How To Start On A Hill On A Motorcycle: Never Roll Back!

When I was first learning how to ride a motorcycle there was a hill near my home. As a new rider it was a bit nerve racking, especially during rush hour. I was so worried about stalling or rolling backwards, that it kind of put a damper on the whole ride itself. So I decided to write an article to help you avoid that feeling, and tell you exactly how you can start on a hill with your motorcycle.

So, how do you start on a hill on a motorcycle? To start a motorcycle on a hill, you need to select the first gear. Then while holding the rear brake, increase the throttle gradually and start to let the clutch out into the friction zone. Then you slowly release the brake while increasing the throttle and letting the clutch out as needed.

While this might seem like a fairly simple process, there are a few things you need to consider when you are starting on a hill. There is also steps you can take beforehand to make it a lot easier and safer. Let’s dive into it in a bit more detail.

How to start on a hill on a motorcycle?

First off, don’t panic. Starting from a hill is not the end of the world. While it might be a bit more difficult than in a car, after a little practice it will become like second nature, provided you learn the proper way to do it. Let’s go over the correct steps needed to make it happen.

Pre-plan. Before you even come to a stop you need to set yourself up for success. You need to plan ahead and make sure you are in 1st gear before you stop. That means as you slow down, you are downshifting as needed until you get to 1st gear.

You don’t want to put your left foot down only to realize you are in 3rd or 2nd gear. Forcing you to switch feet, change gears and then switch back. It’s a terrible habit to get into, in an emergency you won’t have the time to do this. So make sure you are in first gear when you come to a stop.

stopping motorcycle
Do you need to downshift when stopping a motorcycle?

Go time. There are 3 things you need to balance when it’s time to go. The throttle, the clutch and the brake(s). All three of these need to work in unison in order for you to get the bike moving. Let’s break each of them down a bit.

The throttle. When you are starting on a hill you are going to have to give it a bit more than if you were on flat ground. You need extra power to fight the force of gravity on the hill trying to make you roll backwards.

The extra revs are also needed to prevent you from stalling the motorcycle, it’s a lot easier to stall when starting on a hill.

Don’t worry about flying off the line or busting a wheelie. Unless you do something stupid like dump the clutch, this won’t happen.

So get those revs up and hold them steady. It’s also recommended to keep the front brake engaged, so if you have the skill, try to keep two fingers on the front brake and use the other three to increase the throttle.

The clutch. This is what controls and smooths out all those revs your throttle is trying to send to the rear wheel. The clutch basically allows you to transfer the responsibility of preventing you rolling back from the brakes to the engine.

This allows you to release the brakes and not roll back instantly. So while you are getting those revs up, start to slowly release the clutch until you are in the friction zone and you start to feel the engine fighting the brakes.

When this happens, you know that when you let go of the brake(s), your motorcycle will start to move up the hill instead of rolling backwards. So get that clutch into the friction zone and hold it there.

The brake(s). When you are all set up, you’ve got your revs up and steady and your clutch is in the friction zone, you will start to feel the engine start to fight the brakes, trying to move forward.

This is perfect and what you want. Now it’s time to slowly and gradually let the brakes out. It should start to move forward.

If it doesn’t, you can increase the amount of power to the wheels, by letting out the clutch a little more and increasing the revs if needed.

Alternatively you can reapply the brakes and try it again, this time with more throttle or revs and less clutch.

When you do start to move you might need to increase the throttle slightly as you start to prevent the engine from stalling or lugging.

Whatever you do, do not dump the clutch as soon as you start to move. It’s a bad idea, with all the throttle you are giving, there is a good chance the motorcycle will get away from you.

If you do stall your motorcycle on a hill, don’t panic or freak out. If you didn’t drop the bike, just reapply your brakes, pull in the clutch, start your motorcycle and start again. This time, increase your revs a bit more.

So to sum it up. Hold the brake(s), increase your throttle and let clutch into the friction zone. Then slowly release the front brake and rear brake. Increase your revs and let clutch out more if needed to prevent stalling or rolling back.

How can I get better at starting my motorcycle on a hill?

The only way you can get better at this is practice. Unfortunately there are not a lot of parking lots on hills. So you are pretty much forced to practice on public roads, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do to make it easier and to prepare yourself.

You can work on the whole process of getting the revs up, holding them, letting the clutch out and then releasing the brakes. So when the time comes, you will be confident and comfortable in each of the steps.

You can do this by finding a practice spot like a parking lot. Then just going through the process, get the revs up and practice letting the brakes hold back the engine.

Hold it for a few seconds and then slowly let the brakes out. I would recommend you give the clutch and engine a break every once and awhile when practising this.

Maybe do it 5 or 6 times then let the engine and clutch cool down before doing it again.

When you have that down, try to find a hill on a small side street. One without too much traffic, then just practice over and over up the hill.

Get the bike moving for a few feet, stop and repeat. If you do this, after a couple times you should have it down.

What are some tips for starting on a hill with a motorcycle?

Keep your revs higher than normal. You need more power to get the bike going, to do this you need to get your revs up. It’s better to rev the engine a little and slip the clutch than not have enough revs and lug the engine or stall it.

Wait a second before you start. If there is a car in front of you then give that car a chance to get moving, there is always the chance that the car in front of you might stall or roll back.

You don’t want to be in a situation where you have to stop suddenly and risk the idiot behind you rear ending you. So wait a second or two before you start.

Watch for slippery stuff when stopping. Trying to keep a motorcycle upright when your foot hits a patch of oil or some wet leaves is hard enough on a flat surface, yet alone on a hill.

So make sure you stay clear of hazards like those, slipping on one while stopped on a hill is a sure way to drop your motorcycle.

Be smooth with the throttle and clutch. You need to increase the throttle gradually and slowly let the clutch out.

Don’t give the throttle a crank and dump the clutch, it won’t turn out well. Be smooth with your controls and the motorcycle will be smooth with you.

ride a motorcycle more smoothly
How To Ride A Motorcycle More Smoothly

Only use the rear brake. It’s best to use both brakes when stopped on a hill, but for new riders this can be tricky.

So if you need to, just use the rear brake. Then when you are more comfortable with the whole process you can work on using both brakes. Just practice it somewhere safe before you try it in traffic.

If you are rolling back watch out for the pegs. If you start rolling back, fight the urge to put your foot down while the motorcycle is still moving.

A footpeg with the full weight of your motorcycle grinding into your shin is not a pleasant feeling. So brakes first, then foot down.

I hope this article helps you be better at starting your motorcycle on a hill. Until next time happy riding!

Jordan Baker

Hi, I’m Jordan. I’ve been riding motorcycles for a few years now(9+ years). Along the way I’ve learned a bunch, made mistakes and picked up a thing or two. I’ve also spent countless hours practicing and working on improving my skills, something I try to do a few times a week. That’s why I made this website. So I can share my love for riding and everything I’ve learned over the years. Hopefully you’ll stick around and check out a few articles.

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