Dirt Bike Basics: What Every Beginner Should Know

New to dirt bike riding? What are the basics that every beginner rider should know before he or she swings their leg over a bike?

Starting out with the right knowledge about your dirt bike and riding will make your riding time more enjoyable and safer. This article will cover basic essentials you need to know about getting started in the awesome sport of dirt biking!

Colorado Trip 2018 Edit 4 20180729 2 Dirt Bike Basics: What Every Beginner Should Know
Your journey begins here with the right hand…

What Is A Dirt Bike?

A dirt bike is a motorcycle that is built to ride off-road. It has special knobby tires, as well as suspension and an engine designed to make riding in the dirt more comfortable and safer. 

Is It Hard To Learn To Ride A Dirt Bike?

Learning to ride a dirt bike is not hard if you get the proper training. Whether you’re on a dirt bike with a clutch or not, you only need to focus on the basic controls of the bike. These include the throttle, clutch, and brake. Balancing on a dirt bike is a very similar feeling to balancing on a bicycle. 

How To Ride A Dirt Bike (With A Clutch)

In order to ride a manual dirt bike, you must learn how to slip the clutch to start moving. 

Slipping the clutch is basically slowly letting out the clutch lever while applying just enough throttle to accelerate. 

Once you get going fast enough to balance with your feet on the footpegs you don’t need to use the clutch again until you stop. 

How To Stop On A Dirt Bike

Coming to a stop requires one of two things to keep your dirt bike running. You either have to shift it into neutral while still riding, or pull in the clutch before you stop. 

Not doing either of these on a manual dirt bike will cause the engine to stall and shutoff. 

Using both front and rear brake is the most efficient way to stop on your dirt bike. The front brake has more stopping power, and the rear brake will lock up the rear wheel more easily. 


This can cause the rear will to skid and slide, as well as kill the engine if you don’t pull the clutch in. 

It’s important to find out how much brake you can use before the wheel locks up. Once the tire starts skidding, it’s easy for the bike to slide out from under you and tip over. 

What’s The Best Beginner Dirt Bike?

Starting out on the right dirt bike is important for learning as well as safety. With that said, there’s no “best beginner bike” that will work as well for everyone. 

The key factors relate to you as a person and what kind of riding you’ll be doing. 

For example:

The best beginner dirt bike for little kids include:

  • Yamaha PW50
  • Honda CRF50F
  • Kawasaki KLX110
  • Honda CRF125F

Now obviously, you’re not going to put a 12 year old kid on a PW50 because he or she is way too big for it. The point is, you have to narrow down the factors, such as your age and height, as well as whether you need a 2 stroke or 4 stroke. 

Good dirt bikes for adults to start on are:

  • Kawasaki KLX140L
  • Honda CRF250F
  • Beta 200RR

How To Set Up A Dirt Bike For You

Setting up the controls and suspension are necessary, even if you’re new to dirt biking. Being able to comfortably reach the levers will boost your confidence. You don’t need to think about it because everything is positioned at the right distance and/or angle. 

Having a properly set-up suspension is not only smart, but it’s dangerous if you keep riding without knowing anything about it. 

What Is Setting The Sag?

Setting the sag or ride height is the first thing you should do. Even though it may sounds foreign and intimidating to you, it’s actually surprisingly easy if you take your time and pay attention.

All you’re really doing is adjusting the pre-load of the spring (usually the shock) to raise or lower the amount of sag. The goal is to get the bike balanced so that it handles well with you on it.

This is all assuming that you have the correct springs in your forks and shock to begin with.

The spring rates in your dirt bike forks and shock should match your total rider weight.

Motocross Basics

I don’t recommend anyone start out racing motocross when they first start riding. Motocross is a highly competitive, technical, and more dangerous than simply learning to ride in your backyard or at a local trail.

With that said, you may want to challenge yourself to an mx race at some point in your riding career.

ERX 6 13 09 Dirt Bike Basics: What Every Beginner Should Know
I tried mx and found I enjoyed the woods more.

Here are the basic things you need to learn about or how to do if you want to be competitive in motocross racing:

  • How to jump
  • The holeshot
  • How to corner
  • Hitting whoops
  • Braking bumps
  • Arm pump

How To Corner On A Dirt Bike

Learning how to corner is a basic skill needed for dirt biking. There’s many different types of corners. They include:

  • Rutted corners
  • Bermed corners
  • Sand corners
  • Flat corners
  • Off-camber corners

When you first start riding, practice turning on flat ground. Move up towards the front of the seat. This compresses the front suspension, allowing the front wheel to turn more easily because of the change in geometry. 

Put your inside foot out and forward while cornering. So, if you’re cornering to the left, put your left foot out towards the front wheel. This helps you balance as you lean the bike over in the corner. 

How Can I Get Better At Dirt Biking?

Are you new to dirt biking? Learn how to safely and confidently ride a dirt bike with a clutch. 

Getting proper technique training, as well as what it takes to be safe are super important in the beginning of your career.

Starting out on a bad bike or creating bad habits because you taught yourself may slow down your progress in the long run. 

And then, like anything else, once you know how to do something, you must practice practice practice. 

The more seat time you get on your dirt bike, the more familiar riding will be. Building up that muscle memory early is something I teach to anyone that’s new to riding. 

Technical Dirt Bike Riding

When you hear a fellow rider talking about technical dirt bike riding, they’re usually referring to technical single track trails. 

This topic is somewhat subjective, however. This is because one rider’s definition of a “technical trail” may not be “technical” to another rider due to their varying skill levels. 

Colorado Trip 2018 Edit 16 Dirt Bike Basics: What Every Beginner Should Know
This hill is steeper than it appears on your screen

The more experience you get, the more technical and challenging trails you’ll want to ride and conquer. This has been my personal experience over my dirt biking career so far. 

Dirt Bike Beginner Mistakes

I previously mentioned bad riding habits can really stunt your riding skill. So what are some of these common habits and mistakes that new riders make?

  • Body position
  • Poor clutch control
  • Looking at the wrong spot
  • Hanging on too tight
  • Not balanced
  • Fingers in the wrong spot

Dirt Bike Essentials

What are the basic essentials needed for dirt bike riding? For riding gear you need at a minimum:

  • Helmet
  • Riding boots
  • Gloves
  • Eye Protection
  • Long sleeve clothes

To do most basic routine maintenance you’ll need:

  • Metric wrenches & socket set
  • Screwdrivers
  • Spark plug wrench
  • Allen wrenches
  • Breaker bar
  • Axle Wrenches (depending on axle nut size)
  • Tire irons
  • Torque wrench

Having a separate trail pack is smart to bring with on trail rides. Specialty tools include:

  • Multi-tool
  • Zip-ties
  • Sidecutter
  • JB weld
  • Spare spark plug
  • Credit card/cash
  • Spare tube(s)

Dirt Bike Training For Beginners

How do I get this so-called “proper training” that you keep talking about?

Well, I thought you’d never ask. 

I did mention that I teach people how to ride dirt bikes. Even if you’ve never sat on a bike, I can show you all of the basic controls and techniques to jumpstart your riding career. You’ll learn how to skillfully use the clutch and ride with confidence.

Interested? Click here to get on my waiting list


Kelley Fager

I help newer riders learn to safely ride with confidence by teaching basic techniques in a way that's easy to understand. Learn To Ride With Control Here

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