Flow Racers is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission.

How To Pick The Right Dirt Bike

Buying a dirt bike is an exciting experience as it doesn’t happen every day. However, choosing the ideal one can be pretty tricky. There are many important factors that you need to consider when picking the right dirt bike.

When buying a dirt bike, your height, weight, and riding experience are key factors to consider. Your height and weight will affect the size of bike you should get, while your riding experience will determine how powerful the bike should be, and whether you should choose a 2 or 4-stroke engine.

Below, we’ll go into more detail about why these factors are so important, and how they will influence your decision when picking a dirt bike for you or for someone else. Let’s start with your riding experience, as it’s the most important factor to consider.

The Most Important Factors To Consider When Picking A Dirt Bike

Your Riding Experience

Whether you’re buying a bike for yourself or for a child, experience is the most important factor to consider in order to make the right decision. It determines what kind of power you should be looking for. First things first, if you want to get a great bike for someone who is 10 years old and less than 5 feet tall, aim for models that are up to 110cc.

There are many dirt bikes with automatic clutches and 3-speed transmissions that will help your kid get used to riding before switching to the manual clutch system. But, if you’re a first-time rider (even if you’re an adult), you should keep the engine displacement under 250cc until you get used to riding a dirt bike.

If you’re 16 or older, the best thing to do is start getting used to the clutch system, as this will really open up your choices. However, if you’re already used to it, and have plenty of riding experience, your main priority is choosing the perfect size of dirt bike.

Your Height

When you’re buying a dirt bike, your overall height is of great importance as it has a big impact on how comfortable and safe the riding experience will be. The right seat height is mostly determined by your actual height. However, the best way to figure out the ideal seat height is to sit on the bike. While sitting on the bike, you will see whether it suits your stature or not.

Some people have longer arms, shorter inseams or taller torsos. So, sit on the bike and see if you can touch the ground with your feet. If you can only touch the ground with the tip of your toes, the ride is most likely too high for you. But, if your whole foot is on the ground, the bike is too small for you. Riding a bike that is too small puts too much pressure on the suspension.

Ideally, only a third of your foot should touch the ground. This way the suspension will last longer, and you won’t feel every bump and rock you hit. You’ll also be able stay in control over your bike and put your feet down quickly if needed. The seat heights for most adult-sized bikes range from about 34” to 38”, while child dirt bikes tend to have seat heights ranging from 18” to 34”.

Your Weight

Your weight is just as important as your height when choosing a dirt bike. Someone that weighs 100 pounds won’t need the same amount of suspension as someone that weighs 200 pounds. Although learning how to ride on smaller bikes is often easier, heavier riders should avoid that. If a bike is too small to handle your weight, the suspension will be the first thing to fail.

For example, people that weigh up to 150 pounds could start with a bike under 250cc and get used to the bike’s weight and height. But bigger riders should aim for something that has enough suspension to comfortably take them down any dirt road.

So, something from 250cc to 450cc may be the ideal choice. However, keep your riding experience in mind. Riding a 450cc dirt bike could be too extreme or even dangerous for a novice rider.

2-Stroke vs 4-Stroke

A stroke is a piston motion. That means 4-stroke engines have 4 different motions, while 2-stroke engines have 2 different motions. Usually, 2-stroke dirt bikes accelerate a lot faster but are less stable. On the other hand, 4-stroke models have a higher top speed and are more consistent. Now, both sides have pros and cons.

Advantages Of 2-Stroke Dirt Bikes

These engines are much simpler than 4-stroke ones, and are lighter as a result. Lightweight dirt bikes are good for many reasons. With 2-stroke models it makes them easier to accelerate and slow down. 2-stroke dirt bikes are also much more affordable than 4-stroke ones. The upkeep as well as the initial cost of 2-stroke models is generally cheaper.

4-stroke engines are assembled using more parts than 2-stroke engines. This makes 4-stroke engines way more complicated. Therefore, the lack of complicated operation as well as the fewer parts makes cleaning 2-stroke engines quite simple and straightforward.

Disadvantages Of 2-Stroke Dirt Bikes

2-stroke engines produce more power per stroke as they operate on only 2 strokes to complete one cycle. Although this has some upsides, the threshold for variability in different gears is smaller. Long story short, you will have to shift more often!

These engines are, as we’ve mentioned already, much easier to repair and maintain than their 4-stroke counterparts. However, as there are fewer parts, each one of them has to do more work. That is why you will, in the long run, usually have to perform more maintenance.

Advantages Of 4-Stroke Dirt Bikes

2-stroke models are more “jumpy” than 4-stroke engines. Although it gives them faster acceleration, it makes them more difficult to handle. 4-stroke engines offer a more reliable and steady power output. This makes your bike easier to handle. They also have a wider powerband (range of speeds). This means you won’t have to shift so often, which reduces gear wear and tear.

Disadvantages Of 4-Stroke Dirt Bikes

As 4-stroke engines consist of more parts than 2-strokes, there’s a higher chance that something will eventually break. This is something you should keep in mind while buying a dirt bike because repairs on 4-stroke engines are usually more expensive.

4-stroke engines’ extra parts also make them a fair bit heavier than 2-stroke engines. If you’re a trail rider, the effect of a few extra pounds shouldn’t worry you too much. If you’re a racer, top speed is a very important factor, and 4-strokes tend to offer higher top speeds.

Dirt Bikes For Beginners

If you’re a beginner and are just starting out on a dirt bike, your best bet is to aim for the bikes with a smaller engine displacement. Dirt bikes with a smaller engine displacement are easier for beginners to handle as they have less power.

These bikes are less intimidating, and their power is much more manageable if you’re anxious or nervous about riding. So, a 4-stroke 125cc dirt bike is a great choice for both the lightweight adults and taller kids. This type of bike is not too powerful and should offer a decent seat height.

Dirt Bikes For Kids

If your kid is under the age of 15, the bike should be between 50cc and 150cc. There are quite a few small bikes in that engine displacement range to choose from. One of the most popular choices nowadays, for kids that are about 5 years old, is the Yamaha PW50.

The Yamaha PW50 dirt bike should fit any 5-year-old kid as it has the seat height of only 18.7”. Furthermore, this dirt bikeonly weighs 90 pounds and so it isn’t too heavy for most kids either. Plus, the PW50 allows you to limit the amount of power it puts out. So, as the rider gains more confidence and experience you will be able to adjust the throttle, allowing the bike to go faster.

But if you need a dirt bike for a 13-year-old kid without any riding experience, the Kawasaki KLX 140 is a great choice. The KLX 140 has a 4-stroke engine and is available in different seat height options ranging from 30.7” to 33.9”. Taller and heavier kids should aim for the tallest model, the KLX 140G.

The Kawasaki KX250 makes a much better choice for experienced 14-year-old riders. The KX250 comes with a seat height of 37.3”. It might be too tall for some kids, but after some time they will gain experience and figure out how to handle the bike properly. However, if it is too tall, there are modifications you can make to lower it.

Dirt Bikes For Adults

Choosing the right bike for an adult is often easier than choosing a bike for kids as there are way more models to choose from. An adult who is on the lighter and shorter side, with no previous riding experience, will most likely find a 125cc dirt bike ideal. One of the most popular models in this class is the Honda CRF 125F. This bike isn’t too powerful and has a seat height of 30.9”.

If you are highly experienced, weigh over 200 pounds and are above 6 feet tall, aim for 450cc models. If you’re planning to ride a lot of motocross tracks, check out the Yamaha YZ450F. The YZ450F offers plenty of power and will most likely suit your weight and height. The Honda CRF 450X is another very popular dirt bike from this class.

New vs Used

The only disadvantage of buying a brand-new dirt bike is the price. When buying a new bike, you can be 100% sure that all the parts are in perfect condition and that everything is working properly. However, if you are planning on buying a used bike, we highly recommend you stick to 2-stroke engines. Problems are much easier to diagnose and much cheaper to repair.

4-stroke dirt bikes, especially newer models, are quite difficult to diagnose when something goes wrong. Plus, they have lots of parts that will, eventually, wear out. Replacing the worn-out parts can be pretty expensive when it comes to 4-stroke models and it is definitely not something you want to go through. So, it’s often wise to buy new or close to new 4-stroke dirt bikes.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right dirt bike can be quite difficult. The most important factors you need to consider are your height, weight, and riding experience. Once you find the ideal size and power range, you have to decide whether you want a 2-stroke or a 4-stroke engine. As they both have their pros and cons, you need to decide which one suits you better, and then you’ll be able to make the right choice.