How dirt bike gears work with a few motocross shifting tips to help your riding technique
Most dirt bikes have five gears and the majority of bikes are manual gears with a clutch. This article explains how dirt bike gears work.
How dirt bike gears work is that they’re usually always arranged in the same way. This is with first gear one click down, neutral sits between first gear and second gear and all the other gears are selected by clicking up. There are usually five gears on most dirt bikes and it is recommended to always use the clutch to up-shift, but it’s your choice whether to use the clutch on down-shifting the gears.
How many gears does a dirt bike have?
Most dirt bikes have five gears. Some have six gears too like the Yamaha WR250F Enduro dirt bike.
The gears on a dirt bike are usually always arranged in the same way. This is with first gear one click down, neutral sits between first gear and second gear and all the other gears are selected by clicking up. So the gears look like this:
- 1st gear
- 2nd gear
- 3rd gear
- 4th gear
- 5th gear
- 6th gear (if present)
Which leads to where the gear shift is on a dirt bike.
Where is the gear shift on a dirt bike?
The gear shift on a dirt bike is on the left side of the bike. It sits just in front of the left foot peg.
To shift gears on a dirt bike, this is done using your left foot. With the middle of your foot on the foot peg, used as the pivot point.
The front of the foot is used to move the gear shift lever.
To change into first gear, you need to put the bottom of your foot on top of the gear shift and push it down one click. To change from first gear into second gear, you need to put the top of your foot under the gear shift and click up.
The same applies for selecting third gear, fourth gear, fifth gear and sixth, if your dirt bike has it, as it does for selecting second gear. To up-shift through the gears, simply click the gear shift up one click at a time.
How to down shift on a dirt bike
To down shift on a dirt bike, you need to put the front of your foot on top of the gear shift lever. Then push down on the lever until you feel it click. Depending on which gear you are in and how many gears you want to down-shift by, will affect how many times you repeat this down-clicking process of the gear shift lever.
If you’re in fifth gear, you will need to click it down click four times to go into first gear. To change from fifth gear into firth gear, it’s just one down click. And so on.
What about neutral on a dirt bike
As already explained, neutral on a dirt bike is between first gear and second gear. When you change gears from first to second, you have to be careful not to select neutral by accident. Unless of course it’s your intention to select neutral when you come to a stop.
There’s a distinct different between the click of the gear shift from first to second, as there is from first to neutral. The click into neutral is more subtle than it is when you click into second gear. This is something you get used to as you build your experience of dirt bike riding.
The trick to learn is to not accidentally select neutral when changing up from first gear into second gear. If you do, don’t worry, as we’ve all done this at some stage or other. It usually happens when you’re tired at the end of a days riding around a track. But it also happens more with beginner dirt bike riders when they’re learning to ride.
Do you need to use a clutch on a dirt bike
I recommend always using the clutch to change gear on a dirt bike. But you will always need to use the clutch when pulling away to start with and for when you come to a stop. If you don’t use it when you’re stopped, when the engine is running, the bike will stall.
When you’ve started your dirt bike, before you select first gear, you need to first pull the clutch lever in. This is the lever on the left handle bar. With the clutch lever pulled in fully, select first gear, as explained above. Then to pull away you need to ease the clutch out carefully, whilst at the same time increasing the throttle power.
For more on using the clutch on a dirt bike, read this article: How to use a clutch on a dirt bike.
Once you’re moving, you need to use the clutch between each gear change. In the tips below on motocross shifting tips, I recommend to at least always use the clutch when you’re up-shifting. This will prolong the life of your gear box and make gear changes more smooth. It will also make it less likely that you’ll miss gears as you up-shift.
How to shift a dirt bike without using the clutch
Firstly, as already noted, I wouldn’t recommend to not use your clutch when you’re up-shifting. But you can down-shift through the gears without using a clutch if you prefer.
The reasons for using a clutch on up-shifting is explain more in the motocross shifting tips below.
Motocross shifting tips
If you want to progress to motocross dirt bike riding, here are a few motocross shifting tips:
Motocross shifting tips
- It’s always important to be in the right gear at the right time. If you’re in the wrong gear for the speed you going or for the terrain you’re on, this will affect how quick you get around the track. A too high gear when you’re going slow will cause the engine to labour and reduce acceleration. Too low a gear when you’re trying to speed up will limit your top speed.
- Make sure you adjust the gear shift lever to suit your riding position, as this is usually adjustable. It’s usually better to have the gear shift lever to be either the same height as the foot peg, but possibly a tiny bit higher.
- If the gear shift is too low, this makes it difficult to get your foot under it.
- Also, if it’s too low, you may accidentally knock it out of the gear you’re in. This is especially true when you’re in deeper ruts.
- You don’t need to move back on the seat to shift up gears, instead to make this easy to do, simply lift your whole foot up, instead of it pivoting on the foot peg.
- To shift gears when you’re standing up and your body is forward on the dirt bike, it may be difficult to up-shift without also lifting your whole foot off the foot peg to click the gear shift.
- Always use the clutch when you’re up-shifting. This includes whether you’re power-shifting or not. So you should always pull the clutch in, each time you change to each higher gear. You can up-shift without a clutch, but you’re more likely to miss gears doing this. Plus you will more likely damage your transmission by breaking or wear-out the shifting cogs inside the gearbox. This can cause what’s known as false neutrals, which can become really dangerous on a motocross track.
- When you’re down-shifting, you don’t need to use the clutch in motocross. This is because when you’re down-shifting, there’s no real power going through the gearbox or transmission.
- Make sure you use the clutch, throttle and gears correctly. That is, close the throttle, nip the clutch and change gear in quick sequence when up-shifting.
Automatic dirt bike
If you are a beginner dirt bike rider or if you have kids that want to learn how to ride a dirt bike, then an automatic dirt bike might be the way to learn. But most of the automatic dirt bikes are for kids. Most also only have a 50cc engine capacity too.
There are some with a larger engine too, like the Apollo DB-G014 125cc dirt bike.
With an automatic dirt bike, there’s no need to learn the gear shifting and use of the clutch. This makes it easier to learn how to handle the bike over rough terrain and so on, without your kids having to focus on gear changes too.
Once your kids have mastered riding an automatic dirt bike, they can progress on to a dirt bike with gears and a clutch.
Is there a difference between the gears on two stroke dirt bikes vs 4 stroke dirt bikes?
Whilst the engines of these two types are different in how their engines work, the gear boxes work in similar ways.
I hope you enjoyed this article about how dirt bike gears work
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If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions about dirt biking (or specifically about how dirt bike gears work), please comment below with your questions.
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Have fun and be safe!