What Is The Best Beginner Dirt Bike To Start On?
What features make the best dirt bike for beginners? Is it the size, weight, price tag, or something else? How do you know you’re not spending all that hard earned cash on the wrong bike that you will regret buying?
In this post we’ll look at the best new and used dirt bikes available if you’re an adult or teen that’s a new or beginning rider. There’s 7 key factors that make a dirt bike great for starting out and learning to ride on that we will reveal.
We’ll also look at what bikes you need to stay away from that you are more likely to get hurt on right away, and will cost a lot more to buy and maintain.
Whether you’re buying your first dirt bike, or you haven’t owned one in years, you need to know what to look for in a dirt bike.
There are many different models to choose from. You may already have a couple of different bikes in mind that would suit your riding style and the terrain you will primarily ride, but there’s certain features that will make riding easier and more enjoyable.
The best dirt bikes for beginners include:
- Kawasaki KLX140 (For Short Teenagers)
- Honda CRF250F (For Tall teenagers)
- Honda CRF125FB (For Girls & Women)
- Kawasaki KLX230R (For Trail Riding 4 Stroke)
- Beta 200RR (For Trail Riding 2 Stroke)
- Kawasaki KLX140G (For Shorter Adult)
- Yamaha WR250F (For Bigger Guy)
Click on the table of contents below if you want to skip ahead.
What NOT To Look For In A Beginner Dirt Bike
It’s not uncommon to hear stories from riders that got the “riding bug” as soon as he or she got on their first dirt bike. That’s great for our riding community, but I also hear or see too many stories about people that were immediately scared away from dirt biking and will never consider it again.
This is because they started out on the WRONG dirt bike.
It’s a shame, because if they started out on a proper bike, then they might have actually enjoyed it and made it a lifelong hobby. Let’s look at what the top worst beginner dirt bikes have in common. Then we’ll look at a few examples of dirt bikes to stay away from.
Too Much Power to Handle
Any time you give a new rider a dirt bike to ride, they’re inevitably going to have poor throttle control, let alone clutch control. If you want to have a frustrating time with your first dirt bike, get one that has too much power.
Is A 450 A Good Starter Bike?
The simple answer is no, almost universally. The only 450cc dirt bikes being made today are liquid-cooled 4-strokes that are high performance motocross or Enduro bikes. A 450 simply has too much power to handle.
Unless you already have a lot of experience riding or racing high-powered street bikes, it’s not worth it to start on a big and powerful 450 dirt bike.
Is A 250 Dirt Bike Good For A Beginner?
A 250 dirt bike can be a great beginner bike, but it greatly depends on which model 250cc you’re looking at.
Generally, 250cc is the max displacement size I will recommend for a bike to start out on. However, a 250cc motocross bike, two or four stroke, is too much power for a beginner to handle.
Is A 125cc Dirt Bike Good For Beginners?
A 125cc trail bike, such as a TTR125, is a great dirt bike for beginners riders that are shorter. The TTR125L has a low seat height, so if you are under 5’4″ then you will fit without being cramped.
A 125cc motocross bike, such as a YZ125, is not a good beginner bike, however.
My Feet Can’t Touch the Ground
Unless you are well over 6 feet tall (182cm), you need to stay away from tall dirt bikes. If you can’t touch the ground with your feet or toes, you’re much more likely to tipover or crash.
As you know, riding only two wheels takes balance to stay upright. This is especially true when riding slow or coming to a stop. Riding a dirt bike at extremely low speeds can actually take more skill to do than riding at a cruising speed.
One Step At A Time
Everybody wants to be the next James Stewart or Graham Jarvis when they first start riding. Did they start out as champions? Nope, they had humble beginnings, just like you are now. You will start out slow, and work your way up to faster speeds.
Those first few minutes and hours are extremely important to gaining confidence, and the last thing you want is a tall, top-heavy dirt bike that is going to cause you to tipover because you stopped on uneven ground and couldn’t put your foot down in time.
What Is Considered A “Tall Dirt Bike”?
Any bike with a seat height over 37 inches is tall. Almost all motocross bikes and high performance enduro bikes fall into this category.
With an average inseam of 30 inches, this is going to be a problem. Even though the suspension sags a few inches when you sit on a dirt bike, there’s still a few inches more before your feet can touch the ground.
This leaves you with shifting your weight to one side of the seat and tip-toeing to hold the bike up. Just one more thing you shouldn’t have to worry about while trying to learn how to do six other things.
Your Riding Buddies Will Be Faster Than You In Less Time
Let’s say you start riding the same time as your group of friends. They all get proper beginner bikes, but you choose to get a powerful motocross bike because you think you’ll get ahead of the game.
You’re having fun ripping around on a sweet bike with the latest suspension and way more horsepower than you really need. But who cares, because you’ll “grow into it”… Right?
Fast forward a little ways down the road and your buddies will most likely have a lot more control over their dirt bike than you. Riding fast is cool, but a fast bike will decrease your learning curve.
Slower Is Faster… If You Want To Get Better
Just because you start out on a slower dirt bike does not mean that you will be riding slower. In fact, quite the contrary is true. If you buy the right dirt bike the first time around, it will be easier to control and allow you to focus on learning proper technique. This will increase your skill much quicker than if you started out on a dirt bike that’s too powerful.
What Makes A Great Beginner Dirt Bike?
Now that you know what not to look for when buying a beginner dirt bike, we need to narrow down what you should be looking for.
Easy To Start
Remember back when you had to manually crank start your car? Didn’t think so. While most dirt bikes may not be that difficult to kickstart, having the “magic button” of electric start is becoming the norm, and for good reason.
Electric start systems are becoming more and more reliable. Just look at street bikes. How often do you see problems with them, other than a dead battery from old age or not getting a charge?
The Magic Leg Is Magic For Beginning Riders
Having e-start over kickstart is a great motivator for continuing to learn how to ride dirt bike. I see so many new riders getting frustrated just because they have to keep kicking their bike over to get it running again after they stalled it for the 27th time, sucking the fun right out of the actual riding.
Electric start isn’t a must, but if you’re older and have sore or weak legs, not having to kick-start is a fantastic option. Another place where e-start shines is when you stall on the side of a hill and it’s difficult to pull the kick-start out and kick it while trying to balance. Just press the button and keep riding!
Easy To Ride
A dirt bike that is easy and manageable to ride will not only boost your riding confidence, it will also be much more fun right from the beginning. Let’s look at the factors that make a dirt bike easy to ride for a beginner rider.
The best way to gain confidence is to start on a dirt bike with smooth, tractable power. This narrows it down to most trail bikes or entry level enduro bikes.
Smooth power is produced by an engine that is tuned for low-end to mid-range RPM riding. Having good torque at an RPM just above idle also helps you learn how to use the clutch because it will be less prone to stalling.
Low Enough Seat Height
We already went into depth of why having a tall seat height is counterproductive to learning how to ride. Having a low seat height will boost your confidence as beginner rider because you can easily touch the ground with at least one foot and balance while riding slow or coming to a stop. You’re also closer to the ground in case you do fall, so you’re less likely to get hurt.
How would you like to start out on a big, heavy XR650L? It has good, smooth power, and is easy to start…
Unless you’re as big as Goliath, starting on that big of a dirt bike is just begging for trouble.
Just because you’re big and strong does not mean you can handle a big, heavy dirt bike, regardless of how smooth the power-band is. Even grown men have trouble balancing a full-size motorcycle because they don’t have the muscle memory.
Seat Height and Weight Correlation
So what is considered light enough for a beginner dirt bike? Well, that is actually not a specific number. If you’ve heard the term “Center of Gravity”, it applies directly to a dirt bike and how it handles, as well as how easy it is to balance.
Having a high CoG (center of gravity) makes the bike feel very top heavy, thus making it more difficult to balance. This is why it’s best to start out on a bike that is as low as you can comfortably ride on.
On the flip side, you can get away with a slightly heavier dirt bike if it has a low CoG. Low seat height generally means lower center of gravity, so keep that it mind when choosing the perfect starter bike.
The last thing you want is a dirt bike that you have to work on more than you ride. You’re looking for something that requires low maintenance and is very durable.
Old-Tech Is Still Good Tech
While I am a big fan of technology advancement and how it makes life easier and more convenient, some technology is still proven to work well after many decades.
If you want the most reliable and durable engine to start out with, it’s hard to ignore the simplicity of an air-cooled four-stroke. Not only do they produce smooth power that makes it easy to ride, but the maintenance intervals are much longer than most liquid-cooled dirt bikes.
As long as you do your regular maintenance, such as changing oil and filter, an air-cooled engine should last for hundreds, if not thousands of hours.
How Much Can You Afford?
Last, but certainly not least, is the buy-in price point of your first dirt bike. You saved up all that hard earned cash, so you don’t want to waste it on a bike that costs more than a different bike that would work just as well for you.
With that said, you don’t want to cheap out a couple hundred bucks when you could have bought a dirt bike that is a much more capable machine that fits your needs.
Teenagers can range in size a lot, and that’s why there’s no perfect starter bike for every teen. That’s why I’ve chosen two classifications to choose from.
The best beginner dirt bike for a tall teen is the Honda CRF250F, and for a short teen is the Kawasaki KLX140.
Now you ask, what’s tall and what’s short? We’ll, for a complete guide on dirt bike sizes there’s this article you can read. But for a short answer, a shorter teen would be 5’0″ and shorter. A tall teen would be over 5’6″.
I see more and more girls riding dirt bikes these days, and that’s fantastic! Having your daughter, wife, or girlfriend ride with you is not only encouraging, but it can really grow your relationship with some fun riding adventures!
With that said, you might have to teach them or yourself how to ride a dirt bike. If that’s the case, then the best dirt bikes for a girl to start out on are:
- Kawasaki KLX140/L/G
- Honda CRF125F/B
The KLX140 is one of my favorite trail bikes that’s beginner-friendly, which is why I bought one for my wife. The KLX 140L is the perfect mid-size bike to learn on because the seat height is low enough for an average person to touch the ground on, the power is extremely smooth and predictable, and the electric start is a no brainer.
Having the “magic button” to start the engine saves a lot of frustration when trying to learn several other things on a dirt bike (just ask my wife!).
The only thing it’s missing is fuel-injection, which is where the Honda CRF125F comes in.
For a complete guide on the best dirt bikes for girls click here.
Are you an adult looking for your first dirt bike, or just looking to get back into riding? Starting out on a bike that’s easy to ride will greatly boost your confidence, which will boost your rate of skill and speed.
There are so many different models and brands to choose from, so what’s the best dirt bike for me?
To narrow it down, you need to answer a few questions. To determine what the best beginner-friendly dirt bike for you is, you need to ask yourself:
- What kind of riding will I do?
- What’s my size?
- Does 2 stroke or 4 stroke matter?
- What’s your budget?
Best Beginner Dirt Bikes For Trail Riding
Are you planning on just trail riding or riding around your farm/property? I do not recommend a motocross bike to anyone that’s just starting out or a novice rider. They are too abrupt in power and harsh in suspension.
Trail bikes are perfect to learn on because they have smooth power and soft suspension that is easy to handle.
The best 2 stroke trail bikes for beginners are:
- Beta 200RR
- Beta XTrainer
The best 4 stroke trail bikes for beginners are:
- Kawasaki KLX230R
- Honda CRF250F
For Big Guy
Are you a tall or bigger rider? No worries, there’s still ways to fit on a dirt bike and feel comfortable. More weight means less acceleration, so you’ll want a bike with a little more power. With that said, you still don’t want to go straight to a 450 or 500 as a first time rider.
The best dirt bikes to consider for big guy as a beginner are:
- Kawasaki KLX300R
- Yamaha WR250F
The KLX300R is a 300cc 4 stroke liquid-cooled trail bike. It was discontinued in 2007, but Kawasaki brought it back for 2020.
The biggest additions are electric start and fuel injection, which are great features for a new rider to make learning how to ride more enjoyable.
Yamaha’s WR250F has changed quite a bit over the last couple decades, but it’s still a good enduro/trail bike. I wouldn’t normally recommend it to a new rider, but if you’re a larger rider, the extra power and suspension will be nice to have.
I also like the WR250F because it’s very reliable. Yamaha knows how to make a high quality dirt bike, and the WR has always been dependable. This is important because you don’t want your first bike to be a high maintenance, money pit.
Are You Tall?
Dirt bikes are only built so tall. The biggest models are still designed for a rider that’s about 5’9″-6’1″. Don’t worry if you’re taller than that, though.
There’s plenty of mods you can do to make the ergonomics more spacious and comfortable for your larger frame. For a complete guide and list of things to make your bike feel bigger read this.
Maybe you’re a shorter guy or gal like me. I have a short inseam of about 28″, so seat height is critical if I want to touch the ground with one tiptoe.
The best full-size dirt bikes for a shorter rider to start on are:
- Kawasaki KLX140G
- Kawasaki KLX230R
- Honda CRF250F
Having a low seat height is critical if you want the confidence in knowing you can touch the ground with at least one foot. While balance is a key skill you will learn over time to prevent tipovers, having a shorter dirt bike to start out on can make the process more enjoyable.
If you don’t want to buy a new KLX140G, KLX230R or CRF250F, there’s ways to shorten your current bike. This article shows you the top ways to lower the seat height of most dirt bikes.
Cheapest Beginner Dirt Bike
Don’t have much to spend but still want a solid dirt bike to start on? There’s a few older models that are fun and easy to ride, as well as being more affordable and reliable.
The best inexpensive used dirt bikes for a beginner are:
- Honda XR200R
- Kawasaki KDX200
- Honda XR250R
Let’s face it, not all of us are made of money. Buying a new dirt bike is out of the question, especially if it’s your first one. The Honda XR200 and XR250 aren’t made any more, but they have helped tens of thousands beginners learn how to ride using a clutch.
The XR 200 and 250 are rock solid air-cooled 4 strokes that are built for casual riding and trail use. Change the oil, add a couple gallons of gas, and you’ve got a full days worth of riding ahead! They can be had for under $2000, but you want to have a careful eye when looking at a used one.
The Kawasaki KDX200 is a 2 stroke trail bike, but it doesn’t ride like a snappy, harsh-suspended motocross bike. The power is plenty and exciting, but it’s fairly tame for a 2 stroke, making it a good option for a cheap starter bike.
Now that you know what your first dirt bike should be, it’s time to learn how to ride!
Clutch, throttle, and balance are 3 key things to learn when it comes to riding a dirt bike with a clutch. Learn how to ride a dirt bike in under 10 minutes after reading this guide!