Is 2 Stroke or 4 Stroke Better For Trail Riding?

Need to figure which dirt bike is better for trail riding: 2 stroke or 4 stroke? I’ve owned and ridden many different dirt bikes of both kinds over the years. In this article I’m going to give you practical info and advice so that you can make the best decision on what dirt bike to get

What’s easier to ride?

It really depends on which type of 2 stroke or 4 stroke you’re considering. There’s trail bikes, enduro bikes, and motocross bikes. If you’re comparing both of them same type of dirt bike, then a 4 stroke is usually easier to ride. 

A 4 stroke is easier to ride because it has a broad powerband that is smoother and more predictable to ride. This makes it easier to control and not wheelie or stall if you’re a beginner. 

A CRF230F 4 stroke is easy to ride in the woods because it has soft suspension and the power is smooth
Riding my CRF230F on my single-track trail

How to tell the difference between a 2 stroke & 4 stroke

There’s two fairly easy ways to tell the difference between a 2 stroke and 4 stroke dirt bike. One is by looking at the bike, and the other is by hearing the engine run. 

Just looking at it, a 2 stroke has a much larger head pipe, also known as the expansion chamber, coming right off of the cylinder. 

A 4 stroke generally has a much deeper pitch from the exhaust tone while running, while a 2 stroke is more high pitched and almost sounds like a buzzing bee if you’ve never heard one before. 

2 stroke or 4 stroke for beginner?

So, what’s better for your first dirt bike? I would recommend and air-cooled 4 stroke trail bike for a number of reasons. 

They’re easy to ride, they’re simple, easy to maintain, and very reliable. 

Which is more reliable – 2 or 4 stroke dirt bike?

Both kinds of dirt bikes can be very reliable. If you’re wondering which is more durable and will last longer, then a 250 4 stroke will generally last longer than a 250 2 stroke if you ride it the same way. 

However, there’s way too many variables to be certain. I consider a reliable dirt bike to be one that I can depend on not breaking down if I go on a multi-day riding trip. 

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I’ve taken 2 and 4 stroke dirt bikes on long camping trips with trail riding every day and both are reliable with proper maintenance and tuning. 

Which is faster?

For the same size and type of dirt bike, a 2 stroke is faster than a 4 stroke. For example, a 125cc 2 stroke will beat a 125cc 4 stroke in a drag race. 

With that said, it’s easier to ride a 4 stroke, depending on the terrain, conditions and rider. There’s so many variables that it’s not a great comparison just in horsepower. 

What kind of dirt bike should you get for trail riding?

What kind of trail riding do you want to do? Are you new to riding off-road?

If you’re a beginner, I recommend a 4 stroke trail bike that is slow enough to control so that you can practice your riding technique. 

Yep, most people don’t want to hear that a slow bike is best to start on, but that’s how I quickly increased my riding skill; by going back to a slower trail bike. 

Switching from 4 stroke to 2 stroke – engine braking

Going from a 4 stroke to a 2 stroke dirt bike? The biggest differences you’ll notice are the lack of engine braking and the possible need to use more clutch to get going. 

4 strokes have a lot more engine braking because of the high compression ratio the engine has. 

2 stroke vs 4 stroke woods riding

2 stroke dirt bikes that are designed for trail riding have some distinct advantages. They’re a little bit lighter and handle better in tight and technical trails. They also tend to not overheat as easily as a 4 stroke. 

How to get better at trail riding

Starting on the right bike is the first step. The next most important step is learning proper riding technique, as well as setting up your dirt bike to fit you. Click here to learn how to get better at trail riding faster.

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Kelley Fager

I help newer riders learn to safely ride with confidence by teaching basic techniques in a way that's easy to understand. Learn To Ride With Control Here

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