How to Ride a Dirt Bike for the First Time (With 21 Helpful Tips!)

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If you are just learning how to dirt bike, there is no need to worry. It’s not as difficult as some would have you think, and I’m going to teach you how to do just that!

  1. Find a wide-open space with no large hills or obstacles.
  2. Get in a comfortable and upright position on the dirt bike.
  3. Ensure your body is in front of your feet.
  4. Start the bike while holding in the clutch.
  5. Slowly release the clutch for a slow and comfortable start.
  6. Shift up when ready.

In order to learn more about how to ride a dirt bike, be safe, and maintain it, keep reading!

How to Ride a Dirt Bike

The first thing to do is to make sure that you are sitting properly on your dirt bike, where your body is in front of your feet. If you are not sitting on the dirt bike in this way, when you hit a bump or get going fast enough you could be pulled off. By putting your body in front of your feet, you will have more stability.

You can then start up the bike; the kickstand should be up as you no longer need the support. Make sure that the clutch is pulled in, and that your bike is in first gear (this is done by pushing down the gear stick four times with your foot). This gear is safest and will prevent too much kick from the bike. It really is the best way to start off.

When you are ready, slowly release the clutch. The clutch is what will release the gas and will push the bike forward. If you release the clutch all at once, the bike will get away from you and can cause some serious damage.

Once the bike is started moving and you have gotten to a comfortable speed, shift. Shifting should be done when you are comfortable and ready to go faster.

Maintain a comfortable position as to where your body is always in front of your feet, your arms are making a rectangle to ensure optimum maneuverability and remain stationary on your bike. This is the most effective way to begin riding a dirt bike, but the tips listed below will greatly improve your confidence in riding and keep you wanting more.

One of the best ways to learn how to ride a dirt bike is to watch someone else do it. Here is an excellent video that covers so much.

DID YOU KNOW? There are some very specific reasons people love dirt biking so much that they seem to become fanatical about it. Learn all the reasons why people love dirt biking here!

Tips and Tricks

1. Start Somewhere Smooth and Flat

When first learning to ride a dirt bike, find a smooth piece of land, with few dips, hills, jumps, or anything that will disrupt the swift ride that you are looking for.

Some new riders will have the confidence that they will be able to do jumps right away and climb up hills and over boulders and all kinds of things that can take months to years to learn and master. Knowing that being a beginner is the gateway to being a pro is the first step in being able to effectively learn how to ride a dirt bike.

In order to learn how to safely drive, it is best to stay local, maybe a local dirt road or even a smooth track that is available. By doing this, you can start off slow and maintain a speed that is not only comfortable but will keep you from getting seriously injured. Smooth roads are great for not only learning how to go fast but are also are a good way to learn how to brake without hitting anything that could seriously injure you.

2. Use the Buddy System

Since this will be your first time learning how to ride a dirt bike, always bring someone with you. It may seem like a no-brainer to have company. But if something serious were to happen to you, then it’s important to have someone there who can either get you to a hospital or even call paramedics if necessary.

On a more positive note, it’s even more fun to go riding with a partner, especially if the partner is an experienced rider and can also give you some help and extra tips on how to be an efficient rider.

Nobody wants to go out to learn how to ride a bike by themselves, so always choose the buddy system over being a lone wolf.

3. Pick a Bike that Fits You

If you are an inexperienced rider, at any age, it is best to pick a dirt bike that fits you. This depends not only your age but also the speed that is best for you. Knowing what you need to be riding can prevent injuries.

In order to pick a dirt bike according to your age and size, here is some information that will be helpful in knowing what is best for just those factors. A 50cc dirt bike, this is for ages seven to ten years old. Not only for power, but also for size. 50cc dirt bikes are considerably smaller and will fit a body for that specific age group.

With a 150cc dirt bike, this is for the age group/size of teenagers, which is roughly fifteen to eighteen, also factoring the experience that the rider will have. 150cc dirt bikes are also great for young adults to try, such as people in their early twenty’s, as it doesn’t have a great amount of power and the size is great for someone who may have shorter legs.

450cc dirt bikes are beyond powerful, and should only be ridden by experienced riders. The cc of a dirt bike refers to the power and relative size that the dirt bike will have. 450cc dirt bikes are great for racing, and sometimes even trail riding, but it is not designed for inexperienced or young riders. So it is advised to stay away from these dirt bikes until you, as a rider, are ready for the horsepower that they come with.

4. Know if Your Bike Needs to be Legal

In some states, it is required that dirt bikes be licensed and recorded in order to be able to ride them on dirt roads and be around the general public. Some states are not as particular about being notified about the licensure of a dirt bike. It is important to check the laws of your state and be in accordance with them.

More often than not, dirt bikes will not need to have a license plate, unless they have been street-legalized. But in any case, riders should always carry the information to their bike in case it should be provided for any situation, whether it be an accident or questions are asked. It is always best to be safe.

5. How to Load and Unload Your Dirt Bike

With most new riders, they are unsure how to get their dirt bike into the bed of their truck, or they purchase a cheap ladder to roll their dirt bike into the bed of a truck that won’t fit. Here are some important things to know.

The average length of a standard bed of a pickup truck is six and a half feet, which may seem long, but some dirt bikes are exactly six and a half feet long, which is important information to know. Most dirt bikes will fit sideways in the bed of a pickup, which is one of the most effective ways they can be transported.

My coworker wrote this awesome article with more details about dirt bikes fitting in truck beds, you can check it out here if you want to know more.

If your dirt bike just happens not to fit in the bed of your pickup, there are plenty of trailer options that are great to hook up to your pickup that will just as effectively transport your dirt bike to whatever destination you desire. Most trailers are around $1,000, which isn’t very expensive and is also great for storage and packing anything extra you may need on your trip.

6. Remember, Safety First

For recommendations on great dirt bike gear you’ll want to pick up before getting starting, along with links to where you can buy everything you need see my recommended gear page here.

I remember that after we purchased my kids’ dirt bikes, we immediately began looking at helmets, gloves, and any protective gear for their body that will prevent them from any injuries that may arise.

When looking at protective gear, I would highly suggest at least purchasing a helmet and gloves. A helmet, in any case, will prevent riders from either getting a concussion or having anything pierce through their skull. Helmets are great for protecting one of the most important organs of the body. With gloves, it will protect the hand from small things, like calluses, all the way up to being harmed from debris. They can even prevent being severely scratched and bruised. Trust me, there is nothing worse than road rash.

I always try to teach my kids about safety first, as it is the most important thing that will prevent them from any serious harm, as their helmet, gloves, and protective gear are for the sole purpose of protecting them.

7. Try Using an Automatic First

Most automatic dirt bikes are for younger audiences. The largest dirt bike that is automatic is 125cc, which is meant for children between the ages of twelve and fifteen, as the power and size fit them just right. The reason smaller dirt bikes are built with an automatic button is that learning how to shift and use the clutch is really difficult, so it’s best to start them off on something easier to learn.

With larger bikes, don’t be afraid to learn clutch, as it’s not as difficult as one would think and is relatively similar to driving a stick-shift car. Being an adult beginner isn’t as bad and will be just as fine learning how to use the clutch and being an efficient dirt bike rider. But automatics make getting the hang of actually riding a bit easier.

8. How to Use the Clutch and Shift

The most effective way to use the clutch and shift is to practice. The clutch is to be used and released when first getting the bike into gear. Other than that, the clutch is rarely ever used. In regards to shifting the dirt bike, the shift should mainly be used to move the dirt bike up and down in gears.

When you shift, it is important to shift the dirt bike up only when the bike is going at a fast rate of speed and the rpm’s are high and the bike is ready to shift up in order to release the clutch. To go down in gears is easy and does not involve the clutch, which is easy to remember. To remember how to shift is that the clutch and shift lever are all on the left-hand side of the dirt bike, which makes it easier to recall.

9. Making Smooth and Quick Shifts

At first, it will be difficult to know how to make a smooth shift. How slow or quickly should you release the throttle? How do you know the bike has reached the highest RPM and is ready to shift into a higher gear? This will all take a lot of time and practice, but it is certainly something that can be done.

It’s said that a rider should listen to what their bike is telling them. If gears are grinding, your RPM’s aren’t shifting properly, and especially if smoke is arising from within the bike, your bike is telling you everything you need to know. Listen to your bike and feel what is best for you so as to drive safely.

10. Acceleration

On a dirt bike, the acceleration is not only in the shift and clutch but also in the throttle of the dirt bike. The throttle on a dirt bike releases more fuel and air into the engine to push it farther at a quicker speed. When first learning how to accelerate, always start in a lower gear and then work your way up at a slow pace. If you stall out, that’s normal. It’s important not to get discouraged.

Try not to use the throttle as much in the beginning stages of learning how to ride a dirt bike. Being a beginner means taking steps that are safe and precautionary so as to not cause any serious to yourself or other riders and pedestrians around you. Going fast is exhilarating, but it’s also good practice to accelerate at an appropriate speed and timing.

11. What is Too Much Throttle

The throttle is located on the right-hand side of the dirt bike, and this is a very sensitive and vital part of the dirt bike. It is good to learn about the sensitivity and use of the throttle of the dirt bike.

The purpose of the throttle is to open a valve to allow for an air and fuel mixture to enter the engine and increase the power of the bike. This leads us to the idea that if the throttle is pulled back too far, the valve will open for an extended period of time that will bring forth a burst of energy where the bike will thrust itself forward. The rider has the potential of losing control of the dirt bike, which is incredibly dangerous.

When practicing how to use the throttle while riding, just do small increments at a time so as to prevent an explosion of power that the rider is not ready for.

12. Braking

This is a relatively easy concept to grasp for all riders, but it’s also something that should be taken lightly. Not slamming on the brakes is a good idea. Braking is used for, of course, stopping the dirt bike, but stopping the dirt bike on a dime is not safe for the ride. If someone were to stop the dirt bike by pulling really hard on the braking handle, one could be flung over the handlebars, causing serious injury.

Starting off on the dirt bike slow and learning how to brake effectively is a great tool to utilize and keep yourself safe, no matter what the circumstances are.

13. Keeping Pace

To keep pace means to keep at a rate of speed that is comfortable, while simultaneously trying to learn how to shift and move up or down in gears. When this is done, the rider is still learning how to keep the bike moving and working the way it should be.

Riders want to get to a stage in their ride where they are coasting and effectively keeping a speed that is fast enough to be enjoyable but also enough to keep everyone safe.

Keep pace with yourself as you ride. What is the dirt bike saying about the speed, the terrain, what’s going on inside of its mechanisms? Keep pace with your dirt bike and a speed that is reasonable and quick enough to still learn how to ride it.

14. How to Properly Turn Off the Dirt Bike

A common mistake that most beginner riders make is the fact that there is a kill-switch button on the left handle of the dirt bike. The kill-switch turns off the bike when it is absolutely necessary. This button should really only be used in the case of an extreme emergency. This may be the bike isn’t turning off and it’s going too fast or the rider isn’t comfortable and needs to stop immediately.

When a rider uses the kill-switch, the bike turns off, but the battery does not, so the batter will die and the rider will be unable to go out for an adventure with a dead battery.

To properly turn off the bike, just turn the key in the ignition all the way to the left and the bike will turn off, thus leaving the batter with plenty of the life for the next round. Do NOT use the kill-switch unless necessary.


Riding a dirt bike on a fire ban day is a very bad idea. Dirt bikes can (and have) started dangerous brush fires before. Learn more in the article Exactly How a Dirt Bike Can Start a Fire—With an Example.

15. Try Using the Switches When the Bike is Off

Something to consider doing when the ride is over, or even before starting to go on an adventure is going over all of the switches and levers while it is turned off. By being able to name and notify where all of the buttons and levers are helps riders to memorize their purposes.

There are a lot of buttons to push to engage different things on the bike, whether that be the kill-switch, turning on the fuel, or pulling on the throttle, brake, the clutch, pushing down on the shift, and so many other things that riders have to learn in order to safely ride a dirt bike.

Make sure that the dirt bike is all the way off before doing this. You can practice pulling on these levers, naming them, what they do, and so forth. This will solidify it in one’s memory and keep everyone safe.

16. Balance is Key

Something early riders forget and can brutally mistake is turning and leaning too far that can seriously injure themselves. When learning how to ride a dirt bike, leaning and turning go hand in hand, which is great and very effective, but leaning and turning too much causes accident.

When leaning, tuck your body in, all of your body parts, because feet sometimes get caught on the ground and broken, which is a horrible injury.

Leaning too far and tilt the bike and cause riders to skid across the ground. And even when riding upright, balance yourself, because, without enough balance, the bike will begin to wobble and lose control, which is, of course, not safe. Angle your body over the bike in such a way that protects you and keeps the bike upright and steady.

17. Check the Gas Tank

After going out on every ride, and before going out on a new ride, always make sure that the gas tank is full. Your gas tank is under in the body of your dirt bike. To check the fuel, you should check gauges on the dash of the dirt bike, making sure that they are reading the way they should.

Turning on the fuel is a button located on the side near the fuel tank of the dirt bike, which allows the gas to go throughout the dirt bike. This is a design on all dirt bikes, so make sure that yours is on and your gas tank is always full. If you plan to go on a long ride, make sure you bring extra fuel with you as a back-up.

18. Body Positioning

This is a concept, not all riders will know when first starting to ride a dirt bike. If riders lean too far back, or even too far forward and even to the sides, this will drag on the bike and can cause problems for the rider. Sitting in an upright, but a forward position is best for the ride and helps to keep the bike moving.

The best way to sit on a dirt bike is to sit a little forward so that your body is in front of your feet, your arms should make a rectangle which helps with turning and controlling the bike. Make sure that your feet are close to the bike so as not to catch on anything, and that you are not always sitting directly on the bike but moving with jumps and fluidity so as to prevent from hurting one’s self.

Do not sit back on the bike, this will drag on the handles and pull the bike back while it is trying to excel forward. With forces pulling you back and your bike is trying to propel forward, this is not ideal and can cause problems with the bike.

19. Vision

Always make sure that you are scanning your horizons at all times. As you are riding, it is good to make sure that you are checking your gauges along with making sure the bike is running the way that it should so that you are always safe. But make sure to always scan what is ahead of and around you.

See where you want to be, not simply where you are now. There will be rocks, trees, shrubs, little animals, and so many other things that come out of nowhere and can be easily avoided if riders are always looking for things that are coming and may be out of the ordinary. It’s a simple safety precaution that keeps yourself safe in all situations that may arise.

20. Maintenance

Making sure that your bike is in great condition and continues running like it should require some maintenance, and not just a one-time ordeal but something that should be done before and even after every ride.

Some things that need general upkeep are making sure that the fuel tank is always full and is off after the ride is over. Making sure that brake pads are cleaned off, that the bike is all the way off to conserve the battery, and keeping the bike clean of mud and grime makes it run smoother and last longer.

Don’t forget to check on the tire pressure after rides to make sure the tires aren’t going flat and that there are no holes or problems. Always check the oil, as that keeps everything running throughout the bike smoothly, and so forth. Maintaining a dirt bike can be a long task at the end of each ride, but it keeps the bike going and running smoothly so as to have it last for more years to come.

21. Don’t Be Afraid to Fall

Don’t be afraid to fall off the bike, and often if that’s what it takes. While you are learning to first ride a dirt bike, it will be difficult, that is guaranteed. Just remember to wear protective gear and be prepared to fumble because you’re just learning how to walk, in all reality. But with all of these useful tips and tools, you are guaranteed to be able to ride a dirt bike in no time and riding fast and safe.

Jim Harmer

I'm the co-owner of Dirt Bike Planet. I live in Star, Idaho and enjoy dirt biking with my wife and two boys throughout the Idaho mountains.

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