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How Dirt Bike Gears Work? (Dirt Bike Shifting Tips)

    how dirt bike gears work

    This topic also covers the famous question that every new rider makes, do dirt bikes have gears? The answer is yes, but the way the gear works is quite interesting, and if you’re planning on getting a dirt bike in the near future, it’s very important for you to have an idea of how these gears work.

    As it turns out, the majority of dirt bikes have fives gears, and the rest of the bikes are manual gears with a clutch. In this article, we will point out the most interesting facts and actually explain in detail how dirt bike gears work.

    Dirt bike gears are most commonly arranged in the same way, starting with the first gear one click down, the neutral that sits between the first and the second gear, and the rest of the gears are selected by clicking up. Just like we mentioned above, usually, you’ll find five gears on most dirt bikes, but what it’s more preferable to use is the clutch to up-shift.

    However, in the end, it’s always your choice whether you want to use the clutch on down-shifting the gears or something else. To get into details, let’s make a bulletin to explain how many gears you’ll find on a dirt bike, and how are they arranged.

    How Many Gears Does A Dirt Bike Have?

    We pretty much mentioned something about this in the beginning, but you’ll usually find 5 gears on a dirt bike. You’ll spot the first gear on click down with the neutral sitting between the first one and the second gear, while the others are followed and selected by clicking up.

    I’ll try to make it as understandable as possible, but here’s how it looks like:

    • 1st gear
    • Neutral
    • 2nd gear
    • 3rd gear
    • 4th gear
    • 5th gear
    • 6th gear (in cases, if it’s present)

    Now, if you combine all of this into one piece, this will lead to where the gear shift is on a dirt bike, which is what we all want to know, right?

    Where Is The Gear Shift On A Dirt Bike?

    You’ve probably spotted the gear shift before, but you just didn’t know what was it. You can find the gear shift on the left side of the dirt bike, to be more precise, it’s just in front of the left footpeg.

    How to shift gears on a dirt bike? Well, to shift gears all you have to do is use your left foot. To be exact, you do it with the middle part of your foot on the footpeg, where you basically use it as the pivot point.

    On the other hand, you’ll use the front part of the foot to move the gear shift lever. If you want to change to the first gear, all you need to do is put the bottom of your foot on the top of the gear shift and push it down one click.

    The same process occurs if you want to change from first gear to second gear, all you need to do is basically put the top of your foot under the gear shift and pull it one click up. Everything is pretty straightforward and easy, so after reading this, I doubt that you’ll have any problems with this process or whatsoever.

    For selecting the third gear, fourth gear, fifth and sixth gear if it’s present, you’ll only need to do the same thing that you did to change to the second gear. Shifting-up through gears only requires you to click the gear shift up with one click at a time.

    Are There Any Automatic Dirt Bikes?

    For some people, mostly new riders who haven’t had the chance to ever use a bicycle with gear shift, just giving a thought to the idea of having to manually shift gears frightens them. So, what would be the solution for that? To get an automatic dirt bike!

    However, you’ll be very disappointed once you do your research, because there aren’t really a whole bunch of automatic dirt bikes on the market. Most automatic dirt bikes that you’re going to find are either mini bikes specifically made for kids, or adult dirt bikes that have a very weak engine.

    I don’t think getting an automatic dirt bike is the best solution for you if you don’t really want to go through the process of shifting gears the whole time, because they’re very hard to handle when compared to regular dirt bikes.

    What’s even worse is that automatic gear shifts aren’t designed for riding through rough and constantly changing terrains. So, what’s the message here? Despite the fact that it may be possible for you to find an automatic dirt bike, it’s not what I’d recommend. You’ll be better off learning how to actually shift gears, and it isn’t as complicated and hard as it sounds, it’s actually very straightforward.

    Neutral On A Dirt Bike

    We did mention the neutral above, and if you remember correctly, you can find the neutral sitting between the first and the second gear.

    Important note: “It’s crucial to mention that when changing gears, let’s say from first to second because that’s where the neutral is, you have to be very cautious to not select the neutral by accident. It isn’t always for sure, but it can cause serious damage to your dirt bike if you’re riding the dirt bike and you haven’t stopped. You can only select the neutral when you’re not riding the dirt bike.”

    You can tell whether you’ve selected the neutral of you’ve clicked-up to the second gear because there’s a difference to the process. Clicking into neutral is a lot subtler than clicking into second gear, and you will get used to this while gaining experience when riding your dirt bike.

    This will probably be your biggest challenge, but I think that you’ll learn quickly how not to select neutral without intending to. I have done it before, and I have had a bad experience with the outcome this one time, but this usually happens when you’re tired and not focused. Being focused on the track is probably the most important thing while riding, you don’t want anything to discomfort you or make you lose focus.

    Do You Need To Use A Clutch On A Dirt Bike?

    Using the clutch is probably the wisest thing you can do. I always use the clutch, which is also why I recommend it to everyone. You’ll need to use the clutch in situations when pulling away to start with and when you stop. If you decide to not use it when you’ve come to a stop, the bike will stall while the engine runs, that’s not something you want.

    It’s important to note that before you select first gear when you start your dirt bike, make sure you pull the clutch lever in. To be more precise, the lever that we’re talking about can be found on the left handlebar.

    Once you pull the clutch lever fully, then you can safely select first gear, you get the idea of how it goes afterward, just as explained above. When it comes to pulling away, you’ll have to ease the clutch out carefully, meanwhile, you’ll need to increase the throttle power. Now, when moving, make sure you use the clutch each time when you change gear.

    How To Use The Clutch

    Learning how to use the clutch will be the first thing to know. Unlike a stick shift that requires you to press the clutch pedal with your foot, on a dirt bike you’ll have to use your hand.

    On the right handlebar, you’ll find the throttle and brake lever, while the clutch lever can be found on the left handlebar. Maybe you’ve driven a car with manual transmission before, that might frustrate you with finding the stick shift. Again, on a dirt bike, the exact spot where you’ll find it is by your left foot and just in front of the footpeg, but instead of a stick, you’ll find a pedal.

    Therefore, whenever you’ll want to shift gears, the first thing to do is to engage the clutch. What you’re basically required to do is to squeeze it all the way in, similar to how you would do with a brake lever. But there’s a catch, it’s important that you don’t let go of the clutch too rapidly.

    Only when you’ve shifted the gear then you can let go of the clutch, but again, you’ll have to do it slowly and in the meantime give your dirt bike gas. This might sound hard and frustrating at first, but once you get used to it with a little practice, you’ll be using the clutch properly without even giving a thought to it.

    Can You Shift Gear Without Using The Clutch?

    I know, we just talked about how important is to use the clutch, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to use it. Talking from experience, I have always used it, I still use it, but I have also seen serious dirt bikers who don’t use it at all, whether they’re shifting down or shifting up.

    You might ask yourself, why not to use it now? Shifting gears without using the clutch needs a lot of practice, but it’s also a lot faster and less complicated. Using the clutch is undeniably better because you lower the risk of damaging your engine, but if you learn how “not to use it properly”, then you’ll be good to go.

    Dirt Bike Shifting Tips

    • Be in the right gear at the right time. It’s only logical that if you’re not in the right gear for the speed you’re riding and the terrain you’re on, then you’re not doing it the right way. Just like it is with a car or a bike, a too high gear while going slow with reduce acceleration and cause damage to your engine. Vice-versa, low gear while riding at fast speeds will limit how fast you can go.
    • Adjust the gear shift lever to your riding style. On most dirt bike, this is something that you can easily adjust, and it’s a lot better if you have the gear shift lever positioned to suit your riding style. What you can do is set the height the same as the footpeg, or maybe just a tad higher than that.
    • Use the clutch when you’re up-shifting. We mentioned that it takes practice to learn how “not to use the clutch”, because it was less complicated and faster. But, I’d recommend to always use the clutch when up-shifting. If you don’t use it and you don’t really know how not to use it properly, you might damage your transmission and engine labor.
    • Don’t use the clutch when downshifting. You don’t need to use the clutch when downshifting with a dirt bike because there’s no real power going through the gearbox or transmission.

    Frequently Asked Question: “Is there a difference between the gears on two-stroke dirt bikes and four-stroke dirt bikes?”

    A: The engines of two-stroke dirt bikes and four-stroke dirt bikes are different in how their engines work, but the gearboxes work in similar ways.


    Dirt biking adventures are the best, and if you’re a new rider, you’ll do a life-changing decision if you decide on getting a dirt bike for yourself. I hope this article was helpful, I tried to explain everything in detail. If by any means this article didn’t give you all the answers you need, please make sure you contact me and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.