Ask any dirt bike rider about their first dirt bike and they can tell you every detail, from the color of the scratched-up fenders to the sound of the motor rumble as they kicked the bike over for the first time. Joy and frustration alike will be had in the seat of your beginner dirt bike.
It’s easy to watch moto professionals and select a dirt bike you want to purchase from the stands. Don’t do it. This should be the bike you strive for as you become a better rider, but not necessarily your beginner dirt bike. Motocross for beginners does not start with the biggest, baddest dirt bike on the market. Focus on selecting one of the best beginner dirt bikes that matches your riding skill level and attributes like overall body size and the environment you’ll be riding in.
In this article, I will go over some features you should look for in a beginner dirt bike, and then highlight some of the best dirt bikes for beginners you can get your hands on.
Tips When Choosing a Beginner Dirt Bike
Motocross vs. The Great Outdoors
Before you circle the best starter dirt bikes in your favorite motocross magazine, let’s talk about what kind of riding you will be doing. There are two choices in the world of beginner dirt bikes; motocross racing and trail riding.
Although the word motocross is used interchangeably, motocross identifies the sport of dirt bike racing on a groomed outdoor track. For the sake of argument, racing is done for a specific number of laps on a designated course where the variables of the dirt are “set”. You know what to expect from each track.
Trail riding is enjoyed off the beaten path, usually in off-highway recreation areas with hundreds of miles of trails that you will never see twice. You choose a path and go; riding to the capability of yourself and whatever the terrain throws at you. Even if you have ridden a trail before, the conditions are everchanging. Rocks move and holes get deeper!
Dirt bikes that are made specifically for trail riding are going to have bigger tires (smaller wheels, more rubber) and softer suspension to make the ride more comfortable. Additional capacity in the gas tank and an optional reserve portion of the tank will make sure you spend more time out on the trail than at the gas station.
Having a taller bike will aid in providing enough ground clearance when approaching obstacles like boulders, trees, and who knows what else. You will also see other comforts in off-road beginner dirt bikes like the ability to start the bike with the push of a button instead of kicking it over.
All the creature comforts do compromise the overall weight of an off-road specific dirt bike. Beginner motocross bikes will be lighter due to the absence of electric starts and less gas tank capacity. This gives the motocross rider the ability to manipulate a dirt bike easier over jumps, whoops, and turns. A beginner motocross bike will be a force to be reckoned with through a snappier power band that the rider must control in the twist of the throttle. These features make a nimble motocross dirt bike ideal for racing.
You don’t have to choose the exclusivity of motocross riding over trail riding or vice versa. I am only highlighting the differences between the two types of good starter dirt bikes for beginners and why they are tailored for those environments. Both motocross and trail beginner dirt bikes can be ridden on any type of terrain to give you the thrill of a lifetime!
Size Yourself Up
There is no “one size fits all” when choosing a beginner dirt bike. Each dirt bike rider is different in weight, height, and even the reach of their arms and legs. These variables make it difficult to assume that one size dirt bike will be the cookie cutter fit for every rider.
The best way to find the perfectly sized beginner dirt bike is to physically sit on the dirt bike. There will be a showroom floor full of dirt bikes ranging in tire size, seat height, and motor size at your local motorcycle shop.
While under the supervision of a sales associate, choose a couple of dirt bike models to assess. This will help you get a feel for the overall bike weight and your maneuverability. For beginner dirt bike riders, your feet should be able to sit firmly on the ground as you steady the dirt bike under you. You should be able to reach the handlebars with a slight, 90-degree angle in your elbows and your back comfortably straight.
Remember that you will be bringing your feet up from the ground to the foot pegs when you accelerate the dirt bike. Your knees will be bent so that the you can squeeze the tank in between, but you should still have the flexibility to place a foot out towards the front wheel when turning or riding over an obstacle. Cramped knees that are close to your body eliminate your ability to ride the dirt bike. A well-fitting beginner dirt bike allows the bike to take the abuse of the environment, and it helps to ease those first-time jitters.
Tire Sizing of a Beginner Dirt Bike
Dirt bikes will have a large wheel in the front with a smaller wheel in the rear. This allows the beginner dirt bike to accelerate faster while navigating smoothly over rough ground. Acceleration over rocks and whatever tough terrain calls for the rear tire to have more tread than the front.
Though most full-size bikes may share the same diameter size, the wheel sizes vary slightly in the rear to help with traction. Smaller wheels with larger tires and more rubber can be found on good starter dirt bikes that are tailored for off-road riding with unpredictable terrain.
A larger wheel size can make the ride more comfortable for a beginner dirt bike rider. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the tire, the smaller the rock!
Rev it Up
The motor size of any dirt bike for beginners is described in the model’s name. Looking at the tag, you will notice varying numbers like 250cc or 450cc. CC stands for cubic centimeters, and this is the engine displacement value or the volume of displacement in the dirt bike’s cylinders. Lower CC values showcase a less-powerful dirt bike, while higher CC values denote more power.
Notice as you look at different beginner dirt bikes that lower CC values aren’t always associated with smaller dirt bikes, smaller tires or low ground clearance. Engine size does not determine the size of the motorcycle. A more powerful dirt bike will require increases in these characteristics in order for a smooth ride, and it will also require a more skillful rider.
Another feature to note is two-stroke versus four-stroke engines. Two-strokes are notorious for being your motocross ridden, racing dirt bikes. However, the reliability of the four-stroke motors has now replaced the two-strokes out on the track. 91-octane gas can be used in any four-stroke engine, which is what made four-strokes popular for trail ride enthusiasts, whereas a two-stroke engine requires a mixture of oil and gasoline. Two-strokes are notoriously “snappier” in the powerband and this can be intimidating for a beginner dirt bike rider, but it’s a feature that is really fun to overcome. Four-strokes will have more reliable motors and will deliver more consistent power.
In smaller sized dirt bikes, the CC value grows pretty quickly. 50cc, 70cc, 85cc, to 125cc, and so on. There will be various models that boast the same engine displacement when good starter dirt bikes reach 250cc and 450cc. From here, the only variance in models will be in overall weight and motor type. I recommend asking a sales professional or doing your own research using the end of this article if you are searching for a beginner dirt bike in this range.
Age is for the Birds
With a range in beginner dirt bike rider age, height, and weight, there also comes a variety of riding abilities, and this secondary factor can supersede a dirt biker’s size. Skill level will determine which is the best fitting dirt bike, making age and size just a number.
Each rider will learn to ride an entry level dirt bike at his or her own pace, and naturally some will invite the challenge of riding faster or taking on more technical trails than others. As a beginner advances, they will literally out-ride their own bike. Riders will then require a dirt bike that has the ability to create more power and tactfully get around obstacles.
Classifying a beginner rider is based on experience level rather than his or her age. Choosing the best dirt bike for beginners will be based on the ability of the rider to control the power band and balance the bike. Bigger motor, shown through the engine CC size, is equivalent to the amount of horsepower the dirt bike can generate. More horsepower means a faster dirt bike.
There are many young motocross riders that absolutely shred. These little youngsters can hop on the seat of a dirt bike that is much too big for them in seat height and ride circles around older motocross riders. Unless required for specific racing classes, a younger rider may have a larger dirt bike that they can manipulate efficiently based on their skill level.
Best Beginner Dirt Bike 2022
For beginner dirt bike riders, some of the best starter dirt bikes are on the secondary market. You are going to crash, scratch up, and break some parts, so why subject a brand-new dirt bike to that abuse? Be sure it’s also a reliable dirt bike brand, as buying too cheap can lead to your dirt bike falling apart prematurely.
You can find used dirt bikes on websites such as Craigslist, Cycle Trader, eBay, and any other classified-style sites where ‘for sale’ ads are posted. There are a number of reasons riders sell their own dirt bikes, such as upgrading or outgrowing a smaller model, and this is a great opportunity for you to snag a great deal without the hit of retail. At Motocross Advice, we’ve written the ultimate guide for buying the best cheap dirt bikes.
If you decide to purchase from a brick-and-mortar motorcycle shop, you will also have the opportunity to build a relationship with the store. Almost every motocross shop will have a part counter, service department and plenty of professional staff to help you as you grow your dirt bike enthusiasm.
In no particular order, let’s get on to the best dirt bikes for beginners that I have researched to be the best selection to start with.
1. Honda CRF250RX 2022 – Beginner Dirt Bike
Among the ranks of 250cc dirt bikes, Honda has one of largest varieties of motocross and trail riding dirt bikes on the market. You’ll find showrooms packed with Hondas, but they’re also common on the secondary market for their popularity with both beginner and veteran riders. The CRF250RX is one of the best dirt bikes for beginners that are looking to enjoy trail riding. Here are some of the benefits of riding red:
When you’re out wheeling over boulders and balancing through single track, the last thing you’ll want to do is stop and kick the bike over after a stall. You can pull in the clutch, push the electric start button on the handlebars, and get the CRF250RX rolling again without skipping a beat. Smooth and hassle-free!
The wheelbase of the CRF250RX is the same as its CRF250F motocross cousin, but the RX features higher ground clearance to help it master any terrain. With a wide tire, 18-inch rear wheel and a big 21-inch wheel in front, any beginner will feel confident and comfortable on inconsistent terrain. The solid frame and wheel package allows riders to go faster with poise, and once your feet are on the foot pegs, the challenge of balancing this starter dirt bike is gone.
The CRF250RX has a four-stroke engine with a wide powerband for super easy control. The 250cc engine is a consistent power producer that allows the throttle to be twisted without surprise while still packing plenty of torque. The power is not intimidating, and control of the rear tire makes for a smooth ride.
Aftermarket Parts Galore
Honda is a popular brand that many beginners pick for their best first dirt bike. Adding to this versatility, the CRF250RX can be customized with aftermarket parts to suit any rider. Some of my favorite add-ons include a suspension lowering kit to lower the bike for shorter riders, and a larger gas tank for more time on the trail. There are plenty of options for more protection from the elements as well.
Weighing in at 254 pounds, the CRF250RX was created to have a low center of gravity so that any new rider can easily manipulate this beginner dirt bike on the trail. The fuel tank sits between the frame (instead of on top), while the motor is nestled below, and this allows the rider to sit above the bike’s center of gravity. You are now one with your dirt bike!
If you’re looking for a solid trail dirt bike, check our award winning 4-stroke trail dirt bike from Honda!
Why we chose this model
The CRF250RX offers easy, reliable trail riding with all the necessary additions for a new beginner. The option for customization is a huge perk, since all riders require different needs throughout their riding careers. Even if you decide to buy a used version, this beginner dirt bike will be one of the easier models to hunt down.
2. Yamaha YZ125 2022– Best Beginner Dirt Bike
Everyone wanted a Yamaha YZ125 when I was a junior rider. This is the championship winning beginner motocross bike that everyone saw flying over triples in a Supercross race, and it was the first step to going pro for many dirt bike legends. The YZ125 was cool both then and now, and it’s still crowned as the best 125cc two-stroke dirt bike on the market.
The Yamaha YZ125 was introduced to the United States market in the late 1970s, and it’s been continually produced to this day. This starter dirt bike has gone through a lot of garages and service departments over the years, but it’s always stayed consistent. The familiarity of how to work on, modify, and race this starter dirt bike is vast, so beginners don’t have to turn far for some help on the YZ125.
Talk about light as a feather! This beginner dirt bike for adults weighs in at 207 pounds total with a full tank of gas, which is unheard of in the motocross scene. The lightweight composition makes the YZ125 a great dirt bike for beginners to control both on tracks and trails. Combined with a snappy two-stroke engine, beginners will need to be prepared to harness all that power as it outrides its own weight.
Blow it up, rebuild. All you need is a new piston, gasket, and rings to rebuild the motor of the YZ125, which means more time out on the track than its pricey, four-stroke competition. It’s rumored that you can rebuild this baby in an hour.
Other factory dirt bike companies have eliminated their version of the 125cc dirt bike. The YZ125 masters over the class, and it can still be found shredding out on the track while producing the next generation of supercross champions.
Why we chose this model
The YZ125 is perfect for both kids and adult riders alike with its ease of control and 2-stroke power. There’s no equivalent like it on the market, and it’s super easy to rebuild even when things get out of hand. It’s been around forever and managed to outlive all of its competitors, and provides a reliable ride through and through.
3. Yamaha TTR-50 2022 – Kids Beginner Dirt Bike
This model is considered a first dirt bike for most young dirt bike riders. The Yamaha TTR-50 is a great platform for youngsters learning to ride that don’t want the worry of balance or too much power generation.
The four-stroke engine with three gears and no clutch is excellent for teaching a beginner how to learn throttle control, braking, and balance. The motor can take the abuse of a beginner dirt bike rider while still offering the ability to stay in one gear and ride all day.
The TTR-50 may sit a little lower than many kids dirt bikes, but Yamaha did this intentionally to help the confidence of mini beginner riders. The ability to sit flat footed on this entry level dirt bike gives beginner riders assurance and control over the bike. It even has the capability to bolt on bicycle training wheels to help keep the little rider steady as they putt along.
If an entry level dirt bike rider isn’t ready for all the TTR-50 speed, simply twist a throttle limiter screw to decrease it. This limits the ability of the throttle to be pushed past a certain point so that the speed is manageable. Comfortable going fast? Just pull the screw out a little more and you’ll allow more throttle twist.
This Yamaha can be found everywhere, especially on the secondary market, and it’s one of the best budget dirt bikes you can buy. It’s going to get spilled over, crashed, and bruised up, so snag it quick if you find one for sale in a garage!
Push and Play
The TTR-50 is unique to its competition with an electric start button instead of a kick start. This is best for entry level dirt bike riders while they’re learning the basics.
Why we chose this model
The TTR-50 is the perfect size for small kids, and it allows them to get a handle on riding without some of the tougher challenges that lie ahead. Between ease of use, overall power control, fewer gears and optional training wheels, the TTR-50 will quickly get your youngster acclimated to their beginner dirt bike.
4. Kawasaki KLX110 2022 – Dirt Bike for Beginners
Wildly popular for beginner motocross riders and veterans alike, the Kawasaki KLX110 is a cult classic. Originally produced for smaller dirt bike enthusiasts, the KLX generated a new culture of modification to make it the best dirt bike for scooting around in the pits.
The Kawasaki KLX110 opened up a market of modifications for anyone to make this beginner dirt bike completely custom. Graphics, motor modifications and beefed-up bolt-on parts made the KLX110 one of the most customizable dirt bikes on the market. Invest in a KLX110 for your first dirt bike and you may get more selling it later.
Weighing just slightly more than most 50cc mini dirt bikes, the KLX110 generates more power with its 4-stroke engine. It also boasts a low center of gravity, making it ideal for any aged beginner rider. There’s plenty of speed for beginners with no clutch and only four gears.
Don’t Matter Your Age
Beginners of any age enjoy the KLX110. Featuring low ground clearance & controllable motor power, it’s the best dirt bike for beginners of all ages. Adults enjoy this beginner dirt bike for its ability to handle their size, so much so that you may find yourself arguing with a youngster on who gets to ride it first.
Whereas most beginner dirt bikes have small tires which throws away rider comfort while entering rocky terrain, the KLX110 has a 12-inch rear and 14-inch front tire. These tire sizes are just right and make the ride more predictable. The KLX110 can handle more speed without having more ground clearance to balance.
Why we chose this model
Yet another great in-between model, the KLX110 offers capability for both youth and adult riders. Potential modifications and later selling capability make this a well-rounded model for all ages, and it’s super easy to control whether you’re familiar with riding or not.
5. Yamaha TTR-230 2022 – Dirt Bike for Beginners
Yamaha offers many beginner dirt bikes for both kids and adults depending on their experience level. The TTR-230 may not be the starter dirt bike you’d chose for a small rider, but may be perfect for the adult just starting out on their dirt bike journey.
Whether you’re a kid or an adult, the TTR-230 will ride with you through and beyond being a beginner. Suiting for both new and intermediate riders, the combination of controllable power and a full six-speed transmission adds up to one of the best beginner dirt bikes for adults.
Easy to Ride
The TTR-230 boasts a low seat height so that everyone has a chance to play. The electric ignition ensures you don’t need a beastly build to turn it over, and a low-maintenance engine means you won’t spend all your spare time tuning up your beginner dirt bike. Couple those with generous ground clearance and a 21-inch front tire and you’ll be ripping it up in no time.
Low is best for all different sorts of beginner dirt bikes, and the TTR-230 is no different. It features a compact wheelbase and a low seat height for both juniors and adults. The robust steel frame guarantees a smooth and steady ride every time.
Comfort is a big deal, especially when you’ve been exploring trails all day. Luckily, the TTR-230 boasts helpful ergonomic support with a flat, grippy seat for easy maneuverability. Equally grippy foot pegs fold up when not in use, and offer solid footing even in muddy or wet conditions.
Why we chose this model
Through and through, the TTR-250 is a solid ride no matter what your size. Steady power and a full transmission effectively show any newcomer the ropes on their beginner dirt bike, while less maintenance and electric starter mean less time spent navigating through problems. The low seat makes the TTR-230 accessible to any rider, and the comfort touches are appreciated after a long day’s ride.
6. Kawasaki KLX140R 2022 – Best Beginner Dirt Bike for Adults
The KLX140R is one of those beginner dirt bikes that’s the best of both worlds, since it fits any size rider and offers generous power throughout the ride. Three sizes to boot means that you’ll be able to choose exactly what you’re getting for your size.
Start the KLX140R with the push of a button and you’re ready to ride. Simple doesn’t have to be boring with a robust ride like this. Leave the beefy bikes for another day and embrace the narrow profile for smooth moves and a comfy fit. While the RF version may be the best beginner dirt bike for adults fully aware of their skills, the KLX140R is the best first dirt bike for riders looking to hone their talents.
Equipped with a 6-speed transmission and 140cc 4-stroke engine, you’re guaranteed a smooth trail ride with air-cooled motors on this beginner dirt bike for adults. While liquid may be best for the pros, air-cooling helps to slim the profile of the KLX140R, leading to a reliable ride without the extra bulk.
With all of these perks comes the KLX140RL, the slightly larger version of this mini monster. Featuring a slightly taller seat, more suspension travel and higher ground clearance, this beginner dirt bike upgrade is ideal for larger riders who may have some experience under their belt. For only $300 more than the base model, the L edition may be a better fit for adult beginners just starting out.
Why we chose this model
Between the KLX140R and KLX110, Kawasaki’s got the beginner dirt bike market covered. While these beginner dirt bikes may be a step up for the super young, the rest of us have a ton of fun on them. Low-end power that doesn’t quit, combined with your pick of three different sizes, there’s a lot to love about the KLX140R. See which one’s for you and get riding!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a 250cc dirt bike too big for a beginner?
The answer for this question is going to depend on the size of the rider and how much power they can handle from a beginner dirt bike. 250cc may not be a great idea for kids, since their body weight is far lower than the average adult and they may not be able to throw around this size of starter dirt bike. However, highly experienced riders in their youth are capable of harnessing this power, or it may be more fitting for adult riders who can throw their weight around and feel comfortable learning on the fly.
Is a 125cc dirt bike good for beginners?
125cc dirt bikes offer a solid start for any beginner getting into riding for the first time. It’s a full-sized beginner dirt bike, so adults won’t have to compromise feeling uncomfortable, and most of them are still low enough to accommodate a junior rider as well, so it’s the best of both worlds. The 100cc range is the sweet spot for both adults and juniors alike to learn and practice regardless of experience level.
Is a 450cc too big for a beginner?
Compared to the other two engines discussed above, a 450cc dirt bike will most likely be far too much power for a beginner dirt bike. Even if it’s a 4-stroke engine, the weight and power involved will overwhelm almost anyone getting on a motorcycle for the first time. It’s best to take it easy starting out and go for lower engine power at the beginning.
2-stroke v. 4-stroke: which is the best for beginners?
This decision really depends on how fast the beginner wants to learn, and how stable they want to be on their starter dirt bike. 2-strokes provide sharp power to get out of corners and a fast urge to pull ahead, while 4-strokes will more so be right for the rider that needs stability and steady practice. Make the best decision according to your specific needs.
Whichever beginner dirt bike you choose, have fun on the journey! Even though it can be frustrating, learning is one of the best parts of becoming an accomplished rider.
Have fun out there!