how to ride a dirt bike

How To Ride a Dirt Bike [beginners complete guide]

Riding a dirt bike takes practice. You must coordinate simultaneous actions from both your hands and both your feet. Operating the throttle with your right hand, using the clutch with your left hand, shifting gears with your left foot, and activating the rear brake with your right foot.

How many of you grew up riding dirt bikes? Maybe you had a minibike or a BMX bicycle. Most people stopped riding dirt bikes at some point as they got older.

But now you want to ride again! Maybe you have kids now and want to get back into the sport and teach them how to ride or you just want to ride.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Ride a Dirt Bike
How Old Do You Have to Be to Ride a Dirt Bike?

Whatever the reason you have to ride a dirt bike it is a good one. Dirt bike riding is the greatest sport ever invented!

How Old Do You Have to Be to Ride a Dirt Bike?

As far as I know, there are some states that have laws regarding a minimum age to ride a dirt bike. Check the laws where you live but many kids as young as three or four years old start riding dirt bikes.

This article will provide the beginning dirt bike rider (or parent wanting to teach their children) everything they need to know to begin trail riding a dirt bike.

This article is not designed to teach beginner riders how to race on a motocross track but instead just the basics of how to ride a dirt bike.

My background is that of a former professional dirt bike racer so I will also offer some advanced level riding tips that can help anyone.

Can you easily learn to ride a dirt bike? Yes, anyone can but it is kind of like the old trick of trying to pat the top of your head while you rub your stomach at the same time.

Dirt Bike Riding Gear

Dirt Bike Riding Gear
Dirt Bike Riding Gear

First, before you even think about riding you must get the proper safety gear. Here is a list of the dirt bike riding safety gear you will need BEFORE you go riding for the first time!

  • Helmet
  • Googles
  • Gloves
  • Jersey
  • Riding Pants
  • Knee/Shin Protectors
  • Knee Braces
  • Riding Boots
  • Shoulder Pads
  • Elbow Pads
  • Kidney Belt
  • Neck Brace

Question: Is dirt bike riding gear the same as motocross racing gear?
Answer: Yes.

Before we get to how to operate your dirt bike let’s cover a little bit on items of protective gear that you should wear when riding.

Dirt Bike Helmet

This is the most critical piece of riding gear and you need to make sure you purchase a quality helmet. Your helmet can mean life or death so choose wisely and don’t skimp.

Dirt Bike Helmet
Dirt Bike Helmet

NOTE: You need a full-face helmet that covers your chin! Don’t even consider riding with an open-face helmet.

Helmet Ratings

In the United States, you want to make sure your helmet has at least the Department of Transportation (DOT) certification. Don’t buy a helmet that does not have this at a minimum.

Having said that, just because it has the DOT sticker on it does not make it a great helmet in my opinion. It really just means the helmet has gone through some type of government process to get the sticker.

Snell Helmet Ratings

I would highly suggest spending just a little bit more and getting a helmet that is Snell-rated.

Snell is a private organization that helmet manufactures have to pay to put their helmets through some rigorous safety testing.

If the helmet carries the Snell label it is a good one. Just keep things easy and get a Snell-rated helmet.

Dirt Bike Goggles

You have to protect your eyes when you ride. Not only are you at risk of getting a rock or some other object in the eye but just the w

Dirt Bike Gloves

So why do you need gloves that are specifically designed for dirt bike riding? Well, you don’t but keep in mind they are better because they are made specifically for dirt bike riding.

Decades of development and testing went into creating gloves made for dirt bike riding. They don’t cost much more so why not?

You can use any type of glove as long as they don’t get slippery when wet. You never know when you might get caught in some rain, have someone splash you from a mud puddle, or just that your hands sweat while riding.

You also don’t want them to be so bulky that they bunch up under your palm. This could make holding onto the handlebar grips questionable at a critical moment and also possibly cause blisters.

Trying more than one pair of gloves is also a great idea. Once you find the ones you like then stick with them.

I would suggest buying two pairs of your favorite because invariably they will go out of style at some point and you won’t be able to get that exact type.

Dirt Bike Jersey

Just as with gloves there are many options for jerseys. The big deal about wearing a jersey is it covers your arms. This protects you somewhat from things like bushes and tree branches.

They are also made to help cool your body and are fairly resistant to tears. Not counting they make you look cool!

Dirt Bike Riding Pants

Pants made especially for dirt bike riding or motocross are lightweight and offer the greatest amount of protection for riding.

They also have room to put them on over knee braces or knee/shin protectors.

Dirt Bike Knee Braces

Some people won’t ride without knee braces and others feel they are a total waste of money. I actually wear knee braces and have for years after badly hurting one of my knees.

Do knee braces really help keep you from hurting your knees? Maybe but who really knows!

Did I ever hurt my knee even after I started wearing knee braces? Yes, I sure did and injured it pretty badly too! Even with an expensive knee brace on! Could it of been worse? Probably.

Here is the bottom line on knee braces for riding dirt bikes…yes, they can help. But they will not stop all possible knee injuries.

Personally, I can’t even ride without them anymore. I also have knee braces that act as knee and shin protection which is a MUST have so they serve more than one purpose.

Dirt Bike Knee Pads

Knee and shin protectors are not the same as knee braces. These simply put some layers of protection (soft or hard plastic) to cover your skin and help if you bang your knee or shins with something hard.

If you don’t spend the money on knee braces, knee pads are an absolute must-have when riding.

Dirt Bike Riding Boots

Getting a good pair of motocross boots can literally save you from many injuries. Don’t go riding in just tennis shoes or even work boots! Don’t do it!

Dirt bike riding boots are designed to give you the flexibility you need to ride but also a big level of protection that you absolutely need.

Dirt Bike Shoulder Pads and Chest Protector

If you watch any motocross or supercross racing don’t be fooled into not wearing should pads just because the ‘pros’ don’t.

Dirt Bike Shoulder Pads
Dirt Bike Shoulder Pads

Most professional riders these days don’t wear should pads because they don’t like the way it looks on them. Dumb reason! Shoulder pads can provide some valuable upper body protection.

Yes, shoulder pads (with a built-in chest protector) will feel a little cumbersome when you first put them on but once you get riding you will soon forget they are there…that is until you fall down!

And I promise that if you ride dirt bikes you WILL FALL DOWN. Sometimes quite often actually! Shoulder pads may not stop you from getting injured but they will help cushion the blow some.

Shoulder pads do help when you hit the ground so buy the most protection you can afford. You will thank me later. Guaranteed.

Dirt Bike Elbow Pads

Elbow pads are kind of in the same category as shoulder pads. Some riders think they are bothersome while riding.

But you will be glad to have them on when you hit the ground or even just brush up against a tree or sharp bushes.

NOTE: Some shoulder pads come with elbow pads built-in. These are more like body armor gear and tend to be hotter than other options but do work well. Try one on before you buy.

Dirt Bike Kidney Belt

The young hotshot dirt bike races probably don’t even know what a kidney belt is since they are not popular like they once were back in the 1970s and 1980s.

They are wide, stretchy belts that go around your midsection and cover your lower back where your kidneys are located. That is how this piece of protective gear got its name.

Should you get one? Yes! I would not mention it otherwise. They actually do a good job of holding you together so to speak and support the lower back.

If you plan on riding dirt bikes for years and years you really need to protect your lower back because it takes a pounding!

Dirt Bike Neck Brace

Neck braces are relatively new to the dirt bike riding scene. They are designed to help reduce possible neck injuries in the event of a crash.

Companies such as Alpinestars, Atlas, EVS, and Leatt manufacturer neck braces designed specifically for dirt bike riders.

How Much Does Dirt Bike Riding Gear Cost?

You can find a wide range of prices when buying dirt bike riding gear. While the most expensive gear is not always the best gear there clearly is a relationship between how much you spend and the level of protection you get. So keep that in mind.

Don’t skimp or be cheap on your riding gear. It can literally save your life and/or a lot of pain.

Hot Tip! Look for clearance items on the different gear websites. You can often find great items at a great price.

Here is a dirt bike riding gear cost chart of what you can expect to spend.

Dirt Bike GearAverage Price
Helmet$150 to $650
Goggles$20 to $200
Gloves$10 to $40
Jersey$15 to $55
Riding Pants$55 to $400
Knee and Shin Pads/Protectors$20 to $75
Knee Braces$200 to $800
Riding Boots$125 to $600
Shoulder Pads$45 to $300
Elbow Pads$20 to $45
Kidney Belt$20 to $80
Dirt Bike Riding Gear Price Chart

Is Dirt Bike Riding the Same as Motocross?

Answer: No, dirt bike riding is not the same as motocross but they have a lot in common.

What is Motocross?

The term motocross is associated with racing dirt bikes around a closed-circuit track with jumps and other challenging features.

What is Motocross
What is Motocross?

Motocross race tracks are usually about one to two miles in length and the races last any where from 10 to 30 minutes.

What is Dirt Bike Riding?

Dirt bike riding generally implies riding a dirt bike off-road and not in a competition around a track. Yes, you could still go “dirt bike riding” on a motocross race track during practice days.

Usually, dirt bike riding means riding on dirt roads, dry lake beds, through the woods on trails, sand dunes, and empty spaces in the wilderness.

Is a Motocross Bike the Same as a Dirt Bike?

Yes, a motocross bike and a dirt bike are basically the same type of motorcycle. The motocross bike will usually have stiffer suspension than a dirt bike will because there are large jumps in motocross racing. You want a softer suspension for dirt bike trail riding.

Is Riding a Dirt Bike Hard?

No, it is not hard to learn how to ride a dirt bike. Anyone can do it with a little effort and practice.

Is Riding a Dirt Bike Hard
Is Riding a Dirt Bike Hard?

There are many tips and tricks on how to ride better and we will cover those in this guide.

How Long Does it Take to Learn to Ride a Dirt Bike?

Everyone is different so it will vary for you but in general, most people can successfully ride around on a dirt bike in a matter of minutes once they have a basic understanding of how to work the controls.

Your First Dirt Bike Ride

Ok, now that you have all the proper riding gear and have built up the courage to actually go for a ride what are the first steps? Step one is to learn how the dirt bike controls work.

How Dirt Bike Controls Work

There are five main controls you need to be familiar with to successfully ride a dirt bike.

  • Clutch
  • Throttle
  • Gear Shifter
  • Front Brake
  • Rear Brake

It is possible there are some one-of-a-kind dirt bikes that have the controls set up a bit differently than I am about to describe but this is how 99% of dirt bikes operate.

Dirt Bike Clutch

The dirt bike clutch lever is located on the left side of the handlebars. You operate it with your left fingers while the rest of your left hand maintains a good grip on the handlebars.

The purpose of the clutch is to disengage the dirt bike engine when you are starting and stopping and while shifting gears.

To operate the clutch you simply pull in the lever with your left fingers as you manipulate the throttle with your right hand. We will discuss the throttle below.

NOTE: Some smaller childrens dirt bikes may not have a clutch and clutch lever.

Dirt Bike Throttle

To make the dirt bike move forward you have to give it gas via the throttle. This is the same as with a car when you push down the accelerator pedal with your right foot.

The difference on a dirt bike is you turn the throttle with your right hand. Built into the right side handgrip on the handlebars is a throttle mechanism.

You twist your wrist down and back which turns the throttle tube which is mounted on the right handlebar.

This twisting movement increases the speed of the engine RPMs by increasing the fuel flow to the engine via a cable that goes from the handgrip to the carburetor.

Clutch and Throttle Coordination

Using the proper amount of clutch and throttle (at the same time) if were the magic happens. As you slowly turn the throttle with your gith hand the engine RPM’s increase.

While this is happening you slowly let out the clutch lever with your left hand to make the dirt bike move forward.

If you do this combination of motions wrong probability is that you will either stall the engine or the dirt bike will take off from under in a rapid fashion.

Potential Clutch Throttle Errors
Too Much Throttle

If you turn the throttle too far and increase the RPM’s too high the bike could leap out from under you in an uncontrolled motion dumping both you and the bike to the ground.

Too Fast Releasing the Clutch

If you simply just “dump” the clutch, meaning letting the clutch lever out too quickly the most likely result will be that you stall the engine (the engine stops running).

Dirt Bike Gear Shifter

If you are sitting on a dirt bike and look down the left side of the motorcycle you will see a lever about four to five inches long (that runs parallel to the ground) right in front of the footpeg.

This is your gear shift lever. Most dirt bikes have four, five, or six gears. You access your gears by moving the gear shift lever either up or down with your foot.

It is usually done in a manner described as “One down, Four up.” Meaning to get into first gear you press down one time on the gear shift lever. To shift into second gear (and higher) you push up on the gear shift lever.

Some smaller children’s dirt bikes may not have a gear shifter.

How to Put Your Bike in First Gear

To put the bike in first gear you put the front part of your riding boot (toe area) on top of the gear shift lever and press it down “one” time.

Once you are moving you put the front part of your boot (toe area) under the shift lever and lift the gear shift lever “up” successive times to go into higher (faster) gears.

How To Put Your Dirt Bike in Neutral

Maybe one of the trickiest parts of riding dirt bikes is ‘finding’ neutral on your transmission. In between first gear and second gear is something called neutral.

This position is where no gear on the transmission is engaged with the drive shaft on the motorcycle’s engine. The result is the bike’s engine cannot move it forward if it is neutral.

To ‘find’ neutral shift into first gear then push up on the gear shift lever ‘one half’ of a click. Meaning, half the distance between first gear and second gear. That in-between is called neutral. You always want to start your bike in neutral.

Hot Tip! Sometimes to get your bike in neutral you will need to rock it back and forth a few times while it is in first gear and then move the gear shift lever.

How Can You Tell if Your Motorcycle is in Neutral?

One easy way to tell if your motorcycle is in neutral is to try pushing the bike forward. If the motorcycle is in neutral it will roll easily. If the motorcycle is in gear it will be very hard to roll the wheels.

Throttle, Clutch Lever, and Gear Shift Lever Coordination

The tricky part of shifting is combing all the motions of the throttle, clutch lever, and gear shifter at the same time into one synchronized smooth action.

Don’t worry, this is pretty easy when you are actually doing it.

Dirt Bike Front Brake

The front wheel brake on a dirt bike is located on the righthand side of the handlebars.

Just as with the clutch, there is a lever that you pull in to activate the front brake with your right fingers while maintaining control of the handlebars with your right hand.

Most people don’t know that the front brake on a motorcycle is actually about 70% of your braking power. The front brake can stop your dirt bike very quickly and needs to be used with finesse.

NOTE: If you pull in the front brake lever too quickly it is very possible that you could crash throwing yourself over the front of the motorcycle.

Dirt Bike Rear Brake

The rear brake on a dirt bike is actuated by a lever on the right side of the motorcycle directly in front of the right side footpeg.

You use the front of your riding boot (toe area) to push down on the rear brake lever to make it slow you down.

NOTE: It is not uncommon to stall the engine if you apply too much rear brake, too quickly.

How to Start a Dirt Bike

Now that you understand the basics of the dirt bike controls the next step is to start the bike’s engine.

How to Start a Dirt Bike
How to Start a Dirt Bike

Steps to Start a Dirt Bike

  • Make sure the dirt bike transmission is in neutral
  • Turn to the key to the ON position
  • Make sure the ‘engine kill switch’ is in the RUN position
  • Turn ON the fuel tank petcock (turn the gas on)
  • Turn the carburator choke ON (only if the engine is cold)
  • Press the starter button (or kick the kick start lever)
  • Give a small amout of throttle (only if non fuel injected)

Make Sure the Dirt Bike is in Neutral

All dirt bikes with a manual transmission will have a ‘neutral’ position for the gear shift lever. Neutral is when the bike is not in gear.

If the engine is running AND the transmission is in neutral the motorcycle will not move.

Putting the bike in neutral is important for a couple of reasons.

1) It is not safe to start a motorcycle if it is in gear as it will move forward unexpectedly when the engine starts running.

2) Even if you are holding in the clutch lever when you try to start the engine (to prevent it from moving forward on engine start) a dirt bike is significantly harder to start the engine when it is in gear.

In fact, you may not even be able to start the engine when it is in gear on some bikes.

Turn the Key to the ON Position

Be aware that most dirt bikes won’t have a key but some beginners type bikes and bikes that can also be ridden on the highway will.

Turn the Engine Kill Switch to the ON Position

Some dirt bikes have an actual switch that is designed to stop the engine from running if turned to the off position. If your bike has this the engine WILL NOT run if in the off position.

NOTE: Not all dirt bikes have a switch for this. Some just have a button you push to stop the engine so there will not be a switch to put on ‘run’.

Turn ON the Fuel Tank Petcock Lever (Turn on the Gas)

This does not apply if your motorcycle has fuel injection.

If your dirt bike does NOT have fuel injection (most don’t) there will be a little lever right below the fuel tank that when it is turned to the on position gas will flow to the carburetor.

Your dirt bike will not run if this step is missed or the engine may start but only run for a short period of time and then stop because it is not getting any fuel.

NOTE: When you are finished riding for the day you should turn the fuel petcock lever to the OFF position to help avoid flooding the engine and making it easier to start next time.

Turn the Carburator Choke ON

If the engine is cold (not having been run that day yet) you should turn on the carburetor choke. This will allow the engine to start more easily.

The choke is usually controlled by a small lever on the carburetor that you either push down or pull up. it is different on different dirt bikes.

NOTE: If your dirt bike has fuel injection then there will be no choke to engage although there still could be some type of cold start button.

Press and Hold the Starter Button

If you have an electric starter there will be a starter button on the handlebars. Simply push and hold the starter button and you will hear the engine start to turn.

The engine should come to life and run in two to three seconds. If it does not, stop pushing the starter button and repeat all the previous steps to make sure you completed them all.

After double-checking the prior steps, depress the starter button again for two to three seconds and the engine should start running.

NOTE: Don’t hold the started button longer than two to three seconds as you can damage the starter motor, drain your battery, and also flood the engine with too much fuel.

It is not unusual for it to take a few tries to start running. But if the engine simply won’t start there may be a problem. We will discuss some engine start troubleshooting tips below.

Kickstarter Option

If you are not lucky enough to have a bike with the ‘magic button’ (electric start) then you get to kick start the motor.

On the right side of the motorcycle, there will be a long lever that you can turn out from the engine. This is your kick starter lever.

Put your right boot on the top flat part of the lever and give a FULL SHARP kick downwards. If you have never kick-started a motorcycle before see if you can have someone who has done it before show you how.

The TRICK is to make sure the piston is at “top dead center” and then give a full-motion forceful downward kick. Don’t be shy. Put some force into it.

In fact, when I kick start a bike I actually jump up into the air so that even my left foot leaves the ground so I can really put some force into it with my right leg.

If you kick the kick starter halfheartedly you probably won’t get the bike started.

What is a Push Start on a Dirt Bike?

When all other starting options fail, experienced riders will perform a push start to get their bike running.

Pull in the clutch lever and put the dirt bike in second gear. Either run alongside the bike or better yet, have someone push you while you sit on it. Keep the clutch lever pulled in.

Once you build up a good amount of speed rapidly sit down on the seat, towards the rear of the bike, and let the clutch out. Hopefully, it will start. It may take several attempts.

Steps to Perform a Push Start

Give a Small Amount of Throttle

This ONLY applies if you do not have fuel injection. If you do have fuel injection DO NOT apply any throttle.

Sometimes the engine needs a tiny amount of fuel to get going and this is accomplished by turning the throttle a very small amount.

NOTE: Be careful not to give too much throttle as you can flood the engine making it very difficult to start. You will smell gas if you have flooded the engine. Go to the troubleshooting tips below if you think this is what has happened.

Turn the Choke OFF

As soon as the engine starts and seems to be running smoothly (a minute or less) turn the choke to the OFF position.

Let the bike continue warming up for about two minutes, gently rolling the throttle on a little and then back off during this warm-up time period.

How to Drive a Dirt Bike

Now that you have the engine running you need to start moving forward and actually ride your dirt bike! yes, some people say ‘drive’ a dirt bike but most say ‘ride’.

How to Start Moving Forward

Remembering the instructions we shared above, pull in the clutch lever and then, using your left foot, press down on the gear shift lever and put the bike in first gear.

DO NOT worry about shifting at this stage. Just stay in first gear with the goal of driving forward maybe 10 to 20 feet and then successfully stopping.

Slowly apply a small amount of throttle with your right hand while smoothly and slowly letting the clutch lever out with your left hand. You will start moving!

NOTE: Keep one finger on the front brake lever and your right foot at the ready to use the rear brake if needed to slow down.

Congratulations! You are now riding a dirt bike!

How to Slow Down and Stop

The next big step is how to slow down and stop. Simply release all of the throttle you have applied with your right hand and pull in the clutch lever. You will begin to slow down and ultimately stop even without applying any brakes.

If you want to stop quicker, slowly apply both brakes being careful not to grab the front brake too forcefully.

Congratulations you have now stopped safety and completed a successful dirt bike ride albeit a short one.

How to Speed Up and Ride a Longer Distance

Now that you have your first test run safely completed, the next step is to increase your forward speed by shifting up to higher gears and going for a longer ride.

How to Shift a Dirt Bike While Moving

Following the steps above to get moving forward again…

Once you feel and hear the RPMs start to rise too high (you can tell) on the engine pull in the clutch lever, slowly release some of the throttle you have in, and lift up the gear shift lever one time putting the dirt bike into second gear.

Once you ‘click’ into second gear slowly let the clutch lever back out while applying throttle just as you did when you started in first gear.

Why Do Dirt Bikes Have Multiple Gears?

Being in second gear will now allow you to go faster than in first gear. The reason dirt bikes have multiple gears is so that you can go at a higher speed keeping the engine RPMs low enough so they don’t damage the engine.

If you never shifted out of first gear but kept turning the throttle more the ever-increasing engine RPMs would at some point destroy the engine. You will hear it ‘screaming’.

Simply repeat the same ‘shifting’ process to keep going faster as you shift into the higher gears. Just be careful not to get going too fast!

Braking and slowing down is the same process no matter how fast you are going. Take out the throttle you have in, pull the clutch lever in, and click down one on the gear shift lever. Then let the clutch out again. If you did it too fast you will hear the engine RPMs being too high.

Just keep repeating this process until you are down to second gear. You can safely stop in second gear.

Remember to carefully apply the brakes during this slowing process if you plan on coming to a complete stop. You don’t have to use any braking though unless you want to or need to.

What is Whiskey Throttle?

Sometimes, a phenomenon dirt bike riders call “Whiskey Throttle” can happen. That is where, for some reason, you keep turning the throttle on more and can’t turn your wrist enough to take it out.

What is Whiskey Throttle?
What is Whiskey Throttle?

The result of “Whiskey Throttle” is a rapid acceleration that can be very dangerous as the motorcycle is basically out of your control and can crash you into an obstacle causing injury to yourself and damage to the dirt bike

If you experience “Whiskey Throttle” or even think it might be happening, immediately pull in the clutch and you will slow down even though the engine is revving at very high RPMs.

Also, at the same time as pulling in the clutch lever, apply both brakes. Hopefully, you will soon be back under control and able to turn the throttle off with your wrist.

How Far Can You Ride on a Tank of Gas?

Every dirt bike is different when it comes to the size of the gas tank. Plus, the engine size of your dirt bike will also play into how far you can ride. Larger engines burn gas more quickly.

Another factor in riding distance is how fast you ride and the type or terrain. If you are riding fast you will burn gas more quickly.

As far as terrain goes, if you are riding in the sand you will burn fuel much quicker than if you are riding on hardpacked ground.

Taking all those factors into consideration you can probably plan on being able to ride about 40 to 50 miles on a tank of fuel. Could be more, could be less so plan accordingly.

Most dirt bikes come with a fuel tank large enough to give you several hours of riding fun!

Some of the fuel petcock levers (discussed above) on dirt bikes have three settings.

  • Off
  • On
  • Reserve

The purpose of the reserve setting is not really a reserve fuel tank but instead a reminder that you are getting close to running out of fuel.

If you are riding with the fuel petcock in the “ON” position and you run out of gas you are in luck! You can then turn the petcock lever to the reserve position and you will then have access to a small amount of fuel to get the bike back to the truck.

As I said, this is not extra gas, it is just that you don’t have access to all of the fuel in the fuel tank when the lever is in the “ON” position.

Remember, that not all dirt bikes have this feature.

What Kind of Fuel Does a Dirt Bike Require?

Most dirt bikes will run just fine on premium pump gas. Motocross racers will often use racing fuel or even a combination of high octane aviation gas and premium pump gas.

You don’t need racing fuel for trail riding. I raced motocross and off-road for decades and always just used premium pump gas.

Dirt Bike Riding Tips

Please note that the following riding tips are not comprehensive. These tips are not intended to teach you everything you need to know about riding a dirt bike but to give you some simple basic techniques.

Always seek out a professional dirt bike riding coach to help you in person.

Body Position

One of the hardest things for new dirt bike riders seems to be figuring out where to place your body on the bike. I am often asked, “How do I know where to sit? When do I stand up?”

Let’s discuss standing vs sitting first.

When To Stand Up on a Dirt Bike

A simple rule is to always stand up when the terrain is rough and has any type of uneven bumpy surface.

Sitting down in rough terrain actually makes it harder to ride and will beat your body up from the pounding.

When you see bumps and holes approaching, stand up while keeping your legs bent at the knees. You want to now use your legs as shock absorbers.

Also, keep your head slightly forward and most of your body weight slightly towards the read of the bike. Try to envision yourself moving around the ‘middle’ of the bike as you ‘dance’ your way through the rough terrain.

When in the standing position you also generally want to keep your elbows slightly up and forward.

Riding Down Hills

You also want to stand up when you ride down hills. Make sure to grip the bike with your legs and keep your arms loose.

Riding Up Hills

There are also many times that standing up on a steep hill climb is the preferred method.

When you stand up, with your bodyweight towards the back of the bike, you actually have more control over rear-wheel traction and will climb the hill better.

When in doubt stand up! Standing up is the preferred riding position for the majority of your riding.

When To Sit Down on a Dirt Bike

Turning! You normally sit down when you are turning. However, if the surface of the turn is rough and full of bumps you may want to stand up.

Approach the turn standing up. As you reach the very beginning of the turn you will release any braking you have applied and in one smooth motion sit down (sliding forward on the seat) and begin to roll the throttle on to power around the turn.

Most riders will also stick out their inside leg towards the front wheel while holding it up as they travel around the turn. This helps you balance the dirt bike as you go around the turn.

Since you have your inside leg off of the footpeg make sure to remember to put your weight on the outside peg while turning. This helps hold the bike in the turn.

As you exit the turn and begin accelerating you bring your foot back to the footpeg.

IMPORTANT! Make sure you hold your inside leg UP and do not let it drop to the ground. Let the ground come to your foot. If you drop your leg to the ground that may result in an injury.

Try to hold your leg forward and straight and UP to just below the handlebars while slightly tilting in your toe towards the motorcycle.

Foot Position

You always want to ride with the balls of your feet on the footpegs, not the arch. For some reason, it is natural for riders to put their foot on the footpeg right at the location of the arch. This is wrong so don’t do it.

Keeping the balls of your feet on the footpegs provides many advantages which include better turning, the ability to better maneuver the bike through rough terrain, jumping better, and reducing the potential risk of injury.

NOTE: Keeping your feet on the footpegs as much as possible is a great way to reduce the risk of injury.

Advanced Dirt Bike Riding Tips

Advanced Dirt Bike Riding Tips
Advanced Dirt Bike Riding Tips

Make Sure You Are in Good Physical Condition

Ok, this is not the type of riding tip you may have been thinking of but it is critical. When you are in good physical condition you can ride longer, harder, faster, and safer!

Being in good shape is key to enjoying the sport of dirt bike riding. Dirt bike riding is very tiring. If you are worn out after ten minutes of riding you won’t have much fun doing it.

Also, being in good physical condition greatly helps in avoiding injuries.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice makes perfect. Well, you will never ride perfectly but if you don’t ride on a regular basis you will quickly lose your riding skills. The more you ride the more fun you will have.

Ride a Turn Track (a Circle or Figure 8’s)

If you want to get better you need to practice some riding drills that are aimed at improving your skills. Set up a small figure 8 course or just a circle track.

Put in as many laps as you can. Don’t try to go fast. Try to use proper technique as you practice turns. Every pro rider knows the key to going faster is to improve your cornering skills.

Every time you go riding take at least ten minutes and practice your turns.

Have Someone Video You Riding

It is easy to have a friend video you riding these days with smartphones. Go home and watch yourself ride. You will learn a lot!

Mentally Rehearse Riding

Picture in your mind, your favorite dirt bike trail to ride, and also the sections that give you the hardest time.

Rehearse, in your mind, riding those sections over and over. You will be surprised how this can be a great help when you get back on the dirt bike.

Related Dirt Bike Questions

How Do I Know What Size Dirt Bike I Need?

There are a few things you should consider when getting the proper size dirt bike.

  1. Height. Can you easily touch the ground with your feet when sitting in the bike. If you can’t, you may want to consider a bike that has a lower seat height.
  2. Weight. Some dirt bikes are much heavier than others. Sit on the bike and tilt it back and forth underneth yourself. Does it feel like you can maintain control?

    Or does it feel like it is too heavy for your amount of strength to hold up? If it feels way too heavy consider a lighter, smaller bike.
  3. Engine size. If you are a beginner rider you sure don’t want an engine size that is too powerful for you to be able to control.

    You don’t want a huge 450cc engine (cc means cubic centimeters) if you are learning to ride. Beginner adult riders are better off with smaller engine sizes like a 125, 200 or maybe a 250cc engine.

    Learning to ride on a 450cc bike may ruin the whole experience for you so don’t do it!

    NOTE: For children there are dirt bikes with engine sizes in the 65 cc to 100 cc range. Some manuafacturers are even making all electric bikes for children to ride.

Should I Get a Four Stroke or a Two Stroke Engine?

There are pros and cons to both four stroke engines and two stroke engines. In general, most beginner riders start with two stoke dirt bikes for several reasons.

Two Stroke Advantages

  • Two stroke dirt bikes cost less to purchase
  • Two stroke dirt bikes cost less to repair
  • Two stroke dirt bikes tend to weigh less
  • Two stroke dirt bikes are easier to control due to the lighter weight

Two Stroke Disadvantages

  • Two stoke engines are a little harder to control rear wheel traction
  • Two stroke dirt bikes require more shifting while riding
  • Some two stoke dirt bikes you have to manually mix oil in the gas before riding

Should I Hire a Riding Coach or Go To a Dirt Bike School?

Both are great ideas! Learning how to ride a dirt bike is a never-ending endeavor. No matter how good of a rider you become you can always learn more and become a better rider.

What is the Best Way To Learn Dirt Biking?

The best way to learn about dirt biking is to seek out and find other dirt bike riders where you live.

  • Go to your local motorsports dealer and ask for the names of riders in the area.
  • Go to local riding areas and introduce yourself to other riders.
  • Search for local riders and riding clubs on the internet and social media.

Should I Buy a Used Dirt Bike or a New One?

I highly recommend looking for a good used dirt bike as your first motorcycle. The dirt bike riding learning curve is very fast for some people and you may find yourself outgrowing your first bike very quickly.

You can usually save a good amount of money buying used. That extra money can go towards all the riding gear you need.

Also, it is not unusual for the person selling a used dirt bike to throw in whatever riding gear they have if you buy their bike.

Sure, everyone loves a new bike but be advised you will lose a significant amount of value the day you pick it up from the motorcycle dealership. Plus, when you fall down and scrape it up it will hurt much less if it is a used bike!

How Much Does a Dirt Bike Cost?

There really is no easy answer to how much a dirt bike costs because of all the choices. A new dirt bike will cost much more than a used one.

The age and condition of a used dirt bike will make a big difference in how much it costs. Also, a larger engine size tends to cost more than a dirt bike with a smaller engine size.

It is possible to find a good used dirt bike with an engine in the 125cc to 250cc range for $2000 to $4000 depending on the age and condition.

A new dirt bike in the 125cc to 250cc range will probably cost between $7000 to $9000 by the time you pay taxes and fees.

Older model mini bikes for children in the 80cc to 100cc range can be found for $1000 to $2000.

What is a Dual Sport Motorcycle?

A dual-sport motorcycle can be used on a dirt trail or as a street bike. Usually, people who buy dual sport bikes want a dirt bike but they want the ability to be street legal so they can ride on the paved road to get to the dirt trails!

For some riders, dual-purpose models bring the best of both worlds.

How Much Maintenance Does a Dirt Bike Require?

The amount of time and money to maintain your dirt bike will be directly related to how much you ride it. The more you ride, the more you will have to replace worn-out items.

Before every ride you should do a quick check of the bike to make sure all the nuts and bolts are tight, the chain is properly adjusted, the air filter is clean, and the tires are properly inflated.

When you are inflating the tires also check to make sure your spokes are tight and there are no broken spokes. You should be able to do all of this in less than ten minutes once you know what you are doing.

Common Dirt Bike Maintenace Items

  • Change and clean the air filter
  • Change engine oil
  • Replace worn out tires
  • Replace wornout chain and sprockets
  • Replace wornout handlebar grips

What Tools Do I Need For Working on a Dirt Bike?

It depends on how mechanical you are and how much work you actually want to do yourself.

Basic Tools For a Dirt Bike

NOTE: Most all dirt bikes use metric sizes

  • Allen key set
  • Cresent wrenches
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Pliers
  • Locking Pliers
  • Screw drivers (flat and phillips)
  • Spoke wrench
  • Sockets of varying sizes
  • Ratchet
  • Wrenches of various sizes (open and box)

Except for minor repairs and routine maintenance when you are new to dirt biking it makes sense to take your bike to your local mechanic.

Basic Dirt Bike Items to Carry in Your Backpack
  • Water – You can never carry enough water
  • Cable ties – assorted sizes
  • Duct tape, electrical tape, and fusion tape
  • Flat Tire Repair Kit and/or spare inner tube
  • First aid kit
  • Light weight gloves (to work on your bike so you don’t get grease on your riding gloves)
  • Mini tire irons
  • Mini Tool Kit (multi screwdriver, 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, 12mm sockets, adjustable wrench, etc)
  • Multi-tool
  • Plastic ziplock bag
  • Safety wire
  • Snacks
  • Spare cloth
  • Spare sparkplug
  • Tow strap

Many companies make special tool kits designed to be carried with you on the trail

Do You Need a License to Ride a Dirt Bike?

No license is needed for an adult to ride a dirt bike in the United States. Just make sure you ride in an area that is legal for you to be riding there.

Don’t ride on private property without the permission of the landowner. Also, most dirt bikes are not legal to ride on paved roads (except dual-sport bikes that have a license plate).

Is Dirt Bike Riding Dangerous?

I get asked questions like this all the time. Will I get hurt if I ride a dirt bike? Will I crash?

The honest answer is that if you ride dirt bikes, yes, you will crash and fall over at some point. Maybe multiple times in one day of riding!

And if you ride long enough you will sustain some type of injury. It is just part of the sport.

What is the Worst Part About Dirt Bike Riding?

  • Cleaning air filters
  • Getting injured and not being able to ride
  • Having to go to work so you can’t ride
  • Snow! Being too cold to ride


Dirt bike riding is a great way to get outside, enjoy nature, and get some good exercise! It is also a great family sport and a way for families to stay together with a common love.

Remember though, maintaining good safety practices are vital to be able to enjoy a potentially dangerous sport like riding a dirt bike.

Once you fall in love with riding a dirt bike it will become part of your life and stay with you forever. It is a sport that you can do your entire life.

As one pro rider once said when asked ‘why’ he rides dirt bikes, “It is what we do.”

how to ride a dirt bike

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