Dirt bike racing has never been more popular, and whether you’re in it as hobby or it means a lot more to you than that, having the right bike is key to getting everything out of the experience that you can. What makes for a great dirt bike?
In order for a dirt bike to be great, it needs to be light, responsive, and yet powerful. It also needs to be suited to you, the rider. Your height and weight will have a lot of say in which is the right bike for you. If you’re just starting with dirt bike riding, you’ll probably want a bike where you can easily touch the ground while sitting in the seat.
You also need to choose whether you want a two-stroke engine or a four-stroke. Four-strokes are simpler to use and maintain, and they deliver their power smoothly. Two-stroke engine dirt bikes provide power a bit more abruptly, but they have more of it.
In practical terms, four-strokes feel heavier but are easier to control. Two-strokes are snappy but also have a tendency to get away from the rider. You should choose what you’re most comfortable with, but be aware that the newer four-stroke engines are a big improvement over older models.
Some bikes offer you different settings. By changing these settings you can gain more control or access more speed. The Honda CRF 450R is an example of a bike of this type, offering smooth, aggressive, and standard settings that riders love.
While you always want a light bike that will let you make the moves you’re trying to master, you also don’t want to have to stop your ride before you’re ready. Getting a bike with a larger fuel tank, like some of the Yamahas, gives you more versatility.
People use their dirt bikes for all kinds of activities. This has led manufacturers to specialize their bikes for endurance riding, trials, cross-country runs, and motocross. There are also dual-purpose bikes that try to give you the best of both worlds. If you only do one of these, it might pay to get a bike made to purpose for the activity.
The right tires
The tires are every bit as crucial as the engine and the comfort of the ride. Riding on flat, packed earth is very different from riding on pavement or over loose dirt with lots of obstacles. Some tires will be best for racing speeds and others for grip. Make sure you match the tire traction to your activity.
Dirt bike riding is going to get a little bumpy. If you want to be able to use your bike all day long, you’ll need it to be comfortable enough that you’re not dying to get off after an hour. Comfort is about a lot more than just the seat, though. You’ll also need great responsiveness and good suspension.
A two-stroke engine will have a certain punchiness that can make it hard to control. This may be a fair trade off for the power you’ll gain, but there are other ways to make sure you have good control. These include responsive brakes that you regularly adjust and precision ignition timing. If the ignition timing is perfect, you’ll experience very little slippage.
There are a lot of great dirt bike brands out there, including Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki. These three brands offer the most consistently superior performance across the spectrum and in varying styles. That being said, if you don’t have the money for one of these there are other options.
There are good offerings from Suzuki, Motocross, KTM, and 108 Dirt Bikes. Husky, GasGas, and Sherco also have reasonably-priced bikes that won’t let you down. Dirt bike racing and riding are great fun if you have a bike you love.