for good.

enduro engineering front disc guard
Enduro Engineering has some tough guards. This front disc guard mounts using the axle, but their rear guard actually replaces the entire rear caliper carrier.

Flat Prevention

You’ll have to choose between a bib mousse, heavy duty tube, Tubliss, or Tube Saddle, but if you’re racing cross country you’ll need something tougher than the stock setup. Each has its own set of positives and negatives but each is a realistic option. So depending on what you feel most comfortable with (limited feel, expense, plugging tires, weight, longevity, etc.) you’ll have some sort of solution, or at least prevention, for pinch flats and punctures.

Racing off the beaten path can always get sketchy, so you’ll never be prepared for everything. Plus, everyone has their different priorities that suit the type of riding they do. So tell us your priority add-ons and why you think their worth having on a bike or just chime in and tell us something we should’ve had on the list.

Also, a special thanks to our customers Eric and Will for letting us show off their bikes! Thanks guys!