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Big Or Small Wheels For A Dirt Bike: Which Should You Buy?

Choosing the right wheels for your dirt bike may seem like a simple decision. But just because your chosen wheels keep you rolling down the track or through the mud, it doesn’t mean they are right for your bike. This may make you wonder if you should buy big or small wheels for your dirt bike.

Big and small wheels for dirt bikes each have their own advantages and disadvantages and the correct wheel for your motorcycle depends largely on your personal preferences and the intended use for your dirt bike. The type of wheels you should buy for your dirt bike depends on several key factors.

The wheel is one of the greatest inventions in human history. Without it, a dirt bike would be a useless hunk of metal and plastic. Using the correct wheel for your motorcycle is an important aspect of dirt bike performance. Below, we discuss some of the factors involved in choosing the right wheel.

Big Wheels vs Small Wheels For Dirt Bikes

The question of using big wheels versus small wheels has been asked for as long as there have been dirt bikes. But the answer to this question is not as simple as it may seem. Choosing the right wheel depends upon many factors. Where will you be riding your bike? What kind of features do you prefer? What kind of stability is suitable to your needs? In short, it all depends on what you want.

Advantages Of Bigger Dirt Bike Wheels

The advantages of using bigger dirt bike wheels are:

  • More durable
  • Easier to traverse tough terrain
  • More stable
  • More grip

Opting to use bigger dirt bike wheels offers several advantages. Bigger wheels typically have a longer life span than small wheels and are more resistant to wear and tear. This is an economic advantage over the course of the motorcycle’s life. Large wheels also often make it easier to take on tougher terrain, be it sand or mud, or just bumpier surfaces.

Another key advantage of bigger wheels is their stability. Bigger wheels increase the steadiness of the motorcycle, also making the bike easier to handle in difficult terrain. This is an important factor to consider for inexperienced riders, as it can make your dirt bike easier and safer to ride. Bigger wheels also have bigger contact patches, providing you with more grip than small wheels.

Disadvantages Of Bigger Dirt Bike Wheels

The disadvantages of bigger dirt bike wheels are:

  • More expensive
  • Heavier
  • Slower acceleration
  • Slightly poorer fuel consumption

Despite offering many advantages, there are disadvantages to using bigger wheels on your dirt bike. As the old saying goes, bigger wheels mean bigger bills. Over the course of the life of your motorcycle, the compounding cost of using a larger wheel adds up. And although it may seem like a small consideration, the overall cost of your motorcycle’s components should be a concern to any owner.

An additional drawback of larger wheel sizes is the reduction in acceleration. Using a larger wheel will make your engine work harder to spin the tires. The weight of bigger wheels and larger radius means your engine needs to work a bit harder to hit the same RPM as you would with smaller wheels, which can slightly decrease your acceleration.

Another minor disadvantage of bigger wheels is increased fuel consumption. Due to the greater weight and increased engine power required, more fuel is used to turn them. Though the increase in fuel consumption may be small, it compounds over time. While the performance aspects of the debate are likely your main concerns, it’s worth considering anyway.

Advantages Of Smaller Dirt Bike Wheels

The advantages of smaller dirt bike wheels are:

  • Faster acceleration
  • Less expensive
  • Lighter

Smaller dirt bike wheels offer their own advantages, and perhaps the greatest of these is acceleration. If you are an experienced rider or compete in motocross events, then smaller wheels may be the right choice. Since smaller wheels weigh less, they can be nimbler and allow for quicker acceleration. This gives an advantage off the starting block, out of turns, and on climbs and jumps.

Fuel economy is an important consideration for many avid dirt bike riders. Using smaller wheels on your dirt bike decreases fuel consumption because the engine does not have to work as hard to turn the wheels. As a consequence, less fuel is used and this decrease in fuel consumption lowers the long-term operating costs of your motorcycle, even if only slightly.

Disadvantages Of Smaller Dirt Bike Wheels

The disadvantages of smaller dirt bike wheels:

  • Not as good in adverse terrain
  • Less stability

Although smaller wheels are great for certain applications, they do have shortcomings. In comparison to larger wheels, smaller wheels do not perform as well in mud or rainy conditions. Also, smaller wheels are not as durable as their larger counterparts and wear down more easily. Over time, running smaller wheels may increase the frequency of wheel replacement, adding to overall costs.

The lowered stability of smaller wheels must also be taken into consideration. For experienced riders, this may not be an important issue. But for the novice, using smaller wheels may be the difference between a fun ride in the dirt or a long ride to the hospital. For some riders, the increase in speed and maneuverability is outweighed by the decrease in control and stability.

Final Thoughts

The different wheel sizes available for your dirt bike each have their own advantages and disadvantages. The greater speed and maneuverability of smaller wheels may not be worth sacrificing the stability and durability that bigger wheels provide, but it largely comes down to personal preference.