2 Stroke vs 4 Stroke Dirt Bike – Everything You Need To Know

2 stroke vs 4 stroke. You want to know which dirt bike is best? I’ll tell you right now. 

The best dirt bike is the one that you have the most fun on. 

That leads to the next question; which type of dirt bike will I have the most fun on? The answer to that may surprise you…

Keep reading to find out. 

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 2 Stroke

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

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 engine is definitely more complex because it has more moving parts and a longer cycle (more strokes). 

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 easy 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.

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 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.

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’s 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. 

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 become a better rider faster

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.

Want to ride with more control off-road and on the trails? Tap here to learn how.


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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