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2 Stroke vs 4 Stroke Dirt Bike: Which You Should AVOID

Wondering the differences between a 2 stroke vs 4 stroke dirt bike is and which is better for you? Whether you’re new to dirt biking or considering trying a different “stroke” of dirt bike, this article is for you!

In this comparison, I’ll show you what the differences are between a 2 stroke and 4 stroke dirt bike, the pros and cons of each, and how to pick the right bike so that you have fun and don’t waste time or money starting on the wrong one!

2 Stroke vs 4 Stroke Dirt Bike Trail Riding
Riding up in the mountains. Both 2 stroke and 4 stroke worked great.

What’s The Difference Between A 2 Stroke Vs 4 Stroke Dirt Bike?

First, we need to lay out the differences between a 2 stroke and 4 stroke dirt bike. Theoretically, they both are 2-wheeled off-road motorcycles that have an engine and suspension, and they can both ride the same type of terrain. 

So what makes each one so much different that gets so much debate?
The main difference is the engine: a 2 stroke makes power every 2 strokes, while a 4 stroke makes power every 4 strokes of the piston.
But what does that mean exactly?

The 2 Stroke

Let’s start with the 2 stroke dirt bike. The engine has a simpler design, although the exhaust pipe looks radically different in most cases. 

KTM 250 EXC 2 stroke top-end with the gas tank removed
No cams or timing chain to deal with on these engines.

A 2 stroke gets its name from the engine cycle. It has a 2 stroke cycle because the spark plug fires and internal combustion occurs every 2 strokes, or one full revolution of the engine (crankshaft and piston assembly). 

The 4 Stroke

A 4 stroke dirt bike engine is definitely more complex because it has more moving parts and a longer cycle (more strokes). 

YZ250F 4 stroke engine with the valve cover removed
A lot more moving parts in a 4-stroke engine

A 4 stroke gets its name because the spark plug fires every 4 strokes of the piston, or every 2 full revolutions of the engine. 

Which Is Better?

Both dirt bikes have advantages and disadvantages. However, as technology has advanced in the past couple decades, they aren’t as unique in how it feels to ride each one as they used to be. 

If you want more torque and a smooth power and that’s easier to ride, a 4 stroke is the better choice. 

Want more snap in a lightweight feeling and handling bike? A 2 stroke is the better way to go.

Is A 4 Stroke Easier To Ride Than A 2 Stroke?

An air cooled 4 stroke trail bike is easier to ride because it has smooth and predictable power.

With that said, a 450 MX bike is not easier to ride than 2 stroke trail bike.

Blurring The Lines

Those have been the typical short answer to the question about which dirt bike is better, but it’s not quite that simple anymore.

New 2 stroke enduro bikes have a much smoother power-curve that rivals that of a 4 stroke. 4 strokes now have quite a bit of snap, and they don’t feel as heavy as they did 20 years ago. 

Which Is Faster 2 Stroke vs 4 Stroke Dirt Bike?

A 2 stroke can more efficiently make more power than a 4 stroke of the same engine displacement “CC”. This means the 2 stroke bike will be faster in a straight line, but overall there are many factors determining the fastest dirt bike.

ERX 7 11 09 2 Stroke vs 4 Stroke Dirt Bike: Which You Should AVOID
2 stroke vs 4 stroke in Amateur racing

A practical comparison of 250 2T vs 250 4T

For example, new rider’s Jake and Cody just bought new 250cc dirt bikes for trail riding.
Jake is on a 250 2 stroke and Cody rides a 250 4 stroke. 

Due to them being beginner riders, Cody is able to ride faster and longer because the 4 stroke tires him out less with its smooth powerband.

As they grow in experience and skill, Jake is able to tame the 250 2 stroke beast and learns how to use the extra power it has. Eventually, he starts riding faster in the woods on the 250 2 stroke because of its slight power and weight advantage over the 4 stroke.

This isn’t always the case, but I’ve seen this similar story many times over the years. I know for a fact that I would not have been faster if I started out racing or riding on a bigger 250 2 stroke.

Which is Faster 250 4 Stroke or 125 2 Stroke?

A modern 250 4 stroke will be faster than a 125 2 stroke 9 times out of 10. It has almost twice the low-end torque, making it easier to ride, and the peak horsepower is close to the same. 


Assuming you have both bikes set up properly for your riding weight, skill and style, the 2 stroke will naturally out handle a 4 stroke. 

Even if they weigh the same amount, the rotating mass of the 4 stroke will feel heavier.

Dirt bike companies have made huge progress in the handling department of their 4 strokes, so the difference is small nowadays. However, laws of physics cannot be put aside. 

Which Is More Reliable?

First off, what does “Reliable” mean to you? Does it mean the longest lasting (durable), or the least likely to break down on you?

I believe that 2 strokes and 4 strokes can have nearly the same reliability. Ride them the same way and maintain them well, and the average dirt bike these days will be surprisingly reliable. 

As for which one will last longer, there’s a slightly more definitive answer…

Which One Will Last Longer?

A 250 4 stroke will tend to last more hours than a 125 2 stroke before needing a rebuild. This is because a 125cc 2 stroke needs to be revved higher to be ridden just as fast.

9 11 09 4 2 Stroke vs 4 Stroke Dirt Bike: Which You Should AVOID

Engine revolutions and heat are key factors to how long an engine will last. Since the average RPMs will generally be higher on the smaller 2 stroke, it will wear out sooner. 

There are way more variables, such as how you warm up the engine each time and how you maintain your dirt bike. 

Pros & Cons

I’ve ridden many 2 stroke and 4 stroke dirt bikes over the years, so this is my breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of each one. 

2 stroke Pros:

  • Simple engine design
  • More power
  • Feels lighter
  • Engine rebuilds are easier
  • Smell of premix in the morning (well, maybe it’s a con)
  • Cheaper
  • Reliable if maintained well

2 Stroke Cons:

  • Mixing gas
  • Dirtier
  • Less off-idle torque (not all 2 strokes)
  • Less advances in recent technology

4 Stroke Pros:

  • Better low-end torque
  • No mixing gas
  • Generally last a little longer
  • Almost the same peak power per CC

4 Stroke Cons:

  • More complex
  • Heavier feeling
  • More expensive to rebuild
  • Overheat more easily

Is 2 Stroke or 4 Stroke Better For Trail Riding?

I rode a Honda CR80 2 stroke mx bike when I first started getting serious about trail riding. 
It was terrible in the woods. 

Literally no bottom end power, and then it had a short and sharp powerband that was exciting, yet hard to control in technical situations. 

Riding a Honda CR80 2 stroke with only a helmet for riding gear
Back when I had no idea what I was doing…

Okay, so maybe the CR80 is not meant to be ridden on trails, but there are plenty of 2 stroke enduro bikes that are great for trail riding. 

4 strokes have always been known to be easier to ride because of their smooth power characteristics. 

However, modern 4 strokes have changed in many ways, but there’s still a variety of models to choose from. This list of 4 stroke trail bikes shows which ones are best for certain types of trail riding. 

How to be a safe and confident trail rider

It doesn’t matter if you have a 2 stroke or 4 stroke, riding a dirt bike requires certain skills if you want go faster with confidence. It all starts with your fundamental techniques, and I want to show you how.

Ready to ride with more control off-road and on the trails? Tap here to how to quickly learn proper riding technique


Tuesday 8th of November 2022

Great article. Helps me to understand what I don’t know and confirms what I do. Ezra

Kelley Fager

Tuesday 8th of November 2022

Awesome, glad you found it helpful, Ezra!