Starting any new activity that you are unfamiliar with can come with challenges, particularly when a significant purchase is required. Buying a beginner’s dirt bike is no exception. Jumping into the purchase of a dirt bike without the proper research can become an expensive exercise if you end up with a bike that is not suitable for your purposes!
Before making a final decision on getting a beginner’s dirt bike, you should consider some important factors to make sure you are buying the right bike! We have come up with six important things to consider: the size of the rider, experience level, physical size of the bike, the engine type and size, types of tires, and the price you can expect to pay.
We have also included some additional beginner dirt bike buying points to consider at the end of the article that may factor into your decision-making process. These may be less critical than the initial six consideration points, but should be paid some attention to make sure you are getting the best buy for your needs!
Size Of The Rider
The size of the rider of the dirt bike is probably the foremost important aspect to consider when buying a beginner dirt bike!
The aspects of the size of the rider that you need to bear in mind are the following.
- Height of the rider.
- Weight of the rider.
- Strength of the rider.
- Shoulder width of the rider.
All these aspects of a rider’s size and build have a bearing on the configuration of the dirt bike that you will purchase.
The most important of the size factors mentioned is probably height. Dirt bikes come in various seat heights. If the dirt bike seat height is too tall for the rider, the rider will not be able to reach the ground with their feet when seated on the bike. The problem of a bike that is too high for the rider has obvious consequences. The rider will not be able to start riding from a standing start without help, and likewise, will not be able to stop the bike without assistance!
The aspect of the weight of the rider relates to whether the bike is built to hold the persons’ weight and if the engine will be powerful enough for the weight of the rider.
The nature of off-road dirt bike riding means that there will be the inevitable spills where the rider falls off the bike. This is where the strength aspect of the rider comes in. If the bike is inappropriately sized for the rider and is too heavy, the rider will not be able to pick the bike up and get going again!
The shoulder width of the rider is often an aspect that is overlooked, particularly for female riders. If the rider has narrow shoulders, standard width handlebars may be too wide for the rider to effectively and comfortably control the bike. The uncomfortable riding position may be unsafe, and also lead to fatigue of the rider due to the unnatural position of the arms.
Getting the size of the dirt bike wrong will affect the overall balance of the rider on the bike. An ill-fitting bike will negatively affect the rider’s confidence, particularly for a beginner. They will be nervous and uncomfortable and generally feel insecure on the bike. Riding a bike that is the wrong size for you build makes you constantly feel like you are going to fall off!
This general unsettled feeling contributes to the lack of confidence of the rider and ultimately makes for an unsafe situation.
Safety is not the only concern. It may also simply be impractical. For example, if a rider drops his or her bike or falls off and it is over-sized, they may not be able to pick the bike up and get going again without assistance! This may prove a problematic situation, particularly in a race situation with other riders bearing down the track in your direction! Another problem if the bike is too large, the rider may not be able to balance the bike while they kick-start the engine!
Important Note: If you are buying a dirt bike for a child or a teenager, your need to be aware of the fact that the child will, at some point, outgrow the bike. You will then need to replace the bike with another one of a more appropriate size!
Rider Experience Level
The experience level of the rider mostly comes into play when deciding on the power and speed of the bike that is suitable for their level.
The factor that is important with rider experience level is to be careful not to get a bike that is too powerful for the rider to handle at their level. The rider may find themselves surprised by the sudden turn of power that some of the modern bikes can have, and this can result in dangerous situations. It may also dampen the enthusiasm and confidence of the aspiring rider!
The age of the rider is important to consider here too. If the rider is a child and under the age of 10 years old, it is probably wise to consider a dirt bike that is under 110cc. Small dirt bikes of 50cc that are governed and have automatic transmissions are suitable for riders under 5 years old. Those between 5 and 10 years old would do quite nicely with an 80cc dirt bike.
If the rider is older than 10 years of age, they are probably capable of learning to ride a bike with a manual transmission and a clutch. This will take some getting used to, so make sure the bike is appropriately sized for the new rider to feel comfortable with every other aspect of the bike. Most teenage riders will be able to handle a dirt bike in the range of a 125cc.
If the new rider is an adult and familiar with clutch control, a 250cc machine would be appropriate, but otherwise, the 125cc is also a good place to start!
Size Of The Dirt Bike
When buying a beginner dirt bike, there are a number of aspects of the size of the bike that you need to take into account. The height of the dirt bike is one of the most important factors. The height can be affected by the size of wheels fitted to the bike, and the type of suspension as well.
Manufacturers will give the seat height as a standard measure of the height of the bike. Standard heights published by dirt bike manufacturers can be different if non-standard wheels and forks are fitted to the machine. This is something to pay attention to if the dirt bike you are buying as secondhand or has been customized.
The table below will give you a point of reference for what seat heights you should be looking at in a dirt bike, based on the height of the rider.
|Riders Height in Feet and Inches||Recommended Dirt Bike Seat Height In Inches|
|3’ 7” – 3’ 11”||24 inches|
|4’ – 4’ 8”||24 – 26 inches|
|4’ 9” – 5’ 1”||27 – 31 inches|
|5’ 2” – 5’ 4”||32 – 36 inches|
|5’ 5” – 5’ 9”||36 – 38 inches|
|5’ 10” – 6’||37 – 39 inches|
This table will give you a broad estimate to work from, but the best method is for the rider to actually sit on the bike and test it out for size. The rider should be able to comfortably reach the ground with their feet when sitting astride the bike.
As mentioned earlier, another factor to take cognizance of is the power of the machine, which is usually a correlation of the size of the motor. The size of the motor, however, does not only affect the power of the bike, but also the overall weight of the bike.
If the bike is too heavy, it can cause the rider problems starting, stopping, and maintaining effective control of the bike over rough ground! Looking up the weight of the bike on a spec sheet will once again give you an estimate to relate to the size of the rider, but the best test is to get the rider to test the strength to weight ration before you buy.
The Dirt Bike Engine Type
If you ask a dirt bike rider which engine is better for dirt bikes, a 2-stroke engine, or a 4-stroke engine, you had better be ready for a long answer. It is a question that has resulted in endless debate and many arguments.
The correct answer is that it is mostly personal preference based on the riders’ style and power preference and budget! If the rider is an absolute beginner, they probably won’t have a riding style yet, so the comparison below may have a bearing in the decision between the two engine types.
2-stroke vs 4-stroke engine comparison for beginners.
|Simpler engines||More complex engines|
|Much cheaper purchase price||Expensive to buy|
|More regular maintenance required||Less regular maintenance required|
|Parts are cheap||Parts are much more expensive|
|More power to weight ratio, giving the bike a “kick” of power, making it difficult to control and ride for a beginner.||Less power, but a smoother power band|
|Lightweight, so it is easier to maneuver the bike and throw it around on the track.||Heavier in comparison, but an easier ride for beginners.|
|Less power in the revs but faster top end speed.||More power at lower revs, but slower top end speed.|
|More gear changes and clutch work required, making the bike more difficult to ride for beginners.||Less gear changes and clutch work required by the rider, making it easier for beginners.|
Two-stroke engines in lower sizes are equivalent to higher engine sizes in the four-stroke variety. As an example, a 125cc 2-stroke dirt bike will be the equivalent of a 250cc 4-stroke dirt bike. So don’t think that by purchasing a lower cc 2-stroke dirt bike that it is going to be a more “tame” ride for the beginner dirt bike rider!
The differences between the two motor types mean that there are very few 4-strokes available in the lower engine capacity range. With them only being available in higher engine capacities, they are correspondingly substantially more expensive than 2-stoke dirt bikes.
Types Of Tires On The Dirt Bike
The type and quality of tires on a dirt bike is often an overlooked aspect of consideration. This component can make the difference between a great ride, a mediocre ride, or a downright shocking, awful riding experience!
It is safe to say that tire choice is a key component when picking out your bike. It is true that tires can easily be changed. If, however, you are unaware of the difference the correct tires can make to a ride, you may think you bought a dud bike, but the problem may turn out to be a simple matter of tire choice.
The choice of tire mostly comes down to the type of terrain that you will be riding in. Some tires perform well in hard terrain, but poorly in soft sand, while others perform better in wet, muddy conditions than those designed for rocky ground.
There are multi-purpose tires available for dirt bikes, which cover a range of terrain types. While these tire types may be significantly cheaper than specialist terrain tires, they cannot be expected to perform well in all terrain types.
Multi-purpose tires will perform moderately well across a range of terrain types but will be outperformed hands down by a purpose-built tire. For this reason, most dirt bike riders will keep a range of tires and will fit tires appropriate to the terrain they will be riding in.
If you will be doing trail riding, where you will likely encounter a multitude of terrain types in one ride, then most definitely, a multi-purpose tire is what you need. If your preference is riding track on your dirt bike, then you may need specialist tires to get the best possible experience out on the track.
A point of caution is necessary to mention regarding your specialist off-road tires. Riding your dirt bike on asphalt will wear these tires out incredibly fast! If you have specialist tires fitted, it is better to transport your dirt bike out to your riding location on the back of your pickup truck or on a trailer, and only ride it on the terrain it is meant for.
If your dirt bike is used on normal roads in an urban environment as well as off-road, then a multi-surface or dual-sport tire is the ideal tire to use on your dirt bike. The compounds in these tires can handle the wear caused by the asphalt, and they have the structure to perform well in the dirt as well. Once again, however, they will be out-performed in the dirt by a specialist tire.
Riding a dirt bike with off-road tires on asphalt can also be dangerous, as these tires are not made to grip these types of surfaces well, especially if the road is wet!
Sand and mud riding require very specific tire types that have larger rubber protrusions on the tire that are shaped like scoops. These scoops help to push the bike and rider forward through soft sand and mud. These tires should only be used in these conditions, as they will wear extremely fast if used on other terrain types. If you are a dune rider or ride on muddy tracks, then this is the tire for you!
Tires vary in price, depending on the composition and purpose of the tire, from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars. You will need to do the research on the tire prices specific to the type of terrain you will be riding.
Dirt Bike Prices
The topic of price, when it comes to buying a dirt bike, is one that may not be as costly as you may expect. As with most sports, you can jump in and buy top of the range with all extras, or you can adopt a more conservative approach and start with the basics.
The considerations that will affect the price of the bike you buy are determined, to a large extent, by the topics we have discussed already.
These are the size of the bike, size, and type of engine, and the tires you will need for the environment you will be riding. The age of the rider is a factor that also needs to be considered when purchasing a dirt bike. If the purchase is for a child, the child will grow and at some point outgrow the size of the bike. This will then require a purchase of a new dirt bike that is more appropriately sized.
If you are buying a dirt bike for kids under the age of 13 years old, you will more than likely be looking at 50cc bikes for the very young, and 70 to 85cc bikes for the slightly older ones.
In the 50cc range, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1500 to $4500. There are respectable machines in the lower price range, such as the Honda CRF50F and the Yamaha TTR 50.v. The upper price range bikes are the likes of the KTM 50 SX.
For the slightly older kids, the 85cc engine bikes range from $4200 to $6200. The lower price range includes the Suzuki RM85 at $4200, the Yamaha YZ85, and the Kawasaki K85 at $4500. The higher-end bikes are the likes of the KTM 85 SX coming in at $5800 and the Husqvarna TC85 at $6200!
Pre-teen kids between 9 and 12 years old would do well with a 110cc dirt bike. The Honda CRF 110 or the Yamaha TT-R110E are great bikes for this age group. The Honda comes in at around $2200 and the Yamaha at $2300.
The older the rider you are buying for, the more expensive the purchase price becomes. For this reason, it is important to make sure you get a bike that will last for some time. Dirt bikes for teenagers will depend if they are early teens or late teens. Teenagers from 16 onwards would probably do fine with adult size dirt bikes unless the rider is particularly small.
For the younger teens, you would be looking at dirt bikes in the 125cc range for 2-strokes or under 250cc in a 4-stroke. The 125cc dirt bikes come in sizes that are suitable for people of various height, even for adults. It is, therefore, imperative that you confirm the seat height of the bike you want to purchase is suitable for the height of your teenager!
The Honda CRF230F is a great choice for this age group. It is very manageable and ideal for the average-sized teenager. You can expect to pay around $4300 for this dirt bike.
Of course, when it comes to buying a dirt bike for an adult rider, you still need to take the size of the rider into account. We, humans, come in all sizes, so a one size fits all approach does not work, especially when shopping for a dirt bike! The size of the motor of dirt bikes for adults will mostly be personal preference. You can go for anything in the 125cc or 250cc range. While you can get 2 stroke dirt bikes with engine capacities that are larger than this, they may not be suitable for beginner riders!
In the 4-stroke dirt bike sector, you would be looking at anything above a 250cc motor. Four-stroke dirt bikes are great for beginners for the reasons mentioned earlier but are prepared for more expensive maintenance costs. Some 4-stroke machines we can recommend for beginner riders are the Husqvarna FC250 or the Kawasaki KX250. The Husqvarna comes in at $9200 and the Kawasaki at $7800.
Some additional cost factors that need to be considered include the cost of maintenance of the dirt bike, transporting the dirt bike, and the cost of personal protection equipment that the rider is going to need. You can check out our list of recommended gear here.
The type of gear you will need includes:
Once again, if the rider is young, these items will need to be replaced as they are outgrown. With these items, it is best not to compromise, so buy the best quality that you possibly can! You can check out our recommended gear for kids here.
Bonus Things To Consider When Buying A Beginners Dirt Bike
We have put together another two bonus items to consider in your research journey to buying a beginner dirt bike. The first one you may be considering is regarding the cost of these machines. The second one is possibly one you have not considered, but which can affect your overall riding experience!
Should You Buy A Secondhand Dirt Bike?
Buying a secondhand dirt bike is an option, particularly if your budget constraints don’t allow for a brand new bike, or you are buying for a younger rider who will eventually outgrow the dirt bike. You should, however, consider a number of potential problems going this route, and how to avoid them.
Dirt bikes generally get worked pretty hard, so you need to make sure you are not buying a bike that has serious wear or damage that would cost more in repairs than you would pay for a new bike!
The expensive items to fix on a dirt bike are the frame, forks, and engine. If these are in good shape, you may have a good deal. Check the frame for obvious repairs or welds. If you see any of these, look for another bike. Check the front forks for obvious signs of wear and if take the bike for a test ride to check for wobbles.
Test ride the bike as a preliminary check of the motor as well. Examine the engine for any obvious oil leaks or damage.
Most other minor cosmetic wear or damage on the bike is generally not going to impact the performance of the dirt bike and is not expensive to repair or replace.
The best way to buy a second-hand dirt bit is to ask a mechanic to take a look and it and let you know if it is mechanically sound and whether the asking price is fair or not!
Dirt Bike Grips
As a beginner to the sport of dirt bike riding, you may not be aware of the important function that the grips perform in affecting the feel of the bike, and its performance in different terrain types.
You will, in fact, be surprised at the difference that a good pair of grips can make to your whole riding experience. There are many types, designs, and compositions available on the market. You will need to try out a number of variations to find the ones that suit your riding style and comfort needs the best.
You can check out our post on dirt bike grips here to get a better understanding of the best grips to get for your dirt bike and your needs.
The good news is that they are an easy part to change on your dirt bike and relatively inexpensive. The important thing to be aware of is how they can improve your overall riding experience, especially as a beginner!
If you are considering buying a beginner dirt bike for your child, you can also check out our post on the differences between ATVs and Dirt Bikes and which one is better and safer for kids.
Hopefully, we have provided you with the necessary information to make an informed decision and purchase your first dirt bike.
For an ebook version of the same info, in case you want to go over it at a later stage, feel free to download our free ebook guide to buying a beginner dirt bike here by signing up for our newsletter.
Until then… Happy Dirt Biking!