Is Riding a Dirt Bike Hard? (Not if you know how gears work)

While I spend most of my weekends riding four-wheelers, I do love to switch it up and rent a dirt bike every blue moon. If you are planning to do the same but are worried that riding dirt bikes is hard, you shouldn’t be.

Riding a dirt bike is not hard. Dirt bikes are very intuitive and it usually takes less than 25 minutes to get a full grasp on the basics and start speeding on mountain trails. Riding dirt bikes can get hard if you do it at fast speeds and on challenging terrains such as muddy trails. This is why it’s important to always wear protection gear when riding dirt bikes.

From my experience, it should take less than a couple of hours to feel comfortable riding dirt bikes. Obviously, things get trickier if you want to ride hard. This is why you should read my advanced dirt bike riding tips.

Is Riding a Dirt Bike Hard?

a group of motocross riders

Most dirt bike riders I know, myself included, will say that riding a dirt bike is both difficult and easy. Learning how to ride it is the easy part, especially if you are excited about it. The only essential advice I have for you is to have an experienced rider help you with the basics. There are a few key points about dirt bike riding that you will need to get down before getting onto a trail.

For instance, there is a proper riding stance that you need to take when you are riding on difficult terrain. If you’ve ever watched dirt bike races, you know exactly what I’m talking about. When the rider lifts up on the balls of their feet, elevated a few inches above their seat, with their torso pointed forward and their elbows parallel with the handlebar. This position helps you absorb the shock from hopping over obstacles.

Yes, learning to ride is easy, but with proper help. Even me explaining the stance in writing is not half as good as someone actually showing you how to do it. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a friend that is an experienced rider, then I recommend you turn to the off-roader community in your state. You’re sure to find a friendly person or two that will refer you to someone who can teach you in the area. Attending meet-ups and observing other people doing it first hand is another way you can pick up on the subtleties of the sport.

The difficult aspect of riding a dirt bike is understanding and accepting how taxing this sport is for your body. Out of all the off-road sports out there, you’re the least protected when riding a dirt bike. As young riders, we’re prone to think we can take over the world and don’t need any protection. Still, getting informed about the potential risks of this sport is absolutely essential for beginners.

A common risk of dirt bike riding, for example, is hurting your knees. Because your feet absorb that much shock during the years, your cartilage can slowly get damaged. Wearing high quality knee pads is an absolute must for dirt bike riders. On top of that, a good helmet, boots, chest, and back protection should all be on your list before hitting the trails. Don’t overlook safety precautions because it will only put you in dangerous situations.

How to Ride a Dirt Bike with Gears?

In order to ride a dirt bike with gears, you need to learn the position of your clutch, throttle, and shift lever, and the order in which you need to activate them. This process might be a bit tricky at first, particularly for people that don’t know how to drive a manual car. But with repetition, your muscle memory will take over and you will not even need to think about the steps at all.

When you are first getting on the bike, take note of the position of:

  • the clutch lever, attached to the left side of your handlebar;
  • the throttle, found on the right side of your handlebar;
  • the shift lever, located next to the foot peg on your left.

Start out in neutral. In order to get into first gear, you need to hold the clutch lever. Then, push the shift lever down until it clicks into first gear. The next step is to pull the throttle a quarter of the way out, while still maintaining your grip on the clutch lever. With your left hand, slowly let go of the clutch until you feel the bike is getting enough power to move.

To shift up from the first gear, you pull in the clutch again. Pull the shift lever up with your foot, while making sure not to accidentally leave it into neutral (which is situated halfway between first and second gear). Apply the throttle, release the clutch gradually, and off you go. As for shifting down, it’s a matter of slowing down, gripping the clutch again, and pressing down on the lever with your foot to get into the lower gear needed. Moreover, dirt bikes have typically five gears.

Once you get the basic technique down, you will quickly learn how to listen to your engine when it needs a lower or higher gear. Within a day or two of riding, your body will already know how to shift gears without any conscious effort on your part. Aside from shifting gears, in order to ride you still need to learn how to balance your body and change into the right body position to avoid obstacles. But this quick explanation will get you on the right track.

Advanced Dirt Bike Riding Tips

While learning how to start a dirt bike and shift gears might not be too complicated, it can get a bit more complicated when it comes to advanced techniques like mastering the weight distribution in tight corners. I have rounded up the best advanced dirt bike riding tips I learned myself and that others have shared with me. Check them out:

  1. Look Ahead, Not Down: Always keep your eyes focused on the path ahead and not right in front of your tire. This gives you more time to react to obstacles and plot your path more effectively.
  2. Master the Power Band: Understanding your bike’s power band is key. Different bikes have power bands at different RPMs. Mastering this will allow you to get the most power out of your bike when needed, be it for a quick acceleration or climbing a steep hill.
  3. Weight Distribution: Learn to use your body weight to help with turns, climbs, and descents. Leaning forward during an ascent and shifting your weight back during a descent can significantly enhance your control over the bike.
  4. Braking Skills: Learn to use both front and rear brakes effectively. While your rear brake offers more control, the front brake has more stopping power. Practice modulating them in various situations.
  5. Practice Throttle Control: It’s not always about speed. Learn to modulate the throttle for smooth transitions, especially in tricky terrains. This can prevent skidding or loss of control.
  6. Cornering: When approaching a corner, always look towards the exit. This helps in setting up your body and bike position correctly. Remember, where the eyes go, the bike follows.
  7. Jumping Technique: If you’re into motocross or just enjoy the occasional jump, it’s crucial to learn the right technique. Approach the jump at a steady speed, use your legs to push off the jump, and always stay relaxed in the air. However, I don’t recommend doing this if you are a newbie. You should first become a master at controlling the dirt bike.
  8. Routine Maintenance: While this isn’t a riding tip, ensuring your bike is in peak condition will give you an edge. Regularly check the brakes, tires, chain, and other essential parts.
  9. Ride in Varied Terrains: The more diverse your practice grounds, the better rider you’ll become. Sand, mud, rocks, or forests, each terrain teaches you something new.
  10. Join a Riding Group or Club: Interacting and riding with more experienced riders can give you invaluable insights, techniques, and tips that you might not discover on your own. You can join our Facebook Group to meet like-minded people who can help you out.

Remember, no matter how advanced you become, always prioritize safety. Riding is about enjoying the journey and continuously improving. Keep challenging yourself, but do so wisely.

Do You Have to Be Strong to Ride Dirt Bikes?

As long as you have the proper bike for your weight, you do not need to be incredibly strong to ride a dirt bike. Since this is quite literally a sport, you still need to have a decent physical condition to do it. When riding a dirt bike, you need strength in your legs to balance yourself, as well as strength in your arms to lift the handlebars while jumping. Your core strength will also be tested when riding for more than an hour.

The point I’m trying to get at is that you don’t need to be a gym rat to learn how to ride a dirt bike. As long as you keep your body moving regularly, your muscles will not be shocked by this activity. As a matter of fact, in case you are not a big fan of the gym and want a fun sport to help keep your body toned, dirt bike riding is a great choice. It will help you gain more muscle in your legs and arms while raising your endurance.

What Protection Gear To Wear When Riding Dirt Bikes

dirt bike riding fast

I mentioned protection gear a bunch of times in this article and there is a good reason for that. Whether you are riding on two wheels or four, safety is always the top priority. Dirt bike is thirlling and exciting, but it comes with its fair share of risks. This is why you should always wear protection gear. Here is a quick breakdown of what to wear when dirt biking:

  1. Helmet: This is non-negotiable. A certified, high-quality helmet can make the difference between a minor accident and a life-changing injury. Look for one that fits snugly, offers good ventilation, and meets safety standards.
  2. Goggles: Protect your eyes from dust, debris, and potential hazards with a pair of strong goggles. Ensure they are scratch-resistant, offer UV protection, and fit comfortably with your helmet.
  3. Neck Brace: A neck brace can significantly reduce the risk of cervical spine injuries in the event of a crash. It limits the movement of the neck during sudden jolts.
  4. Body Armor/Chest Protector: These shield your torso from potential impacts and debris. Some models offer protection for the back, chest, and even shoulders.
  5. Elbow and Knee Guards: Your joints are vulnerable during falls. High-quality guards can protect against scrapes and blunt force impacts.
  6. Motocross Boots: Specialized boots offer protection to the ankles, feet, and lower legs. They provide a mix of flexibility for shifting and rigidity for protection.
  7. Gloves: Protect your hands from blisters, cuts, and abrasions. Look for gloves that offer a good grip on the handles, adequate padding, and breathability.
  8. Kidney Belt: It provides support to the lower back, especially during long rides, and helps reduce fatigue.
  9. Hip Pads and Padded Shorts: These offer extra cushioning for the hip area, which can be particularly vulnerable during side falls.
  10. Earplugs: While not always considered, earplugs can protect your ears from the loud noise of the bike, especially during prolonged rides.
  11. Riding Suit or Jersey and Pants: Made of durable materials, these offer protection against scrapes and cuts and can also provide some cushioning during falls. Look for gear that’s breathable, fits well, and is designed for the conditions you’ll be riding in.

Top 3 Best Dirt Bikes for Beginners

Assuming that you are just getting started with dirt bikes, it’s essential to learn how to choose the right model for beginners. Picking a dirt bike suitable for new riders will make the learning curve easier and the experience more fun for you. With that said, here are my top 3 best dirt bikes for beginners.

#1 Honda CRF250F

a white and red Honda CRF250F

The Honda CRF250F is renowned for its beginner-friendly features and reliable performance. As part of Honda’s trail range, this bike provides a smooth power delivery that is forgiving for newcomers, while still packing enough punch for more exhilarating rides as one’s skills develop.

  • Reliability: Honda’s reputation for producing dependable machines is undisputed, and the CRF250F is no exception.
  • Electric Start: This feature makes it easier for beginners to start the bike without the stress of kickstarting.
  • Fuel Injection: Ensures smooth power delivery and excellent throttle response.
  • Adjustable Suspension: Allows riders to fine-tune their ride based on their weight and riding style.
  • Front and Rear Disc Brakes: Offers superior stopping power for increased safety.

#2 Yamaha TTR-230

a blue Yamaha TTR-230

Yamaha’s TTR-230 is another fantastic option for those new to dirt biking. It’s been designed with a focus on ease of use and durability, ensuring that beginners can enjoy a hassle-free introduction to the sport.

  • Low Maintenance: The air-cooled engine minimizes the need for frequent upkeep.
  • Broad Powerband: Provides smooth and steady power, reducing the chances of accidental wheelies or stalls.
  • 6-Speed Transmission: Allows new riders to get a feel for shifting gears without overwhelming them.
  • Durable Design: Built to withstand the typical bumps and drops that come with learning.
  • Electric Start: For easy and quick startups.

#3 Kawasaki KLX230

a green and white Kawasaki KLX230

Rounding off our list is the Kawasaki KLX230. This bike is a blend of performance and comfort, ensuring that novice riders can gradually ramp up their skills while enjoying every moment on the trail.

  • Powerful Yet Manageable: The 233cc engine delivers steady power suitable for beginners.
  • Long Travel Suspension: Provides a plush ride, soaking up bumps and obstacles effortlessly.
  • Ergonomic Design: Ensures that riders of all sizes can find a comfortable position.
  • ABS Option: A rare find on dirt bikes, this offers an added layer of safety for new riders.
  • 7.1 Gallon Tank: Allows for longer rides without frequent refueling stops.

Bob Kelly

Hey there, my name is Bob and I've been riding ATVs, dirt bikes, and UTVs for most of my life. Going on outdoor adventures has always been my passion. I love sharing tips and tricks with beginners who are getting ready to join the world of outdoor enthusiasts. You can reach me at if you want to get in touch.

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