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Do All Dirt Bikes Have A Clutch? What You Need To Know

Are you new to dirt biking and have asked the question: “Do all dirt bikes have a clutch?”.

I’m not only going to answer this question, but I’m also going to help you figure out what kind of dirt bike you need, and then how to properly ride a dirt bike so that you can have fun without the fear of getting hurt.

What is the function of a clutch?

The clutch on a dirt bike is to smoothly engage the gears to get the bike moving. It’s also used as a power amplifier – slipping the clutch spins the engine RPM higher to accelerate faster. 

Clutch Control Do All Dirt Bikes Have A Clutch? What You Need To Know

Having good clutch control is essential if you want to be a good rider.

Poor clutch control will cause:

  • Stalling
  • The clutch to wear out faster
  • The engine to wear out faster
  • Overheating
  • Coolant leaking out the overflow
  • Engine damage can happen over time

Are there any automatic dirt bikes without a clutch?

Yes, but they’re all kids or medium size dirt bikes. Virtually all adult size dirt bikes have a manual clutch. 

With that said, even the smaller dirt bikes aren’t fully automatic transmissions like a car. They have gears that require you to upshift and downshift, but there’s not manual clutch needed. It’s essentially a semi-automatic transmission. 

These dirt bikes have a semi-automatic transmission without a clutch:

The Honda CRF110 does not have a clutch, making it a good beginner dirt bike for kids

Whether you don’t want your son or daughter riding a dirt bike with a clutch, or you just need a pit bike without a clutch, one of these dirt bikes is easier to ride. 

It’s one less thing to learn and worry about. Plus, it’s easier to hold something in your left hand in the pits since you don’t need to pull in the clutch lever!

Manual clutch vs automatic

If you or your kid is new to dirt biking, learning on a (semi) automatic dirt bike is easier. Learning proper clutch control can be frustrating at first for beginners. 

With no clutch to worry about, it’s easier to focus on all the other basic techniques. It’s totally fine for kids to start on, but you should transition to a manual dirt bike eventually. 

Is manual better?

There’s many advantages to riding a dirt bike with a manual clutch. For one, it can be a lot more fun because you feel like you have more control over the bike. 

With a manual clutch, you control the engine RPM and how much power actually gets put to the rear wheel. This is both good and bad because it can make you a better or worse rider. 

With good clutch control you can accelerate faster with more traction, allowing you to get over more challenging obstacles and ride up steep hills. 

Colorado Trip 2018 Edit 16 Do All Dirt Bikes Have A Clutch? What You Need To Know
Slipping the clutch is needed to get moving up this hill

Poor clutch control puts more stress and heat into your engine, and then you lose traction from spinning the rear tire. This kills your speed or momentum, making the same trail or obstacle feel much more difficult. 

With that said, it’s harder to learn how to use the clutch on a dirt bike because it’s very sensitive. It also requires some throttle control to prevent a ‘whiskey throttle’ wheelie. 

When do racers use the clutch the most?

It really depends on the racer and what type of riding they’re doing. Some riders use the clutch a lot, while others use it very little. 

All racers use the clutch on the start or holeshot to get going. Most of them use it when coming into and/or out of corners. This is to prevent stalling as well as enhance the power by revving the engine higher to accelerate faster. 

Off-road racers often use the clutch on technical terrain and hills to get more power in a lower gear, as well as control wheel spin for better traction and control. 

Trail Riding On CRF230F 16 Do All Dirt Bikes Have A Clutch? What You Need To Know

How many gears do dirt bikes have?

Most kid’s size dirt bikes usually have 3 or 4 gears. Medium size dirt bikes generally have 4 or 5 gears in the transmission. Full size dirt bikes typically have 5 or 6-speed transmissions. 

Having more gears isn’t necessarily better. It just allows you to keep the engine RPM up higher when you shift up. It also allows you to ride at a higher speed at a lower RPM

For example, when you shift from 3rd gear to 4th gear, the RPM drops. It might go from 8k down to 6k with a good, smooth shift. 

How to properly shift gears

There are 4 different ways to shift gears on a dirt bike, but I only recommend 2 of them if you’re a beginner. 

Do you need to use the clutch to shift gears? You can shift with or without the clutch, and I’ll show you how.  

With clutch

  • Accelerate
  • When ready to shift, let off the throttle
  • At the same time, pull in the clutch lever and use the shift lever to shift up
  • Let the clutch lever back out
  • Get back on the throttle

Without clutch

  • Accelerate
  • When ready, to shift let off the throttle
  • Use the shift lever to shift up
  • Get back on the throttle

Is it okay to downshift without the clutch?

Yes, you can downshift without using the clutch. Just let off the throttle when you click the shifter down.

You can only go down one gear at a time, so you don’t need to stomp on it. Just a ‘click’ with your toe is all it should need.

Understanding dirt bike transmission shifting

Dirt bikes with a manual clutch have a constant-mesh transmission. This simply means that all of the gears are moving on a shaft, and the drive gear moves up or down a gear one at a time.

You can only shift up or down 1 gear – pushing or pulling harder on the shift lever won’t make it shift multiple gears.

Dirt bike shift lever.
Down is first, neutral is in between first and second.

The bottom gear is the first gear on a manual dirt bike. In between 1st and 2nd gear is neutral, then it goes from 2nd all the way up to the top gear, which is generally 5th or 6th gear.

How to know what gear to ride in

A common mistake that new riders (and some experienced riders) make is riding in the wrong gear. How do you tell what gear is best to ride in?

It really depends on how you’re riding and what bike you’re on. With that said, you don’t want the engine to be revving too high, and you don’t want to be at too low of an RPM if you’re trying to accelerate.

For casual riding, you want to listen to the engine as you ride and be in the low-to-mid-range RPM. This will generally be 3000-8000 RPM.

So, the faster you go, the higher gear you’ll need to be in. If you’re only riding 5-10 mph, then you’ll want to be in 1st or 2nd gear.

Dirt bikes that have a clutch

If you’re a beginner but want a dirt bike that has a clutch, then you have quite a few options to choose from! You definitely want to start on a trail bike because it’s easier to ride and much more forgiving than a high-performance enduro bike or MX bike.

These are the best dirt bikes that have a clutch to start on:

  • Yamaha TTR125
  • Kawasaki KLX140
  • Honda CRF150F
  • Honda XR200
  • Yamaha TTR230
  • Kawasaki KLX230R
  • Honda CRF250F

How to have good clutch control

You now know that having good clutch control is extremely important if you want to be a safer and more confident rider, but how do you actually get better?

It starts with learning where the “engagement point” is, and I want to show you how to improve your clutch control faster so that you will become a better rider. Click here to get started for free.

Todd Essman

Friday 8th of September 2023

Great help. Clear and to the point.

Kelley Fager

Monday 11th of September 2023

You're welcome, Todd - thanks for reading!

Bud goss

Friday 9th of June 2023


Kelley Fager

Friday 9th of June 2023

You're welcome, Bud - Thanks for reading!