We're not going to sugarcoat it—learning how to ride a dirt bike can be scary. It's a powerful machine with a lot of gizmos, gadgets, buttons, cables, levers... the list goes on!
Just staring at a bike, your mind starts racing: "Where do I start? What do I do? How do I turn on the bike? What's that button for? How do I get on it? Where do my feet go? AAHHHHHHH!!!"
Don't worry! Anyone and everyone who has ridden a dirt bike has had some version of those thoughts when starting out (whether they want to admit it or not). You are not alone.
In the spirit of making your learning curve a little easier, we've created a step-by-step guide to help you get started—from getting on the bike and positioning your body, to starting the bike and rolling away.
First things first: your mindset is everything. Try to be calm, cool, and collected. Be patient with yourself, and remember to breathe.
- With the kickstand down, throw one leg over the bike and get balanced. We recommend starting on the leaning side (the kickstand side) since it's lower and therefore easier.
- Your booty will be positioned in the middle of the seat—not too far forward and not too far back.
- Your feet will be positioned with the ball of each foot on their respective foot pegs and your toes pointing forward/slightly inward. No duck feet!
- Your hands will hold the grips on your handlebars and your elbows will be slightly bent out. The reason for this is to help your body ride with the bike as you go over terrain, as opposed to against the bike. If you ride with straight arms, you're more likely to lose control if (and when) you unexpectedly hit a rock, bump, rainwash, etc. If your elbows are slightly bent, it'll be easier for you to absorb anything your front tire hits and ride with it.
- You've probably seen a lot of videos and pictures of people standing on their dirt bike. Eventually, this will be you. This will not be you on your first time, or maybe even your second or third time on the bike... and that's okay! Just get comfortable sitting on your bike. If/when you are ready to stand:
- Bend your knees slightly and "squeeze" the gas tank with your knees.
- Keep your booty back and bend forward at the waist.
- Remember: elbows bent and keep those toes pointed in!
Start on the right sized bike for you, if possible. If you can touch the ground, you'll feel a lot more confident and comfortable. Trust us, you don't need the power of a 450 engine when you're starting out. Also, please remember that placement of bike parts and components may vary across different bike manufacturers. Please refer to your bike manual if you're confused about where to find something.
- First things first, make sure you turn your gas on using the fuel valve. I forgot to do this when I took my bike out for my first solo trip and was so frustrated when I couldn't get my bike to start––doy!
- Take the plug out of your exhaust if you put one in there. We usually use plugs when we trailer our bikes to prevent debris/bugs/water from getting into the exhaust pipe.
- If your bike has been sitting and/or it's cold outside, pull the choke out. This will help your bike start.
- Make sure your bike is in neutral.
- If you can roll it without pulling in the clutch lever, it's in neutral.
- If it's not in neutral, let's get it there so your bike will start easier. To shift gears, use your left foot to maneuver the shift lever. Neutral is all the way down to first gear and then up half a click. Second gear is a full click up from first. Third is a full click up from second, and so on...
- Pull the kickstand up. You should be able to use your foot to "kick" it up. You can do this before you get on the bike, after you get on the bike, before or after turning it on... whenever you feel balanced! Just remember to do it before you ride away into the sunset.
- To start your bike, pull your clutch lever in and either hit that electric start button or kick 'er over.
- If you're kicking, pump the kick start lever a few times. You'll also want to give it a little gas once you hear the engine turn over.
- Once the bike is running, you can let go of the clutch lever and the bike should still idle as long as you're in neutral. If you do start the bike in gear (it happens, especially in technical areas), then make sure you keep the clutch lever in at all times otherwise you'll stall.
- To go forward, put your bike in first gear (pull in the clutch and click down on the shift lever with your left foot) and slowly release the clutch as you simultaneously turn the throttle to give it gas. For more information on using your clutch and how to get comfortable with this, read our blog: How to Use a Dirt Bike Clutch for Beginners.
- Once you get more comfortable cruising around, you'll want to shift gears. Trust me, you will know when your bike is ready to shift gears. You will hear it and feel it.
- When your bike is ready for a higher gear, it will go from a pretty purr to a higher shriek. You'll be wanting more power from the bike, but won't be getting any.
- When your bike goes from a pretty purr to a coughing growl and you feel your bike bogging out (like it's going to stall at any moment), it's time to shift down.
- For stopping, or any time you want to use your brakes, pull the clutch in!
The most important thing to remember is to learn at your own pace! Don't try to rush into standing, riding in 4th gear or going up super steep hills. Get comfortable with the basics so you become one with your bike. Good luck!!