How to Shift Gears on a Dirt Bike for Beginners?

Written by

James Stevens

Fact-checked by

Robert A. Verdin

how to shift gears on a dirt bike

Learning how to drive a 4-wheel vehicle is a milestone in itself. But still, nothing beats the exhilarating world of motorcycles–⁠or a dirt bike where adrenaline and finesse propel riders to new heights of excitement.

At this captivating sport’s core, one fundamental skill is shifting gears on a dirt bike. Whether you’re a novice rider eager to embark on your first biking journey or an experienced enthusiast seeking to refine your technique, it is vital to master changing gears.

Now that you have your popular five-gear Honda or Kawasaki dirt bike, how to shift gears on a dirt bike? Let us learn about it through detailed steps and practical tips to prepare you for that adventure.

Distinguishing the Clutch from the Brake


Get acquainted with a dirt bike’s clutch and shift pedal for improved control and understanding.

Let’s dive in and uncover these essential components.

1. Gear shift and clutch position

The first thing to know is that the gear shift of your dirt bike is on the left foot. Similarly, the clutch is also on the left-hand side. So, now you know all the shifting actions happen on the left.

2. Know the shifting diagram

Depending on how many gears does a dirt bike have, the gear pattern is typically “one down, four up” (some Yamaha dirt bike gear have six, like the WR250F Enduro, so “one down, five up”) for most riders.

Below are the standard process of gear shifting you should know about:


  1. Down to first gear
  2. Neutral (up half a gear)
  3. Up to second gear
  4. Up to third gear
  5. Up into fourth gear
  6. And so on

Also, do not smack down into the gear, it should be a solid and gentle step when gear-shifting.

3. Understanding the Shift Pedal

As stated above, the advantage lies in having the dirt bike gear shifter position with the clutch on the same left side, so you will have one seamless motion when trying to shift the gears.

These components, the shift pedal, and clutch, are the bread and butter for riding your dirt bike. Remember not to move your feet on the pedal throughout the ride if you want to switch gears on a dirt bike in both directions.

4. Operating the Clutch and Shift Pedal in Harmony

Now that you understand shift pedals, we can now use a clutch on a dirt bike, it’s time to implement them.

Steps to Shift a Dirt Bike Gear

For beginners, choose a suitable location for learning and experimentation. Now, here’s the step-by-step:

Step 1: Warm up the engine and first gear engagement


Warming up the engine first, ensuring that your bike is ready for the grind that’s about to come.

Step 2: Start gear shifting


  • Place the balls of your feet (the part right in front of the arch and behind the toes) onto the gear.
  • Make sure to leave the throttle off to help the bike not missing any gear or go into a sudden stalling.
  • Then pull the clutch in.
  • Then, pull our feet directly onto the gear shifter. In that ideal position, tab the gear with your left foot with moderate force.

Then, pull your left foot back to the ball position.

  • Maintain control and release the clutch back out after shifting.
  • Apply the throttle on again.

Step 3: Repeat step 2 to change your gear

Repeat the process to use the dirt bike shifter to change to higher or lower gears.

Check out the shifting diagram above to get to the gear you want for the ride or shift your dirt bike to neutral.


What to Remember When Shifting a Dirt Bike


As you’re starting to familiarize yourself with shifting, here is a list of keynotes to remember:

  1. Each bike has a different powerband; finding the “meat” of the powerband where the engine performs optimally is crucial.
  2. Minimize clutch abuse; utilize power shift a dirt bike (technology that allows you to shift gears on the fly) or quick shift options available in some bikes for clutchless shifting.
  3. Engine braking on 4 stroke dirt bike can stiffen the rear shock. It can also wear the engine on 2 stroke dirt bike significantly; try to downshift late and use it in conjunction with brakes.
  4. It would help to practice upshifting with the knee close to the tank for efficiency and balance.
  5. Avoid pulling the clutch excessively when entering corners; shift to a higher gear to reduce excessive engine braking.
  6. Remember that upshifting to a taller gear offers comfort without a speed increase.
  7. Learn to perform a quick and partial clutch pull when shifting under load, engaging the clutch only halfway for a smooth shift without fully disengaging it.

Here’s another one: how to shift dirt bike while standing.

When and Why Should You Shift Gears on a Dirt Bike?


Change gears on a dirt bike for your safety and to avoid the wearing of your engine.

  1. Short-shifting is shifting gears at lower RPMs for smoother acceleration and improved fuel efficiency. It is a game-changer for trails and relaxed rides, enhancing efficiency, endurance, and overall performance.
  2. Lower RPM ensures seamless acceleration, reduced vibration, and improved control. This technique is a stamina booster, reducing strain on you and your bike. It also means less engine wear and fewer piston and crank revolutions.
  3. In racing, timing is everything—hold a wide-open throttle, and shift the motocross gear after peak horsepower RPM for maximum acceleration. Don’t rely solely on gear indicators; learn to recognize your gear by speed and sound.
  4. Consider investing in genuine motorcycle shoes to achieve precise shifting. Improper shoes can negatively impact gear changes. It’s a wise long-term investment to enhance your riding experience.

Shifting a Motorcycle vs. Shifting a Dirt Bike: What is the Difference?


The main difference is dirt bikes are primarily involved in racing, with smaller engines and lighter flywheels than street motorcycles.

With this, dirt bike riders frequently shift gears to maximize power and speed. During each lap around the track, they quickly adapt to the best equipment after slowing down to achieve maximum acceleration.

But at the very least, if you’re familiar with shifting on motorcycles, you’ll find that shifting a dirt bike follows a similar principle. The clutch, shift pedal, and throttle play vital roles in shifting on both machines.

But remember that skipping gears on a dirt bike won’t result in a seamless ride, unlike motorcycles. To shift gears on a dirt bike, utilize the shift pedal and follow the same procedure when downshifting.

When aiming for neutral, firmly engage the clutch and go on adjusting gear shifter on dirt bike until the neutral indicator light illuminates.


Mastering how to shift gears on a dirt bike enhances your overall riding experience.

With practice, shifting gears is easier, adding to the thrill of off-road riding. You should wear proper apparel, such as the Shift Motocross gear, and protective equipment for the ride.

Gear up, hit the trails, and embrace the joy of shifting gears on your dirt bike adventure!

5/5 - (2 votes)

James Stevens

James Stevens is an expert bike mechanic who knows everything from basic repairs to custom modifications. What sets him apart is his ability to explain complex concepts in a way that's easy to understand. Check out his content on Speedway if you need help with upgrades or modifications for your bike.