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How To Use The Clutch On A Dirt Bike – Techniques & Tips

Learning how to use the clutch on a dirt bike is an essential technique if you want to become a better rider. In this article I’m going to show you my simple steps to quickly improve your clutch control.

Well, even if you’re completely clueless as to how a clutch works, this article will show you step by step how to ride a dirt bike or motorcycle with a clutch and impress your friends on how much control you have with so little experience!

While a dirt bike clutch works the same way as a clutch on a car, using your hands is a lot different and requires training your body’s muscle memory.

I’ll cover why you need to understand how the clutch works, the basic techniques and some clutch control tips to make you a better dirt bike rider.

How To Make Your Clutch Last Longer How To Use The Clutch On A Dirt Bike - Techniques & Tips
Learning to use a manual hand clutch

What Is The Clutch And How Does It Work?

For a complete guide on how to start riding a dirt bike with a clutch read this. 

This article is the next step, and that is to practice using the clutch with simple techniques and drills. 

Why Practice Using The Clutch?

Clutch control is not only necessary for starting out in a manual dirt bike, but you will greatly increase your skill as you learn to be more efficient with the clutch. 

What do I mean by being “efficient with the clutch”? That simply means that when the clutch needs to be slipped, which is generally at a low speed, you are able to reduce the amount of engine RPM, increase your traction, and still ride just as fast or faster. 

Explain “Slipping The Clutch” Better

Slipping the clutch is simply any point in between the clutch fully engaged and fully disengaged with the transmission in gear. 

It’s also called “feathering the clutch”, and it’s a technique used to: start moving the bike as well as keep the engine running when you’re at slow speeds.

Slipping the clutch is used to get up a short steep hill because you can quickly bring the RPM up to get more power out of your bike. Keeping your finger on the clutch lever and pulling it in when the rear tire spins is also a technique used to give you more traction when the terrain is slippery.

When Do You Need To Use The Clutch?

When you shift it into first gear and start letting out the clutch lever to get the bike moving; that is slipping the clutch. 

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Slipping the clutch to start moving the dirt bike

Also when you enter a corner while riding, you may need to slip the clutch to either prevent the engine from stalling or to keep the power up for maximum acceleration. 

You can also use the clutch when shifting up or down to make the shifts smoother. 

How Do You Shift Gears With A Clutch?

There’s 4 ways to shift gears on a dirt bike with a clutch.

I only ever teach new riders two of those ways because the other two are for racing application and put more stress on the engine/clutch.

The 4 ways to shift a manual dirt bike are:

  • With clutch: letting off the throttle then shifting
  • With clutch: holding throttle open when shifting (for racing only)
  • Without clutch: letting off the throttle then shifting
  • Without clutch: holding throttle open when shifting (for racing only)

Do I Need To Start In Neutral?

When starting the engine on your dirt bike, you don’t need to be in neutral.

With that said, there’s some things to keep in mind when starting or restarting your bike.

You must have the clutch pulled in (disengaged) to start the bike in gear. If not, the bike will not start because of the neutral safety switch, or it might start and accelerate immediately because it’s in gear.

Starting In Gear Is Harder

Whenever I’m teaching someone how to ride, I always have them find neutral before they start it. Not only is that good practice, but it’s usually easier to start the bike.

A hot engine is harder to start with the transmission in gear. This is due to the clutch heating up and expanding. An expanded clutch will act like a “partially engaged” clutch. This is also called clutch drag. It’s harder to spin the engine over because there’s more friction.

So, if you’re having trouble restarting your dirt bike when the engine is hot, try shifting it back into neutral first.

One or Two Finger Clutch Habit

One habit that I forced myself to implement a number of years ago has changed my riding for the good. Before, I’d just grab the clutch lever whenever I needed it.

This worked, but it wasn’t the fastest and most efficient. 

Now I keep one finger set on the clutch lever basically 100% of the time. 

I can prevent stalling way more often because my reaction to pulling in the clutch is much faster than when I kept all my fingers around the handlebar grips. 

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Keeping a finger on the clutch

It took a few hours to get used to, but now it feels weird when I dont have a finger on the clutch. 

Sometimes my hands get tired or weak, so I’ll use two fingers instead of one. 

Please, oh please, just don’t use all 4 fingers to pull the clutch (or the brake) lever in. You don’t need that much strength, and it’s more dangerous because you have much less grip on the handlebars. 

Most Common Mistakes I See New Riders Make

Learning how to use the clutch may come quickly for some new riders, but maybe you’re not one of them. 

Do any of these common mistakes I see beginners make sound familiar to you?

Want to learn what the proper techniques to safely ride a dirt bike with confidence? Click here to get a head start on your riding skills!