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How to Ride a Dirt Bike (the Basics)

Do you enjoy feeling the wind rushing you at great speeds, feeling the bikes vibrations beneath you, and out riding the grasps of fear? Before you get on a dirt bike, there are some fundamental lessons to be learned and key elements to keep in mind.


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    Know that dirt bikes have two different types of engines: two-stroke and four-stroke. A two-stroke engine means that two strokes are required to complete a full cycle. The first stroke is to admit and compress an air-fuel mixture; the second stroke is to ignite the fuel, do the work, and scavenge the cylinder. The term scavenge means to force out/remove burnt gases from the cylinder. Two-stroke engines require an oil and gas mixture, and they tend to be noisier and more powerful than four-strokes. A four-stroke engine means that a complete cycle in each cylinder requires four strokes. The first stroke is to draw in the air-fuel mixture, second to compress it, third to ignite it and do the work, and the fourth is to scavenge the cylinder. Unlike two-strokes, four-strokes have two separate tanks, one for the oil and one for gas. Again, four-strokes tend to be quieter and not as powerful. For beginners, it's recommended to get a 125cc four-stroke or a 50cc two-stroke.
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    Learn how to start a dirt bike. Prior to riding, make sure you know where the clutch, throttle, gear shifter, back brakes, front brakes, and choke are.
    • When you're sitting on your dirt bike, make sure that you're closer to the front than the back. Before taking off, make sure the bike is in neutral. Neutral is below two and slightly above one. (Some bikes could be different) Kick the gear shifter down all the way, and then lightly kick it up into neutral. Rock the bike back and forth; if it moves freely without locking up you're in neutral.
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    • When you have the bike in neutral, then you can kick-start it. Kick starting can be difficult for some, but is extremely easy once you know how to do it. In order to kick-start, place your foot on the starter, then give a little jump and push down hard.
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    • Once you have the bike going, pull in the clutch, and kick the gear shifter down into first. You'll know you're in first gear because the bike will lurch forward a bit. (Again, this depends on the bike.)Make sure you don't let go of the clutch if you're not moving because you'll stall the bike.
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    Have caution when you take off. With the bike in first, you want to slowly let off on the clutch and give it a bit of gas. When you get moving, let go of the clutch completely. Don't worry if you stall the bike a couple times. Eventually, you'll get use to how much throttle you need give and how far to let up on the clutch to get rolling.
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    Shift from first to second gear. When the bike is not moving any faster and you can hear the engine revving at its highest, let off on the gas a bit, pull in the clutch, and kick the shifter up into second. When you've shifted gears, let off on the clutch and twist the throttle. (Note: You don't have to slowly let off the clutch and slowly give it gas like you're required to do when shifting from neutral to first). Do the same thing when you're shifting up, into higher gears.
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    Remember that shifting down is the same rules as shifting up. Let up on the gas, pull in the clutch, and kick the shifter down. NEVER keep on the gas when shifting; doing so is refereed to as "power-shifting" which could end up damaging your transmission. Sometimes the bike could fall into neutral instead of first. You'll know because the bike will slow, start coasting, and giving it throttle will not do anything. When this happens, pull in the clutch, and kick the shifter down into first.
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    Learn how to correctly slow down and come to a complete stop.
    • If you want to slow down on a dirt bike, shift down, let off on the throttle, and either brake using the front brakes, back brakes, or a combination of both.
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    • If you're coming to an almost complete stop or just stopping, shift into first, pull in and hold the clutch, and brake; this will prevent you from stalling the bike. When you're ready to start rolling again, slowly let off on the clutch and give it a bit of gas.
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    Know how to maneuver around corners. When you're headed for a corner, lean into it, pick your line, and keep your weight on the outside peg. To prevent yourself from losing control of the bike, pick a line in which you wish to travel and stick to it. Apply pressure to the outside peg; this will help give you more traction. Rounding corners, your outside elbow should be slanted up and your inner leg should be slanted out. Stick out your inner leg, near the fender; if you end up losing control or take the corner to sharp, you can easily put your foot down to steady yourself out.
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    Practice on rough terrain. Dirt bikes are meant to drive over rough terrain, with their lifted frames. Depending on where you are riding, you should be standing 95% of the time. When you’re riding over whoops or bumps in the ground, your arms and legs act as an extra shock absorber, so the impact isn't as hard.


  • Want to learn how to go off jumps? has a great How-to.
  • Prior to buying or riding a dirt bike, read up on how it works and how to fix it if a problem arises.
  • Make sure to stand up when you are going over obstacles!
  • NEVER get on a dirt bike without some sort of protective gear. Wear a proper dirt biking helmet, goggles, gloves, chest plate, padding, etc.
  • When read as "CC", it's abbreviated for "Cubic centimetres".


  • Riding a dirt bike comes with many dangers and risks. Prior to getting on one, know the risks you're taking and the dangers you could encounter.

Things You'll Need

  • Dirt bike
  • Protective gear
  • Wilderness

Article Info

Categories: Dirt Bikes