With the arrival of summer, off-road motorcycle racing events are booming. Whether it’s a prestigious championship or a local invitation race, off-road motorcycle sports are gradually gaining popularity, and many people have fallen in love with this challenging and exhilarating sport.

To become an off-road motorcycle expert, it is essential to start as a youth rider. Here, we will discuss two often overlooked aspects that professional riders might neglect but require special attention from young riders: the clutch and brakes. The following information is also applicable to beginners.

1. How to use the clutch:

Many youth riders use mini off-road bikes equipped with automatic clutches, allowing them to focus their limited attention on throttle and brakes. However, when transitioning to entry-level motorcycles without automatic clutches, relying solely on past experience with automatic clutches can be challenging. Therefore, it is recommended to learn how to use a manual clutch right from the beginning. We have seen many riders who struggle with the clutch and experience instability or even losing control when encountering obstacles.

2. push an off-road motorcycle

If someone hasn’t had any prior learning or experience with using a clutch, it can be overwhelming and potentially dangerous to jump right into riding with it. The best way to familiarize oneself with the clutch is by pushing the motorcycle. This method of learning is not only safer than riding, but it also provides a great understanding of the clutch’s feel and operation.

With the vehicle in idle state and the rider standing beside it, slowly shift into gear while operating the clutch. Pay attention to the engine sound, the movement of the motorcycle, and the engagement point of the clutch plates.

2-1 Starting the Practice:

  • Find a small incline. Start the engine and have the rider stand beside the motorcycle, holding onto the handlebars with their hand. Place two fingers of the left hand on the clutch lever. The right hand should naturally rest on the throttle, but do not apply any throttle. This exercise will focus solely on the clutch.
  • Slowly release the clutch to allow the motorcycle to move forward a few centimeters. If desired, you can also allow the bike to “shudder” with a slight forward motion before immediately squeezing the clutch again. If everything goes smoothly, the motorcycle should return to its original position.
  • This exercise allows the rider to have a tangible feel for the clutch engagement. By repeating this process, the rider can fully learn how to operate the clutch without stalling the engine.

2-2 Getting on the Motorcycle:

  • After practicing the clutch operation repeatedly, it’s time to get on the motorcycle. The hand movements remain the same. The right hand should remain off the throttle, and it’s recommended to keep it positioned near the center of the handlebars, away from the throttle. The left hand will operate the clutch with two fingers.
  • Repeat the practice of operating the clutch. As the motorcycle moves forward slightly, pull in the clutch, come to a stop, and repeat the process.

2-3 Riding:

  • Before officially riding, there is one more practice to perform: Have the rider sit on the seat with the right hand off the throttle, and the left hand using two fingers on the clutch.
  • Operate the clutch to move the motorcycle forward slightly, then immediately pull in the clutch, release it again, and allow the motorcycle to move forward. Repeat this process multiple times. This exercise helps the rider become familiar with the clutch operation.

Remember, these practice exercises are important for gaining confidence and control over the clutch. Gradually increase the complexity of maneuvers as skills improve, and always prioritize safety while riding.

Once the rider becomes proficient in clutch disengagement and engagement, it’s time to introduce some throttle control.

2-4 Adding Throttle:

  • Adding throttle requires utilizing the clutch techniques mentioned earlier and involves similar exercises. Keep the engine RPM low and minimize fluctuations. Combine the “two-step” process from before, but this time add a little bit of throttle. Many riders may experience a sudden surge during this phase, so it may be helpful to assist the rider in controlling the throttle with their right hand.
  • Once the rider becomes comfortable operating the clutch and throttle separately, take the motorcycle to an open area and have the rider ride slowly. Maintain a low speed and focus primarily on clutch operation. Rediscover the feel of the clutch.
  • Learning to ride is fun, and learning clutch control adds to the excitement. Enjoy the process!

3. How to use the brakes:

Braking is a skill that many people tend to overlook. Efficient and precise braking allows for effective control of the motorcycle’s direction and speed. Here, we will discuss braking techniques. Find a suitable area where it’s easy to control the motorcycle, especially for young riders. Once the clutch aspect is mastered, you can begin practicing braking.

4. Principles:

  • Brake slowly. Unless you’re performing tire burnouts for fun, avoid harsh and sudden braking. This may sound simple, but many riders make mistakes or even professional riders occasionally crash due to poor braking technique. Proper use of the brakes can prevent accidents.
  • The front brake can reduce speed, and the rear brake can also reduce speed, but its primary function is to control the direction while slowing down.
  • Pay attention to the condition of the surface and accurately assess the traction available. Choose the appropriate braking force based on the road conditions. This is crucial to avoid accidents.
  • Adjust your body position to maintain balance with the motorcycle. When you want to slow down, the inertia may cause your body to lean forward. In such cases, you need to adjust your body position before braking by shifting your body slightly backward.
  • In the beginning, you can use a few fingers to brake as long as it feels comfortable. Once you gain confidence in using the brakes and understand the basic braking techniques, start learning to use two fingers to operate the brake lever. In short, for beginners, don’t focus on how many fingers you use for braking. First, focus on smooth operation, and then consider the number of fingers. Keep these principles in mind and try to follow them every time you operate the brakes. You’ll discover that braking can be enjoyable too. Start practicing by mastering precise stops. Then, we’ll discuss how to use the rear brake to control the direction.

5. Precise Stops:

  • Mark a simple line on the ground as a reference for parking. Approach the parking line slowly in first or second gear, and then simultaneously apply the front and rear brakes to bring the motorcycle to a complete stop. Remember to fully stop before placing your foot on the ground for support. As mentioned earlier, even at low speeds, adjust your body position in advance. Gradually apply the brakes, starting from light pressure and gradually increasing. If you don’t stop perfectly the first time, try again. With practice, you’ll be able to stop beautifully.
  • Repeat this process multiple times to develop a nearly reflexive level of proficiency. Pay attention to the braking force and avoid locking the rear wheel. Control the pressure until the motorcycle stops precisely on the parking line.

6. Rear Brake Sliding is a crucial skill for vehicle control.

  • Similar to the previous braking exercise, start by marking a line on the ground. However, this line is not for parking; it’s for “erasing” with the brakes!
  • Get into first or second gear and approach the line. As the rear wheel is about to cross the line, apply the rear brake and modulate the pressure. Just before crossing the line, lock the rear brake momentarily, ensuring that the braking trace covers only about 30-40 centimeters, perfectly “erasing” the line.
  • Repeat this process multiple times to develop a nearly reflexive level of proficiency. Make sure to start braking before the rear wheel crosses the line and come to a stop after “erasing” the line.
  • This exercise allows the rider to learn how to control the motorcycle when the rear wheel locks or slides. It helps the rider understand the limits of traction when operating the brakes and achieve consistent control during rides.

Practicing rear brake sliding enables riders to have better control over the motorcycle, especially in situations where the rear wheel loses traction. It helps riders understand their braking limits and improves overall vehicle handling.