Best Hard Enduro Dirt Bike [2021 Guide]

Wondering what the best dirt bike for hard enduro riding is? Whether you race endurocross or extreme enduro type events, there’s several bikes that have been dominating these classes. 

I’ll cover what bikes are good and what may not be great for tight and technical trail riding or racing and why. 

What Makes A Dirt Bike An Enduro?

An enduro bike has changed over the years. Back in the 70s and enduro bike was simply a motorcycle that had some knobby tires that could be ridden off-road. 

You still might get various answer, but my definition of an enduro bike is a dirt bike that is specially built for hardcore trail riding or hard enduro racing. This consists of tight and technical trails or high speed single track trails. 

Colorado Trip 2018 Edit 16 Best Hard Enduro Dirt Bike [2021 Guide]
Pictures do no justice to the elevation.

An enduro bike has some similarities to a motocross bike, but the biggest differences are: 

  • Engine tuned for broad, smooth torque
  • Plusher suspension
  • Wider ratio transmission (depending on the enduro model you choose)
  • Kickstand
  • Headlight
  • Misc. features that aid in maintenance/comfort

Best dirt bikes for hard enduro riding or racing are:

  • KTM 300XCW TPI
  • Husqvarna TE300I
  • Beta 300RR
  • Sherco SE 300 Factory

Can I Use A Motocross Bike For Enduro?

Have a local hard enduro or extreme enduro race that you want to enter? You can use virtually any dirt bike if it’s legal according to class rules, but there’s a reason enduro-specific models have been getting popular over the past decade. 

A motocross bike can be used for enduro or hard enduro riding, but there’s such major disadvantages in stock form. The harsh suspension, snappy engine and 4 stroke engine make a motocross bike harder to ride on extreme and tight technical trails. 

Best enduro dirt bike for beginners

If you’re looking for your first dirt bike or are new to riding off-road, I strongly encourage you to start on a simpler trail bike. Yes, they’re slower and don’t have the high-tech parts, but you will thank me later when your friends that start on an enduro bike and keep crashing while you’re learning faster on a “slow” bike.

Beginners shouldn't start on an enduro bike
This is what can happen when you start on a dirt bike that’s too big and powerful

What Do Top Off-road Extreme Enduro Riders Have For Suspension?

Believe it or not, many of the top pro hard enduro riders use stock suspension. They might adjust the clickers, but riders like Graham Jarvis and Tim Coleman don’t get their bikes re-valved or upgraded. 

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New enduro dirt bikes have such good suspension these days that you really don’t have to do much to them outside of getting the right spring rate for your weight and setting the rider sag. 

Why Are 2 Strokes Better For Hard Enduro?

Ever been to or seen a hard enduro race? They’re almost entirely filled with 2 stroke dirt bikes.

Why is that? I thought 4 strokes dominated dirt biking…

That is correct. When it comes to motocross. But when talking hard enduro, they’re few and far between. More about 4 strokes in a minute. 

2 strokes have some distinct advantages that make them superior when the trail gets right and technical.

are better because power is so smooth and tractable nowadays. They chug better at low power levels because of only 2 strokes.

Can I Race A 4 Stroke In Hard Enduro?

You can race a 4 stroke, but they’re at a disadvantage in hard enduro for a few reasons. 

You’re always using the clutch, which heats up the engine oil. The oil in a 4 stroke goes to the top end and stays hot. 

Even if you add radiator fans, it’s going to get hotter sooner and stay hot. The fans can only cool the radiator coolant so much. It’s the engine oil that needs cooling. 

Having a larger clutch cover can help on some 4 strokes because it adds more oil capacity. The problem is, once it gets hot, it’s just going to take longer to cool the extra oil down. 

Colorado Trip 2018 Edit 22 Best Hard Enduro Dirt Bike [2021 Guide]
Trail Riding A 4 Stroke

A 4 stroke is also heavier and harder to get moving. The inertia of a 450 not only feels heavier, but it’s noticeably heavier than a stroke at a standstill. 

Since a hard enduro race has a lot of tight and technical riding, you’re probably going to be going slow or stopping frequently. Starting and stopping a heavier bike will wear you out quicker. 

Why 300cc 2 Stroke?

Just 5 short years ago, 300cc 2 strokes vibrated considerably more than smaller bore 2 stroke dirt bikes. Most of them now having a more balanced crankshaft makes them much smoother than 5, and especially 10-15 years ago. 

Why do I bring this up? Riding a 2011 KTM 300 wore me out. Not because it’s too powerful or heavier, but because of the vibration in the handlebars and frame. 

Back to my point, 300cc 2 strokes are the standard hard enduro bike because they have plenty of power, are fairly light, and yet they’re smooth and easy to ride depending on how you tune it. 

That’s the other thing. You can tune your 2 stroke to have a crazy-wild powerband, or you can have it buttery smooth from idle to peak. 

As good as a 450 4 stroke is, new 300cc 2 stroke bikes are just so good and smooth nowadays. 

KTM 300XCW TPI

KTM has had a 300cc 2 stroke enduro bike for many years now. It originally was introduced in 1990 and has had many major and minor updates since then.

The latest major changes came in 2017 with a counter-balanced engine to reduce vibration, and 2019 coming out with the TPI version with oil injection.

The fuel injection removes jetting woes, and the smooth engine makes it easier to ride faster for longer. 

Husqvarna TE300I

Since KTM has owned Husqvarna, their dirt bikes have been pretty similar. However, there are a few subtle differences between the models. 

The TE300I enduro bike has a linkage suspension, as compared to the KTM 300 TPI has the PDS linkage-less shock system. 

Some riders prefer the feel of the linkage system, but the PDS has the advantage of not sticking down and getting caught on big logs or rocks. 

Beta 300RR

Beta has been around for some time, but they’re similar to what KTM was like in the industry 15 years ago. 

The 300RR is comparable to the KTM and Husqvarna 300 2 stroke. The Beta 300 is still carbureted, but it does have oil-injection so you don’t have to mix your gas. 

The seat height is almost an inch shorter on the Beta, and the wet weight is virtually the same. 

The overall components and performance is just slightly lower than the KTM, but the price reflects that. 

Sherco SE 300 Factory

Sherco is another European dirt bike brand that is made in France. They’re getting bigger in trials and enduro bikes and are competitive in the prep ranks. 

The SE 300 factory 2 stroke has very similar specs to the other bikes in the class. There’s just some different components that are different, such as the suspension and clutch parts. The Factory edition has upgraded parts over the standard models. 

The Sherco engine has a carburetor but has plenty of power. The weight is sightly more than the KTM and Husqvarna. 

Best 2 Stroke For Trail Riding

Want a 2 stroke but not ready for extreme enduro or endurocross type riding? Some of these bikes are still on my list of best 2 stroke for traip riding, but there’s other bikes that are smaller and easier to ride. 

Click here to read about the best 2 stroke trail bikes

How to ride faster on the trails

Starting on the right bike is important, but learning proper riding technique will quickly improve your control and confidence in the woods. If you’re struggling to control your dirt bike in the woods or off-road, I want to give you a free guide that cover simple techniques that I use and still practice today. Click here to learn more.

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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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