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How To Ride A Dirt Bike [BEGINNERS GUIDE]

Updated: Nov 12, 2023
How To Ride A Dirt Bike
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How To Ride A Dirt Bike

Dirt biking is an exhilarating and adrenaline-pumping activity that allows you to experience the thrill of off-road adventures.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, learning how to ride a dirt bike safely and skillfully is essential. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the essential steps and techniques to help you master the art of dirt bike riding.

Choosing the Right Dirt Bike

Before embarking on your dirt biking journey, it’s crucial to select the right bike that suits your skill level and riding preferences. Consider factors such as engine size, bike weight, and seat height. A lightweight bike with a lower seat height is ideal for beginners, as it provides better maneuverability and control.

Popular Beginner Dirt Bikes

BrandModelDescription/Features
YamahaTT-R110E✔ 4-stroke Engine
✔ Lightweight
X Expensive
KawasakiKLX110RL✔ Taller Seat Height
✔ Electric Start
X Less Comfortable
HondaCRF110F✔ Automatic (no clutch)
✔ Reliable Brand
X Stiffer Suspension

If you are looking for a smaller bike (under 200cc) to start learning on, but aren’t too sure what to start with, check out our dirt bike reviews.


Safety First: Gear Up!

Proper safety gear is a must when riding a dirt bike. Invest in an Australian Goverment-approved (or DOT-approved) helmet.

I would also buy goggles, gloves, sturdy boots, knee and elbow pads, and a chest protector. Although it might be costly, your life is priceless.

This gear will protect you from potential injuries and enhance your overall safety on the trail.


Getting Familiar with the Bike

Take the time to get familiar with your dirt bike before hitting the trails. Start by becoming acquainted with the controls, such as the throttle, clutch, brakes, and gears.

Practice engaging the clutch and shifting gears smoothly to ensure a seamless riding experience.

Some important components of your bike would be:

  • The Fuel Lever – to turn on and off the fuel, this can be on either side of the bike depending on the brand
  • The Accelerator – usually located on the right side of the handlebars, a twist downwards accelerates
  • The Brakes – depending on the size and brand of the bike, the brake will either be on the left side where your foot is or on the handlebars.

First, you will have to locate the fuel switch which is usually near the engine under the motorbike seat – turn this onto the ON position. The fuel switch is what provides fuel to the bikes engine. As you can imagine, if the fuel switch is off you will not be able to run the bike.

In the beginning, it may all seem a bit confusing but you will get used to it all very quickly!

The below images show the important parts of a dirt bike.

Dirt Bike Clutch

Another important note is that the clutch and gear system on a manual motorcycle is different to a car (or almost any other vehicle).

On a dirt bike, neutral is in between 1st gear and 2nd gear, and then all the other gears are upwards on the gear shifter.

The infographic below shows this in further detail.

How Do Motorbike Gears Work

Mounting/Sitting

Mounting a dirt bike correctly is crucial for maintaining balance and stability.

Find a flat area when first mounting your bike. This will help you by not having to constantly break to hold the bike still while learning.

Stand on the side of the bike you feel most comfortable (I like to stand on the left), grasp the handlebars firmly, and swing your leg over the seat.

Sit comfortably, closer to the front of the seat and ensure your feet can touch the ground easily.

Using the Choke

If the weather is cold or the bike has not been running for a few hours or more, engage the bike’s choke.

A motorbike choke can vary, however, most bikes either have a choke on the handlebars or near the engine.

If the bike is still struggling to start after trying the choke on and off, try setting the choke halfway between.

Finding Neutral

Note: Some bikes – usually small kids’ bikes do not have a clutch, if this is the case for your bike you can start the bike as is.

As mentioned above, gears are different on a dirt bike.
From the bottom gear to the top, the gears on most bikes are as follows:

  • 1st Gear
  • Neutral
  • 2nd Gear
  • 3rd Gear
  • 4th Gear
  • 5th Gear
  • etc…

Before starting a motorbike, you want to put it into neutral. This will ensure that even if you let go of the clutch by accident the bike will not start driving straight away.

To do so, sit on the bike. Pull in the clutch and with the gear shifter (usually located in front of the left foot pedal) push downwards multiple times – around 6-7 steps until the clicking sound changes, or you cannot push any further.

This will put you in first gear. Now put the toe of your foot under the gear shifter and while holding in the clutch lever, lift the shifter up one step.

The bike should now be in neutral. To test this, let go of the clutch and roll the bike back and forwards. If the bike can easily move around about 45+ cm you are in neutral.

Changing Gears

Although the gear layout is different to a manual car, the use of the clutch is the exact same idea.

To shift gears on a manual bike, pull the clutch all the way in and hold it. Now rev the accelerator slightly until the engine noise gets slightly more audible.

Very slowly start to let go of the clutch. While you are doing this you will hear the engine start to choke, and when this happens give slightly more revs.

Continue this until the clutch is fully out. If needed, you can hold the clutch in one place and accelerate more, or less, you do not have to let the clutch out and accelerate at the exact same pace.

Expert Tip: Listen to the sound of the bike
If you hear it start to stall, accelerate more and release the clutch slower.
If the revs are too loud, reduce your acceleration slightly.

Congratulations, you are now riding with a clutch.

The video below helps explain the gears and clutch of a motorcycle

Using a clutch can be hard to learn at first, but once you get the hang of it you will never look back!

Starting

Dirt Bike Kick Starter

To start the bike, turn the key (if applicable) and locate the kick-start lever. The Kickstarter is usually located on the right side of the bike and will need to be pulled out from near the frame.

Firmly kick down on the lever with your foot to ignite the engine.

It is also worth noting that most modern bikes have an eclectic starter. An electric starter is a small switch or button located on the handlebars that uses a battery to start the engine.

Practice starting the bike a few times to get comfortable with the process. This video shows how to kickstart a motorbike with ease.

If you used the choke to start the bike, now is when you should turn it off again.

Once the bike has started, hold in the clutch again. While doing this, with your left foot, push the shifter downward into gear one. Now very slowly let out the clutch and give a gradual acceleration… and you’re away.

Your First Ride

Now that you know how to start a dirt bike and how to use the brakes, clutch and accelerator you are ready to ride.

While riding try to keep your balance, think of this as riding a larger, heavier push bike.

Practice steering and get to know your bike’s turning circle.

When slowing down with the brakes, lower your feet to the ground to stop you and the bike from falling.

Turning Off The Bike

The final step to learning how to ride a dirt bike is learning how to turn it off.

Turning your bike off is actually rather simple – all you have to do is look for an OFF or emergency STOP button. You might have to hold this button down but the dirt bike should eventually turn off.

Parts of a dirt bike | Engine Stop
This is what the “Engine Stop” button on my Yamaha TT-R 125 looks like.

Storing The Dirt Bike

If you plan on putting the dirt bike into storage, turn the fuel switch to OFF.

Find a safe and dry place and put your bike undercover to protect it for the next time you ride.

I recommend servicing the bike if it has not been ridden for 1 year or more, especially for older dirt bikes.


Essential Riding Techniques

Body Positioning

Maintaining the correct body positioning is vital for stability and control while riding a dirt bike.

Place your feet on the footpegs with your knees slightly bent, gripping the bike firmly with your legs. Keep your elbows up, and position your weight toward the front of the bike to enhance traction.

Tip: Be careful not to set your legs too close to the motor and exhaust system as it can get hot on longer rides causing you to get burns.

Braking Techniques

This one is an important step that can save your life and stop you from having some motocross crashes!

I always say it’s more important to learn how to use the brakes before you learn how to use the accelerator.

First, try pulling the brake in slowly and then try the accelerator slowly in first gear and then slow down again. This is a tricky step but an important step.

Brakes on a dirt bike can be confusing because the location of the brakes can change between bikes. On bikes with a clutch, the front brake is often found on the right side of the handlebar and the back brake is often found near your footpeg.

On bikes without a clutch (usually kids’ bikes) both brakes are typically located on the front handlebars.

Knowing how to brake effectively is crucial for your safety and maneuverability. Utilise both the front and rear brakes simultaneously, applying gradual pressure to avoid skidding.

Remember, the front brake is connected to the wheel that steers. For this reason, I recommend using the back break to do the majority of stopping.

Throttle Control

Mastering throttle control is essential for maintaining balance and controlling your speed. Gradually apply throttle as you start moving and adjust it based on the terrain and obstacles you encounter.

Smooth and controlled throttle inputs will help you stay in control of the bike at all times.

Cornering

Cornering on a dirt bike requires a combination of body positioning and throttle control. Approach corners with your body weight shifted towards the outside of the turn.

Gradually ease off the throttle as you enter the corner, and then accelerate smoothly as you exit, maintaining control throughout the maneuver.

Be careful not to over-steer or over-accelerate when entering and exiting corners.

Practice Falling Off Your Dirt Bike

Another important step is to practice falling off your dirt bike and crashing your bike. This might seem strange but you want to be prepared for when you have an accident.

Make sure you do this with your MX gear on so you don’t hurt yourself. This is also a good strategy to get used to the weight and balance of your MX.

When practising this, do so on a soft surface like long grass to reduce unnecessary damage to your dirt bike.


Where To Ride a Dirt Bike

It’s important to know that dirt bikes should only be ridden in appropriate locations, such as large private property or designated dirt bike tracks.

Riding on public roads or in unauthorized areas can not only result in legal repercussions but also pose a significant danger to yourself and others.

Always make sure to check local laws and regulations before riding your dirt bike and respect the environment by avoiding protected areas or wildlife habitats.

To save you some hassle of finding a place you can ride, check out our dirt bike tracks directory


That’s a Wrap!

I hope this guide on how to ride a dirt bike helped you learn some basic pointers and will help you stay safe while practising and learning on your MX.

Dirt bike riding should always be a fun and safe activity. Happy riding!

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