When your child is old enough to start riding a bike the excitement is heart-warming for the whole family. Suddenly, a few months down the road it’s time to lose the training wheels and they’re bunny hopping off gutters like a daredevil. When your kid is riding their bike around like a little professional, you might be wondering if it’s a good idea to try them out on a dirt bike.
To teach your kid to ride a dirt bike, start with these few steps:
Turn in the training wheels.
Consider having your child start on an automatic bike to practice balance and get a feel for dirt bike riding.
Get the bike sized to your child by a professional.
Teach your child the correct stance.
Practice and train in open fields.
There’s obviously more to it than that, believe me, I know you probably have many questions. But it’s a good place to start to find out if this is something worth pursuing with your child. Read on to get yourself the best knowledge possible to get your kid started on their dirt bike journey.
How do you Start a Kid on a Dirt Bike?
You put them on one of course! No, all jokes aside for the moment, to get your kid on a dirt bike you both need to be prepared for fun and hard work combined. If they are as enthusiastic about the idea of dirt bike riding as you are then you’re already on the right track. I’d casually put some YouTube Motocross and Supercross videos on and see how they react.
It might be a slow start or it may even be one they pick up immediately. Either way, we’re here to get you the education needed to help them through these first steps and beyond. Be patient, not every kid is going to fall in love with it and that’s okay. If they and you have given dirt bike riding a real chance, there’s nothing to regret and it could all be for good fun.
Here are the steps you’ll need to start you off in the right direction.
Size of the bike
The size of the bike is one of the most important things when it comes to dirt bike riding. There is such a thing as too small or too big when it comes to your bike. Would you put a 5-year-old kid on a teenager-sized mountain bike? Their feet won’t even reach the foot petals.
Save yourself a fortune by getting the right sized bike the first time. Take your kid to a dirt bike store where the people who work there can walk you through an age and height chart and get you sorted with your kids’ first bike. Comfort, confidence, and the ability to reach the footpegs are key.
Protective wear and gear
You wouldn’t start your child on a regular bike without a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and training wheels and a dirt bike is no different. The difference is that a fall on a dirt bike is likely to hurt a lot more, especially if the bike falls on top of them.
This shouldn’t deter you or scare you away from this journey in the slightest. It’s just a note of caution and to be prepared. But that’s why stores have what you need to keep your little Evel Knievel out of harm’s way as much as possible.
You’ll want to consider the following protective gear on your list, budget is important but so is your youngster’s safety. I highly recommend you stick to dirt bike-based protective clothing and gear.
Full Face Helmet
Dirt Bike Hand Guards
Dirt Bike Boots
All-Weather Performance Dirt Bike Pants
Adjustable Knee Pads or Braces specifically designed for maneuverability on your dirt bike.
Neck Brace and Body Armour to offer extra protection from any type of spinal cord injury.
The best protection for your child is essential to keep them in one piece, even if they’re driving you up the wall. Keep an eye out for safety wear and gear that come with a Safety Certificate to make sure it’s not knock-off or pretend/play gear.
I also highly recommend always having a pre-packed first aid kit with you for all sessions.
Learn and teach your kid safe riding
Take your child to a wide and open field and teach them how to ride slow and safely. Never ridden a dirt bike before either? Watch tutorials and/or find someone else that has ridden before and can help you out with the initial safety training.
Talk them through the safety of the riding gear they’re wearing as well as the features of the bike. This would already have been done in-store while purchasing everything on the above list but it never hurts to go over everything until it sinks in. I would also talk to them about the possibility of falling off and getting hurt so they too are prepared and aware as much as you are.
When in the open field, teach them the basics and make sure they’re aware they must be patient for their own good and betterment.
Starting the engine
Changing gears (Clutch control and shifting)
Correct stance and riding position – This is important, I’ll go over this stance further along in this post.
Practice crashing and collisions – Yes there is a wrong way and a slightly better way to crash and avoid injury.
It gets easier but just like going to the gym for the first time or working out again after a long break (I bet we’re all familiar with that feeling), muscle memory comes into play. Your little one might be tired and sore but push through it for the first few days and they’ll be better off for the persistence.
Yes, it’s also for the memories. But most importantly, to keep track of your kid’s progress. Recording the training sessions will benefit them greatly so they can watch back any mistakes and blunders and correct themselves in the future. Plus, you might all get a good laugh as a family.
Consider enrolling them in a Dirt Bike Club
You might have a local dirt bike club just around the corner with other enthusiastic kids and professional trainers to get your child the best dirt bike training around. If you’re not a confident teacher, consider having them taught by someone that has knowledge in the dirt bike industry and possibly even someone that has competed in Motocross and/or Supercross.
How do you Teach a Kid to Shift a Dirt Bike?
Starting with the basics means you need to know how to use the controls of the bike before riding, let alone racing! It’s easy to get the hang of if you go over it a few times every day. Before you know it, you’ll understand the dirt bike like you understand how to open the pantry when you’re hungry.
The following setup is most common in dirt bikes and it’s vital to know where the controls on the bike are before you try to ride.
You’ll find the clutch on the left-hand side of the bike mounted on the handlebars just in reach of your left-hand fingers. The clutch is used for shifting, just like you would use a clutch in the car to shift gears. The clutch takes power from your engine and gives it to your wheels to take you through your gears.
The throttle is what we use to accelerate the bike, this is the right-hand side handlebar grip, you’ll be holding the throttle in your right hand the whole time you’re riding your bike.
The shifter is down in front of the left footpeg. It’s most common for dirt bikes to have 5 gears but can also have as few as 4 and as many as 6. You use your toes and the ball of your left foot to manipulated the shifter up and down through the gear. It’s common for neutral to be located in-between 1st and 2nd gear.
The front brake, typically found on the right side of the handlebar of the bike in front of the throttle grip is your front brake lever.
The lower right-hand side of your dirt bike, just in front of and a tad lower than your right footpeg is the rear brake also known as the foot brake.
Both brakes are on the right-hand side of the bike for ease of remembering and ease of access.
Having the right body position is important from start to finish.
When gripping the handlebar, you want to rotate the arms so the elbows aren’t hugging your body, but more up and away.
Grip the handlebars on either side, rotate your hands out and your elbows will follow suit and align away from your body. Almost like doing a push-up. This helps you to be able to maneuver the front of the bike effortlessly.
You want to be able to touch the front handbrake and with your index and middle fingers so that you know you can use the brake and clutch easily.
Don’t sit too close to the front of the bike. With hands gripped correctly, face forwards and align the hips straight ahead, your feet should be able to sit in front of both footpegs comfortably.
Feet need to be facing straight ahead, toes pointed towards the front of the bike.
Don’t slouch and when you take off, instead lean slightly forward into the bike. Don’t change the position of your arms. We lean forward when taking off so you don’t fall or jolt backward and lose your balance.
How to shift your dirt bike
For ease of reading and learning, I’m going to break it down and dot point each step so you can easily teach your kid how to shift through the gears on their dirt bike.
With your left hand on the clutch lever, press and hold down to engage the clutch.
Put the bike into gear by pushing your left foot down on the shifter making sure it clicked down a few times and is definitely at the bottom of the gears.
Let the clutch out slowly so that you don’t stall or take off too suddenly.
Simultaneously use the throttle to give the bike some gas to accelerate, twisting your wrist in a downwards motion. Your youngster will have to find the perfect mix of clutch release and increasing throttle.
The motion of using all the controls together is like driving a manual car. Your youngster won’t know how to drive a manual car but as long as you do, you can teach them how to ride a manual dirt bike. Clutch, change gear with shifter, accelerate with the throttle.
Remember parents, too much throttle turn with a quick release of the clutch will result in a backward pull or jerk with the front tire getting airborne. Which in turn, will result in your child falling backward and taking their bike with them. It also results in your heart stopping until you know they’re okay. Let’s avoid that as much as possible, please.
Okay folks, we’ve got the stance, the controls, and the basics down pat. Time to move on to teaching your kid how to jump their dirt bike. Some parents will find this part scary, some will find it thrilling. You won’t know until you try it.
Let’s get started with beginner jumps.
Find a smooth area so there’s less risk of losing control on take-off and landing.
Body position is key for a successful jump.
Start slow, ride at a medium pace towards the jump and keep the momentum the same all the way through.
When your kid is ready to take the leap
Smooth, half throttle. Start at second gear for the first jump.
Stand up and hug your knees tightly to the sides of the bike so you have more control of the bike.
While jumping, your body should be at a 45-degree angle, leaning forward.
Don’t hold on too tightly to the handlebars. You need enough grip to keep control of the front of the bike but not too much that you can’t move your hands onto the brake, clutch, and throttle.
To land safely, whether it’s the back tire, front tire, or both tires landing first, you want the bike to be closely matching the level of the ground area. I.e. If landing on an area that is downhill, you want to try to land the bike at the same angle of the steepness of the hill.
Tips for Teaching Kids to Ride a Dirt Bike
There’s a lot of information here and it’s a fair amount to take in. let alone the fact you’ve already decided to let your kid try dirt bike riding which is a pretty cool, but massive step for a parent to take. We’ve all seen the epic fail compilations, haven’t we?
Here’s a quick recap of the above information and some helpful tips for beginner kids and parents.
If you don’t have confidence, they won’t have confidence.
Always ride with protective gear on, even if just practicing.
Speaking of practice, PRACTICE. Practice might not make perfect, but it makes progress.
Ride on the dirt. Avoid tracks and roads, it’s a dirt bike for a reason.
Teach them the right way to fall. Your youngsters need to be prepared for falls, show them it’s okay to fall and the best way to fall if practicable.
Watch tutorials, watch motocross and supercross and get advice from professionals.
Consider starting your kid on an automatic until they get the hang of the balance and the correct way to ride.
Record their progress with filming. They can see their stance, throttle control, and more when you play it back. Not to mention it’s great for the memory bank and future big birthdays.
Discipline. Motocross and supercross racing professionally takes discipline. Teach your kids from the beginning, if they want to pursue dirt bike riding as a career there’s more to it than just riding a bike.
Be patient and teach your kid patience too.
Should I Teach my Kid to Ride a Dirt Bike?
If you’re prepared for the costs, the possible injuries, and a kid buzzing with excitement... I’d say it’s worth giving dirt bike riding a shot. Depending on how far you go, it can get costly but it could be worth it to find out you have the next Ricky Carmichael in your midst. Plus, you’ll be the coolest parent on the block and it means spending quality time teaching your little one skills they’ll take with them throughout their lives.