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Don’t attack that nasty-looking hill full-throttle! Approach it with precision and control. Here's how to climb hills for dirtbike newbies Part 1.

Since working as sweep rider on the VIP Experience rides in 2022 and 2023 it has been brought to my attention that most regular punters do not know the right way to approach a hill climb, especially a hard one. As a sweep, I spend most of my time riding customers bikes up hills they could master themselves with a little instruction.

So, for the next three issues we’re going to breakdown the art of hill climbing. In this first instalment we’re going to take it right back to basics and look at finding that friction point. Knowing how to hold the friction point will prevent your rear wheel from spinning up and making a mess of your hill climb.

  1. Trigger fingers 

No matter what discipline you’re riding in, it is always better to have one finger or maybe two on the clutch, than your entire hand. This allows better control of the clutch and less fatigue. Do not grab it with your whole hand! To get your hand set, form a gun with your index finger and thumb and place it over the grip. This should be your hand position.

  1. Squeeze it in 

With your left trigger finger and thumb on the grip, pull the lever in all the way. With the bike on and in first gear begin to let the lever out very slowly until you feel the bike start to move. Once you feel the crank pick up the weight of the bike, hold the clutch there. That is called the friction point.

  1. Take cover 

Because you should be practicing this skill on a hill, you should always cover your front brake in case you have to pull the lever back in. It will help prevent the bike from rolling backwards. Use the trigger finger and thumb position for the brake too.

  1. Pop it

With your legs out to balance you and the bike, slowly edge forward without letting the clutch out much further. Apply a very small amount of throttle so the bike is still lugging and not revving. Practice going back and forward in this position so you get used to the friction point. Then when you’re ready, you can give small blips of throttle to pop the front-end up. If you’re covering the clutch correctly you should be able to pop up and then drop the front wheel by pulling the clutch back in. The clutch lever should only move a matter of millimetres.

  1. Don’t spin

Find a small ledge and rest your rear wheel on the edge. Holding the front brake in to hold the bike in position slowly let the clutch out until you feel that friction point. Hold a small amount of throttle and then slowly release the brake. You want to try and hold the rear wheel on the edge without sliding backwards, spinning up or launching forward. To really imprint this position in your brain, practice until you get it right or need to stop for a toilet break, whichever comes first.

Full Throttle

If I had a dollar for every person I’ve seen attack a long or short hill with too much throttle I’d be a millionaire. It is the worst way to approach a steep, snotty hill. Sure, the Erzberg-style, power-sapping hills take a little more throttle but they’re not as common as the singletrack snotter.

Here’s a coupe hot tips to avoid looking like a goon:

  • Rev up – Try your hardest not to rev the bike up too much. The key is small amounts of throttle. You’d be amazed how much power a modern-day bike can produce with just the smallest amount of throttle.
  • Sit back – If you are going to approach a hill slowly using this technique it is okay to leave your feet on the ground and paddle up. To do this you may need to sit a little further back on the seat which will also help with traction.
  • Next up – If you’ve mastered the friction point, you should be able to sit on a perfectly flat piece of ground and continuously just pop the front wheel, 30cm off the ground, without moving forward. Next issue we will talk about how to use this skill to crawl up very steep hills.





Trailriding or hard enduro


Start on a flat piece of ground then move to a hill and try hold the bike with just the clutch, no brake.


Taller rider will find this trick easier to get their feet on the ground.


You’re in no position to get seriously hurt doing this unless your clutch hand spasms and you loop out the bike.


It might look boring and low but you will get up any hill.

With Mitch Lees