250 vs 450 Dirt Bike: Which Is Best For You?

Trying to figure out whether a 250 vs 450 dirt bike is best for you to get? Whether you’re a beginner or already have off-road experience, I’m going to give you practical info and advice so that you can make the best decision possible.

I’ve owned and ridden 250 and 450 dirt bikes off-road and on the street, so this article is not just some made-up info that I copied from someone else.

Type of dirt bike

Before you go any further, you need to figure out what kind of riding you’re going to be doing, then you can choose what type of dirt bike is best. 

You don’t want to get a dual sport 450 if you’re just riding around the yard or doing right single track trails.

You also don’t want a 250 trail bike for high speed desert racing. 

20180802 164933 250 vs 450 Dirt Bike: Which Is Best For You?
Riding in the mountains is best with a prepped woods dirt bike

2 stroke vs 4 stroke

Comparing a 250 2 stroke to a 450 4 stroke, the 450 has considerably more low-end torque, making it easier to go faster. 

But, in this article I’m going to focus on just 4 stroke 250 & 450 bikes. 

Are 250 & 450 the same size?

As far as the physical size of the bike, a 250 and 450 are virtually the same size. Some 450s are slightly wider at the gas tank, but the seat height is the same on both size dirt bikes. 

This is referring to enduro and motocross bikes. They’re basically the same platform going from a 250F to a 450F. Meaning, the frame, suspension, and cosmetics are all the same or very similar. 

Whereas a 250 trail bike has a completely different frame, engine, suspension, etc. A 250 trail bike (air-cooled) is about 10-15% smaller than a typical 250 enduro or MX bike. 

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What’s the weight difference between a 250 & 450 dirt bike?

Again, it depends on which model 250 & 450 you’re comparing, as well as the brand of dirt bike. With that said, a 450 weighs about 10-15lbs more than the same type of 250. 

10-15lbs doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s more than just the actual weight that makes a difference. A 450 has almost twice the amount of rotating mass. Why does this matter? Because that rotating mass (the engine) is felt throughout the bike while riding, making the bike “feel” heavier. 

It’s hard to explain without riding both bikes, but a 450 can actually wear you out faster than a 250 because of this. 

250 vs 450 HP comparison

It’s no surprise that a 450 has quite a bit more torque and horsepower across the RPM range. Comparing peak numbers, a 250F has around 40hp, while a 450F has about 55hp. 

Not a significant difference between the two, but the 450 makes considerably more torque across a broader RPM range. This means that you don’t need to rev it very high for it to accelerate quickly, which can get you in trouble if you’re tired and can’t hang on.

The 250 still has some low-end torque, but the meat of the power is in the mid to upper RPM range, requiring you to rev it more to accelerate quickly.

250 vs 450 reliability

Due to the fact that you don’t have to rev a 450 dirt bike to go as fast as a 250, the engine will tend to be more reliable because it’s spinning fewer revolutions – less wear and tear. 

With that said, a 250 makes less power, which creates less heat. Depending on how you ride, a 250 can be just as reliable or durable as a 450.

250 vs 450 dirt bike for a beginner

Are you a new rider to dirt biking or off-road? Even if you have decades of experience on a street bike, transitioning to the dirt is a big change and you want to start on a dirt bike that’s not too powerful.

This means that, as a beginner, you should choose a 250 over a 450 for your first dirt bike.

Why? Because you’re not going to have the techniques needed, nor the muscle memory to safely control a powerful 450 off-road

This is what happens when you start on a 450 dirt bike vs a 250
Things get out of hand quickly on a 450 when you’re tired…

Is a 450 too big for a beginner?

Yes, a 450 enduro or motocross bike is definitely too big for a beginner. If you’re riding dirt bike trails or low-speed off-road, then there’s no argument you can give me that will make me change my mind. I do NOT advise starting on a 450 dirt bike simply because they’re too powerful and dangerous as a new rider.

The excuse of your buddies telling you that “You’ll grow into it” is totally bogus because it will actually slow down your growth to becoming a better rider.

250 or 450 for trail riding?

If you’re a beginner, I’m always going to tell you to start on the slowest dirt bike possible. This means that a 250 is better for trail riding for beginners and most riders.

When is a 450 good for trail riding? Only when you need the extra to get up big hills, or if you can actually use the extra power – 99.99% of riders legitimately can’t.

Colorado Trip 2018 Edit 16 250 vs 450 Dirt Bike: Which Is Best For You?
You don’t always need a 450 to get up big hills

Pros and cons of each bike

It’s time to compare the nuts and bolts of each size dirt bike. That is, what are their advantages and disadvantages.

250 Pros

  • Easier to ride – less power
  • Less weight – better handling and less tiring
  • Cheaper to start on (generally)
  • Slightly easier to work on – smaller engine
  • More exciting/fun to ride – requires more skill

250 Cons

  • Less torque – requires higher RPM to accelerate fast
  • Slightly less reliable – depends on how you ride

450 Pros

  • Plenty of power for just about anything you need
  • Very reliable if you maintain it and don’t hit the rev limiter
  • Slightly more versatile bike if you can handle the weight and power (trail, enduro, mx, street)

450 Cons

  • Too much power for a beginner
  • Heavier – picking it up and riding it

How to become a better rider faster

Now that you know and understand why I think a 250 (or smaller) is better to start on, it’s time to get into how to become a better rider. 

You need to be confident riding off-road before you can ride faster. How do you build your confidence? By being comfortable, and that starts with proper riding technique so that you can stay in control, rather than the bike controlling you.

Want to learn how to get started the right way? Click here for proper riding position techniques.

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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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