As opposed to motocross, trail riding is about more than just riding a dirt-bike. It's about enjoying places, it's a great family activity. Kids have lots of fun, safely away from city streets, cars and asphalt.
I found that it builds great confidence. I really find it a lot safer when my 8 yr old is riding hist dirt bike on the trails, with a DOT helmet, body armour and me 3m behind rather than his bicycle crossing a car-infested residential road.
Like we say - it's about enjoying your province/state! You could (and should, every now and then) do that on a mountain bike or on foot, but your range is limited or maybe you're old and tired or have blisters or just love motorcycles. I see dirt bikes as mountain bikes that go as easily up the hill as they go down the hill.
Often times, motorized users outnumber other forest users, thus cannot be ignored.
There's all kinds of issues surrounding dirt bike use.
Yes, some people modify their bikes to get some more power on the track. They also forget to "fix" the bikes before going on the trails. Some don't know any better. Some are bullies and pricks with no respect for other users.
Yes, that happens everywhere in life and as always, the answer is: alternatives, education and persuasion. Thus the OFTR and like local user groups, which also patrol the trails and serve as organized alternatives to anarchy.
You will find though that most trail riders are very reasonable, respect the noise limits and other users and are out to have some fun!
Closing trails and forests to users because of noise is, well, rather stupid. Did anyone ever consider closing a highway to all vehicles because some drive fast? NOOOO....you simply address that specific problem and call police to deal with them! Arguing that there's not enough enforcement AND at the same time try to REGULATE more (i.e. forbid)...I mean really, does that make sense?
These days most bikes are 4 bangers so the tree-huggers complaining about emissions are way off the mark. Besides, almost nobody can get to the forest on foot, just think about the emissions from those hikers that drive their 4x4 TO the forest - eh, they love the environment and need a 4x4 to tackle it or carry their mountain bikes, obviously!
Also, giving me options to enjoy the sport closer to home will reduce emissions, since I won't have to drive for hours, with a trailer in tow!
By the way, I do occasionally hug a tree. I enjoy it and I think everyone is better off doing it!
In fact, the two stroke engines, properly designed, can be better than 4 strokes...read this: http://www.dirt-bike-tips-and-pics.com/future-of-two-strokes.html and, recently, they're making a come back as the greener alternative to the 4 bangers: twostrokemotocross.com/2009/06/two-strokes-strike-back/ . Isn't it obvious yet to anyone that this is the year 2010 and innovation changes the world faster than we can get our heads around it? By the time you say "smells" they'll design a new one that doesn't smell!
Erosion and such, if any, are obviously avoidable via cooperation with the user groups, i.e. changing trails every few months, communicate/signal and avoid areas etc. I can tell you from personal experience that the damage is generally minimal and erased by mother nature over the winter months. Just try to find the single track in late spring, if you don't believe me.
Be sure to become an OFTR member! And please keep the decibels down in the trails, ok? An extra hp on a single track doesn't help!
Why I think dirt-bikes are safer than ATVs? Check out these two videos:
I mean, it is close to impossible for a dirt bike to roll over its rider - bikes slide away, do not roll over. Besides, they're many times lighter.
While a 2 year old could sit on an ATV and rip the throttle open, it is impossible for any kid to control a dirt bike that's not for his/her size! And bikes for 5 year olds cannot accommodate a 600cc engine! It's physics!
Make sure to read the online Enduro School++.
The racing aspect is pretty diverse: