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7 Best Beginner Dirt Bikes For Adults That Are Cheap & Reliable

Looking for the best cheap dirt bikes for adults that are reliable? If you’re on a budget but still want a quality motorbike (if you’re across the pond), I want to show you the best beginner dirt bikes for adults, as well as motocross bikes that are still affordable and reliable.

Obviously, you’re going to have to buy used if you want an inexpensive first dirt bike, so you also have to find a used bike in good shape. I’ll include some tips for that as well so that you save time and money

How much are dirt bikes for adults?

The price of a new dirt bike for adults greatly varies because there are many different brands as well as types and sizes of bikes. For a top name brand dirt bike, you can expect to spend $5,000-12,000, with a new trail dirt bike for adults on the low end and the best MX or dual sport bikes at the high end.

However, you have more affordable options when considering a used dirt bike or a cheap dirt bike brand. You can get a good dirt bike that’s used but reliable for less than $2000.

Comparing an expensive dirt bike budget to monthly gas, food and girlfriend budget
Struggling to pay your bills because your dirt biking hobby is so expensive?

If you want a brand new off-road motorcycle for adults under 2000, you’ll have to pick one of the off-brand dirt bikes, which have some positive and some negative features, which I’ll cover later in this article. They can work great if you just want a starter dirt bike to first see if you want to continue dirt biking.

Why are enduro dirt bikes so expensive?

I consider an enduro dirt bike to be a high performance trail bike. An example would be the Yamaha YZ250FX. They are a lot more expensive than a trail bike, such as the TTR230, because of all of the technology and R&D.

2019 Yamaha YZ250FX 7 Best Beginner Dirt Bikes For Adults That Are Cheap & Reliable

Trail bikes don’t change that much over 5-10 years, so dirt bikes brands don’t have to invest in new equipment to change them. This saves money, as well as time, which equates to more money. 

Enduro bikes continue to get better because the companies keep investing time and money to test and and tune them. This is why they are so expensive compared to a beginner trail bike 

What type of dirt bike do you need?

Before you even start looking, you need to figure out which type of dirt bike you want based on the kind of riding you’ll be doing.
These are the 4 main types of dirt bikes:

  • Trail bike – cheaper, reliable, best for beginners and casual trail riding
  • Dual sport bike – reliable, good for on road and off-road riding
  • Motocross bike – high-performance, requires more maintenance, best for racing on motocross tracks for more experienced riders
  • Enduro bike – high-performance trail bike for experienced trail riders
Akeley Trail Ride 7 Best Beginner Dirt Bikes For Adults That Are Cheap & Reliable
Trail riding on a “girls” bike is cheap and fun

What size dirt bike is best for adults?

The seat height and size of the engine can make a big difference when it comes to having fun and staying safe, especially if you’re just starting out.

Having a low enough seat height will give you some extra confidence because you can touch the ground with your foot, although it matters less if you’re an experienced rider because you’ll have good balance.

Some people like to skip right to a 300 2 stroke or 450 4-stroke because they can handle the power… or so they think. I always recommend starting on a dirt bike that’s in the 125cc-250cc size range as an adult, but it also depends on the type of bike, as well as your height and weight.

Full size dirt bike (what is it?)

A full size dirt bike is simply an off-road motorcycle that has full-size wheels, which is 21 inches in the front and 19 or 18 inches in the rear. This gives you a distinct handling difference compared to a dirt bike with smaller wheels because the larger wheels handle better on rougher terrain.

A full-size dirt bike with a 21 inch front wheel and 18 inch rear wheel for teens and adults
The diameter of the wheels and tires of a full-size dirt bike are 21″ and 18 or 19″

The only problem with a full-size dirt bike if you’re short like me, is that with bigger wheels comes a taller seat height.

Naturally, this makes it harder to touch the ground, but that’s why more companies have come out with trail dirt bikes with a lower seat height while still keeping the full-size wheels to take advantage of the better handling for trail riding.

Montana 2017 1 7 Best Beginner Dirt Bikes For Adults That Are Cheap & Reliable
Riding trails in Montana on my sweet CRF230 with full-size wheels

2 stroke vs 4 stroke for adult beginners

2 stroke dirt bikes have gotten a lot easier to ride in the past 10 years with the updated enduro models – but I still don’t recommend them if you’re new to dirt biking. They’re just a little to hard to control as a beginner because they have quite a bit of power for their size.

2 Stroke vs 4 Stroke Trail Riding
Riding in the mountains can be done on a 2 stroke or 4 stroke

If you’re truly a beginner, I recommend picking a cheaper 4 stroke trail bike that’s air-cooled. An air-cooled engine has smoother and more predictable power, making it very easy to ride and learn on. It’s also simple and easy to maintain.

What are the best cheap dirt bikes for adult beginners?

As a beginner, this short list of the best cheap dirt bikes for adults is only air-cooled 4 strokes, but there are different brands and sizes to choose from. They all work great, but you need to choose which ones fit you best, and then see what’s available for sale in your local market.

So, these are the top dirt bikes for adults that are cheap and reliable:

Yamaha TTR125

The TTR125 is one of my favorite beginner bikes for teens and adults because it’s cheap and small, but the large wheel model is still big enough if you’re an averaged sized adult.

It’s super easy to ride and learn the clutch on, and there are thousands of them out there. Yamaha has 4 different TTR 125 models, including small and large wheels, as well as an electric start option.

ttr125l medium sized dirt bike
TTR125L is a great medium sized dirt bike for kids and small adults.

The TTR125 might be the most affordable and best value dirt bike on the used market if you’re an adult that’s just getting into dirt biking.

Who is the TTR 125 good for?

Since there’s a small wheel, large wheel, and electric start options, there’s a wide range it’s good for. If you’re in the 4’8″-5’0″ height range, the small wheel TTR125 would be a good size for you. If you’re 5’0-5’6″ then the larger wheel TTR125L is a better fit.

There are also kick-start only and electric start models – they have an “E” at the end of the model name (TTR125E/TTR125LE). If you can live without electric start, you might be able to get a kick-start TTR for cheaper.

2016 Yamaha TTR125LE 7 Best Beginner Dirt Bikes For Adults That Are Cheap & Reliable
The latest TTR125 model with electric start and newer plastic/tank

Pros:

  • Low seat height
  • Easy to find on the used market
  • Two size options plus electric or kick-start options
  • Easy to find parts for

Cons:

  • Suspension is soft if you’re over 130 lbs
  • Small if you’re over 5’8″ tall
  • Has the least amount of power on this list of best adult bikes

Honda XR200

While the XR200 hasn’t been made since 2002 in the US, it’s still one of the best beginner dirt bikes for adults on a budget because it’s easy to ride, it has full size wheels, it’s very forgiving, and it’s as reliable as it gets.

With a little bit of suspension tuning/mods, it’s a very capable woods bike for trail riding. That’s why I took it out to Colorado for my first week of riding out there a number of years ago.

Honda XR200 cheap and reliable dirt bike for adults that are beginners
Riding in the mountains on a “Beginner Bike” built my confidence

Who is the XR200 for?

The ’86-’91 XR200 years are taller and have a little better suspension. They’re a good size if you’re 5’4″-6’0″ tall. The 1992-2002 XR 200 has a lower seat height, so it’s better if your height is around 5’2″-5’8″.

Overall, the XR200 is still the best cheap beginner dirt bike for adults if you don’t mind having a kick-starter and a carburetor. The only problem is that they’re getting harder to find in the used market – especially in good shape because many owners didn’t maintain them well.

Pros:

  • Super easy to ride for any adult over 5’4″
  • Full-size wheels – handles better off-road
  • Lowest seat height for full-size dirt bike
  • Fairly easy to kick-start – compared to bigger bikes
  • Nice plush seat
  • As reliable as it gets

Cons:

  • No electric start option
  • 1993+ model years have lesser/lower suspension
  • Bikes/parts are getting harder to find

Yamaha TTR230

While the TTR230 is still being made today, it’s been around since 2005 and hasn’t really changed. That means that you can buy an older year for less money but it will still be like a new model!

The TTR 230 is comparable to the XR200 I just mentioned, but it’s supposed to compete with the newer CRF230F. The reasons you can find it cheaper are: it’s been around for almost 20 years, and it didn’t get quite as popular as the Honda – there’s less of a demand, so the value is slightly lower on the used market.

The TTR 230 is a good cheap dirt bikes for adults because it's easy to ride, reliable, and cheap to maintain
The ’05 TTR230 is still as good as the ’22

Who is the TTR230 for?

It’s a full-size bike with a slightly lower seat height than the enduro models, so it’s good if you have shorter legs like me. It’s a good size if you’re 5’4″-6’0″, depending on your inseam.

It’s a quite a bit heavier than the TTR125, but it doesn’t feel that heavy unless you have to pick it up off the ground. If you have good balance technique, then you don’t need to worry about that!

Pros:

  • Electric start
  • Very easy to ride
  • Handles well in the trails, despite being heavy
  • Low seat height for a full-size dirt bike
  • Very reliable

Cons:

  • Slightly more expensive due to being newer
  • No back-up kick-start
  • Noticeably heavier than the XR200

Honda XR250

Like the XR200, the Honda XR250R is still popular after being discontinued for nearly 20 years. It has noticeably more power than the 200, and it’s slightly bigger in size.

With two cams, a bigger engine, a longer chassis, and better suspension, the XR250 is best suited for moderately tight to open single-track trails. With a good fork and shock set-up, it can be a very good woods bike.

XR250 air-cooled 4-stroke trail dirt bike for adults
XR250R full-size trail bike for adults

Who is the XR250 for?

If the XR200 is a little bit too small for you, then the XR 250 is the next logical choice. It’s a good size if you’re 5’6″-6’0″ tall. The suspension is a little soft if you’re a heavier rider, but there are mods you can do to make it more comfortable.

Pros:

  • Plenty of power for virtually any size adult that’s a beginner
  • Extremely reliable
  • Decent suspension for trail riding
  • More stable than the XR200 & TTR230

Cons:

  • Slightly harder to kick-start
  • Getting harder to find used bikes and parts
  • Big and heavy if you’re a smaller/shorter adult

What are my top 2 picks for beginners?

Still can’t decide? The 2 dirt bikes that are generally the cheapest for sale are the TTR125 and the XR200.
If you’re a short adult, then the TTR125 is a great bike to start on. The XR200 will fit most adults, but there are several more that can be good cheap off-road bikes as well. 

Cheap motocross bikes for adults

Maybe you’re ready to upgrade to a motocross bike because you’re confident enough to start racing on tracks. They generally cost more than a trail bike for starts because they have a lot better technology – engine, suspension, chassis, brakes, etc.

With that said, there are a few MX bikes that I commonly find are cheaper than other brands and models, but are still good are reliable.
These are the best cheap used motocross bikes for adults:

KX100 – small MX bike for adults

Not ready for a full-size dirt bike but still want a motocross bike? The KX100 is a great option if you can find one because it has the bigger wheels compared to the small wheel KX85 while still being a few inches shorter seat height than a 125 two-stroke.

The KX100 engine makes smoother power compared to most 85’s, such as the CR85 and YZ85. This makes it easier to ride and use the clutch because you don’t have to keep the throttle pinned at a high RPM. Many girls and short adults use these for trail riding after some simple mods.

1998 Kawasaki KX100 2 stroke motocross bike for small adults
’98 KX100 2-stroke MX bike

Pros:

  • Nice, low seat height for short guys/girls
  • Best low-end torque for a mini 2-stroke easier to ride/handle
  • Extremely lightweight feeling – good if you’re not strong
  • Power can be tuned with pipe/flywheel/mods

Cons:

  • 2 stroke still requires pre-mixing gas
  • Powerband can be intimidating at first
  • Clutch is hard to learn if you’re a beginner

YZ125 – Budget 2 stroke mx bike

The YZ125 is still the most popular 125cc 2 stroke dirt bike for many reasons. Unfortunately, the 2005 & newer is still pretty expensive to buy used because Yamaha hasn’t updated it until just recently. 

It’s just an overall great bike for a 125 because it’s reliable, handles well, and makes good overall power – especially low-to-midrange, which makes it easier to ride and control.

Which model year?

With that said, this is the perfect reason to get a 2004 or older YZ 125 if you’re on a budget. The demand is lower, but the performance is just about as good. 

An 03 YZ125 is still an excellent 125cc adult motocross bike today
Typical used ’03 YZ125

The 2002-2004 models are lightweight and narrow feeling to ride. The only possible downside is the 5 speed transmission (if you absolutely need 6 gears). 

The 99-01 year models are great as well and are super reliable. Finding a clean and well maintained YZ125 may be somewhat difficult, but they’re a worthy motocross bike if you’re an adult or growing teen. 

Pros:

  • Very reliable for a motocross bike
  • Broad power curve for a 125 2-stroke – easier to ride than other 125’s
  • Lightweight compared to a 250F MX bike
  • Bikes and parts are easy to find used
  • Teaches your proper technique to be a good rider

Cons:

  • It’s tall – the tallest bike you can buy (same as a 250F or 450F)
  • Harder to ride than a 4-stroke
  • Pre-mixing gas
  • Top-ends usually don’t last quite as long

YZ250F – Budget 4 stroke mx bike

Looking to start racing motocross but want a 4 stroke? The YZ250F is not only the most affordable, but it’s the most reliable 250F mx bike. It’s been around since 2001, so you can find them for less than other 250F’s on average.
2006 is when the YZ250F went to an aluminum frame, and they start getting expensive at that point.

Yamaha YZ250F is one of the best cheap used motocross bikes for adults
2005 Yamaha YZ250F

Pros:

  • It’s always been the most reliable 250F MX bike
  • Good low-end and midrange torque – easier to ride
  • Good suspension – comfortable when tuned to your weight
  • Bikes are parts are still easy to find used

Cons:

  • Engine rebuilds are more expensive
  • More likely to overheat when idling/riding slow

The best cheap & reliable motocross bike?

I’ve owned and ridden almost every dirt bike brand, and Yamaha is always near the top for overall performance and reliability. Yamaha is also the best value dirt bike because they’re relatively inexpensive. The best cheap motocross bikes are the Yamaha YZ125 and YZ250F, but it depends on the model year that you buy. 

What’s the best dirt bike for adults?

I’ve covered the top choices, but I’ll include some other good dirt bikes that are cheap. They might be harder to find, but it would be good to keep them on your list if you’re struggling to find the right model.

Best cheap small dirt bikes for adults:

Best starter dirt bikes for adults that are inexpensive:

Best affordable motocross bikes for adults:

Best cheap enduro bikes

Maybe you’re an experienced trail rider and just looking to get back into dirt biking on a budget.
These are my picks for the top enduro bikes for cheap:

A KTM 200 EXC has the latest in technology and is the best of this list, but it’s usually the most expensive when it comes to used dirt bikes because it’s still a great bike. The KDX 200 is a very similar enduro bike, but the older-style suspension and slightly less power is why they’re generally cheaper.

The KLX300 is slightly heavier, but still a great trail bike for single-track trails. All of these bikes can be turned into excellent woods dirt bikes with some fairly simple mods. With properly tuned suspension and a smooth power delivery, you can beat up on modern enduro motorcycles, which doesn’t make them happy!

2003 KLX300R 5 7 Best Beginner Dirt Bikes For Adults That Are Cheap & Reliable

Best cheap dirt bikes for sale online

While I’m not a fan of the cheapest dirt bikes for sale online, you can still have fun with them. They won’t have the same performance, reliability and durability, but maybe those aren’t important for you if you’re looking for a first dirt bike, so that’s why I’m including this short list.

The best cheap dirt bikes/pit bikes you can buy online are:

  • 125cc: OPA 125cc (Amazon) – similar in size to a Yamaha TTR 125
  • 150cc: X-PRO Hawk 150cc (Amazon) – similar in size to a Honda CRF150F
  • 250cc: X-PRO 250cc (Amazon) – comparable to a Yamaha TTR 230

How to get a used dirt bike for cheap

First, you must know that you may have to wait some time to get an actual good deal on a cheap dirt bike. You may find one within the first week, but if you’re looking for a specific brand and model bike, you may have to wait months.

Knowing what to look for when you get there is half the battle. Being able to spot signs that the bike has been well maintained or not will give you the best chance of getting it for cheap.

The top things to look for when buying a used dirt bike are:

  • Oil level and color
  • Air filter – is it clean, dirty, falling apart?
  • Coolant level – if it’s liquid-cooled with radiators
  • Overall look and cleanliness – are there bolts missing/mismatching?

Cheapest dirt bike brands – are they any good?

Looking at those pit bikes and dirt bikes for $599 or similar brand new? These may be cheap to buy brand new, but they’re made in China and are poor quality compared to the name brand dirt bikes from Japan and Europe.

SSR SR125 125cc 4 stroke pit bike
An “SSR” pit bike is not great but it’s better than the Sams Club specials…

I recommend staying away from these inexpensive dirt bikes and pit bikes if you plan on riding for more than a year. They’re not very durable if you’re riding aggressive, and parts will be hard to get in the future.

Best dirt bikes under 1000

There are two categories of dirt bikes to consider when looking for one that costs $1000 or less: a used name brand dirt bike or a brand new off brand dirt bike.

Both have their pros and cons, which you know by now, but just to clarify…
A used name brand off-road motorcycle is more durable and reliable if it’s been properly maintained, and parts is usually easier to find.
A new off-brand motorcycle will generally require more maintenance and “tweaking” out of the box to get it to run well, but works, nonetheless. Parts and servicing may be hard to comb by.

With that said, the best used dirt bikes for sale under $1000 are:

  • Honda XR 100
  • Kawasaki KLX 125
  • Suzuki DRZ 125
  • Yamaha TT225
2003 Honda XR100R 7 Best Beginner Dirt Bikes For Adults That Are Cheap & Reliable

The best cheap dirt bikes for sale under $1000 are:

Are dirt bikes under 1000 worth it?

The biggest problems with “cheap dirt bikes”, such as the Apollo 125cc on Amazon, is that the build quality is lower and they’re harder to fix/repair if something breaks or wears out.
The materials are cheaper and less durable (the reason why they’re cheap to buy), and the assembly isn’t always good (loose or missing parts is common).

If you fall and break something, it might be hard or impossible to find a dealer that stocks a replacement part. If you do find one, it might take a long time to be delivered.
For as cheap as they are, they’re definitely usable and functional, but you just have to expect that it won’t last nearly as long as a name brand dirt bike.

How to buy a cheap used dirt bike without getting screwed

Now that you know what used dirt bikes are affordable, I want to show you how to not end up with a bike that’s going to need $1000+ of repairs shortly after buying it. Whether it’s because the seller doesn’t know about potential issues or they are trying to hide something, it’s easy to buy a dirt bike that “looks good” but is actually a “polished turd”.
That’s why I want to show you the most common mistakes people make when buying a dirt bike and how to prevent it from happening to here. I put together a free guide and want you to have it: click here to download it.