There are a lot of things to consider when trying to determine the best dirt bike for beginners. It’s not as simple as walking through a showroom, seeing a bike that has “you” written all over it and riding off into the sunset. Dirt bikes are almost as complex as the people riding them and picking the wrong one can be like picking the wrong roommate in that your experience is bound to be uncomfortable and end badly. In order to find the right dirt bike for you you’re going to need information. And that’s where we come in.
Below we’re going to look at the various factors that go into picking the right dirt bike. We’ll cover everything from your physical relationship to the bike, the various types of dirt bikes, where to ride them, how to customize them and more. So let’s get started.
- Who is the Dirt Bike For? – A starter dirt bike for a 13 year old is going to be different than a starter bike for a 30 year old. And that difference will come down almost entirely to physical ability. Keep in mind too that regardless of your age you’ll need to go through a get-acquainted period with the clutch mechanism.
- Height – In some cases size does matter and dirt bikes is one of them. If your feet don’t touch the ground when you’re sitting forward on the bike then it’s too big for you. And that’s true whether you’re 13 or 30. On the other hand if you can put your feet flat on the ground while sitting back on the bike it’s too small.
- Weight – As in your weight. If you weigh 220 lbs and you buy a 110cc dirt bike you could be asking for trouble with the suspension. Not only that, but it won’t pull you around the track or trail or whatever as fast as it should. If, on the other hand, you weigh less than 100 lbs and you’re riding a 250cc bike you could easily lose control and get yourself in serious trouble.
The Best Dirt Bike for Beginners
Exactly who makes “the best” dirt bike is a matter of opinion but there is general agreement that any of the following would be a good starter dirt bike for a beginner.
- Honda CRF50F or CRF150F – A beginner, especially a young novice, will likely want to start with either the CRF100F or, even better, the CRF50F. While a mature adult would do well to consider the CRF150F. The CRF series is renowned for its reliability, rugged suspension and adjustable throttle; which lets you decide how much gas is enough.
- Kawasaki KLX125L – The KLX125L may be a bit too much for someone under 15 or 16 but for everyone else it’s an excellent bike to get started with. The engine in the 125 has been specifically tuned for power through the low and middle ranges and it sports a 5 speed transmission that’s one of the smoothest out there. Easy to use. Not too heavy. Not too big.
- Yamaha TTR250 – The R250 may be the best beginner dirt bike for adults. It features an air cooled, 4 stroke that delivers plenty on the low end and is known for hugging the terrain. It’s relatively lightweight yet powerful enough to get you up those steep inclines without breaking a sweat.
Still With Us?
Great. Now let’s take a quick look at 2 and 4-stroke dirt bikes.
- The 2-Stroke – 2-strokes are generally smaller and lighter bikes like the Honda CRF50F or the Kawasaki KLX125L. They usually require less maintenance as well. For these reasons they make the best dirt bike for beginners under 18.
- The 4-Stroke – 4-strokes by comparison are more complex but they deliver a smoother powerband and have more power down low. More complex, however, means more maintenance and the 4-stroke is almost always heavier too. So the 4-stroke is typically best for older newbs.
There’s a great explanation available on the differences between the 2-stroke and the 4-stroke engines at mechanics.stackexchange.com.
Where are you Going to Ride Such a Thing?
The street is not where you want to be with your new dirt bike. So where can you go to really cut loose with such an amazing ride? Here are a few ideas.
- Private Land – The best legal way to get around paying fees to ride your new dirt bike is to find a sympathetic landowner in your town or a neighboring town who’s willing to let you rip around his or her property for nothing. Otherwise you’re going to have to open your wallet to somebody behind a desk somewhere.
- Logging Roads – The one other possible way you can ride for free is if you live in or near a heavily forested public area that has logging roads you can exploit. You’ll need to make sure you have a street legal dirt bike though and you’ll always – and we mean always – need to keep your eyes open for semis loaded to the gills with timber barreling around corners.
- Desert/Forest/Mountain Trails – The Bureau of Land Management controls most of the trail systems on public land and they’re responsible for putting up signs that indicate whether a particular trail is open to off road vehicles or not. If you find such a trail you’ll need to contact the Bureau about getting a permit to use it. No permit opens you up to hefty fines and the possible confiscation of your ride if you’re caught.
But Wait, There’s More…
- Sanctioned Races and Hare Scrambles – If you really want to throw yourself into the deep end, check to see if there are any off-road races in your area. Just be sure you’ve gained a level of comfort with your bike before you enter any competitive events. That said, you’ll have to pay an entry fee and your bike will likely have to meet certain requirements laid down by the organizers.
- The Land that Time Forgot – There is still enough open space in North America that it’s possible to find that ultra-remote location. If you do you can let ‘er rip and no one will bother you because no one will see or hear. If you find such a place thank your lucky stars and enjoy it while it lasts.
- Play Nice – A lot of people venture into the woods to get away from noise and exhaust fumes. So if you encounter them and they have a problem with your dirt bike try talking to them nicely instead of telling them to piss off and blasting a load of dirt in their face. Do that and you can be sure they’ll alert “The Man” and your nice mountain trail will soon be closed to motorized users like yourself.
Money, Money, Money
Before you start dreaming about riding o’er that mountain ridge at full bore keep in mind there’s money involved. Set out a realistic budget for yourself and stick to it. Try not to use the money your parents gave you for school books or the kids’ college savings to fund your off-road exploits. And remember expenses don’t end when you purchase the bike. You can also expect to pay for:
- Land use and other fees – As mentioned above it usually costs money to ride on public land. It also costs money to enter competitions.
- Gas – Since there’s no such thing as a solar powered street legal dirt bike yet you’ll still need to pay for the gas you use.
- Oil – Even the best beginner dirt bike for adults will need to have the oil changed sometimes. You’ll also have to do other types of basic maintenance.
- Repairs – Wiping out is not only potentially dangerous it can be pretty expensive as well depending on where you end up and what you hit along the way.
- Insurance – If it’s a street legal dirt bike it will have to be insured. If you drive it to the trail in the back of a pickup it won’t have to be.
- Medical expenses – Broken bones, lacerations, physical therapy and other things related to the above mentioned wipeouts will all wind up costing you money.
If you’re going to ride your new dirt bike safely and effectively you’ll need gear. Typical dirt bike gear consists of:
- A Helmet – This should go without saying but the helmet protects you from head injuries should you wipe out or get hit by debris from other bikes. No helmet, no ride.
- Goggles – It can get pretty gnarly on the motocross track or the mountain trail. If you don’t have something to protect your eyes you’ll be in for a rude awakening.
- Chest protector – Because when you wipe out (and you will) there’s no telling what you’ll land on. Also those rocks and other debris kicked up by the bike in front of you can hurt.
- Knee guards – A serious knee injury can fundamentally change your life. Knee guards protect you from flying debris, close calls with trees and boulders and things you may land on.
- High performance gloves – Ever been hit in the knuckles by a stone moving at 100 mph? Or had serious sunburn on the back of your hands? You’re gonna want good gloves.
- Shin guards – By the same token have you ever taken a fast moving rock to your unprotected shin? It’s no fun we promise you. Shin guards are a must.
- Riding boots – Because riding trails and motocross are hard work you’ll need high performance footwear that’s up to the job.
- Vented pants – High performance vented pants or pantsuits provide protection from the sun, dirt and debris while keeping you cool.
- Riding backpack – Because it’s just smart to take along an emergency blanket, powerbar, GPS, tactical flashlight, battery charger and other things you might need.
Exactly which items you buy will be up to you but remember, if you ride on public land you’ll likely be required to have at least some of the above dirt bike gear.
Customizing Your Dirt Bike
Custom dirt bike graphics will allow you to give your bike an individual flavor and also make it easily identifiable for those times you park it in a crowd of other bikes. They’re not going to add any power or protect you from downpours or flying stones. But what they can do is help keep your bike looking new by effectively masking scratches, scrapes and dings.
You have a slew of options when it comes to custom dirt bike graphics including:
- Full kits – A full kit will include graphics for just about every part of your dirt bike including the fenders, gas tank, radiator shroud, fork guard, fork tubes and seat along with universal backgrounds (depending on the specific kits).
- Trim kits – Trim kits include graphics for the front and rear fenders, the fork tube, the swingarm and on occasion the air box as well.
- Radiator Shroud kits – This is usually the most limited type of kit with graphics for the radiator shroud and sometimes the air box.
Is That it?
- Not quite. You can also pick up pre-printed backgrounds for your number plate. These will add the cherry on the cake to the distinctive look you’re cultivating for your dirt bike. Keep in mind too that you might want to have any graphics or decals installed by pros, just to make sure everything looks as good as can be.
As you can see selecting the best dirt bike for novice riders is not as simple as it may seem on the surface. But it doesn’t have to be the impossible dream either. It’s really a matter of knowing yourself and your physical capabilities, finding a dirt bike that’s the right physical match, obtaining the right gear and customizing the crap out of your new ride.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget that the best beginner dirt bike for adults will be different than the best one for kids. And also, that it takes money to buy and use a dirt bike. That’s it. Hope you found this information helpful.