How Can I Get to Neutral on a Dirt Bike?


Do you remember the kind of struggles that you went through while learning how to ride a dirt bike? Can you remember how long it took you to master how to transition between the different gears?

And do you remember being told to ride in the first gear until you confident enough before you start thinking about the neutral gear?

Well, we can all agree that even the most experienced riders out there went through a stage when they knew nothing about the neutral gear.

The truth is that when you finally decide that you want to start riding dirt bikes, finding the neutral gear can be a little bit frustrating. And it isn’t just about the neutral gear.

Ask any experienced rider out there, and he/she will tell you that one of the most challenging aspects of learning how to ride dirt bikes is to master how to shift gears. This task can be daunting for new riders who have zero experience with the manual transmission system.

But, if you are starting to learn the ropes don’t give up. I’m not here to discourage you or make your work harder. I’m here to help you and make sure that you will come out as a successful rider.

Understanding how to get into the neutral gear and also shift between the various gears can easily be mastered with constant practice.

In fact, it may be much simpler than you think. If you own a dirt bike or you are learning how to ride one, I want you to stick with me to the end.

I will teach you how to get to the neutral gear, why the neutral gear is essential and everything that you need to know about the gear system. I will try as much as possible to use a simple language that you will understand.

What Is a Neutral Gear on a Dirt Bike?

Before we dive deep into our discussion, it is good to know what we are talking about. If you are reading this guide and you are still new to dirt bike riding, you may be asking yourself what a neutral gear is and why it is crucial.  

Well, a neutral gear is when your bike’s gearbox disengages the internal cogs from the specific part that drives the sprocket and the chain that is usually linked to the back wheel of the dirt bike.

When you select the neutral gear, and the engine is running, there will be no power supplied to the back wheel.

If we can compare this to a vehicle, it is similar to leaving your car in the “park’ mode or the “drive” mode, and you don’t press the accelerator down.

This action will usually leave the vehicle idle, and it won’t move. But, I want to make it clear that the neutral gear of dirt bike isn’t the same thing as the neutral of an automatic car.

In fact, if you have ever driven an automatic vehicle, the whole concept of neutral gear on dirt bikes may be a new concept to you. An automatic car doesn’t have a neutral gear as such.

The Basics of Dirt Bike Gears

Having explained what a neutral gear is, I will give you a quick overview of the dirt bike gear system before I proceed with the other concepts that relate to the neutral gear.

If you have been learning how to ride a dirt bike, you already understand the fact that there are three basic controls that you rely on so much when riding a dirt bike.

These are; the clutch, throttle, and the gear sector. For you to become a better rider, you must master how to use these three controls efficiently.

The primary purpose of the throttle is to rev the engine while the clutch engages and disengages the transmission system. The function of the gear selector is to select gears.

If you pull the clutch towards you using your left hand, you can easily rev your engine without moving the bike. But, if you release the clutch when the transmission is in “gear mode,” your bike will start to move forward.

You select the gear pattern by clicking the gear lever using the left foot. The gears follow each other in the order given below:

  • 6th gear ( some dirt bikes have six gears)
  • 5th gear
  • 4th gear
  • 3rd gear
  • 2nd gear
  • Neutral
  • 1st gear

This is the order of gears on a standard adult dirt bike, but we also have several exceptions that you need to note:

  1. Automatic transmission bikes such as the kids’ bikes may not have the neutral gear
  2. Some commuter-type dirt bikes put the neutral gear at the bottom to make it a little bit more comfortable for the rider when they are in waiting mode so that they don’t have to press and hold on to the clutch or waste a lot of time trying to find the neutral gear
  3. Some specialized racing dirt bikes also put the neutral gear at the bottom so that it is easy to rev up the engine and take off.

Therefore, before you start trying to find the neutral gear on your dirt bike, it is good to understand everything about it.

If you are unsure of what to do, make sure that you go through your user’s manual and everything about the bike will be right there.

It is also good to note that as you shift your bike to higher gears, it will rev up to speed. This is usually measured with a tachometer that uses the number of revolutions per minute of the engine to determine power.

How Do You Find the Neutral Gear on Your Bike?

From the above gear order, you will notice that the neutral gear lies between the first and second gears. This is the primary reason why many riders find it difficult to get into the neutral gear but don’t worry since I’m here to teach you how you can do it easily.

The easiest way to get into the neutral gear is to go all the way up to the first gear. Once you are in the first gear, nudge the gear shifter slightly upwards with your foot.

You need to be a little bit careful so that it doesn’t feel like you are trying to change anything. Just apply a minimum amount of force, and you will get into the neutral gear.

Almost every beginner will nudge the lever too much and go into the second gear. The only trick here is to nudge the gear lever less than you think you need. If you can do it correctly, you will be in the neutral gear without much hassle.

If you feel a full click or your gear shifter travels several inches up, know that you will end up in the second gear.

99% of the time you will miss the neutral if you are a beginner, but with enough practice, you should master the skill of how to get into the neutral gear.

Practice the above trick several times a day, and within no time, you will be an expert. First, try to push up hard and go into the second gear.

Do this severally and get used to the feel and sound of a full click. Then start trying out the slight nudges that will help you get into neutral gear. Once you get a feeling of how the neutral gear sounds and how it is like, things will start to become much easier.

How Do You Know that You Are in Neutral Gear?

Once you have mastered the art of getting into the neutral gear, you will want to know how you can tell that you have done it right.

Some dirt bikes have the neutral gear light that will show you when you get into the neutral gear. If your dirt bike has a neutral light, it will help you when you are practicing.

You can easily confirm whether you managed to get there every time you nudge your gear shifter. But, what do you do if your bike doesn’t have the neutral gear light?

If your dirt bike doesn’t have the neutral light, the best way to check whether your bike is in neutral gear or not is to turn off your engine and try to roll your machine forward or backward.

 You can do this with your feet either side of the dirt bike and planted on the ground. Make sure that your hand isn’t holding the front brake lever when you are trying to roll your bike.

You should also make sure that you haven’t pulled the clutch in since it will provide the same effect even if your dirt bike isn’t in the neutral gear.

If you encounter resistance while trying to roll the bike forward or backward, then it means that the bike is still in gear.

This could either be the first or second gear depending on how far you moved your foot while trying to get into the neutral gear.If this is the case, make sure that you click the gear shifter back into the first gear and try getting into the neutral gear again.

You can also check if you are in the neutral gear with your engine running. The first thing that you will need to do is pull the clutch in and use the process described above to get into the first gear.

Try the small nudge to get into neutral gear. Once you think that you are in neutral, slowly let out your clutch.

When the clutch gets to what would be the “motion point” and nothing happens, you have successfully got into neutral.

However, if you notice that the engine is starting to bite as you let out the clutch and the bike is getting ready to take off, you might still be in the first or second gear.

Nonetheless, this second method may be a little bit challenging to beginners, but it is always a good way to know whether you are in neutral or not. With a little bit of more practice, you will be able to understand how to do it effectively.

Why Is the Neutral Gear between First and Second Gears?

I know for a fact that this is a question that you must be asking yourself, but you don’t have an answer. Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense if the neutral gear was the bottom-most gear?

I will try as much as possible to explain it in the best possible way so that you understand why the neutral gear is never put at the bottom.

Imagine you are riding your dirt bike and you suddenly arrive at a set of traffic light. You are forced to stop, and in the process, you push the gears to the bottom.

This means that if the neutral gear was the bottom-most gear that is where you will end. This means that when the lights are clear, and you want to take off, you will be forced to shift the gear from neutral into the first gear before you proceed.

Isn’t that inconvenient? This is one of the reasons why the neutral gear isn’t the bottom-most gear.

The other reason why the neutral gear isn’t the bottom-most gear is to make it easy to find the first gear than it is to find neutral.

But, why should this be the case? Well, it is simply because the first gear is used frequently compared to the neutral gear. If you can’t find the neutral gear, you can easily pull in the clutch and do whatever you want to do, but you can’t find any other gear by doing so.

The other important reason of positioning the neutral gear between the first and second gears is that if you are slowing down rapidly for a corner or turn and you want to be in the first gear, you caneasily do so.

Accelerating after the turn or corner becomes a lot easier. However, if the neutral gear was the bottom-most gear, it wouldn’t be easy to tackle such situations. You would find yourself selecting the neutral gear when you should be in the first gear.

Putting the neutral gear in between the first and second gears is also a safety precaution during the start and stop situations.

It helps you to avoid stalling or dealing with unnecessary acceleration when you least expected it. If the neutral gear was at the bottom of your gears, it could be relatively harder for you to move forward when necessary.

What Happens If You Select Neutral When You Are Riding Along on Your Dirt Bike?

We have been talking about the neutral gear and why it is essential. We have also discussed why it is fitted between the first and second gears.

So, what happens when you accidentally shift into the neutral gear when riding your dirt bike? You don’t have to worry so much if this happens since it doesn’t pose any risk to you.

In fact, it happens quite frequently even with the most experienced riders out there. Don’t be surprised if this happens more often if you are still a beginner.

It is also more likely to happen when you are fatigued or tired. The good thing is that you will know when you are in neutral, and the only thing that you need to do is to shift to an appropriate gear and continue with your ride.

Your engine may seem to over-rev when you select the neutral gear while riding. When this happens, push the throttle back, pull your clutch in and re-click your gear lever up into the second or third gear.

Beginner Dirt Bike Riding Tip: Avoid the Neutral Gear during Your First Few Rides

If you are a beginner, you shouldn’t stress yourself so much trying to find the neutral gear during your first few rides.

You may discover that you don’t need to use the neutral gear at all during your first rides. There are a lot of things you need to pay close attention to during your first rides, and you can just forget about the neutral gear at until later on.

Simply start your dirt bike by stomping down the gear lever repeatedly until you reach the first gear. Pull the clutch in and kickstartthe bike or press the start button.

Let your clutch out slowly as you rev up the gas progressively and you will realize that your bike will start to move forward.

The primary purpose of the neutral gear is to help you while starting or stopping. Fortunately, the same objective can be accomplished using your clutch. When you pull the clutch in, it disengages the engine from the gearbox.

This means that there will be no drive to the back wheel of your bike. This is the same effect that you achieve when your dirt bike is in neutral gear.

Similarly, when you come to a stop, instead of trying to find the neutral gear, simply pull the clutch in, and you are good to go.

However, to leave your machine in that state, you will have to turn off the engine before you release the clutch. If you don’t do this, your bike will move forward and stall.

The Proper Gear Shifting Technique

To shift your dirt bike gears properly, perform the following simple steps:

  • Disengage the clutch. You can do this using your left hand to pull it towards you.
  • Select the appropriate gear using your shift lever. This should be down using your left foot.
  • Slightly rev-up your engine by twisting the throttle using your right hand
  • Gradually release your clutch. Avoid releasing it all out at once.
  • Make sure that you feather the throttle while releasing your clutch so that the bike can start to accelerate gradually.
  • Once you are in motion, rev-up your engine for further acceleration until the time you will need to shift the gears again.

This is the easiest way to shift between the gear, but you need to keep in mind that doing so smoothly requires a great deal of practice.

You need to understand your controls in and out and also get a genuine feel of how they work. You should practice riding in different environments to perfect your skills and become a better rider.

Why Are You Unable to Select the Neutral Gear on Your Dirt Bike?

Sometimes, you may realize that it is a little bit difficult to select the neutral gear on your dirt bike no matter how hard you try.

If you discover that this is the case, you may be having a gearbox problem. It may be that the dirt bike has taken a hammering off-road and on the tracks or the dirt bike that you purchased is second hand.

 If that is the case, you may have to replace the gearbox to make it effective again. Take your machine to your local dealer who will assess the problem and recommend appropriate remedies.

 Sometimes, the issue may be that your gearbox needs more oil or oil change to help lubricate the cogs.

If it is your gearbox that has problems, you can consider getting a second-hand gearbox and find an experienced mechanic to fix it for you.

Final Thoughts

I hope that you enjoyed reading this guide and you have learned everything that you needed to know about the neutral gear.

I would love to hear from you and know your experience with the neutral gear. Tell us about the unique techniques that you used to master the art of getting into neutral without any problems in the comments sections.

You can also share photographs that may help someone who is struggling out there. Keep in mind that we only learn more by sharing our experiences.

If there is anything that you wanted to know and it is isn’t covered in the guide, you should also let me know in the comments section. Let us keep the conversion going. “

Daniel Mose

Daniel is a big fan of dirt biking. I own KTM 250 SX-F. I love learning how to maintain this dirt bike and ensure it lasts long while serving me without any issues. Join me in this journey as I document stuff that we, as dirt bike lovers, ought to know.

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