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500cc Dirt Bike – Is There One In Your Future?

Looking to buy a 500cc dirt bike or just want to learn more about them? 

In this article I’ll show you what they are, whether or not they’re still being made, and how to pick the right bike based on your specific needs. 

What is a 500cc dirt bike?

A 500cc dirt bike simply has an engine displacement of 500 cubic centimeters. It can be a 2 stroke or 4 stroke engine

The Husqvarna 501 FE is the latest 500cc dirt bike to dominate the big-bore dual sport market
Comparing a Husqvarna 450 & 501 FE

An average dirt bike size is 125cc-250cc, so 500 is among the biggest dirt bikes available.  

With that said, the size of the actual bike isn’t any bigger than other adult size dirt bikes. The seat height is typically 37-38″ tall, which makes it ideal if you’re over 5’9″ tall. 

Is a 500 the biggest dirt bike?

Believe it or not, a 500cc motocross bike is not the highest cc dirt bike. With that said, it was the biggest “CC” class in pro motocross racing back in the 80s and early 90s.
The Motocross De Nations still has the “Open Class”, which is where the 500 2-stroke competed, but all the pros still use a 450 four-stroke MX bike because it’s easier to ride faster.

What is the highest CC on a dirt bike?

The highest CC on a dirt bike was 700, but it was not practical. Simply put, it had too much vibration and power to be safe and enjoyable to ride. 

You just don’t need that much power riding in the dirt unless you’re doing hill climbs in the sand dunes

Who is a 500 dirt bike for?

If you’re new to dirt biking, please stop right now. For riding off-road, a 500 is not a good dirt bike for beginners because it has way too much power. 

A 500 cc dirt bike is good if you’re an experienced rider that wants the nostalgia of riding a big bore 2 stroke dirt bike, or a more comfortable 4 stroke enduro bike for longer rides. 

You don’t need that much power because you’re not going to be using it all, or it won’t get enough traction to take advantage of it anyway. 

What bike to start on?

Instead, the wise choice for your first dirt bike would be a smaller and less powerful bike because it’s going to be easy to ride. Less power is safer because it’s easier to control, especially when you’re learning all of the basic techniques

2 stroke 500

The open class in motocross used to be the premiere class with up to 500cc 2 stroke dirt bikes. The Kawasaki KX500 and Honda CR500 were the most popular models in the 1980s and early 90s until the open MX class was discontinued. 

The Honda CR 500 was and still is a beast of a dirt bike, whether you're a bigger guy or a pro rider. (Not for beginners)

Other dirt bike brands included: Yamaha YZ490 and Suzuki RM360. 

4 stroke 500

There are modern 500cc dirt bikes that have a 4 stroke engine. KTM has the 500 EXC-F and Husqvarna has the 501 FE, which have the same 510cc liquid-cooled engine. 

How fast does a 500cc dirt bike go?

The final gearing (sprocket sizes) determine the top speed of each dirt bike. A typical 500cc dirt bike can go as fast as 80+ mph in stock form. 

Why would you need to go this fast? Only if you’re racing or riding on a long, flat section, such as the desert or salt flats.

How much horsepower does a 500cc 2-stroke have?

They have about 55-60 horsepower in stock form. This is more than enough power to ride off-road or on a motocross track. 

Most riders (even pros) can’t handle all of the power of a 500 2-stroke. They have to ride them at a lower RPM because the power is so explosive. 

Why did they stop making 500cc dirt bikes?

There was no pro class for them to race is, so the dirt bike manufacturers discontinued making them because they aren’t popular and practical enough for casual riders. A 250cc 2 stroke was more than enough power for the average rider.

They’re still in demand on the used market for collectors and riders that want a taste of history, but they’re getting harder to find, and many of them need to be rebuilt or restored. 

Are two stroke engines illegal?

No, they aren’t illegal, but there are some restrictions depending on what you’re considering. 

For example, the EPA and European environment agencies have put legal restrictions on motorcycles and some dirt bikes, making it hard for a 2 stroke engine to be sold. 

2 stroke dirt bikes make a lot of smoke on startup, and this is a problem, even if it doesn’t actually affect the earth long-term. They’re actually pretty clean running once the engine is warm. Proper jetting helps a lot, and the new fuel injection on KTM, Husqvarna and GasGas 2-stroke dirt bikes run even cleaner. 

When was the last 500cc dirt bike made?

Kawasaki made the last 500cc 2 stroke, which was in 2004 with the KX500, although there weren’t any major updates to it since the early 90s. 

With that said, there are still some 500cc 4-strokes being made today. 

Yamaha 500cc dirt bike

Yamaha doesn’t currently make a 500cc dirt bike, but there are some Yamaha’s that are close enough. The YZ490 was an air-cooled 490cc 2 stroke motocross bike in the 1980s.


The YZ490 is the updated version of the YZ465, with more power, weight, and vibration. It was an air-cooled engine that had some potential, but had quite a few small problems that didn’t get fully resolved before it was discontinued.

With less power, suspension, and overall performance than the Kawasaki and Honda 500cc 2-strokes, Yamaha did not win many competitions. With that said, it’s still a very nostalgic bike that’s hard to come by in good condition.

1984 Yamaha YZ490 500cc Dirt Bike - Is There One In Your Future?
1984 YZ 490

WR500 – the only Yamaha 500 2 stroke model?

I honestly had to do some digging to figure out what the Yamaha WR500 actually was, because it’s more like a unicorn of dirt bikes. There were only a handful of them made in 1991, and it was called the WR500Z.

It still had the YZ490 air-cooled 2-stroke engine, but it was slightly revised for a smoother power curve that made it more rideable. It also got modern (back-then) suspension similar to the YZ250 with USD forks and an updated rear shock linkage, as well as rear disc brakes.

500cc dirt bike Honda

The CR500 was first made with an air-cooled engine in 1984, which was an updated version of the CR480. It had a lot of power, but too many problems with the engine.

So, in 1985 Honda came out with the liquid-cooled version of the CR500, which was more reliable, but still very powerful and ready to rip your arms off if you don’t have good technique.

1997 Honda CR500R 2 500cc Dirt Bike - Is There One In Your Future?
1997 Honda CR500R

It was updated with some engine tuning to be more reliable over the next few years, but from 1992-2001, the Honda CR500R was virtually unchanged besides the graphics and plastics.

It’s still a fun bike to rip around on if you have a big track or plenty of room to open it up – it won the Baja 1000 in 1984-85 before Honda moved to the XR600R.

Husqvarna 500cc

Husky has made many motorcycles since the 1930s, but their new 500cc 4-stroke in 1983 is one of the most well known because it was competitive against the 2-stroke competition.

It only weighed about 280 lbs wet, which is still heavier than the 2-strokes, but lighter than other comparable 4-strokes, making it easier to handle.

1983 Husqvarna 510 TC 500cc Dirt Bike - Is There One In Your Future?
1983 Husqvarna 510 TC

Kawasaki 500

The KX500 is the most famous 500 dirt bike because it was the fastest and most winning bike in its class. Not only in motocross racing, but in the Baja 1000 – it won 8 straight years from 1988-1995.

Like other dirt bikes in the early 80s, the first generation (83-84) had an air-cooled engine. It was updated with a liquid-cooled 499cc engine in 1985, which had better power and reliability.

1989 Kawasaki KX 500 2 stroke motocross bike with an FMF pipe and silencer
1989 Kawasaki KX 500

Over the next several years, there were engine and suspension updates to make it easier and more comfortable to ride, making it the best 500cc dirt bike in its day. After that, it was basically the same bike until Kawasaki stopped making them in 2004.

KX500 in modern KX250 chassis?

There have been quite a few fabricators that have taken the ‘great’ KX 500 2-stroke engine and installed it onto a modern KX250F motocross bike frame. While this may look and sound awesome, it won’t give you the “ultimate 500cc dirt bike” you would think.

You see, the 500 2-stroke engine needs a special-built chassis for it to handle properly and reduce the amount of vibration. The newer aluminum frames won’t help that – they can actually make it worse, give you a hand and arm-numbing riding experience!

KTM 500 2 stroke

KTM actually made a 500 MX, which is a 500cc 2-stroke motocross bike, but it’s not as well known as the Kawi and Honda 500. From what I can find, it was made from 1985 until 1992, which is around the time the company went bankrupt and separated into 4 groups.

There are other websites out there that say it has 65 horsepower stock, which is pretty crazy for an off-road motocross bike.
Want to know something even more interesting? Stock 450cc MX bikes are almost making that same HP today…

500cc 2-stroke conversion kit

Want a new 500cc 2 stroke dirt bike without all of the older bike problems, such as reliability, weight, vibration, and snappy power? There’s an engine kit you can buy that bolts into several different new dirt bike chassis’.

BRC Racing from Canada now has multiple 500 2-stroke engine kits that will bolt-on to your new KTM, Husqvarna, or Yamaha. They also offer a 500 kit with an automatic clutch for your snowbike!

Who made 500cc dirt bikes?

Kawasaki, Honda, and KTM made the only true 500 2 stroke dirt bikes, and Yamaha had a 490cc 2 stroke. KTM, Husqvarna and GasGas now have a 500 4 stroke available. 

Who still makes 2 strokes?

These brands are still making 2 stroke dirt bikes:

  • Yamaha
  • KTM
  • Husqvarna
  • GasGas
  • Beta
  • Sherco
  • TM

From 50cc kids dirt bikes to 300cc enduro 2 stroke dirt bikes, there’s a size for virtually anyone. With that said, most of them are not good for beginners because they have too much power to easily handle. 

500cc 4 stroke dirt bike

KTM has had a 500 or similar size dirt bike for many years, whether it’s the 500 EXC-F, 525 EXC, 510 EXC, or 505 EXC. They’re all basically an oversized 450 4 stroke for trail riding and dual sport riding. 

2020 KTM 500 EXC F 500cc Dirt Bike - Is There One In Your Future?

Since KTM bought Husqvarna, they now have a 501 FE. It’s a street legal dirt bike for dual sport and trail riding. 

How much is 500cc?

The price of a used 500 dirt bike greatly varies because there are so many different models and years, as well as the demand of each bike. 

For example, A late 80s Kawasaki KX500 may be worth 3000-5000 in good condition, while a Honda or Yamaha 500 in poor condition might only cost you 1500-2000. On the flip-side, a fully restored 500 may be worth 6000-10,000 dollars if it was built right and is in low supply.

A new 500cc dirt bike, such as the KTM 500 EXC-F has an MSRP of $12,549, which may seem like a lot. However, it’s a street legal dual sport bike with amazing performance and reliability all-around.

How to make dirt biking safer

Starting on a good beginner bike is one of the best ways to make dirt biking safer, but that’s just one step. So many riders form bad habits that cause them to ride out of control and crash more. 

I want to show you the proper techniques so that you have more fun and become a better & safer rider. Click or tap here to learn how to ride the right way. 

Terry Houser

Saturday 22nd of July 2023

Yamaha also made a SC 500 for at least two years in the early ‘70’s. It hah only 4 gears in the transmission, the 5 speeds could not hold up to the power. They were a Silver color one year and a Yellow another year.

Kelley Fager

Monday 24th of July 2023

Thanks for sharing, Terry!


Tuesday 20th of December 2022

"When was the last 500cc dirt bike made? Honda made the last 500cc 2 stroke, which was in 2001, " See? Not accurate.


Tuesday 20th of December 2022

Your information is inaccurate. The Kawasaki KX 500 was made up until 2004. The CR 500 stopped in 2001...making Kawasaki's KX 500 the last 2 stroke 500 to be built and sold, not the Honda as you wrote.

Kelley Fager

Wednesday 21st of December 2022

Thanks for correcting me, Dan. Under the KX500 heading, I have it listed as made until 2004, but I made the mistake of not including that in the heading that you mentioned. It's fixed now - thanks for reading, Dan!