Dirt bikes bring together the great outdoors and fast-paced fun. However, with so many types of dirt bikes on the market, choosing the ideal bike can be challenging, even for someone with riding experience.
To cut through the confusion, let’s walk through the main dirt bike categories and explain the distinctive features of each. There’s also a breakdown of dirt bike characteristics that are essential to understand before plunking down the cash or hitting the trail.
Keep reading to get on the right track to selecting the best type of dirt bike that meets your needs.
Types of Dirt Bikes
Electric Dirt Bikes
We’ll save an in-depth discussion of electric dirt bikes for another article, but going gasless has many advantages, including cheaper operating costs and zero warm-up time. Plus, a silent operation means you won’t get nasty looks from non-riders and eco-warriors.
But, nothing is perfect, including electric dirt bikes. So, you’ll have to deal with a higher purchase price and slower performance due to extra weight. Not to mention, in-the-field recharging requires a battery swap or an impossibly long charging cable.
If you’re looking for an electric dirt bike for yourself, an adult, check out the best electric enduro motorcycle, and if you’re looking for one for your children, check out the Razor MX650 or Kuberg Trial Hero.
Dual Sport Bikes
While not quite the Swiss Army knife of dirt bikes, dual sport bikes are designed for versatility. As the name suggests, these two-wheelers are well-suited for the pavement and the trail. Those with street bike experience will appreciate competent on-road manners and a taller seat height, and riders ready for the dirt won’t be disappointed. Nothing prevents a street-legal dual sport bike from being a daily driver and a weekend off-road companion, but these tend to offer fewer frills.
Trail bikes make excellent first bikes for those seeking to hit unpaved surfaces without much fuss. Generally, equipment levels are kept to a minimum, which makes trail bikes wallet-friendly. In addition, a lower seat height helps with cornering stability, a key factor for beginners. Trail bikes are not street-legal, so destination-based adventures require bringing a trailer or truck for transportation support.
While enduro dirt bikes are engineered for rugged off-road use, they have features tailored for long-distance off-pavement use and endurance racing. Notably, the riding position and a sophisticated suspension are designed to reduce fatigue. These are high-horsepower machines meant to tear up the dirt. It’s important to note that enduro bikes require more frequent maintenance, and most models aren’t street-legal.
You can read our full article about enduro motorcycles below.
Think of an adventure bike as the fancier cousin of a dual sport bike. Both can handle on- and off-road duties, but the adventure bike leans toward a street orientation and has more features. Plus, adventure bikes offer more comfort, which is ideal for long-distance travel on asphalt.
Motocross bikes are made with one purpose in mind, to help riders win races. As such, MX bikes feature lightweight frames, powerful engines, and rugged suspension systems. Motocross bikes are more about speed than distance, so fuel tanks are smaller, and the ride tends to be less comfortable. These bikes are best handled by riders with experience.
Kids Dirt Bikes
The simple mini bikes from decades ago with nothing more than a lawn mower engine have been transformed into sophisticated machines with many of the same features found in larger two-wheelers. Options range from a starter 50cc four-stroke trail bike to a punchy 100cc two-stroke motocross bike. The best choice matches a child’s ability and comfort level and is a tool to teach rider responsibility.
You can read our full article about the best dirt bikes for 13-year-olds below.
A supermoto is another combination bike that can handle the pavement and the trail, but it tackles these outings with an attitude. Aggressive styling helps a supermoto stand out from a street bike, while sticky tires and an abundance of horsepower can leave others in the dust or at a stoplight.
Types of Yamaha Dirt Bikes
The Yamaha name is synonymous with dirt bikes and motorcycles in general. But there are many types of Yamaha dirt bikes to consider. These two-wheelers sync up to the types of dirt bikes covered above, plus Yamaha has a cross-country series that’s similar to enduro bikes.
Here’s an overview of what Yamaha offers in 2023. For simplicity, we’ve listed engine sizes to match model numbers, the actual engine displacements are smaller than indicated.
Yamaha Trail Dirt Bikes
Engine size: 50cc to 230CC
Price: $1,699 to $4,499
Yamaha Motocross Dirt Bikes
Engine size: 65cc to 450CC
Price: $4,799 to $9,899
Yamaha Cross Country Dirt Bikes
Engine size: 125cc to 450CC
Price: $7,099 to $9,999
Yamaha Dual Sport Dirt Bikes
Engine size: 200cc to 250CC
Price: $4,899 to $5,299
Yamaha Adventure Touring Dirt Bikes
Engine size: 700cc to 1199CC*
Price: $10,499 to $16,299
* The Yamaha Tenere ES has 1199cc
You can read our full article all about Yamaha dirt bikes below.
Types of Dirt Bikes: What to Consider
With the discussion of types of dirt bikes covered, let’s explore what goes into choosing the ideal dirt bike.
The budget for a dirt bike is relative to what you want, can afford, and are willing to spend. Of course, more features mean a higher price tag, just like with a car. And similarly, buying a used bike will cost less but come with the inherent risks of getting a second-hand machine.
In simple terms, shelling out $1,500 to $3,000 will get you a nice (and new) entry-level trail dirt bike from a name brand. However, be prepared to spend two to three times that amount for better performance and capabilities while some adventure and supermoto dirt bikes cross into five-figure territory.
The simplest way to answer the terrain question is to determine if you want to take a dirt bike on the street. If so, you’re automatically on the path toward a dual sport, adventure, or supermoto dirt bike.
If there’s no need for the tires to hit the pavement, then focus on your off-pavement needs. Will an all-purpose trail bike take care of things, or do you have competition in mind? The types of dirt bike racing you’re interested in can influence the bike decision.
Dirt bike engine size ties directly into your budget, but the last thing you want is to regret buying an underpowered bike. So, spending a bit more to get a dirt bike with greater usability makes sense. Using Yamaha trail bikes as an example, the base $1,700 model offers a 50cc engine, but stepping up to a 110cc model adds $600 to the tab. Meanwhile, the 125cc version is double the cheapest Yamaha trail bike. In other words, the 110cc could be an ideal balance between engine and wallet sizes.
2 Stroke or 4 Stroke
The two-stroke versus four-stroke engine debate can be tied to what you want from a dirt bike engine. Two-stroke units offer larger displacement but require a gas-oil mixture and tend to incur more expensive repairs. On the other hand, four-stroke powerplants can handle straight gasoline yet need more frequent oil and filter changes. In addition, two-stroke power hits more suddenly, while four-stroke output comes on more smoothly.
Take a moment to think about what you want from dirt bike ownership. Are you just getting started? If so, an entry-level model may meet your needs for now, and you’ll have plans to upgrade once your confidence on two wheels increases.
Or, are you ready to take your riding experience to the next level? In this case, low-end models are off the table. Consider how you want to be riding in a year or two or longer, and assess if the dirt bike you are considering will serve you now and later.
Matching a bike with a rider’s skill level serves two purposes; not spending more than is needed and ensuring an inexperienced rider doesn’t get put in a dangerous situation. Starting off with a 450cc motocross bike might seem cool, but a novice rider will be better off saving some money and their body by buying a less powerful bike.
Global supply chain issues have affected the motorcycle industry, meaning buying a dirt bike requires patience, flexibility, or both. Further, bike selection may be determined by what’s available at a nearby retailer.
Buyers can choose from many t dirt bike brands, including models from the most popular companies.
Your ultimate choice can be influenced by a brand, its reputation, pricing, promotions, dealer location, and other factors. Keep in mind that not every brand offers all types of dirt bikes.