Getting into the world of dirt bikes can seem intimidating. Searching the web for dirt bikes can give you results on dirt bikes, motorcycles, electric “e-bikes”, pit bikes, trail bikes, and more.
The polished bikes, roaring engines, and the promising of thrilling races and untouched mountain trails in the advertisements can be intoxicating, which may push you to make a hasty decision, placing you with a dirt bike which isn’t really ideal for you.
Two-stroke engines, four-stroke engines, what is a cc, why does it matter, top speed, acceleration, torque, bike and body size, all these things can be confusing to someone who has little to no experience when it comes to buying, riding, or repairing a dirt bike. Education before the purchase will save you time and money!
Let’s go over what makes a good beginner’s dirt bike, some of the best dirt bikes for a range of new riders, why they’re ideal, and closer to the end, we’ll cover some terms that may be unfamiliar to you.
What to Consider
Finding YOUR Dirt Bike
The term “stroke” refers to the type of engine that comes with the dirt bike. There are two-stroke engines and four-stroke engines. Two-stroke engines will give you quicker initial acceleration, are easier to fix and repair, and run on a fuel mixture of oil and gas, making their emissions fairly dirty. Four stroke engines generally have a higher top speed, have more complicated engines, and run cleaner than a two-stroke.
Knowing the differences between the two engines, the pros, and cons, and the “specialties” of both are probably some of the most important things you need to know before going out and looking to purchase a dirt bike.
Your engine type will determine a lot of the base cost of the bike, frequency of needed maintenance, cost of needed maintenance, speed specifics, and several other things. Again, I’ll say it again because it’s SO important, make sure you’ve done your research before you purchase!
The term “beginner” can be slightly misleading or confusing, because a beginner can be anywhere from a 5-year-old to a 55-year-old, with even more room for variance and additional variables. Knowing your skill set and or capabilities is important when picking out a bike.
To pick an exaggerated, slightly ridiculous example, if you can’t ride a normal bike, you have a smaller skill level than the average person. Realistically, you should probably reconsider your plans to purchase a dirt bike until you learn basic balancing skills that come from riding a self-propelled bike. Adding a motor to that mix? Let’s just think about it for a bit. Maybe think about it until you can ride a normal bike.
On a more serious note, having basic balancing skills are important. Hand-eye coordination, the ability to make split-second decisions, and even a basic mechanical knowledge are things that will most certainly help. Do you know how to work the clutch system? Something else to consider when purchasing a bike is basic body strength. With bikes coming in a variety of power variables, acceleration and top speed differing between model and engine type, and basic size differences, choosing the perfect dirt bike isn’t something that should be done “spur of the moment”.
|6′ (182cm) Tall and Taller||37.5″ or taller seat height|
|5’10” (178cm) Tall||35 to 39″ seat height|
|5’8″ (172cm) Tall||34 to 38″ seat height|
|5′ 6″ (167cm) Tall||34 to 37″ seat height|
|5’4″ (162cm) Tall||33 to 36″ seat height|
|5’2″ (157cm) Tall||31 to 35″ seat height|
|Kids 10 to 12 years old||26 to 31″ seat height|
|Kids 8 to 9 years old||24 to 28″ seat height|
|Kids 3 to 6 years-old||Electric or 50cc Dirt Bike|
When choosing a dirt bike, you’re definitely going to want to make sure it’s the right size. If you’re too tall or heavy for the bike, you’re going to be putting unnecessary pressure on the suspension, which means you’re going to feel the road or the trail underneath you a LOT more than you need to be. If you are able to sit on the bike and put your feet completely on the ground, the bike isn’t big enough for you.
That being said, you DO need to be able to touch the group when you make your stops, so you can safely operate, mount, and dismount your bike. The common consensus is to buy a bike where the balls of your feet hit the ground, and you can put your toes flat on the pavement. Almost like you’re wearing a high heel.
If you’re an adult, this should be pretty easy, because you’re done growing.
Vertically, at least.
If you’re trying to find a dirt bike for your kid, or if you’re a younger person who still has some vertical growth ahead of him, you’re going to have to take into account the fact that you may outgrow your bike.
That being said, if you anticipate yourself to not have much growth ahead of you, buy a bike that’s just a little too big. Better to do that than to have to buy an entire additional bike three years later. When you’re getting a bike for a younger kid, there’s not really much you can do to avoid the inevitable fact that you’re going to have to end up buying another bike once the kid has grown up.
Beginner Bikes For Adults
I am dividing these up by stroke since that is going to generally be the first decision that you make.
Two Stroke Bikes
These are ordered smallest to largest, so take that into consideration.
Yamaha YZ125 – 125cc Two Stroke
Yamaha bikes are very, very well known for their quality, and are a personal favorite of mine. As far as reliability goes, in my opinion, you will hardly ever be able to get a better quality to price ratio than you can with a Yamaha dirt bike.
This two-stroke engine, with its 125 ccs of power, isn’t the most powerful two-stroke ever made, but it can be the most fun, and it’s an amazing bike to get your feet wet in the world of beginner dirt bikes. You’ll be able to get used to the two stroke’s power exchange at a smaller power scale, on a reliable bike that will last you for quite a while.
KTM 250 XC-W 250cc Two Stroke
While the Yamaha YZ125 qualifies as the older, reliable kind of bike, with a tried a true reputation, the KTM 250 XC-W is a newer, improved, “made for the current day” kind of dirt bike. Where dirt bikes with two-stroke engines are known for their “less than green” emissions due to their mixture of oil and gasoline, this KTM boasts of having cleaner emissions than it’s other two-stroke counterparts, a lighter frame, and because of this, amazing rider feedback, making control on your part so much easier.
This bike has a sleek look, and features many of the new benefits from being a newer build of dirt bike, for instance, possessing transfer port injection, which is how this two-stroke bike is able to clean up its stereotypically dirty emissions.
Yamaha YZ250 – 250cc Two Stroke
Am I biased in thinking that Yamaha makes amazing beginner dirt bikes? Absolutely not, it’s a fact, not an opinion, but if you need your opinion changed, this is the bike that will do it.
As one of the only bikes with an engine displacement of these measurements that regularly gets new releases, you just know that there’s something special about this bike.
With the last Yamaha we discussed being a 125cc dirt bike, we’ve taken a step into a little more power with this dirt bike. This will be a good dirt bike for a beginner who is a little older.
Featuring an amazingly light frame, you’re getting better gas mileage and fantastic handling, with a great modern look that is sure to draw the eyes of the people you’re going to be passing up on the street, the track, and the trails you ride.
Four Stroke Bikes
Kawasaki KLX140G – 140cc Four Stroke
This fantastic bike is a great one to start out on in the world of four-stroke engine dirt bikes. Incredibly dependant and low maintenance, you can focus on your ride and the fun you’re going to be having on this zippy little bike.
If weight is your focus, this Kawasaki is the bike for you. With models coming out since 2005, they’ve got the formula down, and have made this model thirty or more pounds lighter than the bikes of their competitors, making the handling and gas mileage to die for. If you’ve ever wanted a bike to feel like an extension of yourself, this bike is the way to go.
With such amazing handling, this bike is ideal for anyone of any skill level. New riders can learn what it’s like to be in tune with an amazing machine, will even veteran riders will be pleasantly surprised by the feel this bike has, though it may not offer enough power for the experienced riders needs.
Yamaha TTR230 – 230cc Four Stroke
Another Yamaha? You bet. This beautiful four stroke is perfect for someone who wants a little more power than the Kawasaki offers, but still wants reliable power delivery and a smoother feel than a two-stroke will give you.
This is a sleek, visually attractive model, with amazing suspension that will protect you from the bumps you’ll naturally come across from the road and the rocks in the mountain trails you’ll ride. Between the soft suspension and the high ground clearance, this is a great bike if you’re planning on being a little more adventurous with your riding right off the bat.
With an electric start, you won’t have to bother learning how to kick start your bike, making for an easy and dependable “get up and go” every time you’re ready for a day out on your dirt bike.
With a number of users claiming personally that this is a fantastic bike for beginner to intermediate riders, you’re going to hard pressed to find a bike that gives you this kind of performance with such amazing reliability.
Yamaha WR250 – 250cc Four Stroke
This is another example of a “tried and true” build for a dirt bike. While new models do get introduced, many of the changes that this four-stroke has gone through over the years have simply been cosmetic. While a couple of infrastructure changes and upgrades have been made, such as electronic fuel injection, not many other bikes have gone through as little changes as this bike has, while still continuing to be given new releases.
Why, do you ask? This bike hasn’t needed many changes, bringing to mind the old axiom, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” which most certainly applies to this reliable four stroke dirt bike.
Featuring a spectacular 71 miles per gallon, you don’t have to worry about your fun time getting cut short because you ran out of gas too fast.
This bike was given a focus on making the Yamaha capability and name more accessible to the road, without taking away from its skill on the trail.
With four-stroke engines always being heavier than their two-stroke counterparts, you’ll be happy to know that this dirt bike engine and body are on the lighter end of the four-stroke engine world, which enables you to have a better handling experience without sacrificing a reliable power delivery.
Beginning Bikes For Children
When it comes to children’s dirt bikes, there are a couple different “types” you can choose from, each with their own pros and cons. This enables you to pick the best dirt bike for your child’s age, size, skill set, and experience.
Electric bikes come with motors, not engines, and the “size” is measured in volts, not ccs. Electric dirt bikes are essentially exclusive to children’s bikes. They don’t offer nearly as much power, which drastically reduces their top speed, and you need to keep on top of their charge.
As far as maintenance goes, you’ll generally only have to worry about replacing the battery, but the battery does take forever to charge.
However, this is a perfect example of something that can make them a great children’s bike
They can’t go too fast, which reduces the chances of injury, you don’t have to worry about engine maintenance, and since they’re small, they’re easy to store! (You also don’t have to pay for oil and gas) You just have to remember to make sure you keep it charged, which can take away from spur of the moment fun.
It is, however, important to stay informed on their drawbacks as well as their perks. You’re going to have to replace the battery. Your child will most certainly outgrow the bike fairly quickly, leaving you with a somewhat useless toy. With many models taking between nine to twelve hours to charge, the ratio of time spent charging to time spend riding is terrible, when you generally will only get around an hour of riding time.
Razor Dirt Rocket SX500 McGrath Electric Motocross Bike
Have you been absolutely dreaming of an electric dirt bike that you can order off the internet using your Amazon account? This is the bike for you! Coming in at $485 and free shipping, this little electric bike holds a charge for 40 minutes of continuous use and an average top speed of about fourteen miles an hour, which will obviously vary based on the weight of the rider.
The suggested weight range of the rider for this bike is up to 175 pounds, making it great for a wide range of riders, from smaller children to kids into their mid-teens, based on what they are wanting in a dirt bike.
Whatever else you may think, as far as electric dirt bikes go, this is an optimal bike for starting someone out.
Gas dirt bikes are MUCH more powerful than their electric counterparts. While electric “dirt bikes” do have their perks, which I talked about above, they also most certainly have their drawbacks and downsides.
Gas dirt bikes are a cheaper initial purchase. Maintenance and repairs and much easier to conduct, and, let’s be honest, in the world of dirt bikes, is it even an actual dirt bike if it’s a little electric?
Let go over a couple of the smaller gas dirt bikes available, perfect for teaching kids to ride.
Yamaha PW50 – 50cc Two Stroke
This little bike packs a punch for how small it is. Even though adults can technically get on one of these things, only small children will be comfortable in the slightest. They are small, but if you have a small rider on it they can get going pretty fast. I have seen little kids get up to 35 pretty easily, so don’t think this is a little toy.
Suzuki DR-Z70 – 70cc Four Stroke
This bike is what I would buy my kid. It is affordable, fast, and a little bigger than a 50cc. Sometimes the two-stroke power can be a little too much for small children to handle, so the stability of a 4 stroke dirt bike can really help them get used to having a bit of power at their fingertips. This is a great bike!
Kawasaki KLX110 – 110cc Four Stroke
This bike is on the higher end as far as power goes when you’re considering a dirk bike purchase for your kids. It is a four-stroke dirt bike, which means that the power delivery will be smoother, which is great when you’re teaching your kids how to ride. That being said, it does have a 110cc engine, which means you’ll probably want this bike for your kid to learn on if they’re a little older, probably around 10 years old.
I mention this bike instead of more bikes of a smaller powerband specifically because of it’s shifting capabilities. It comes with an automatic clutch, which means your kids will be able to learn about shirting hears without starting right off on a manual clutch. We can all probably agree that learning how to operate a clutch can be a terrifying initial experience.
This bike also features an electric start, removing the need for a kick start. All in all, if your kid is a little older, this is a fantastic bike for them to get started on.
Unfamiliar (and more technical) Terms
Two Stroke Engines
Two-stroke engines are the much less complicated engine of the two options. They are designed to complete their engine cycle in two piston movements, instead of four, like the four-stroke.
The two-stroke engine begins its cycle with a power stroke. The ignited air, fuel, and oil mixture force the piston down until the mixture reaches the exhaust port, an opening on the side of the cylinder. The piston travels downward, and it pressurizes the air, fuel and oil mixture that was previously drawn into an attachment on the side called a “crankcase”. This mixture was pulled into the crankcase during the most recent compression stroke, the one prior to the current power stroke that hasn’t completed yet.
An exposed intake transfer port lets the next air and fuel mixture into the cylinder, right as the crankshaft begins its next rotation, pushing the piston back up. This action blocks off the exhaust and intake ports, enabling the piston to compress the fuel and air mixture. The upward action of the piston pulls in the next fuel and air mixture from the carburetors and keeps it underneath the piston. The currently compressed air and fuel “charge” above the piston is ignited by a spark plug, and the whole thing repeats itself, over and over again.
This operation produces less waste than a four-stroke engine of similar or equal power output. They have a more efficient build, enabling them to be assembled and maintained using thirty to fifty percent fewer moving parts than a four stroke. Two strokes are the easiest of the two types of engines to clean. They do, however, have elevated fuel consumption, and because of the way the stroke of the engine works with the openings in the chamber, it produces more emissions.
Due to the intake and exhaust ports being open at the same time, with each piston rotation a portion of the air and fuel mixture escapes out the exhaust port without being used to power the engine. That being said, direct injection and catalytic converters are the exceptions to those rules and will reduce the number of unburned hydrocarbons in your emissions.
Because of the way they’re assembled, they require fuel and oil mixture. Two-stroke engines generally require more maintenance, but the parts are cheaper. Bikes with two-stroke engines are generally lighter and faster, with more of an initial kick to the “get up and go”. While they require half the strokes to accomplish the same purpose as a four-stroke engine, they do make twice as much noise. Two-stroke engines will give you more torque at a higher RPM.
Four Stroke Engines
A four-stroke engine takes four piston movements to achieve a singular engine cycle. On the first, or “intake” stroke, the piston lowers, pulling in a mixture of air and fuel. Next, it raises for the “compression” stroke, which ignites the air and fuel mixture. This ignition forces the piston down for the “power” stroke, followed immediately by the “exhaust” stroke, pushing the exhaust out of the engine. These cycles repeat over and over again, the whole time the bike is running.
Four stroke engines “fire” every two revolutions of the crankshaft, which delivers a steadier and more easily managed output of power. Typically a better bike for beginners, a four-stroke engine is great for both trail riding and racing. When trail riding on a four-stroke, you’ll rarely ride above second gear, because they can rev higher than a two-stroke can.
This means less work for you and your engine. There are more parts to a four-stroke engine, which enables you to spend less time braking and shifting your bike when you have to slow down.
Maintenance is needed much less frequently since the work the engine is doing has been spread out through more parts. Unfortunately, this also means that when maintenance IS needed, it is generally more expensive, since more parts need to be worked on and replaced. These additional parts also make bikes with four-stroke engines heavier than their two-stroke counterparts.
Four stroke engines are a very clean burning engine from the viewpoint of emissions testing. This is because they have a higher fuel efficiency than the two-stroke engine, and you don’t have to mix oil with your fuel in order to make the engine run.
Four stroke engines are heavier, which results in a heavier bike when similar cubic centimeters are concerned, sometimes weighing 50% more than comparable two-stroke engines.
They are also much harder to clean, due to the higher number of parts they’re built of. Four stroke engines will give you more torque at a lower RPM.