The 10 Reasons Dirt Bikes Have Large Front Wheels

Many people love the thrill of riding their dirt bikes on off-road terrains. In the last century, strides have been made in the design and performance of these off-road motorcycles. One prominent design feature is the differing wheel sizes, with modern dirt bikes having larger front wheels and smaller rear wheels.

There are many reasons dirt bikes have larger front wheels. Larger front wheels absorb impacts better, allowing for a smoother and more comfortable ride. The larger size also allows for faster acceleration, better control while steering, as well as increased rider safety and bike durability.

In this article, we will break down all the reasons dirt bikes have large front wheels! By understanding these reasons, you’ll see the many advantages this wheel configuration offers to dirt bike riders when they’re on off-road trails.

Do Dirt Bikes Have Large Front Wheels?

If you’ve ever taken a good look at a dirt bike, you may have noticed that the tires are not proportionate in size. In general, dirt bikes have front wheels that are both larger and thinner. The rear tires on dirt bikes, on the other hand, are smaller and wider.

Of course, there are many reasons for this wheel configuration on dirt bikes. However, you might be surprised to learn that this wasn’t always the case. For instance, let’s consider the earliest known instance of an off-road motocross race.  

This race was known as “The Scramble” and took place in the United Kingdom in 1924. Hosted in Surrey, the motorcycle race was based on earlier Trial races that had also taken place in the UK. However, the motorcycles they were racing then were far from the motorcycles and dirt bikes we have today.

In fact, the motorcycles at the race in 1924 were essentially bicycles that had been fitted with a small internal combustion engine, which was mounted to the frame. By the 1930s, significant strides had been made in the development of dirt bikes.

Nearly a century later, the landscape of motorcycles has widely evolved and improved. Today, the different types of motorcycles can be classified into six groupings: cruiser, touring, standard, sport, dual-purpose, and dirt bikes.

These different groupings speak to the evolution of motorcycles. After all, each type of motorcycle is optimized for certain rides.  This is particularly evident when you consider the varying wheel sizes on dirt bikes today.

Overall, these varying wheel sizes – larger front wheel and smaller rear wheel – allow the dirt bike to handle off-road terrains. However, you might be wondering about the specific reasons for the larger front wheels these bikes sport. Read on as we break down everything you need to know!

The 10 Reason Dirt Bikes Have Large Front Wheels

Dirt bikes today have differently sized wheels. As we discussed above, the front wheel on a dirt bike is typically larger and narrower. In comparison, the rear wheel on a dirt bike is smaller and wider than the front wheel. Understanding the reasons for this will give you a better understanding of how dirt bikes function and why they were designed in this way! 

1. Large Front Wheels Absorb Impacts Better

Even before the first known motocross race in 1924, early motorcycles would be raced through wooded areas in Europe, often for publicity. Of course, dirt bikes today are capable of handling rougher terrains at faster speeds. One of the main reasons for this is that the larger front wheel can absorb impacts better.

When you’re on a dirt bike, any obstacles you may encounter off-road will first make contact with your bike’s front wheel. With this wheel being bigger than the rear, it can absorb impacts better. This is crucial when riding on rough off-road terrains with these bikes.

2. Large Front Wheels Keep Trails Smoother

This reason is closely linked to the one discussed above. Given that the larger front wheels are capable of absorbing impacts, the trail will feel a lot smoother when you’re on a dirt bike. By keeping the trail relatively smooth despite various obstacles, you’ll be able to remain calm and focused.

3. Larger Front Wheels Make For A Comfortable Dirt Ride

Whether you’re a competitive or recreational dirt bike rider, you’ll be aware of this fact: off-road terrains aren’t the most comfortable. From dirt to mud, sand to snow, there are many different terrain types you might encounter on your dirt bike, which aren’t always comfortable to ride on.

With larger front wheels, the trails will be smoother, and your ride will be more comfortable! Overall, this makes riding a dirt bike more pleasant for people, whether they’re partaking in a race or just exploring off-road trails. 

4. Large Front Wheels Let Riders Sit Higher

In addition to comfort, there are more practical reasons for the larger front wheels on these bikes. Ultimately, this configuration allows dirt bike riders to sit at a more elevated position. By sitting higher, you’ll be able to see even further.

Of course, this is crucial when it comes to off-road biking. You never know what rocks or debris you might find on a given trail. By sitting at a raised position, riders can spot and avoid obstacles. It also allows riders to mentally plan their routes while out on the trail. 

5. Large Front Wheels Can Accelerate Faster

When your dirt bike’s front wheel is larger than the rear wheel, your bike will be able to accelerate much faster than if they were the same size. To understand this, we need to consider the role each wheel plays in this configuration.

Compared to the larger front wheel, the rear wheel of a dirt bike requires less force to rotate. When compared to the smaller rear wheel, the front wheel has fewer rotations per minute. This dynamic created by the varying sizes allows you to accelerate faster and move quicker.

6. Large Front Wheels Offer More Control

When you’re on an off-road trail with your dirt bike, your bike’s handling is essential. However, you might not be aware that a larger front wheel considerably improves your handling of the dirt bike. This is partly due to the fewer rotations the front wheel makes compared to the smaller rear wheel.

However, the textured surface of the wheels also aids your handling. The textured grooves on your dirt bike’s wheels are deeper, which helps with traction when riding. These grooves and the fewer rotations lead to an increase in the amount of control you have over your bike.

7. Large Front Wheels Are Also Thinner

There’s another characteristic of your dirt bike’s front wheel we haven’t discussed yet: it’s thinner than the rear wheel. Ultimately, how narrow the front wheel of a dirt bike will determine how sensitive the bike is when turning.

The wider the front wheel of a dirt bike is, the less sensitive it will be when taking turns. However, the narrower it is, the more sensitive it will be in these situations. Many dirt bikers prefer narrower front wheels. Ultimately, this allows bikers to enhance their steering performance on off-road routes.

8. Large Front Wheels Work Perfectly With Small Rear Wheels

In a previous section, we discussed how the differently sized dirt bike wheels work together to increase acceleration. Overall, these wheels work perfectly with one another to create a unique set of advantages for dirt bikes.

As we explained above, the front wheels of dirt bikes are not only larger than the rear wheels, but they’re also narrower. In contrast, the rear wheels are both smaller and wider than the front wheels. The benefits of each of these wheel sizes come together to create one smooth yet powerful off-road experience!

9. Large Front Wheels Are Efficient And Safe

The motorcycle landscape has made strides in the last 100 years. During this time, manufacturers have been able to refine the mechanics of different motorcycles. This is evident when you look at the evolution of dirt bikes from those early prototypes with small engines mounted on the frames.

Over time, dirt bikes have become more powerful and better equipped at handling off-road terrain conditions. In this way, we can say they’ve become more efficient over time. However, they’ve also become safer. This can be seen in many aspects of a dirt bike’s design, such as the slightly raised seating position.

10. Larger Front Wheels Make Dirt Bikes Last Longer

One of the major benefits of having a larger front wheel on a dirt bike is that the bike will last longer. Ultimately, this comes down to the added protection it offers your dirt bike when you’re off-road. By absorbing impacts, increasing your control, allowing you to see further, handle turns better, and more, a dirt bike can increase the lifespan of your motorcycle.

If you have a dirt bike, you might be wondering about your current wheel sizes and how they differ in size. You may also be wondering whether you should stick to your dirt bike’s recommended wheel sizes. Read on as we take a look!

Determining Your Dirt Bike Wheel Sizes

On average, dirt bike tires last between two and three years. Of course, this depends on various factors, such as your riding style and which terrain types you drive on. Generally, dirt bike owners will know it’s time for new tires when the rubber has become dry, cracked, or discolored.

However, replacing old tires isn’t the only reason dirt bike owners replace their tires. As we discussed above, larger front wheels and smaller rear ones can make a world of difference in terms of overall performance.

It’s important to remember that your tires and wheels largely function together. Due to this, it’s important that both are high-quality parts to ensure the best ride. Generally, the front wheels on a dirt bike will be between 18 and 21-inches in size. The rear wheel, however, will be between 17 and 19-inches.

The size of your dirt bike’s wheel size can be determined by measuring the diameter between the widest points on the rim. In the next section, we’ll discuss rim sizing in more detail. However, when replacing your tires, the ones you purchase need to be the right size for the wheels you plan on using.

When replacing the tires on your dirt bike, you’ll also need to know certain details about them. Luckily, this information is located along the rim of your tire. This information includes your tire size, your current tire’s model number, the direction of rotation, as well as load and speed ratings.

If you’re unfamiliar with the way this information is provided, you can check out the following YouTube video. You’ll be able to determine the current tire sizes on your dirt bike in no time!

It is recommended that dirt bike riders adhere to the manufacturer’s recommended wheel sizes. Ultimately, this is because these modifications are known to damage dirt bikes. For instance, fitting bigger tires than the recommended size can result in friction by your dirt bike’s frame and wiring.

Many riders have attempted to replace their dirt bike tires with two of the same size. Others have attempted swapping the large front wheel and smaller rear wheel. Experts discourage this. The wheels and tires have different sizes for a reason! They also have recommended sizes from the manufacturer that should be adhered to.

However, there is one way that the tires can be modified. That is, getting a narrower tire for your front wheel or a wider tire for your rear wheel. Whenever changing your dirt bike’s tires, you need to ensure that your new tires can accommodate your wheel/rim size. 


Over time, the design of dirt bikes has significantly changed. Today, these off-road motorcycles have differently sized wheels, with the front wheel being larger than the rear wheel. In this article, we explained all the reasons for this size discrepancy. Ultimately, this wheel design offers many great advantages to dirt bike riders!


Louis Pretorius

As an amateur off-road enthusiast, I have always been drawn to outdoor adventure. I have decided to share all of my learning experiences with you as I dig a little deeper into my new-found passion and wonderful world of off-roading. My mission is to create the Ultimate Off-roading space on the internet in the process. Stay safe and happy Off-Roading!

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